The Ultrasounds of Lovers –
As I drive Tina to her ultrasound appointment where I will see images of our baby for the first time I find myself smiling as we cruise along Olympic. A friend of mine once asked Joan Rivers, “How do I succeed in Hollywood, Miss Rivers?” and Joan’s quip was, “Take Olympic.” For me, this moment is as monumental as the storied peak.
Tina must have noticed my good mood because as we cruise along through the traffic she touches my shoulder and says, “I’m glad you could come today, Bette. You should be a part of this baby’s life and I want you to be.”
The relief I feel in hearing her words I can’t describe. I beam a thousand watts at her. She doesn’t look away. Holding her hand just for a moment I feel the weight of grief and uncertainty heavier than any stone fall from around my neck. “Shall we go in?” I ask her as we release our hands and open our car doors.
As Tina and I walk into the medical center I am so fucking unbelievably flabbergasted that Helena Peabody would actually stalk us to Tina’s ultrasound appointment that I can’t keep silent one more second. As we ride the elevator to Tina’s obstetrician’s office I say, “Look, I don’t want any details. No sex details at all. But honestly,” I begin my list, "Tina, what in God’s name do you see in that woman? She’s arrogant, possessive, she’s bossy and presumptuous. It’s unbelievable to me.”
I pause for a second. “She’s incredibly, deeply flawed. She’s fucking pathological, Tina!” I shake my head. “You can do so much better than, Helena Peabody.” I wrap up in a sigh of sadness for her bad judgment and misfortune.
“Did you just hear your description of her, Bette?”
“What kind of question is that? I asked it. Of course I heard it.” I’m confused.
“It’s just that some people might describe you in those exact words, too.” She shoots me a sideways look of disbelief as we exit the elevator doors. I don’t like her tone or the sound of any of that.
Tina lies on the short examine table that probably has not changed its stirrup, heel cuff appearance since doctor’s quit using leeches to cure people. The lulling sounds of classical music over the satellite radio and Tina lying quietly waiting brings me a sense of calm. I sit by her on a low stool.
“Would you mind? I’d like to see if I can feel a kick.” I watch her immensely pregnant belly rise and fall with her breath. I lay my head against her womb and shut my eyes to everything but her warmth and rhythms. Our hands touch on top of her belly. Our bodies rise and fall, her breath sweet and warm near me. I lean over to her face and smile down. I put my hand on her heart.
“The two heart beats that are inside you - I felt the three of us together just now. Did you?” I ask her.
“There was a bizarre kind of a baby kick. I wondered if you felt it, too.” She looks down at herself and back to me and smiles.
“I felt more.” I love her so deeply in this moment. “I have to do this. Please don’t stop me.” I take her lips into mine and open my mouth wide in hopes she’ll kiss me back.
There is no painting of hell’s torments and fields of burning hellfire with the fiercest flesh-ripping flying beasts above it that I wouldn’t have walked through gladly to get to this moment. Our lips roll together as she kisses me back. My tongue gets away from me but she sucks it in, and that begins a moment between us as our mouths open to each other. Something I’ve been deeply craving.
The moment expands and sends my mind off into a sky blue field of her and here before next happens. Another breath slides between our kiss.“I apologize but I …”
“Bette, you have that look on your face. What do you think you’re doing?” Tina asks while coming up on her elbows as I grab the dressing privacy screen from the alcove and topple into it a bit before I wrangle it between us and the physician’s door.
“I felt the need to unbutton my blouse in the doctor’s office, that’s all.” I take her hand and slip it inside my shirt as I pop the pearl buttons one by one.
“Oh, if you want to see breasts like you’ve never seen before, look here.” Tina opens her blousy maternity top. My eyes are quite transfixed now as I stop my hand on the last button of my white shirt.
“Oh my God, wow!” What an incredible transformation of her body since I last saw it. Now, pregnant with larger than I’ve ever seen breasts, her whole body now dedicated to one mission: Birth.
It astonishes me how deeply I’m moved. I look at Tina and wish over and over for her to have a healthy birth. I hope for her happiness as a mother with a beautiful child, and for this baby to be free of any worries forever in our arms. I’m stunned as I stand near her. She's beautiful and round here and there and a sweeping hill up to her belly and down again to her hips. I would love to make love to her like this. It might blow my mind.
“Will you come back to the house after the appointment, have tea maybe?” I ask as her doctor walks in the room.
“I have to stop at Whole Foods. Is that okay?”
“Actually, me too.” I nod.
I’ve always liked kitchens. People think that because I don’t cook that I would then not like a kitchen. False logic. Very untrue in my case. I like everything about a kitchen except a tremendously messy Thanksgiving type blow out. And today, this afternoon, I love this kitchen because she is kissing me, and we’ve abandoned the groceries to the floor.
When I think of sex I think of it as a movement from two to one in half a breath sometimes, or hours later exhausted. There are in-betweens but I’m a woman of extremes and in an instant that it happens, and estranged lovers seal off their escapes from each other - they touch each other with memory.
But Tina’s body is completely different from anything I’ve ever seen this close, smelled in this way, felt this enormously, overwhelmingly uniquely bonded to because here under my hands within the full moon shape of Tina’s body, is our baby.
I hear her say. “Touch me here,” as she takes my hand down between her legs and past the elastic that would hold me back. I slide with her moisture and every place I’ve ever touched inside her before in arousal and in seduction, in rhythm and in passion, feel very different to me. She presses down on me to come in deeper until I feel the baby’s weight inside her womb.
“Oh, my fucking God,” as my touch slips through her she sighs, softening more she rocks against me. This is nothing I’ve ever felt before in my life. I’m intrigued. I’m curious. I’m intimidated. Do I push softer, lower, tease her, kiss her?
A flash of grief. I don’t know how to make love to her anymore.
“Baby, what’s wrong?” She smooths my hair with her hands as I look up at her with longing but so lost by the way she feels so differently from our years together.
“I think I need help.” I confess.
Behind her now on the bed and between her legs I suddenly know where I am again.
There are sounds that lovers make to each other that would be meaningless to the point of sounding mad if made anywhere but while enthralled in passion. They may use our throats and tongues to make them but these sounds are born underneath our minds and from the primal snake part of our brains that we are helpless to control. My longing comes out of me in a tortured moan not intending to cry out against her ear. She pulls me closer to her and I love her deeply for her gesture to contain me.
Is it possible I will make it through this incredible backwards from what I’m used to lovemaking with my mind intact? I'm nearly touching our baby as Tina’s body begins its arousing, final rippling toward orgasm.
"I love you,” she says to me as we breath and push together to find it all. The final strength of the fight within me of how much I fucking hated her with Helena Peabody drops away as she cries out and reaches behind her once more and pulls me to kiss her.
“I want you to kiss me right now. Kiss me now.” She devours my kiss. Her hand rubs me in circles and slowly over the edge we fall and send out our sounds to each other that make no sense, but do. My mind is nearly a wreck. I feel the hum between us and inhale the hazy smells of our sex lingering. I roll onto my back and look at the ceiling. I rub my face and leave her smell all over me.
I hear her breathing deepen as she drifts next to me.“Baby, are you awake?” She asks me drowsily.
“I want to have the baby here at home with you, okay?”
Am I alive or dead, or dreaming? I wonder at my infernally silent ceiling? Or is it God I’m trying to reach? Was it not just two days ago that I lay here dying in this bed from alcohol poisoning and an unbearable grief for her?
“Let’s do that. Absolutely, how long before we need to be ready do you think?”
“You should start tomorrow.” She pulls my arm around her and I feel the curve of her huge breasts. “But let’s sleep first. Can you sleep for just a little while?”
“I’m right here with you.” Although my mind had flown away.
Chapter Two - Translations continues next!
I love everything about my job except the two men I want to murder, Franklin and the ferret faced poser, Helena’s friend, Leo from New York. Franklin, I imagine now with a steak knife through his temple, the nice soft spot before the harder bones protecting his brain begin.
I find that patience and modulated tones of voice, tips like breathing in and out for self control, and the ability to maintain a smiling mask of “I’m still in this conversation, I haven't left for your murder weapon yet,” are frying too quickly away. The muscles in my face that so instantly follow my inner thoughts are predicting a problem between the three of us. “Is there a problem, Bette?” Franklin astutely asks.
I’m wearing my early, dawning mask of rage expression. “Only if you consider that everything about the special project you just described that Leo is doing comes under my responsibilities, creative control, and museum direction.” They seem surprised at my displeasure of their assumed fait au complete. Leo at least has the good sense to back away from Franklin leaving him solely in my crosshairs.
“Was this Helena’s idea? Are you taking ideas from any other board members, or just her these days?”
“Helena and Allen Barnes are lifelong friends, surely you know that.” Franklin patronizes me.
“Of course, I fucking know that Allen and Peggy are old friends. Part of why I'm the museum's director is because of my years of relationships with artists, collectors and the philanthropists who keep museums, like ours, open.” I snap at him.
God, who does Franklin think I am? Then I realize that is the crux of it - Franklin hasn't bothered to understand the most important things I could do for the museum whose future we've been entrusted. He just wants to be king and have a prince named, Leo. I press the bridge of my nose as a feel a headache coming on. I have such little patience for
My phone rings. “Excuse me, I’ll take this call and come right back.” I walk out of Leo’s office and shut my door.
“Is everything alright?” I ask Tina, not realizing how alarmed I sound - a red fire siren going off in my brain about Franklin.
“Fine, everything's fine.” Tina says breezily. I hear music and carnival sounds in the background. “Alice and I are down at the Santa Monica pier. Just people watching.”
“Sounds great.” I press my fingers into my forehead to release the pressure. “Anything I can do here?”
“Oh, I just wanted to let you know the water birthing tub arrived at your house and needs to be put together when you have time.”
“As soon as I get home, T, tonight.” I look at my calendar. "I can leave here by six."
“Okay, well, you sound busy. Alice says, “Hi”.”
“Okay, I'll do the tub. I promise.”
Since we made love after her ultrasound appointment and she dropped the bomb on me that we're having the baby at my house, our home, where we used to live and I would like us to again - I’m not sure whether to sign off with what I’ve said to her for so many years, “I love you,” or just what to say. Navigating any of this is not easy. I’m in sub-levels constantly now, nearer to darkness than the surface with any light to shed onto my oceanic sea changes of circumstances. It’s exhausting me.
When I unlock my front door these days there can be no one home, and I'd never grown accustomed to that during the months she was furious with me, or there could be Tina and our friends inside addressing some readiness for the baby or swimming and drinking out by the pool.
Second, there is this problem with Helena Peabody. She is everywhere and needs to be nowhere. When I see her at the museum she smiles churlishly at me and she is still fucking my girlfriend. I think. But I’m not sure, and that is incredibly maddening for me.
Third, my stress level should safely drop by half if I want to live past forty. If the artery throbbing in my neck would stop that alone would be welcome. It’s a toss up, Franklin or Helena dies. I choose Helena, every reason an excellent one.
An hour ago Tina came by as I wrestled the box with the water birthing contraption into the living room where we opened it. She took one look inside at all the pieces and bolts and screws and said, “Call me if you need me, I’m going shopping.” There was no explanation needed and if she told me a lie that was okay, too, because I don’t put things together well with other people.
This is Daddy stuff as Kit would call it. I take out the back and side support planks, then the canvas straps and finally the tarp inner lining. Oh, and the bags and bags of hardware, too. I'm dealing. And then I open the assembly manual.
I flip to the second page and third page of the English version. They are smeared and indecipherable and then I read the big black marker message left by some lame asshole at the manufacturing plant, “Fuck you, George Bush,” and the last page is a warranty for two years.
"You've got to be fucking kidding me!" I say out loud when I see that the rest of the pages are in Chinese, Korean, or some squiggly language that guess to be, Arabic. “Jesus Christ! What moron packed this in here? And who gives birth every two years in a fucking tub for Christ's sake?” And then finally I find something legible, the French version.
As I read my French to English dictionary I glance down at the unbelievable mess I've made. I look at the hundreds of brackets and wing nuts, screws and bolts, and I have an odd thought: Are they in chaos or at rest? My mind cannot solve the greatest theoretical problem of gravity that still mystifies modern scientific minds. My mind turns back to the translations.
I read, “Tenir son de resserrer sa bretelles pendant que vous la baise,” and I translate to English, "Hold her and tighten her frame straps while you screw her.” I look at the manual again mystified.
"Who the fuck wrote this?” I hear Tina coming down the hallway.
“Did I hear screaming a minute ago?” She puts two glasses of tea down on a table near my dilemma.
“Fucking crazy neighbor Jenny was screaming. I heard it, too.” I lie.
“That wasn't you?” Tina laughs at me and sips her tea. “And how's this coming? May I help?” She smiles at the unlikelihood.
“You would not believe the English translation of the French instructions. Listen to this, “Tenir son de resserrer sa bretelles pendant que vous la baise,” which I translate and come up with, ”Hold her and tighten her straps while you screw her.” I laugh helplessly as I look up at her.
“Bette, why are you reading the instructions in French, won't that take longer?”
“I've decided what to do about this.” I point at the many piles on the floor in front of me.
Shane arrives with a six pack of beer. Together we will conquer this or get drunk and die trying. Across the floor from me she sits cross-legged in a rodeo t-shirt on and ripped up denim jeans. Is this my second stupid plan of the evening, her translating the French version to me as I screw and bolt this fucking thing together?
“This booklet reads like a EuroTrash poetry slam, by the way. Garbage.” Shane unfolds the booklet to an exploded view of the tub assembly. “So, on the way in I ran into Tina. She says you guys are dating again, right?” Shane hands me a set of brackets, washers, screws and bolts.
<!--nextpage-->“We’ll probably have our baby on our tenth or eleventh date.” I laugh with her.
“So, your third date you're assembling a baby catching tub? Man, there’s gotta be some kinda weirder than the U-Haul record here.
As I come out of the shower into my bedroom I see Tina lying on the bed reading LA Baby magazine.
“I hope you don't mind, I just had to lie down before I went back to my place.” She says over the cover.
“Not at all, you're welcome to stay. Are you still ordering things from magazines?” I pull on a pair of yoga pants and a white tank top.
“Don't worry, the only other thing you have to put together is the crib,” she says as I approach the bed. The news makes me collapse onto it face down.
“T, will you rub my back right here, under my shoulder?” I point to my scapula.
I feel her kiss my back at the spot. Her hair tickles my skin as she leans over me. “You just want some attention, I think."
“Knead right there with your knuckles. Okay deeper. Yeah. Ouch! Right there. The tub was heavy to move around. We stupidly assembled the last of it and had blocked the door.”
“I heard. You were not very quiet about that.” Tina laughs softly at me.
I relax as she massages me deeper, “How many years do I have until I have to assemble something huge, like a swing set or a pony?”
She leans over, brushes my hair aside and kisses my neck. “Thank you for doing that for me.” Then another kiss, “How’s your attention getting going? Feeling more appreciated?”
I roll over, “No, I really do have a catch in my muscle. Are you sure this water birth is a good idea?” I press her.
“It’s supposed to be really easy on me and the baby. You didn’t read the stuff I emailed you, did you?”
“I looked at the pictures, obviously air brushed, and read, yeah, I read it. But please send it to me in French from now on.” I touch her moon shaped belly as she lies beside me. “What are we going to do about me missing so many birthing classes? Wait! Did you take Helena to yours?” I feel my temper rising.
“Bette, don’t start.”
“You did, didn’t you? Goddammit!”
“You saw how she was. She just came or showed up. Anyway, you're going to be with me when our baby is born, not Helena.”
“You are so fucking right about that.” I lean up on my elbows and glare at her.
“Would you please quit? Just quit.” She pushes me back flat.
“Will you quit?” I demand.
“For the love of God! Quit fucking Helena Peabody! It makes me nuts.” I raise my voice at Tina.
“Already quit. It’s over.” She smooths her hand over my chest, “After the ultrasound, her showing up there…”
“Incredibly possessive and presumptuous.” I finish.
Tina rolls her eyes at me. “Bette, do I look like I want to argue about Helena? Should I counter and list her good qualities? Her remarkable qualities?”
“God! No! But your list would be brief.” I lie back satisfied.
She looks down at me and shakes her head, then moves to leave. “Wait, I’ve stopped. Look, come back.” I pull her toward me. “It's just that throughout the day I imagine all kinds of scenarios where she drops dead. This morning it was Fugu poisoning.”
Tina laughs at me. “She’s not too fond of you either, Bette.”
“Nobody could hate her as much as I do.”
“I thought you were stopping.”
“I have. Am I the Daddy or the Mother, too? I feel like I was supposed to have months to figure this all out.”
“I just don’t see how you can be the father, do you?”
<!--nextpage-->“You sound like mine now.” I agree.
“He’s coming soon, right?”
“Yes, in a week.” I touch her belly, “But honestly, when I stop and feel you both right now I have two overwhelming emotions: Protection and more protection.”
“That will change. You’ll feel other things!”
“I don’t see how I can.” I play with her hand that’s back on my chest. “That’s what I’m saying, I suck at it now, but I’ll get better. T, I’m already fixing bicycles and building tree houses in my mind.”
“Make me a really great swing will you?”
“I will do that.” I laugh at her softly then take her hand from my chest and kiss her wrist and palm. I lean up to kiss her. We move softly with each other for a moment. I break my lips from hers. “I will make you an oak plank swing.”
Then the question that has been haunting me for two days, “Is it okay when we make love right next to her inside you, do you think? Or will it make her nuts and sex crazed when she gets older?”
She cocks her head at me. “You’re serious?”
“What you haven’t thought about it?” I open my eyes wider.
“Okay, close your eyes, Bette,” she folds them closed with her hand slipping down from my forehead, “and just float. You’re warm, you’re fed, you have no needs or cravings and then next to you,” she puts her hand on the side of my head, “comes this little ripple, then waves in the water all around you and you feel a light headedness, a baby stoned feeling as your blood gets a super dose of my endorphins.”
“Sex, drugs, you left out the rock and roll, but you’ve convinced me - sex is a good idea.” I smile. “May I open my eyes now?”
“No, keep them closed.” I feel her lift my pant’s waist and slip down to my clitoris. She rubs me up and down. “This is just us. No baby.” She says softly.
“Very ready for us. I want to open my eyes and look at you.”
“Not yet. Just relax.”
I feel her inside me now, then gone again as she circles me some more. Back inside me, more very nice pushes in and then gone again.
“Oh, God. Really?” I lift up from her and kick my pants off as she laughs at me then settles between my legs. Now, her mouth. “I love that.” I squint my eyes and sigh with aggravation as she continues to tease me and pull away from the growing well of want inside me. Fucking Helena I bet, that’s where this came from. Now, it’s very pleasurable again, and steady and my need to stop this and make love to her like we did last night lessens. Then she stops again.
My eyes fly open.
“Unsnap me, please?” She drops her sweater on the floor. I reach behind her. Her breasts loosen and fall against me. Enormous. We look in each others’ eyes. “My body? Is it okay for you? I know I look so different.”
“In this soft light in a close up I see a portrait from Dutch painters, and if I darken your hair, Spanish or Italian portraiture. Yes, your body is okay for me.” We kiss our understanding. “You’re beautiful to me.”
I undress her and lie behind her again. “I want you tonight.” I lick her neck. She leans back to me and pulls my hair behind my ear. I tease her and feel her grow under my fingertips as I circle her over and over. “I want to see you.”
“But there’s no way, I’m so big.”
“I know, I miss looking in your eyes when we're making love, though.” My fingers dip into her wetness and return to circle her again. She turns to look back at me and I lick inside her mouth then a long rolling kiss.
“You have to wait like you made me do. I think that's fair.” I say into her ear.
“Baby, I have very little to complain about.”
Bedroom - Tina
Enveloped in Bette’s arms her strong body curved to fit behind me as we make love together after so much angst for months feels full of her possessiveness that I love in bed and tolerate elsewhere when it just goes so far out of whack. Then behind me I feel her struggle with something as she moves rhythmically inside me, a pace and a counter pace she knows I like. I consider what could be disturbing her: Helena. Bette’s mind lost in thought too long during sex can be a dangerous thing.
I baited her with Helena every morning for weeks on end. But I knew a week into the affair that Helena played games even while making love to me and was about the art of sex. Not just a performance, and she was great at that, but of the setting, the dinner, the wine, the dessert, the flowers by the bed, the petals in between the sheets in Sedona. All of it fun, different, and romantic for a while, but never in my mind a challenge to what I had with Bette but I was not going to let her know it.
As I feel Bette’s arms around me, her fingers fitting into me, her drive now to absorb my attention and demand it, the difference in the two possessive lovers is complete to me.
“Nobody makes me feel the way you do, Baby.”
“Jesus Christ! Are you trying to make me angry?” She pleads from behind me.
“Shh, you’re a beautiful lover to me.” Immediate peacock reaction from her touch as I feel her sensual rhythms change and deepen. But I sense she's darkly pissed, too. I lean back to touch her face and thread my fingers through her hair and kiss her. I feel her relax but then a feeling of being swept into something begins.
She licks my neck as she comes out of me and then rubs me firmly until I lean back into her arms. I turn to her for her kiss. Her fingers encircling me now. With an urgent edge says, “I talk to your fucking pillow when you’re not here and smell inside your closet to try to feel you again. Do you know how very close to fucking insane I’ve been for months now? Months?”
“Let’s see, you’ve wrecked your car, rented me an apartment, and you confessed to me the other day that you’re drinking way too much and smoking. Oh, you’re probably watching porn again. And from the feeling of your arms, I’d say you've upped your boxing time at the gym.”
<!--nextpage-->I rub my hand up Bette’s arm as she pulls me closer to her. I hear her say, “Insane, Tina. I mean it.” She comes back inside me. She fucks me slowly as she holds me tight.
“Did you love her?” She asks me.
“No. Not ever.”
“Help me, please. You hurt me.” Bette says. I feel her controlling my body with her touch deeper and rhythmically in me.
“I meant to. Over and over to push her in your face, Bette.” I pull her hair behind her ear and then release her. She starts to lose it in her eyes.
“Goddammit! Why wouldn’t you just take me back? My life…the hell in my mind.”
“Take me back then.” I lean behind me for her kiss. She’s gone still and angry. ”Bette, come back. How many chances do we get?” This reaches her. ”Make me feel very good with you.”
“Of course, I want you back.” She says as I feel her slip her other arm under me and circle my clitoris. I’m enveloped in our lovemaking as she presses her whole body against me and pushes in deeper over and over for the beats inside me to build.
“I need you right there, Baby.” An ocean of pleasure begins. I sail over it and feel her breath against my neck. Then her aggression comes into me and it opens another place that begins to have its own need. I don’t think anymore. I cry out. There is no other expression I could give that would bring her closer to me.
Chapter Three is titled, "Remembering Me" and follows next!
The Coincidence of Wind
Dana, Alice and Shane are here having mojitos before they drive to Malibu for a party up in the canyons. Maybe? I wasn't paying attention. Alice is excited. That much I have tracked. Shane could care less about all the cool people who’re supposed to be there. That’s how really cool people are I realize as I watch her laugh at Alice’s exaggerations, and in the nicest, most unapparent ways she assuages Alice’s constant nervousness.
Dana and Tina are at the other end of the garden peering over a mysterious yellow and purple flower that just appeared yesterday. “It really looks like an orchid doesn't it?” Tina says excitedly, “But how is that possible?”
My attention drifts away from their botanical mystery and I pour another Mojito. I’m standing just far enough away from everyone to join in if I feel the desire, but have not disappeared inside so they might come looking for me. Sometimes the best place to be alone is to be just on the edge.
At this moment it is a lazy Saturday afternoon and I've not been this relaxed since we stayed in New Orleans a year ago. Our visit coincided with a moody, tropical stormy weekend of rain. An artist friend of mine had vacated his studio in the French Quarter for the Cape to paint and romance any number of people over the summer. Tina and I had the second and the third floors of a mid eighteen fifties Creole mansion whose top windows overlooked the Mississippi River as it rolled by New Orleans. The food was incredible everywhere we managed to dodge a rainstorm to get into. It was a perfect time for that trip after a few months of us both busy with work and not connecting - that stormy weekend by the river brought us together again.
I like a storm. I don’t like the drenching part although the hot shower afterwards is always lovely. I like the rolling clouds and I like the thunder and I especially like the lightning. The tropical storm had come in waves all day Saturday and after making love Tina and I had watched the river lazily from our bed. I think I was drunk by three.
Our Godsend was the French Creole café downstairs. They were so incapable of being phased by anything having run a French Quarter café for fifty years I was tempted late Saturday night to go down there one last time but in my bathrobe. It would not have mattered.
Samuel Clemens spent a lot of time in New Orleans back when everything went by the Mississippi. My artist friend had a Clemens’ quote about lightning on his refrigerator under a Dixie beer bottle opener. It read, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.” I know from a stormy battering of recent experiences how destructive the chasm in meanings can be between the right words, and all the other words in a love relationship.
Relationships eat up words. They devour them and they eat them greedily. The cravings never satisfy, never satisfy the eternity of dissatisfactions. It frightens me how incredibly hard it can be to have even one morning a week of un-aggravated happiness. I dress for work, try to psych out Tina’s agendas and needs for the day or week and where they conflict with my own. Try to weigh my answers accordingly, try to temper my attention and my responses to make a clean break for the office where things are anything but relaxing. At least there I can openly be aggravated.
I’m still uncertain how our relationship came back around like a sail boom in a strong wind. Thank God, I was alert enough to catch the ropes as they thrashed in front of my face and I tied them off finally catching the wind that came past me. What if I hadn't been quick enough? What if I had been in jail for murdering Helena? What if I had missed the wind?
Oh, it’s incalculable and yet my mind restlessly tries to figure it out in case I ever get in a jam like this again -I want the keys to get out of it. I don’t want this to be a mystery. I want this to be solved. And I still don’t know what I said or did that changed her mind to come back around like a sail broken free in a storm.
Perhaps I didn’t do anything at all and it was all her sorting it out. That’s interesting. If I erase myself from the picture and no traces of my pleading with her, yelling then apology flowers, beseeching emails, drunken voice messages, urgent texts, or wax sealed letters delivered by courier with more creative gifts - what if those never existed to sway her attention back to me for one fucking second to please listen to me tell you… See, that’s it! I didn’t have the lightning words then, and I don’t have the fucking lightning words now!
Tonight probably that dream will come again where I’m walking stark naked down a dirt race track and Formula racing cars drag past me at incredible whining speeds. That’s how close I am to knowing what the chronology is about any of this.
“Bette, it’s nearly four. You’re coming tonight, right?” Tina asks as she walks through the garden.
“Ah, so that’s what time it is. Yes, of course, I’m coming to clap the loudest when they give you your honors!” I walk over to her.
“It’s the last thing I’m doing with Helena and she wants me to meet people she thinks will help the social justice center.”
“I will stay clear of you and Helena Peabody and any staircases.”
“That would be wise. I’ll see you there.” She kisses me goodbye.
“Of course, I’ll see you there.” I walk back to Shane, Alice and Dana.
“So all this looks very promising.” Alice smiles and cheers her glass in my direction.
Dana looks up at me relieved but also confused, “I can’t keep up, but then I had my own marriage plans to destroy.”
“You are a hard act to follow.” I agree, “But yes, we’re back together.”
“Dating and having a baby.” Shane finishes.
“It sounds so trashy the way you say that, Shane.” I admonish her.
“Plenty of people’s parents weren’t even dating still by the time they were born, Bette.” Shane sends me a “think about that for a minute” look.
“The baby’s named, Alice, of course.” Alice looks around us as if this were a given.
“The only clues I have is that it’s down to three and two of them start with an, A.” I confess with a laugh that drifts.
“Well, are you the final vote? Who decides,” Dana asks, “if we have another, Alice?”
“I have a vote. I just haven’t voted yet. Who knows she may change the alphabet all around on us and start with E’s or C’s tomorrow.”
“What about your mother’s name? Have you considered naming the baby after her?” Dana asks.
“I couldn’t do that. No, I just couldn’t do that.” I shake my head slowly.
I stop by The Planet on my way to Sunset and then down to the hotel banquet room. My father is meeting Kit and Benjamin here tonight for dinner and I feel the need to drop by and see Kit before he comes and my evening gets swept into another paradigm entirely.
“There you are Lil Sis. Don’t worry, Daddy is going to be fine here unless he doesn’t like the food but I’ve made sure that doesn’t happen.” Kit says as she greets me inside the door.
“No, I’m not checking on you.” I laugh as we sit at the bar. She waves away the bartender for her.
“Do you want something?” the bartender asks me.
“Pellegrino is fine.” I turn my attention on Kit, “Do you think that Daddy just had affair after affair while he was with our mothers?”
“Something other than the obvious bringing this on?” She looks at me sideways, “Any new developments I should know about? Any missiles gotten loose that might fall from the sky?”
“I was thinking about my mother today. Names for the baby and she came up. I just wondered how many, many women’s hearts he broke before slowing down?”
“That is the thing about those old timey men. They may beat you with a peach tree switch if they catch you sneaking off from church, but they’re burning through The Commandments as fast as they can.” Kit vents.
“I know, I have to really work to forgive Daddy for his hypocrisies and for the way he behaves about Tina. Don’t get me started on the baby.”
“But to answer your question: How much of a dog was our father? I have no idea. But considering how we turned out, my guess would be a bad dog, Bette, a very bad dog. But look, don’t you get all twisted up about it. Things are better with you right now.” I watch Kit’s attention drift from talking to me over to a group by the door.
“Listen, Sista, I gotta go, but Daddy will be fine, and you and Tina are getting more and more so. Go enjoy yourself. You won this one!”
Six Days Later -
I don’t mind hospitals the way some people do. They complain they feel out of control, at the mercy of the doctors or the disease. I don’t know why this reality in here is so different for them than outside the medical center. To me the chances of getting bad news or having something completely obliterate your life and happiness can happen while drinking a latte in Santa Monica for Christ's sake.
The fact that I have many people who will come running if I yell, or probably what they’d prefer is my pushing this Call Button instead, but the fact that there are computers doing calculations, people that will run in here when I want them to, are not the reasons we are going to my house now to move my father to stay with me. It’s that I see it very clearly as the next chapter for us. I think he can still get better and if he doesn’t he doesn’t, but he’s not going to die here. That’s final.
Eight Days Later - Bette's House
Kit has chased me back into my master bedroom to shower and to do anything other than read to my father. He’s now in a coma but I read the Mississippi River poem he loves to him over and over. Kit is now through with that. It’s her evening with him until midnight, and as I drop my clothes into the laundry bin, and twist on the hot water I hear a tap on the door.
“Bette?” Tina’s voice comes from outside the door.
“Here, just getting in the shower. When did you get back from Sacramento?” I test the temperature and enter. The bathroom door opens.
“When was the last time you ate? Do you remember?” She asks.
The water hits my face and I adjust the three shower heads to pulse on my body. Oh God, that is helping make me feel alive again. “A few hours ago. This morning I had oatmeal with Daddy.” I spurt out some water.
“Okay. It’s four o’clock, and Kit tells me you have circles under your eyes.”
“I don’t believe that’s true, but I haven’t looked in a mirror much in over a week. Would it matter anyway?” I feel myself getting furious. “Who the fuck cares if I have circles under my eyes? My fucking father is dying in the next room!”
The shower door flies opens. Tina is dressed in a long silk scarf we bought in India, and a navy and black maternity dress. Her hand is on her hip as she stares at me.
“I, for one, fucking care. Turn back around and look at me. I should not have gone to that Sacramento conference with Oscar. I see that now.”
I smooth the water from my face and cut the shower heads off. “Hand me a towel please. Can’t I even get a fucking shower in peace? Here look at me.” I wrap a towel around my waist. She takes my chin in her hand and looks at my weary face.
“Ok. Got it. Here’s what we’re going to do. You stay right there and put the clothes on I’m going to pick out for you.”
“No, I really don’t want to go out tonight. Maybe Saturday night?” I wipe the steam away from the mirrors. I do have circles under my eyes, she’s right.
“Don’t do anything to yourself. Just towel your hair. We’re walking down to the food truck and getting fish tacos and lemonades.”
As I walk to the doorway a pair of jeans hits my face and chest. I step back a pace. Next comes my Irish linen white shirt flying toward me, and then sailing by my ear is a bra. Tina turns toward me as I assemble the clothes on my arm.
“That should do it. Put those on.”
“You forgot my underwear.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Yes, I like how it makes you focus.” She shoots a look at me before she leaves the bedroom.
Food truck experiences can vary so greatly from love to hate there is no computer invented that can plot all the probabilities. But this little man and his son have the fresh fish tacos down. The tortilla is made right there. All the tomatoes and chilies are fresh, fresh and for eighteen dollars he recalibrates my world. Tina and I drink our lemonade as we stroll through our neighborhood.
I put my arm around Tina's shoulder, “Thank you for the rescue. I get a tunnel vision, you know? Blinders on and I can just disappear.”
“It’s your way of coping right now.”
“Narrow the field of intake.” I nod.
“Bette, I need you to cope with something else right now, too, though. Listen, the baby is due really soon. You’ve got a lot of things going on all at your house.”
“Where would you go?” I feel myself getting unsettled.
“That is what I need you to focus on. We may need to go somewhere else. Think about it. Can you see me giving birth there right now?”
My house is on the ocean side and fairly high in the desert hills and heavy rains are rare here. But as a storm comes down from the canyon tonight it wakes me up from a dream that has painted me with sadness. I slip out of bed and tip toe past Tina sleeping to look in on my father. His breath is rough and a moan twists out as a word in his sleep. The light in the hallway flicks on and erases the dimness of his room. I feel Tina beside me.
“I don’t think it’s going to be long, Baby, prepare yourself.” She says as she rubs my back.
“I think I have.” I say resolutely.
“Why do you think he had such an endless pervasive indifference toward me. He was capable of completely erasing me as I sat right in front of him.”
I walk over to my father’s bedside table and pick up a photograph of me and my mother, blonde-headed like Tina. “I wondered.” Tina agrees and nods. She takes the photograph from me and puts it back on the table. “You’re not going to sit in here all night, Bette.”
“No, you’re here. I don’t want to. God, this storm is incredible, isn’t it?”
“Come back to bed. We can watch the lightning through the skylights,” she says.
Tina lies on my shoulder as we look up at the skylights and watch flashes of lightning through thousands of raindrops as the storm beats down. The thunder rolls in from the canyons then booms around us. My mind moves from place to place as the wind tears around the house and through the palm trees in the garden. I visit my father’s rough breath as he slowly leaves his life behind. I feel the curve of Tina’s and my baby beside me. The two dynamic poles of life so close, yet seemingly in limbo as a storm thrashes at every window around me. Tina hugs me to her and shudders.
“Bette, did you just feel the house move a little?”
“Incredible isn’t it? The wind seems to be coming from everywhere.” I feel her shift next to me and pull my arm tighter around her. “Wait, are you not alright?” I try to see her clearly through the strobes of lightning.
“It reminds me of that storm in New Orleans.” Tina says.
As I say this I watch Bette’s face change as she begins to remember, too. We had been preoccupied with our jobs before we flew in that weekend and as the time grew closer for us to leave I had begun to regret the plans. I had so much to do wrapping up my job before leaving to get ready to have this baby. But once we got to the old city and our forays out exploring restaurants and then rushing back to the house for shelter from the weather, I became a happy tourist.
Saturday was the day we were stranded completely by the storm that became more and more violent as the morning wore on. I admit that with New Orleans’ reputation for hurricanes I was unsettled even though this was a breeze compared to their last killer hurricane, Katrina. Bette and I drank wonderful dark strong coffee in bed as our plans began to change and our lovemaking began.
The clock had just turned on our being together for seven years and being preoccupied with our work had become okay. Sometimes, too, I get so reactive to her mood swings my focus goes away from her incredible waiting sexuality that with the slightest attention will awaken and curl out to find what disturbed it and why. I realized that morning in New Orleans my loneliness for her. My need felt complicated and unsettled by the weather growing more and more violent. I handed my coffee cup to her and slide down her stomach and put her in my mouth. Then I heard her clink our cups on the table and moan.
For me oral sex can give me that desired for feeling to fall back into a lover’s visions of seduction and leave the planet with them if that's what happens. I remember the rough breezes of the storm coming through the open French doors and mists gathering in our room as I made love to her. Fog horns from the river sounded urgently and she fell back and let me take her.
I don’t know what it was. The smells of the storm and the rising river, the sounds from the ship horns or those she made herself but I watched Bette become for a time, a much younger woman experiencing the pleasure of her body. Not as the first time, but as sensations still unusual and thrilling as I kissed her and teased her until finally she threaded her hands on the back of my neck and looked at me sometimes with shakes of surprise at her pleasure.
Tonight as I watch the lightning flashes through the skylight and the reflections from the pool erratic against the walls of the bedroom I feel Bette as she kisses my belly. I feel the baby kick in the fluid bubble inside me. I feel Bette’s mouth slip between my legs. She’s so good at this but tonight I want to feel her confining arms not a flight of pleasure for the hour she likes to do this. As she looks up from me I watch her become entranced moving now to my breasts swollen with milk.
”I want to taste it. Is that wrong?” She licks my nipples over and over again and then watches me for my reaction. ”I’ll stop if you want to stay dry.” She waits to see if I’ll let this burn for her begin.
”You did finally read something then.”
She laughs, ”Yes, I’ve been reading, you can check my browser cache.” She moves her leg between mine and circles my nipples with her fingers. ”I really want to.” She looks up at me questioning at first, but then a piercing look of desire overtakes her. I feel my skin flush up my chest and neck.
She smiles slyly at me, "I’ll take that as a, ”Yes.””
One of my nipples feels very wet now in her mouth and I hear her moan. My other breast seeps with a stickiness she catches with her fingers. An urge of wanting to fuck and suckle confuses me. I feel myself suck in my breath hard. She lifts her lips from me.
”What happened? Too weird?” She licks my breast as it seeps, clearly not wanting to stop.
”Not too weird. But too something, though.”
”Something that you now have to finish quickly. If you suck my breast milk anymore I’m going to lose it with it you.”
”I can’t take all night while it storms and thunders?” She asks coyly as I take her hand and press her to push inside me. ”Okay, I get the picture.” She laughs into my ear softly. ”Lean toward me a little more.”
She sucks my breast again as a wonderful probing rhythm from her exploring me begins inside. The air around my exposed breast mixes and tingles with the milk seeping from it. An itch begins. Then her mouth switches and she licks it away but turns away from me and pulls her fingers out of me slowly but suddenly.
”I need a pillow case, a towel really, but a pillow case for now to catch this gush I’ve started.” She slips a pillow case free and puts it up to my left breast and we watch as the cotton darkens with moisture.
”I can’t tell you what it feels like but I love it.” I tell her.
As her mouth takes over my nipples the feeling of my milk going out of me dissolves the last resistance I still had of being back with her again.
I’m gliding on the edge of orgasm when she asks, ”Can you feel the wind around us?”
I feel her arm muscles tighten as I run my hand up and down almost to her elbow. ”Only you inside me.” Her mouth on my nipple again, the unusual flow between us returning.
”You have no idea what that feels like. God!” I cry out as I feel her licks take the milk from my breasts.
”I need to. Tell me.”
Inside me she has found the place she wants. A field of ecstasy between us now spreads out with edges to fall from everywhere. Her long, taunting kiss on my lips for me to find her now.
”You don’t know what you mean to me anymore do you, Baby?” But the edge has approached before I can tell her. We see it in each others’ eyes.
The next story in the series is, Come Back to Me.