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.
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
Two days later
Bette awoke slowly. Her eyes adjusted to the filtered sunlight flowing into the bedroom that she'd shared with Tina for the last eight years, give or take. Cocking her head, Bette sniffed. The distinctive aroma of pancakes and meat permeated the air. She couldn't recall when she last awakened to the smell of a home-cooked breakfast.
Bette got out of bed and put on her pale blue robe. Wiping sleep from her eyes, she padded down the hall and at the other end, she saw a blonde woman standing at the sink rinsing fruit. For a brief moment, from behind, Theresa Kennard looked just like Tina. Heartache overtook her and Bette reached out for the wall, her knees threatening to buckle under her, and it was only the stability of her hand on the wall that kept her standing.
Theresa heard a sound behind her and turned, "Good mor " she started. Theresa dropped the fruit into the sink and ran to Bette. "Bette, honey? Are you aw right? Bette was slumped over, nearly on the ground when Theresa grasped her arm, pulled her up and led her to a chair. "Honey?"
"I'm fine." Bette cleared her throat. "I'm fine, Theresa. I-I just " Bette couldn't explain. She had almost immediately known it wasn't Tina, but still, the scene was so familiarTina in the kitchen, preparing a meal, rinsing strawberries at the sink, moving the whistling tea kettle.
Theresa sat in the next chair over and looked at Bette. "Angelica's sleepin'. I guess I tired her out yesterday. She took a bottle this mornin' but then she was out like a light."
"The crib isn't a problem, is it? I had taken it out so you'd have more room."
"Unlike you, I don't want to have a baby sleepin' in bed with me. I could just see me rollin' over on Angelica. That would be the end of me, that's for damn sure. I don't take up much space. Stephanie wanted to stay in The Valley. I hope you know it has nothin' to do with you." Theresa said.
"Yeah, I know."
Theresa stared at Bette who looked pallid. She gazed into her eyes to see if a fainting spell was approaching. "I bet I know what's got you feelin' so funny. It's probably the smell of this phony sausage." When she determined that Bette was okay, she walked to the other side of the kitchen, opened a cupboard, took out a tall glass tumbler, and then opened the fridge and pulled out a large bottle of Pelligrino. "I can't believe y'all don't have any pork in this house. Of course, the smell of this made you dizzy. Shoot, cookin' it was makin' me a little light-headed. You actually eat this vegetable protein, made from wheat stuff sausage out of a green box that says organic? I don't get it."
"We eat meat. Not pork, though. Except when we have Chinese."
"Y'all in Los Angeles are somethin'. Don't you ever watch Emeril LaGasse? Don't you know pork fat rules?" Theresa poured Bette a glass of cold Pelligrino and brought it over to her.
"Pork fat will kill you, Theresa."
"What won't kill you, honey? I see y'all get a lot of use outta that grill outside. Grilled food's supposed to be bad for ya, soda pop, coffee, bread and pasta with all those carbo-hydrates."
Bette laughed. "I'm not giving up pasta or bread."
"Well, good. Cause you're havin' pancakes this morning." Theresa began to plate her food.
Bette took another gulp of water and said, "Let me just go wash my face, brush my teeth. Look in on Angelica. I'll be right back." She stood up and walked down the hall.
"Don't be long, Bette." Theresa called out to her.
A few minutes later, Theresa was seated at the table waiting for Bette. The baby monitor was on the table and she heard the door to the guest room/nursery open slowly. She turned up the monitor and heard Bette say to the baby, "Good morning, Angelica. Mama B missed you last night. Did you miss me? Did you like spending the evening with Nani? She's a good Nani and she loves her little granddaughter." There was a pause. "Oh, did I wake you, boo?" Bette said softly. "Come 'ere. Come to Mama B and let her give her baby a hug. I love you. I love you. I love my little Angelica. Mama Tee wants to see you. I know she's thinking about you all the time. We'll have breakfast and get dressed to see her. What do you think you want to wear today?" Theresa heard the drawers of the nursing table open. Is it a pink day? Green? Green and yellow? How about purple, my little grape." Theresa would never have guessed that Bette would be so good with a baby. Tina had described her as a type A personality who was demanding and sometimes withholding. She didn't see or in this case, hear that at all when Bette was with Angelica and Tinashe was downright maternal.
The bedroom door opened and Theresa walked in. "Bette, your food's getting' cold. Go on and eat. I'll get Angie ready to meet her public."
"Okay, thanks." Bette passed Angelica off to Theresa, and kissed the back of her head before leaving the room and pulling the door behind her.
When Bette sat down, she heard Tina's mother talking to Angelica and she had to smile. "I love you, Angelica," Theresa said. "You're a pretty little girl. Almost all Porter " She stumbled over what was going to be a comment. "You've got too mommies, baby girl, but uh who is your father, anyway?"
Bette stared at the baby monitor, but nothing else was forthcoming.
Dana jogged down the hall of the neuro-trauma center into Tina's room. The tennis player was wearing forest green shorts and a white shirt with forest green trim at the collar and cuffs of the short sleeves, her socks matchedwhite with green at the ankle edging.
"Hi, Tina." Dana pulled off her pedometer and looked at it. "God, amazing. Two point three miles." Dana bent at the waist, grabbed her upper thighs and took deep breaths. That last hill was murder. How are you?" She walked to her and kissed Tina's cheek lightly.
"I'm trying to exhaust myself. I feel like total shit." Dana opened up to Tina at once, no need for a preamble. "Alice and I broke up. I wanted it to last, but we're really different. She told me once that Lisa remember him, that lesbian-identified guy she was seeing? She told me that he was really needy and she hated it. I can't even imagine someone being needier than Alice. She would hardly let me pee by myself. If I wanted to be alone, I'd have to lock the bathroom door. And since the uh break up, she's called me seventy million times with, like, 'do you want your #2 pencil back?' 'I'm going to keep the seashells we collected at Redondo Beach unless you want them.' 'Did I leave my green scrunchie at your place?' I can't talk to her now. She thinks it doesn't hurt me, but it hurts."
Dana walked to the bathroom, got a hand towel and came back in wiping her neck and face. "Tina, you left Helena 'cause things weren't finished between you and Bette. Maybe you would have gone back to Helena, but you didn't. You love Bette. Bette loves you. Maybe I'll go back to Alice. I really can't rule that out. I can't. I love what we have. When Al and I are together it's all sparks and fun, but in terms of a real relationship, building a life together, I don't know. Can I build a life with Lara? God, I don't know. Maybe Alice is just too much. You know what I mean? Al walks into a room and you don't miss her, she just brightens and lightens everythingshe's electric and maybe right now I just need something like a single candle not all of that intensity." Dana was pacing. "I don't know what I'm talking about. I'm getting delirious. I've gotta hydrate. Look, I'm going to find a water fountain or machine, then I'm going to get back on the trail. It's really nice up here. I'll run up everyday to see you, how about that? I love you, Tee." Dana bent over and kissed her again, ran out of the room, and down the hall.
Theresa pushed a hungry Angelica into Tina's room around eleven o'clock. The baby turned away from her earlier bottle, but now she was nearly ravenous. Bette, dressed in a beautiful outfit of pink and gray, quickly pushed cords and machinery out of the way, readjusted the bed, and grabbed two pillows for support that would surround Angelica on one side and behind her. A nurse's aide came in and handed Bette the heated bottle and Theresa took Angelica out of the stroller and gave her to Bette.
Bette walked back to the bed, carefully placed Angelica in the cocoon of pillows, then slid in next to Tina. Angelica's head moved to the side, then fell back several times. Bette had noticed this new stage of developmentthe lifting of her head, the recognition of her parents over the past day. As soon as Angelica became aware of Tina, her fidgeting and overall grumpiness subsided. "Oh, Mama Tee, our little angel knows she's with her moms now." Angelica's tiny mouth was already moving in preparation of a nipple. Bette placed the bottle near Tina's breast and began feeding her. Theresa was in awe of how devoted Bette was and how obviously in love she was with Tina and their child.
Stephanie rocketed into the room as if she were being chased. She was making excuses before she was even inside. "God, the traffic was horrendous. I should have been dropped off much earlier. Mom, you should be glad you're staying on this side of the hills."
"You're welcome to stay at my place, too, Stephanie. There's room." Bette looked up at the frazzled woman.
"Oh, no." Stephanie was caught in mid-sentence when she saw her comatose sister in bed with the baby and Bette. She pulled herself together and poured on the southern charm. "No, I I'm having a good time learning all about Peter's family. This visit will go a long way with him and his family."
"Don't forget your family, Stephanie."
"How could I? With all of y'all in my face, how can I forget or miss a thing." Stephanie laughed, but it was the most disingenuous laugh Bette had heard in a long time. Tina, Bette thought was much more like her mother than Stephanie. Theresa and Tina were nurturing, open, fair, and for the most part non-judgmental.
Angelica had calmed considerably. Bette pushed herself out of the bed, placed the emptied four ounce bottle on the table, then tossed a cloth diaper over her shoulder, picked Angelica up, and began to burp her. As she was gently patting her daughter's back, she saw Dr. McPherson walking down the hall with Roberta Collie, the social worker.
"Ms. Collie? Roberta?" Bette walked to the door and waited for the two to walk back down to her.
"Hello, Bette," Roberta Collie looked her up and down. "Here we are in the middle of the day and you're here. Still no job possibilities?"
"I'm not looking right now. I have the luxury of not taking just any job. I'm waiting for the right one." God, the woman started on her without a breath after the greeting. "Are you here about our case?"
"Yes. Today is the first day that Dr. McPherson was able to meet with me. He told me that you're having some financial problems."
"No, not at all. Absolutely not. I'm having an insurance issue that I'm working out."
Roberta glanced down at the floor, somehow conveying just how bored she was with Bette and her explanations. She looked up, but looked through Bette, not at her. "I don't believe in beating around the bush. This second parent adoption is just not going well for you. This is an unusual case."
"It is." Bette jumped on this statement. "See it as such. If you'll just give me some time to show you how we've been working on being a family ."
Roberta interrupted as she glanced into Tina's room. "More friends of Tina's? Still not a man in sight."
Bette turned and looked at Theresa and Stephanie who were standing in the room watching and listening to this conversation. "Tina's mother and sister, here from North Carolina."
Roberta walked into the room, held out her hand and introduced herself. "Roberta Collie, the case worker for the second parent adoption of the Kennard baby."
Stephanie looked at Bette in surprise.
"The State of California requires this, but as you know, I've been parenting Angelica this whole time and Tina and I see her as our child, together." Bette had a sinking feeling.
"In this case, the State is watching your daughter's situation vigilantly."
"More and more states are placing legal bans on parental same-sex adoptions on the books. California, I don't suspect will do that, but gay marriage and gay adoption are hot buttons here."
Stephanie perked up.
"But Tina and Bette wanted this child, they planned for it," Theresa said, heartfelt concern etched her face.
"But mom, you've got to agree that things would be so much easier for Tina and especially for Angelica and, you, too, Bette, if things were more normal."
Bette was cringing. She wanted to stomp her foot. She had been positive that this was what was on Stephanie's mind all along. Bette was relieved that Tina's sister was staying elsewhere. It saved her the awkwardness of throwing her ass out of her home.
"I don't believe in gay adoption. I think that a child is best raised with having both a mother and a father and I think she'll suffer later on in the absence of traditional family values."
"Your Daddy wasn't around a lot of the time, Stephanie. He was in and out of the picture since you were a baby." Theresa tried to calm the fire that was ominously hinting at a loss of control.
"And look, without a male figure in her life Tina turns gay."
"Are you lesbian, too, Steph? Without that male figure?" Bette questioned. Angelica had no idea, but time and time again, she was the only thing preventing Bette from tearing these various and sundry haters apart.
"Not at all. Engaged to be married to a heterosexual man, thank you very much. And you know what else? I think Tina was just confused."
Theresa had had more than enough. "Stephanie will you please shut the hell up?"
"I'm finished. I'm here for Tina, anyway." Stephanie turned away from the door and moved over to Tina's bed.
"Ms. Collie, if I may. I have had the pleasure these last few days of watchin' Bette with this little baby and I have no doubt she loves this child as if she had given birth to her. She's an excellent mother."
"There are many other things to consider, Ms Mrs ?"
"Mrs. Kennard, if liberal views were all it took to raise a child into an adult, we'd let every 13 year old who got knocked up keep her kid; every recovering Meth head would keep his children. Our foster care system is over-taxed because we can't afford to take a laissez-faire attitude in our decision making. Bette Porter is an unemployed lesbian with a friend who's in a coma. She is not a good candidate for second parent adoption. It's that simple."
Bette was nearly in tears. "Wh-what?"
"However, since things could change at any time, I am not prepared to make a final decision in this case. Dr. McPherson has also spoken on your behalf, Bette. This case will remain opened for the next eight weeks. I hope you'll have something to show for yourself by then." At the end of her outburst, Roberta Collie bounded down the hall, her wooden heels clicking loudly and angrily until Bette heard the glass door at the entrance open, the sound of street traffic, and the soft hum of the Center returning.
Bette turned to Stephanie and Theresa. "Theresa, thank you for what you said. I feel stymied by all of this. It's everything and this second parent adoption is just the icing. It's good to know that I've got your support." Bette glared at Stephanie. "I would never thwart your desire to see Tina. Maybe your being here will help her in some way, but I swear, when she's out of this and better, I'm going to let her know what her sister did and said. I'm going to let her know how you've behaved with our daughter, and I'm going to tell her how you devalued her and the life she's built with me. I know Tina. And if you think you know her, then you know what her reaction will be to this."
"I have a right to my opinions."
"Not always," Theresa said, shaking her head.
"Always," Stephanie's eyes were narrowed, lips thin, anger heating her up as she glared at her mother with her arms crossed over her chest.
"Bette won't say it, but I will. I don't want you coming here." Theresa was adamant.
"You're going to censor me and then control me and forbid me from seeing my sister? I'm not nine years old."
"Then stop acting like you are. Get out, Stephanie. You're not helpin' Tina. You're makin' everything so much worse."
Stephanie walked to one of the vinyl chairs and sat down. "I'm staying."
Shane was online at a computer at The Planet. Kit had put in a few computers in a corner to give patrons a place to check email and surf the Internet. Carmen was seated beside her and Shane was getting itchy. Not that she was doing anything she didn't want Carmen to see, she just wanted a littler personal time. "Hey, could you get me another coffee?"
Carmen turned to look for a wait staff. She waved at a waitress walking by to get her attention.
"Could you just go get it, Carm?"
"Why? Are you going to hook up with someone online?"
"That's stupid." Shane put her arm around Carmen's shoulder and pulled her to her. She kissed her soundly. "We aren't joined at the hip."
"We were last night."
Shane couldn't help but smile. Sex had never been so satisfying. She had probably had more sexual liaisons than all of her group of friends put together, but never had it been so overwhelming. Carmen was sort of femme with her big hair, lip gloss, and the 'fuck me' shoes she wore when they went out, but at home, in bed, Carmen could play the role of a top just as easily as a bottom. Carmen had been tasting the twat since junior high school and she was an expert. She rocked Shane's world in the bedroom. Just when Shane thought that she was going to control their sex, Carmen would whisper something salacious in her ear and instantly make Shane wet. There had been many mornings, most mornings in her past when Shane would head home after a session with the flavor of the night, knowing that the woman had been sexually fulfilled, however she hadn't been. With Carmen, Shane was satisfied every time. Still, this was all new. She liked her space, liked to flirt, and liked knowing the affect she had on women. This was something Carmen wanted her to stop and didn't want to see. Shane was not going to tell the women she'd been with that they could no longer stay in contact. If one of her former dates wanted to send her a naughty little email begging Shane for a repeat of a night they had long ago, Shane wasn't going to say no. She liked reading them; that expressed lust turned her on even if she had no plans to do anything about it. She thought, once a dog always a dog. "It's not that, baby. We both should have some private space. Could you please get me a coffee?"
"All right." She stood up and headed to the counter. She turned to Shane and said, "Tell her, whoever she is, that you're busy tonight and tomorrow night, and the rest of the week, and the rest of the "
"Carmen?" Shane shook her head.
"Shane." Carmen laughed. "I'm taking care of you," she said about the coffee and the sex.
That afternoon, Bette was in the administrator's office at the Center. Theresa Kennard's offer to sit with Angelica last night and Kit's the night before had given Bette her first opportunity to rest and relax. Now, she was tense after the whole Roberta Collie/Stephanie mess earlier in the day. She hadn't felt like she could take on Collie who held her future in her hands or Stephanie who was Tina's sister, but she was having no problem revving up for a battle with Agatha Benson, the Center's administrator. Despite the negative events earlier, there was some residual sense of being well-rested. She had taken the extra time on makeup and clothes. She actually felt better and very well put together, in a pair of Classiques Entier Euro stretch, low rise black pants and a top that was short sleeved, button down with thin grey and pink stripes running through the white background color. Bette sat on one side of the large desk and on the other was Agatha Benson. The woman seemed to hate the patients and despise the patients' families, especially Bette Porter. She shot Bette a long, disgusted sneer before she opened and began reading through the Kennard file. Bette gently rocked the stroller where Angelica slept peacefully.
"I'm afraid that we can't wait for our payment while you appeal your claim denial."
"I didn't expect that you would," she answered flatly. Bette had better things to do today than spend it arguing moot points with this bitch.
"Well, my guesstimate for your monthly charges that aren't covered is eleven thousand dollars. When can I expect payment?"
Bette hated the word 'guesstimate.' "The Center," Bette began, emphasizing that she planned on paying the institution and not a check to this homophobe, "will get paid when I get an actual invoice."
"I have an initial bill here," Benson said. "It doesn't include the majority of charges your insurance has rejected.
Bette looked at the bill and stood, opened her pink, white, and black Key West butterfly print handbag. She pulled out her checkbook, looked at the Bic pen on Benson's desk and pointedly frowned with a look that said she found the pen banal and pedestrian. Bette dug in her purse for her Mont Blanc. The pen oozed money. It was the last gift her father had presented her. He had been horrid that night--very critical of Bette, insulted Tina over dinner, berated Bette for thinking that a child that was half African-American would be his grandchild, but later that night, before he said goodbye (and before she ran off to her sister's apartment an emotional wreck), he had given her this pen. It was platinum with a diamond on the cap and her name engraved on the shaft. Melvin had called her his gem and he kissed and hugged her as if he hadn't offended her in every way for those last few hours. In Agatha Benson's office, the pen was a statement. Bette was saying to her, "Don't fuck with me about money. I'll wallpaper this room with bills, and you can pull them off and wipe your ass with them for all I care." What she actually said was, "All right, fifty-five hundred." She wrote the check and ripped it from the checkbook. She capped the pen and dropped it and the checkbook back into her bag. She looked down at Benson, lifted an eyebrow, and pushed the check across the desk. "I think we're done here." Bette slipped her purse over her shoulder, flipped up the stroller brake, turned Angelica's stroller around, and left Benson sitting dumbfounded behind her institutional, old desk.
Shane was going through her email, chuckling to herself as she read a message from Cathy, a woman she had banged in the woods near the Observatory in the Hollywood Hills earlier in the year. Park Police arrived on the scene with guns drawn. They had heard a woman screaming out and thought she was being hurt.
I can't walk on pine needles without thinking of you, Shane. You were so effin' good. Write back. Let me know when we can get together for another hike. Hornily yours, C.
"Shane, I'm walking back with your coffee," Carmen said in a singsong voice. "You can close your messages from your chicas."
Shane closed Cathy's email and moved down to the next one. "I don't know what you're talking about, Carmen." Shane stared at the monitor. "I'm just opening an email from Jenny."
By the time Carmen had placed the mug on the table and taken her seat on the arm of Shane's chair, Shane was reading the note. "Jenny says she's doing fine and that things are working out so far." Shane read the next line to herself and leaned in toward the monitor as if she weren't reading correctly. "Wow. She says that she's going to stay in Skokie after her treatment. She says that she wants to see if she can do some writing there, maybe as a playwright. Huh." Shane nodded and Carmen leaned in to read the message, too.
Reading over Shane's shoulder, she asked, "What does she mean she fucked up her life in LA?"
"Well, she was engaged to that guy Tim who had the house first. Then she had an affair with Marina. Remember, she and her ex, Francesca owned the Planet?"
"Riiiight." Carmen nodded her head. "But Marina was married to some freaky rich dude in Italy."
"Yeah. Nervous breakdown, fled to Italy, sold the place to Kit, haven't heard from her since."
"That's hardly Jenny's fuck up."
"Well, when Francesca came back, Marina decided that she really wanted Jenny, but by then Jenny was with Gene and Robin and broke both of their hearts, and Marina, I guess couldn't handle the rejection."
"Damn. Jenny got around."
"Yeah, and everyone wanted her to commit to them."
"She didn't have to worry about that with me. I was so into you, baby."
"Commitments will fuck you up every time," Shane sort of said to herself.
But Carmen heard it. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Nothin'," Shane said unconvincingly.
Carmen stood and looked down at her. "Have I asked you for anything?"
"I didn't say that."
"Am I telling you that you have to change your life for me?"
"No..." She sounded like she wanted to add something, but didn't.
"It's just that neither of us are seeing anyone else."
"Shane, if you want to see other people, tell me now. I'd like to know where I stand."
"We're fine. Don't make a big deal out of one thing I said, all right?" Shane logged off, picked up her mug and went to sulk elsewhere in the café leaving Carmen standing there.
"Stuart, my question is a simple one, what have you been doing for the past two years?" Helena was seated behind her desk, going through the papers for Shaolin Film Studios. "I see that you and your staff are quite good about submitting receipts for your lunches and apparently...." She looked down at the papers. "Afternoon benders and whatever local pub this is."
Stuart was in his late twenties and had done his undergrad in computer science at Santa Monica College and his graduate work at UCLA in film. He resented being bossed around by someone who knew nothing about the industry and his youthful cockiness showed in his eyes and the tilt of his head. "Those lunch meetings are how we get things done."
"Really? Pray tell what have you got done?" She dismissed him with a wave of her hand. "Don't bother. You can pick up your severance package at my assistance's desk. That's all."
Stuart pushed himself out of her chair and stared down at her. His long, lanky body looked defeated, shoulders slumped, clothes wrinkled, and his hair which he had managed to keep out of his eyes with a continuous brush of his hand during their talk, covered his beady black eyes now. "You had already decided to fire me?"
"What was the point?"
"I thought I might be incorrect. It became apparent straight away that my initial decision was spot on."
"I heard you were a cunt."
"Oh, wait." Helena grinned. "I've reconsidered. That's the kind of spirit I want here."
Stuart was taken aback, but pleased with himself for speaking his mind. "Really?"
"Are you daft? Helena stared at him. "No. And it also isn't very original. You aren't the first to call me a cunt and you won't be the last." Helena took a deep breath. "You realize I can fire you on the spot for that bit of insubordination."
"You wouldn't " Stuart knew he was screwed.
Helena pressed the intercom button on her telephone. "Melissa, Stuart Zimmerman has just been fired. Make certain that he leaves these offices and premises empty-handed."
Bette was alone with Tina. Theresa and Stephanie left to either shop, argue, or both. Bette had several errands to run and she needed to get home to make a phone call, but she needed to be near Tina a while longer. The errands included more diapers for Angelica, another case of formula, and she wanted to stop at Tower to buy this old Linda Ronstadt CD of baby lullabies. Someone at the singalong class had given it high marks. The errands wouldn't take long; the phone call would be short, but it would take no small amount of courage to make it.
Angelica was sound asleep having just finished a bottle and Bette had about thirty minutes before Kit was scheduled to come by to see Tina. She lowered Tina's bed and slipped off her black sandals before scooting in behind her, carefully slipping under machine cords. Bette put her arm around Tina who was now on her right side and held her gently.
"Tina, are you awake?" Bette was reminded of all the times, she used to end her day talking to Tina about her work--the people who had pissed her off, the art she had tried to collect for some exhibition, and a general dissection of the hours she had spent on the job that day. Tina was always a good listener and a great 'idea' person. Tina could always figure out a solution to Bette's problems.
Bette even remembered the last time she had depended on Tina to play this role. Franklin had slammed her by going behind her back in collusion with Helena Peabody and hiring Leo as the fundraiser at the CAC. She had called Tina for support and if she hadn't have been so brutal and spiteful about Helena Peabody, that conversation would have gone so much better. Bette hadn't been able to control herself, though.
"Tina, are you awake?" She listened to Tina's steady breathing and knew that's all she'd get. "I'm scared."
Tina tried to answer. She wanted Bette to know that there was no reason to be frightened. She hoped that Bette could hear her. "That's okay, baby."
Bette only heard the soft footsteps of people moving up and down the hall, traffic from outside, and muffled voices in the next room. Still, she continued talking to her spouse. "What if I can't adopt her? What if I can't find a job that I really love? What if I lose the house? Cause I feel like I feel like I don't have any control over anything ."
Tina could hear Bette's fear as they lay almost asleep in their bedroom. She knew that Bette was unhappy about their lack of sex and Tina was just as concerned about the feelings she felt were taking over her body and mind. She couldn't keep putting Bette off, but she wasn't going to pretend to feel something she didn't. She heard Bette say, "I mean, I don't know what's going on with us. I don't know if it's all the changes
"Tina? Tina?" If wishes were if wishes were anything, Bette would have massive amounts of it. Everyday, several times a day, she wished for Tina to come back to their life together, to be with her, and to be with their daughter. Bette moved the cord and ducked under it, she sat up in Tina's bed, her legs dangling off the edge, and stared into space. Finally, she stood up.
Thirty minutes later
Kit had pulled a chair up to the bed and her face was parallel to Tina's. "Girl, you are not going to believe what I just went through. I was just at the doctor and do you know what he told me? I've got menopause. Can you believe that shit? Uh-uh-uh. I'm this old, dried-up thing now. I felt like driving straight up Santa Monica Boulevard and right off the damn pier into the ocean. Ain't that some shit? My life is over!"
"That's no way to talk to a coma patient," a scruffy guy in his mid-thirties said to her.
Kit's head turned in surprise and embarrassment. "Uh, hey. Who are you?"
He was a tad disheveled looking, but he had the warmest, sweetest smile she'd ever seen and when his eyes looked into hers, she thought she'd melt away. "I'm Angus, Miss Kennard's music therapist. Well, really, her musician. I come in and sing to her."
"I haven't seen you around here. I'm usually not here in the afternoon, though. What's your name?"
"Oh, Bette's sister," he said and extended his arm to shake hands. "Nice to meet you."
Kit loved the feel of this man's hand in hers. It was a strong, but gentle shake, the hand of a man who made his living making music, and Kit was a sucker for a music man. "You, too, Angus."
"Kit Porter? Kit Porter?" He repeated her name as he tried to recall how he might know it. Kit wasn't helping as she seemed lost in a trance as she eyed him. "Oh, my God. The Kit Porter. I have every album you ever made. I saw you in concert in San Diego a few years ago. Jesus! Kit Porter."
"Yeah," she said with humility, "That's me."
He wouldn't let go of her hand, but pumped it over and over, forgetting that he still held it. "It is such an honor. Such an Oh, my God. Wait until I tell my bandmates."
"Oh, you gotta band?" Kit asked as she extricated her hand from his.
Angus pulled up the other chair and sat beside her. "Yeah, we're all doing a little of everything to make money to cut and distribute our CD. I do this."
Kit had never quite felt anything like this before. He was sitting so close that their knees practically touched, but it wasn't as close as she'd like. Her heart was literally fluttering and she wondered if this was a symptom of menopause.
"So what is this that you do here?"
Kit sat captivated while Angus performed as a musical therapist for Tina.
Many hours later late that evening
Things were quiet. Tina wasn't thinking of Bette or Angelica. The sound of her mother's voice and sister's weren't ringing out in her head now. It was quiet.
She turned on her laptop, opened her IM program. DaddyOf2 was already there. Tina couldn't help herself. She wanted to read what he had to say. She was having doubts about who she was. Maybe the guy from the Daddy's project would shed some light. She was just about to write, 'Hi,' when a message flashed from him. His cock was hard.
Tina didn't want to be intrigued, but her nightly thoughts of masculine hands touching and roaming over her body hadn't ceased. She teased him at first, but she finally gave in to DaddyOf2. She liked their flirting and their cyber sex. Tina didn't want to think about it after. She had done it, but she felt terribly guilty. If only Bette were more engaged, if only they could communicate. Bette was treating her more like they were sisters. There was not one sexual vibe coming from her would-be lover. All of her kisses had been pecks and gentle hugs. Tina wanted and needed more. She was still a sexual creature. Bette needed to get it together. DaddyOf2 meant nothing. She hoped it meant nothing.
Theresa had taken Angelica into the bedroom hours ago and Bette knew that they were both sleeping. Bette was barefoot and dressed for bed. She was wearing a navy blue and baby blue striped pajama bottom with a navy blue tank top. She had one more thing to do before she could sleep and had been putting it off all evening. Bette had walked by the phone on the glass desk several times that night. She had picked it up twice, unplugged it from the charger, and then returned it to its place. Only the kitchen light was on and the rest of the house was dark. It seemed appropriate to do what she was planning in secrecy, under the cover of darkness. Not that what she was doing was necessarily scandalous or improper, because it wasn't. She was merely asking advice of someone who might have answers. It was just hard.
Bette opened the refrigerator and took out a single-serving size bottle of Perrier and twisted the cap off. She sipped from it as she slogged through the small breakfast area into the living room to the table where the phone waited for her. She pulled it from the recharger again, sat down, and scrolled through the roster of numbers. She found the one she was searching for and pressed select and send. She had time to hang up, but she didn't.
The phone rang at the other end. A porcelain-colored hand reached out for her mobile. She expected to see one of three possible names and numbers. The one she didn't expect to see was the very one illuminated in the display screen of the phone. She placed the Hollywood Reporter magazine she was reading on the table and pressed 'answer.'
"Hello," though there had been no activity the minutes before answering, Helena was out of breath. It wasn't from exertion, but anxiety about what this call meant. "Tina?"
Bette took a deep breath and sighed out her answer, "No, Helena. It's Bette. Bette Porter. I'm using Tina's cell. Ummm your name and number are in her contacts list."
"Yes, yes," Helena's anxiety wasn't lessened. She pushed the fringed camel hair throw she had wrapped around her onto the floor revealing feminine pajamas. Bette held her attention. "Has something happened to Tina?"
"No," Bette began quickly. "Tina's the same. I'm sorry to bother you so late, but I'm looking for some advice and was hoping you might be able to steer me in the right direction."
"All right." Helena was dubious and rightly soBette Porter and Helena Peabody were sworn enemies and every kindness Helena had attempted had been obstructed by Bette. "What is it that you need?" Helena questioned curtly.
Bette heard Helena's tone change. She was harsh, deliberate, with the tiniest touch of irritation behind it. "Helena, I'm having some problems with my insurance company and Tina's coverage. I was wondering "
"How much do you need?"
"No. Oh, no. Nothing like that." Bette shook her head in protest to no one. "I am looking for a lawyer who might know about this sort of thing. The one lawyer I've dealt with is more of a family law kind of guy and affiliated with the CAC. I'd rather not contact him."
"What exactly is the trouble?"
Bette explained it to her and when she finished, Helena said, "Well, I think I can get Whit to look into this. The Peabodys and the Foundation pay him a substantial retainer. I'd like to see him earn it. If it's possible for you to get your paperwork to me tomorrow morning, I'd gladly pass it on to him. He's quite the masterful solicitor. He can have your insurance company on their knees by nightfall."
"I don't need them on their knees, just agreeable to coverage." Bette didn't want to share her financial status with the wealthiest woman she'd ever known who was also the ex-lover of her spouse, but she wanted to simplify things as much as possible. "I-I have the money. I can take care of Tina. My father my father left me a sizeable inheritance, but if Tina stays in her state, even that will be gone." Bette was silent for a moment. "Helena, it's important to me that you understand that I'm not asking and I don't need a handout. I'm just trying to figure out how to get the coverage that I paid in to for so many years and never used."
"I understand, Bette. I'm glad you felt like you could contact me."
"Actually, if I were to be perfectly honest ?"
"Yes, please. I'd appreciate that."
"It was difficult." Bette sighed. "I hold you responsible for a lot."
"I do understand that. I suppose I charged in, giving you no preparation."
Bette wondered if she was trying to say that Bette wasn't prepared for the situations thrust upon her in recent months. If that was the implication, she resented it. "It was unexpected since there, as far as I'm aware, was no reason for your intense dislike of me, so in that regard . I was taken by surprise by the concentrated focus you had on destroying me at every turn." Shut up, Bette, she said to herself.
"It was New York."
Bette sat up in her chair. "What about New York?"
"Frankly, I was dismayed by your attitude and approach. You came to ask me for funding, yet you seemed so arrogant ."
Bette stood and began to pace in a small circle. "I came across as arrogant?" Bette was shocked. "I'm surprised to hear that. I wasn't feeling particularly self-confident that day. I thought I was being polite and considerate of your time."
"Bette, you stampeded into my office and demanded funding."
Bette moved the phone from her ear and stared at it, before placing it against her ear again. "Were we in the same room?"
"As I recall, you said that you expected the Peabody Foundation to continue their funding to the CAC."
"What?" Bette nearly yelled into the phone. "I most certainly did not." Bette was irritated. She might not like a donor, but she knew how to charm and fawn over them. Bette was always well aware who held the money and the manner in which she represented her organization. "Helena, I hate to say it, but you're out of your mind. I would never, not even on my worst day, tell a financial patron that I expected a payout."
"That's what I heard, Bette." Helena stood up and walked to the small wet bar in one corner of her living room. She was wearing a beautiful V-neck, Bleu Clair pink, lavender, and green puckered pajamas top and matching yoga pants. She bent and looked in the small wine refrigerator for an acceptable Red. She pulled out a bottle and looked at it, then placed it on the bar top.
"I did say that the Peabody Foundation had always been generous to the CAC and that we had a longstanding relationship." Bette had long ago forgotten the bottle of Perrier. She walked to the kitchen, opened up a cabinet and took out an opened bottle of Glenfittich Scotch Whiskey. From another cupboard, Bette snagged an old-fashioned glass and poured a jigger of whiskey into it.
"Yes," Helena conceded. "You did mention that my mother always funded you." She twisted the corkscrew into the cork, then pushed the legs of it down to open the bottle.
"How was that a faux pas on my part?" Bette was happy to get this all out on the table. Though the call wasn't made for this purpose, Helena was ensconced in their lives, so this discussion had to be a good thing.
"As head of the Peabody Foundation, don't you think I was fully aware of what my predecessor and our Board had funded?" Helena poured the wine, sniffed it, took a drink, letting it swish around in her mouth before finally swallowing. She re-corked the bottle, but left it on the bar counter, and walked back to the cozy chair she had recently vacated.
Bette was astounded that Helena referred to her own mother as her predecessor. That's dysfunctional, she thought. "Helena, you didn't seem to even be aware of the CAC. Was I supposed to guess what you knew and didn't?--not to mention how I could possibly know that making an innocuous comment about past funding would somehow offend you?" Bette sipped her whiskey and turned off the soft white light in the kitchen. She walked through the dark house as she talked.
"I did my research. I was well aware of your museum and its ties to the Foundation. The comment wasn't innocuous as you say. Your point, and it was clear, Bette, was that I should run the Foundation as my mother had. I found it insulting that you'd barge into my office..."
"Okay. I did not barge. In fact, you kept me waiting and then wouldn't look up at me when I was finally given an audience with you. But, go on. Please." If it took all night, they were going to get to the bottom of this. This was one thing within Bette's control and she was going to play it out all the way.
Helena switched off the bright lamp and sat in the dark. "I resented you comparing me to my mother."
Bette was about to respond, but she could tell that Helena wasn't finished.
"I realize that you believe that my mother and you have some special connection because of her coming to your rescue several years ago and your shared love for Art, but the Peabody Foundation was and remains under my auspices. If I choose to take it in another direction that was and is my right and privilege. I didn't owe you anything."
"Helena, did you expect me to grovel? Was that what you were waiting for? That's not my style and I didn't believe there was any reason for that."
"No, you're not one to grovel."
"I don't want to fight with you. We have two very different views of what transpired that day. I do know that something about me got under your skin and you came after me. Whether it was New York or something else, I don't know, but at least, own that," Bette suggested with a hint of antagonism.
The rage Helena had felt when she discovered how Bette Porter wanted to undermine her leadership sent Helena to the boiling point again. "Did you honestly believe that I wouldn't learn that you went over my head? That you tracked my mother down in her little love nest and asked her for funding? Of course, she told me, Bette. I'm her daughter."
Bette was surprised. She thought Peggy would have used more discretion. "I felt desperate and was given every indication that you had no interest in anything I had to say."
"Sometimes, that's the way it is. Just because you don't like an answer doesn't give you carte blanche to seek a more desirable answer elsewhere." Helena drank from her glass.
"Yes, I know that." Bette knew she had been wrong to go to Peggy, but she had never guessed that not only would Peggy deny her, but she'd tell her daughter. What a mess. "I used poor judgment, Helena. You're right."
Bette sat on the chair closest to the sliding window that led to the backyard. She stared out at the darkened pool, solar lamps surrounding it giving off a mellow golden color. "May I ask you one more thing?"
"Go on then."
"Did you know that Tina was my lover when you gave her the grant and came out here?" Bette was sure she knew the answer. Helena had just said that she did her homework.
There was a long pause before Helena answered. "When the Board and I were reading proposals and choosing our recipients, I had no idea that Tina Kennard was your girlfriend. By the time I arrived here, I knew." She drank more wine. "I also knew that you were separated. I asked an acquaintance who has her finger on the pulse of the world that is West Hollywood. I knew you had cheated and she caught you."
Bette's lip quivered. It always came back to that. Her eyes started to tear. Poor Tina--preyed on just so Helena could exact her revenge for something as petty as Bette talking to Peggy. "So, you knew quite a bit."
"Yes." Helena placed her glass on the table and walked back to her chair.
"And you dated her to hurt me?" Bette hated that her voice cracked when she asked.
"No, not at all. I sought out her friendship, but the moment I saw her, I fancied her. She's alluring, but I don't believe she knew. Knows. Uh..."
"I know what you mean." Bette gulped the remainder of her whiskey. "Well " She realized that this was the first conversation she had had in weeks that wasn't focused entirely on Tina and her current state.
"I'm sure you have a hectic day ahead of you. Don't fret about the insurance, Bette. Whit is like a clever illusionisthe always finds a way out of anything. Get me your information and this will be a done deal.
"Thanks for your help, Helena. And thanks for this talk. I think we cleared the air."
"I'm unemployed and my reputation has been sullied, Helena. Friends? I don't think I'm there yet, but in time, I suppose we could be."
About an hour later
Helena's land line phone rang. She wondered if Bette had forgotten to ask something else and picked up right away.
"Fuck," the voice said with pure frustration. "Is this Helena Peabody?" Helena's eyes enlarged as she listened to the sound of traffic and soft utterances of complaint. "Shit. Helena is this you? It's Alice. Pieszcecki."
"Oh, hello, Alice. Where are you? It sounds like you're calling from the freeway."
"No, goddamn it." There was another moment of silence from the woman, then she heard her tearfully explain, "I'm on PCH. I was on my way to San Francisco "
"San Francisco? Why?"
Crying, Alice moaned. "I don't know. I wanted to get out of the city. I just decided."
"Alice, it's after midnight. San Francisco is a good 6 or 7 hour drive if you're speeding."
"I was speeding. I can't take it. Everything reminds me of Dana. We broke up. Did you hear?"
"Alice, where are you now? Still on Pacific Coast Highway?"
"Yeah, shit. You know that vintage Hermes scarf you gave me? Well, I'm riding down the road and I'm wearing the scarf, right?" She paused to think about the scarf. "Cause it does make me feel better usually, to wear it and . So, then a big gust of wind sort of comes through and pulls the scarf back and I know that it's going to get caught in the wheel or something and strangle me."
"Strangle you? The scarf isn't that long, Alice."
"Wasn't, but I could see how a freak accident could happen. I mean, you know, that's how James Dean died. He got strangled on PCH, by his racing scarf. Cut him down in the prime of lifeforever remembered for just three filmsEast of Eden, Giant, and Rebel Without a Cause. You know that right?" Alice was saying all of this between sobs and tears.
"That simply isn't true, Alice."
"It is totally true, Helena. Someone at Los Angeles Weekly did a whole series on celebrity deaths. That's how James Dean died."
"I believe you're confusing him with the dancer, Isadora Duncan. She did die that way, but on the Riviera and in the 1920s."
"Oh, yeah, right. Isadora Duncan. Anyway, I was trying to get the stupid scarf from around my neck and drove off the road and plowed right into someone's van and fence. Shit. I don't think I'm far from your house. Can you come get me? My car is fucked up. I know I'm in Malibu. Wait a second." Helena heard the background sounds become a bit louder and then she heard Alice's booming voice, "Hey. Hey. Where the hell am I?"
"Alice? Alice?" Helena shouted into the phone.
"I'm near Topanga Beach. There's a convenience store across the street. It's the 18000 block of PCH. I'll wait for you at the store. It's fuckin' freezing, Helena, so hurry, okay?"
Stephanie Kennard talks about gay marriage and adoption (Season 3, Episode 2David Porter insulting his aunt and aunt's lover in their homejudgmental, holier than thou bastard)
Bette confides in Tina that she's worried about their situation (Season 3, Episode 2)
Kit meets Angus (Season 3, Episode 2)
Helena and Alice become friends (Season 3, Episodes 1, 2, 3 especially)
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