“Tina, it's no good, you'll have to go.”
“What?” The executive transferred the mobile over to her right ear to hear better.
“To Bette's house. She won't listen to anyone else, you'll have to go.”
“What are you talking about Alice ? I'm at work. Did something happen?”
“Well, that's just it, we don't know.” Alice continued, sounding as mysterious as she could. “Bette hasn't been at work all week, and she won't answer the phone.” She was biting the thumbnail of her free hand anxiously. “We know she's at home because we tried to get in to see if she's okay because her car is there? But,” she took a breath, “all we got was her shouting to be left alone. So we know she's alive , but something is seriously wrong, and she won't come out, and she won't tell us what it is.” She waited for a response. “So you have to go,” she added sharply, reiterating her reason for calling.
“ Alice can this wait til I'm finished work?”
“Well… yeh, I guess . But I don't think you understand the seriousness of the situation.”
“You mean the fact that she hasn't left the house all week?”
“Well, yeh, okay maybe you do. But, see, we figure she must be about to run out of food, or toilet roll or something soon.”
“How do you know she isn't ordering in, or she didn't sneak out when you weren't looking.”
“Because Helena and I have been on stake-out all week.” Alice flicked a sly look to her companion in crime who sighed heavily.
“You've what?!” Tine asked.
“Stake-out. You know, where you sit in a car parked on the opposite side if the road, eating doughnuts and using binoculars…”
“I know what a stake-out is Alice . You've been watching the house?”
“Oh yeh ,” she drew the word out, taking the opportunity to look at it again, in all it's unmoving glory.
“Well, no. I mean, yes , but Shane and Jenny take over when we need to like shower or whatever.”
“Oh my god. Alice that's insane!”
The blonde's eyes widened madly, “I know! That's why you have to come!” She was clearly on the edge, she fingered an empty can on the dash board, stuffed full of wrappers. “We have to clean this car out - Helena is really clumsy,” she looked at Helena who glared at her through slitted eyes, “there's coffee all over everything - I think we broke the walkie-talkies Max lent us - and I need to sleep horizontally before I do permanent damage to some vertebrae or something.”
“ Alice , did you call Kit?”
“ Yeeees , of course we did. But Kit's still mad at her. She says that as long as Bette is still able to shout at us through the window, she's not worried.”
“ Alice what about Jody? I mean, maybe, you know, they're both in the house, did you think of that?” It wasn't something Tina wanted to have to think about, never mind say out loud.
“Yes, Tina, that was obviously our first assumption, until Jody turned up at work, and Bette didn't. She says she hasn't spoken to her since last weekend!”
Helena leant over to the phone, “ Please , just come Tina, so I can go home ! PLEASE!” She appealed desperately.
Alice batted her away, “See, you heard her, we're going crazy here, we've barely slept. You have to come.”
Tina rolled her eyes and looked at her watch, “Okay, okay. Look, I have to finish up here, okay? Then I'll come by on my way home.”
“How soon will that be?” Alice questioned suspiciously.
“In like,” Tina scrunched up her face, “I dunno, an hour?”
“An hour?! Uh. Okay. Well - bring coke, we're dying here, and Shane's claiming she's off duty because she's at the shack.”
Tina frowned, “Okay. I'll see you soon.”
They both hung up.
Tina stared at the phone. “Fuck.” Then dialled Bette's number, which went unanswered.
Alice turned to Helena , “Did you get that? An HOUR! ”
Helena gave her a sad, defeated face, “Look, I don't care how long it takes, so long as I know she's coming,” and turned back to gaze at the unmoving house.
“Yeh, you're right.” Alice resigned herself to their fate. “Shit, LAPD! Get down!”
Alice dove on Helena , pushing her down until the cop car had safely passed them by. Helena just managed to hold onto the half cup of cold coffee she was still been nursing.
Alice peered up, “Okay, I think we're okay.” She said rising, “That's the third time today, we're really pushing it.”
Helena de-crumpled herself slowly. “Ugh. Alice , whose idea was this?” she asked.
“Oh, don't start that again, it's getting old.”
“ I'm getting old.”
“Grin and bare it bitch, we're an hour away from freedom.”
Helena perked up suddenly, “Shit did you see that?”
“The curtain, it twitched,” she pointed, almost excitedly, “I'm sure it did!”
“It did not.”
“Gimme those,” Alice snatched the binoculars.
“You guys are so weird.”
“Shit, oh, fuck! Christ Tina, we're staking-out here, you can't creep up on us like that.”
“Well, for detectives you're not very observant. I parked right behind you.”
Alice looked in the rear view mirror. “Oh, yeh, so ya did.”
“You guys look terrible.”
Helena was pathetic, “Can we go now?”
“No, Helena , we cannot go. We have to make sure Tina secures the… the, er… you know - gets in okay.”
Helena eyes widened, “Right, yeh, okay. Then can we go?”
“Oh sure, yah. Yah, totally.”
Tina interjected from the window-side, “You guys I have a key, you can go."
Alice looked relieved, her brow knitting together, “Really?”
“I told you we should have called her first.” Helena said under her breath with just a hint of annoyance.
“Bad cop, shut up!” Alice berated.
Tina shook her head, “Go on, go home. I'll call you.”
Helena was keen not to lose their ticket out, “If you sure?”
“I'm sure, really, I don't think either of you are going to be much use in this state.”
“Well, if you're sure,” Alice repeated.
“Just go , okay?” Tina shook her head, still unable to believe the ridiculousness of the sight before her.
“Yes sir.” Alice answered sharply. “Good luck! Oh, where's the coke?”
Tina wasn't apologetic, “I thought you were kidding,” she raised an eyebrow at her.
“I hope you take the next mission more seriously soldier,” Alice admonished before starting up the car.
“Bette? Bette it's Tina. Is everything okay?”
She unlocked the door and cautiously entered the house.
“Bette?” Walking around it quickly became apparent she wasn't in the main house, and the only closed door was the bedroom door. She knocked lightly as she called again, “Bette?”
“Tina don't come in, please. I'm fine I just… I just want to be alone, okay?” her dejection was evident.
“Is everything okay? Did something happen?” Suddenly Tina was actually concerned.
Bette sounded groggy and hoarse, “Nothing happened. I'm fine, please, just leave.”
“Bette, everyone's worried about you. Helena and Alice have been sleeping in Alice 's car for a week.”
“They what?” she was confused.
“Watching the house, waiting for you to emerge.”
“In a car?”
“Yeh, I know. I think maybe they blew this out of proportion, but they're worried, and I promised I'd check you were okay, which you're clearly not.”
“Yeh, right. Can I just come in, so I can see for myself?”
“Tina, I don't want…”
“Please.” The tenderness in Tina's voice clearly showed her concern.
Bette gave in, “Oh fine, okay.”
Tina opened the door to find Bette in bed, tissues all around her, empty food cartons and rubbish covering the floor. She looked very sorry for herself indeed, and very unnatural in the shockingly dishevelled surroundings of what was usually a perfectly tidy room.
“ Fuck , Bette, what the hell happened?” She stared at the mess before her.
Bette's face was clearly blotchy from crying, she sat up a little, and as her eye's met Tina's she looked as though she might start up again.
Tina reacted instinctively, rushing towards the bed, “Hey, hey… Shit , what's wrong?”
Bette pulled a face, attempting to hold herself together, “No, no don't. Please don't,” she held up a hand in an attempt to keep Tina at bay. Tina paused as she neared the bed feeling helpless.
“You really haven't left the house,” Tina commented shaking her head.
“I haven't left this room .” Bette sniffed visibly pulling herself together.
“Why?” Tina started to pick up the debris for something to do.
Bette watched her.
“Jody…” she began, but was unable to finish.
Tina turned to her sympathetically, “Did you break up?”
Bette nodded in affirmation. She bit her lip, her jaw clenching and unclenching.
Tina blew out a breath. “It's that bad? I mean it's this bad?” she indicated the state of the room.
Tina looked at her, not sure what to say. She plumped for the practical.
“Okay,” she sighed. “Come on, you have to get out of that bed.” Bette nodded compliantly. “Get in the shower, I'll see what I can do about this room. Then I suspect you need feeding, right?”
Bette shook her head weakly, “Tina…” she started, but she was stopped.
“Shut up, okay? Just shut up and get in the shower,” she pointed to the bathroom. “Fuck,” she breathed, surveying the room again.
Bette was standing now, and clearly struggling. “Tina, I can't…” she didn't know how to say it.
Tina looked at her, waiting, but no further words came. “Can't what? Shower?” she smiled, before correctly guessing the truth, “Or let me look after you?”
She knew her so well it hurt. “Yes.” Her tone was gentle and sad.
“Bette, that's just stupid.” Tina answered matter-of-factly. “I can't leave you like this. You don't have to talk to me about it if you don't want to, but you can at least let me make sure you're okay.”
But Bette needed to be adamant, and found the harsh tone she reserved for occasions when she felt she was losing control. “I think maybe you should just leave, Tina.” Tina's brow rose, but she didn't respond, causing Bette to push her further, “I mean could you do that? Please? Do you think?” Her voice held a hard, annoyed edge.
It got a response. Tina was hurt but didn't want to argue with her. She gritted her teeth, “Okay,” and turned, heading out of the bedroom. “If that's what you really want,” she said picking up her briefcase.
Bette screwed up her face and cursed, “ Shit ,” following her into the lounge, “Tina wait, I'm sorry okay? I know you came here to see if I'm okay, and clearly I'm not okay, but I can't talk to you about it. I'm sorry.” Tina stopped and turned to her. “And I'm grateful you came, but I didn't ask you to.”
She was incredulous, “Bette it's okay. I'll leave you in your pit of misery if that's what you want,” but she couldn't help but be affected by the state Bette was in, “just promise me you'll take a shower, and order in some real food, okay?”
“Tina - I want to tell you… it's just not appropriate.”
“Well… I don't get why? I mean if it was appropriate to ask me how to get back together with Jody, I don't see how telling me about your break-up is any less appropriate?”
“Just, trust me, okay?”
Tina snorted, “Trust you. Ok, whatever!” and turned to complete her journey to the door.
“Look Bette, maybe you're right? Okay? Because holding you while you cry about another women isn't really my idea of a great time. So if you can't, or don't want to, that's just fine by me, okay?”
“It involves you.”
Tina frowned, “It involves me? How?”
“Jody didn't break-up with me. I broke up with her.”
Tina was confused, “Okay.”
“I can't be with her.”
“Okay. Then breaking up seems like it should be a good thing, right?” she reasoned. “So congratulations.”
“I'm not ready to be with her, or anyone.”
Tina took a breath, putting aside her own hurt, “Bette, you must really want her, look at all the effort you went to?” But Bette shook her head. “What changed?”
“So why break up with her?”
“I can't… I can't be with her T.”
“Bette do I have to remind you that you melted off half a ton of metal signage, illegally, and drove it all the way to…”
But Bette couldn't hold it in any longer, she allowed the tears to silently flow down her face as she heard Tina recounting the actions which should prove her love for Jody. Gestures that she now knew should have been made elsewhere.
Tina put down her briefcase again and headed towards her, as she did Bette bowed her head, resulting in Tina once again pausing instead of reaching for her, as she wanted to.
“Bette just tell me?” she pleaded tenderly, “I can't help if you don't.” She stood directly in front of her, extending a hand out to cup her cheek and wipe the tears.
Bette leaned into the contact, closing her eyes briefly. As she reopened them, they were as full of fear and regret as Tina's were full of concern.
“Do you want me to be with Jody?” she asked her quietly.
Tina was caught off-guard, she almost laughed, “What? What kind of a question is that? I want you to be happy, Bette.”
Bette nodded dejectedly, licking a tear from her lip and taking a jerky breath. “I'm not.”
“I miss you,” she breathed.
A mixture of joy and dread hit Tina's stomach making it instantly lurch. She panicked, her tongue tripping. “Bette, I… I.. er…”
There was suddenly such clear adoration in Bette's eyes. She smiled bravely, wanly.
“I'm not telling you that for a reaction, T. I don't expect anything. I just… I miss you. So much.” Tina was still, her jaw clenched. “And I don't know how to move on. I thought I had, I really did. I thought this might be something with Jody, y'know? But when it comes to it, I am so consumed with jealousy when I see or think about you with Henry, you with anyone…”
“No please, just let me finish, okay? Now that I've started, I have to say it, so that I've said it, so that you know. I can't be with Jody because I am so very obviously still in love with you.” She gazed at her. “We are such a big part of each other's lives because of Angelica, which I wouldn't change for the world, but that just compounds how I feel, what I go through every time I see you. I've tried so hard, T, I really have. I think I even managed to convince myself it was all okay. But it's not,” she gulped. “It really isn't. Everything I am doing for Jody, is something I want to be doing for you. I shouldn't have been working out how to win her back. It wasn't her I wanted. I just wanted to believe I did. Everything I said to her I should have said to you. It's like I've been transferring everything I feel onto her. And now that I know it… Well, you've seen the result of my realisation,” she gestured at herself and the bedroom. “Finally understanding just what I fucked up.”
“Are you finished?”
Bette reeled, anticipating by the tone of Tina's rather unnervingly calm voice that she wasn't happy.
“I'm so sorry,” she whispered quickly before Tina started her attack.
But she didn't attack.
“You're not the only one who fucked up, Bette.”
Bette pursed her lips, dropping her gaze. Though she appreciated Tina trying to cut her some slack, it didn't make her feel any better. In fact, Tina being nice made it worse, just as it had done when she tried to help her win Jody back.
“I'm a pig-headed, stubborn, snobbish, arrogant, selfish shit , Tina. I've spent a whole week hating myself. Which is just about the most selfish thing I could have done, and to top it off I'm now burdening you with a load of information you don't even want to know.” Her big brown eyes opened in desperation. “I mean, fuck! ” She blew out an emotionally charged breath. “Why aren't you shouting at me?” She looked at Tina in genuine confusion.
“I think you're doing a pretty good job of beating yourself up without me helping you.”
Bette sat down heavily on the sofa behind her, putting her head in her hands, rubbing her aching head.
“I hate my life. I mean, how can that be? I know I fucked up, but I dragged myself up, and out, and I have so much, so much to be grateful for, but…” She glanced around, “I look at this house and it's not right without you in T, it's just not. I have a great job, I love my job but… and you're still around, and we have Angelica, and we're getting on, and yet I still feel like I've lost everything.”
“You haven't lost everything, Bette.” It was all Tina could manage, her throat suddenly ached.
“You're wrong Tina.” She shook her head. “I moved from scoring the lead role, to having a bit-part. And I get to watch someone else shoot all the best scenes.” She held Tina's gaze for a moment before closing her eyes and hanging her head again in exhaustion. “And it's slowly killing me.”
Tina couldn't watch her pain any longer, she moved forward and knelt at Bette's feet, putting one hand on her knee and stroking her hair with the other. Bette looked up to meet her face to face.
“How did I lose you?” she murmured.
“You didn't.” Tina felt the tears stinging behind her eyes.
“Tina, please , spare me the talk about how were here for each other, and that we'll always be friends, and we have Angelica… I know all of that, and I'm grateful, I am, really, but it isn't what I want.”
Tina couldn't verbalise what she wanted to convey; everything had happened too quickly, it was all so unexpected. All she could do was repeat herself and hope that Bette understood her meaning.
“You didn't lose me, Bette.”
Bette's breath hitched. She was still, fixing her eyes on Tina's. Her lips moved slightly as she tried to fathom the significance of the words.
She was clear, “No.” Then almost swallowed the words, “I thought I lost you.”
This was surely affirmation?
Bette half laughed nervously, “Quite the opposite.”
Tina started to smile. She searched Bette's face, her eye's open, trying to convey her relief, her happiness; her love.
Bette blinked. In a few moments she'd travelled from deepest despair into, into what?
She couldn't allow herself to be joyful.
“What does this mean?” She asked, not daring to be hopeful.
Tina took a hold of the hand Bette had laid across her own knee. She looked at it as Bette watched her intently. Their fingers quickly became acquainted with one-another. It made Bette smile.
“It means,” Tina said, taking a breath, building her courage, “you can kiss me, if you want.”
“I can?” Bette's eyes were now wide in earnest. Tina nodded. “I can.” Tina smiled, and Bette's face lit, a brilliant smile slowly covering it. “I can,” she repeated, noticing Tina's smile broadening also. She bent forward, shuffling herself closer almost clumsily. Tina met her halfway.
But conscience hit Bette, despite herself. Their lips were merely inches apart. “Wait, Tina, what about Henry?”
“What about Henry?” Tina asked indifferently.
“Tina, we can't…”
“Bette screw Henry, okay? Would you just kiss me, please. Please?!”
“Are you sure it's…?”
Tina cut her off adamantly, “I'm sure .” She searched Bette's face for sign of understanding, and was finally relieved to see Bette's concern dwindle and be replaced steadily with desire.
Tina took the initiative, closing the small gap between them and pressing her lips longingly against Bette's. It was a prolonged kiss full of yearning, only ceased in order that they might revel momentarily in the intimacy that such close contact brought; the gentle exploration of unmoving mouths, the exchange of light breath.
“I love you,” Bette whispered, before lightly repeating the kiss. “I love you,” she continued to reiterate with every new contact, over and over. “I love you.”
Now it was Tina's turn to allow her emotion get the better of her, as she wallowed selfishly in Bette's adoration, tears flowing readily.
Bette pulled back a strand of hair from out of the blonde women's face and kissed the tears away, “Don't cry, baby don't cry.” She took a deep breath, and finally spoke the words she that should always have been for Tina.
“I never should have let you go –
I would do anything for another chance –
I'm not afraid to…” but Tina was already finishing the sentence for her.
“…not afraid to make a fool out of myself… You actually do listen to me.”
Tina smiled tenderly and pushed herself up, forcing Bette backwards into the sofa, and settling herself astride her.
“Do you remember the first time you took me to New York, to see the Gadolphini exhibition?”
Bette blushed beautifully at the memory, “Yes,” she nodded. “I don't remember seeing any Gadolphini…”
Tina smiled as she took a hold of each of Bette's hands in turn. “That's because we stayed in all weekend, making-out like teenagers.”
“That was good weekend.”
“It was a great weekend. Would you like to do it again?”
Comments as always to: firstname.lastname@example.org
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