”Babe…?” I hear the voice of my angel, calling to me, reaching out to me through the fog of exhausted sleep. ”Babe…wake up…” T? I feel my soul light with the warmth and peace only her voice can inspire. ”Bette…” God my limbs are so heavy. She could just keep talking to me and I could stay here forever. ”Bette?!” T, don’t yell. ”BETTE?!”
I snap my eyes open and sit up quickly, hitting my head against something extremely hard with a loud thunk. ”Fuck…Bette…” I look up at Alice as she rubs her forehead agitatedly and look to Tina. She’s been turned, but no change. I close my eyes against the tears. What a cruel joke dreams can be.
I turn back to Alice and Dana and smile a smile I don’t really mean, and they know it. She grins sadly and holds up the bag in her hand. I roll my eyes. Kit makes sure I get breakfast and these two force lunch down me. I hear the rustling sound as Alice opens the bag and starts setting out the food, and I look to Dana. She gives me a toothy grin but I can tell it’s only half watt. Sigh. They try so hard; I just can’t seem to feel it.
”Come on Bette. Tina will have my head if she sees you when she wakes up.” God, they all have so much hope. I haven’t given up yet either…I don’t know if I ever really could, not with T; but there’s no peace in that hope…it’s bittersweet at best. I sit up and rub at the stiffness in my neck as I reach out to accept the food.
Alice smiles and hands me my salad as Dana takes the seat next to me. Alice points to the salad with a no-nonsense expression before walking over and sitting on the edge of Tina’s bed. She strokes her leg affectionately and I can tell that tears are stinging her eyes. She folds her arms over her chest and sniffs to hold them in. This is quite possibly the most quiet Alice has ever been. She releases a deep breath and meets my gaze. Tears well in my own eyes, or at least they want to, but I think I’m just all cried out.
I focus on my salad as Alice tries again. ”She told me that she knows she’s hurting you but she can’t figure out how.” I look up at her with furrowed brows and she meets my eyes. ”I don’t know why I’m telling you this…”
I swallow my bite and smile. ”Because you have a big mouth…”
She ignores my comment. ”…but I think I figured it out. I just…I never got to tell her.”
My stomach feels sick so I set the salad down. ”If she needed to talk to me, she would have come to me Alice.”
She finally meets my gaze and snorts out an incredulous laugh. ”You two have come a long way, but you’re both still so fucking blind. Worse than me and Dana were…”
My voice drops into a low warning. ”Alice, I really…really…don’t have any patience for this right now.”
”No, you were too patient before and now…” She gestures to Tina. ”Now…I don’t know…it might be too…”
”Don’t you dare finish that sentence…” I stand and toss the salad onto the table and tower over Alice menacingly. ”…in fact, you need to just mind your own fucking business. I’m so sick of it Alice. I’ve swallowed it and swallowed it and you choose here and now of all fucking times to attack me!?”
Alice stands as well and her face becomes placating. ”She just needed some advice, some help, I thought that…”
I gaze at her with barely contained contempt. ”You thought…?”
”Bette, you know what…you wouldn’t tell her what was wrong…she didn’t feel like you wanted to participate…”
”So you decided to just step in for me; you’d talk to her for me; you’d help her find a donor?!”
Her voice becomes whiny and only further agitates me. ”I just tried to be there for my friend!”
I scoff at her. ”Fuck you!”
Her jaw drops with incredulity. ”Fuck me?!”
I cross my arms over my chest. ”Yeah, fuck you! You know, weren’t you my friend?”
She blows out a short, disbelieving huff. ”I’m still your friend, I’m totally your friend, but you can be a little cruel…” I close my eyes and shake my head. ”I’ve been there, I remember…”
I squint my eyes at her in disbelief. ”That’s low…” She rolls her eyes. ”You and I dated for six weeks. It was never going to go anywhere. I did us both a favor…”
She drops her arms and her voice returns to normal. ”It’s just…Tina needed someone and you weren’t there…”
I lower my head. How fucking dare she pull this shit now of all times, here of all places, and with such a load of utter fucking nonsense. ”Well, tell you what, my friend, you can judge me all you want to but don’t you dare interfere with my life like that, okay? Don’t cross that line again. Tina’s my wife, that child out there struggling for her life is our child. We still have things to work out but it’s neither your business nor your place to get involved. Next time, why don’t you practice some self-control and give advice that would have her come to me…not keep her coming to you…”
Fuck. I should feel bad, but honestly, I don’t. It feels good to say some of these things. Our friends are just too fucking involved and with these types of issues, the more others step in, the less we can reach each other.
Dana stands and grabs for Alice pulling her from the room. Alice stops at the door and says, ”I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to cross a line…” They disappear from the room and I slump into my chair, pinching the bridge of my nose.
I look to Tina and start to shout. ”Did you hear all that? You should have come to me! I should have helped you look for donors!” There’s no response and tears well in my eyes. ”Wake up damnit! Wake up and talk to me! I’ll tell you anything…everything! You want to know what I’m keeping from you?! Fine! Wake the fuck up and talk to me!”
The only response is the irregular beep of the monitor and a nurse who steps into the room with an agitated expression. ”Ma’am, you need to calm down and relax. If you don’t stop yelling I’ll have to ask you to leave.”
I look at her with barely contained fury but well-practiced control. ”Are you kidding me? My wife is hanging to life by a thread and my daughter is strapped into an incubator, her immune system so weak that I can’t even touch her because even the very air could kill her, and you want me to calm down and relax? Why don’t you just give me a fucking break you bureaucratic maggot and run along pretending like none of this means anything to you?”
Her expression is incredulous and sad as she leaves the room quietly. I take a deep breath and try to pull myself together. I walk wearily over to Tina’s bed to sit on the edge and stroke her golden hair. Her bed gown is bunched up so I lift the blanket and pull up on it to straighten it and see the faint stretch marks that proclaim she is truly Angie’s mother. Tears well in my eyes. I can’t believe we finally have a family and she’s not even here to enjoy it. She was so happy when she told me…
”T? Where are we going?” Tina looked to me and smiled as we walked down Santa Monica Boulevard holding hands. She wasn’t going to tell me but we were having a date night, and it didn’t much matter. I looked around me as crowds of people from all walks of life hurried past us. The further we went, the closer we got to Cinespia Park. I smiled and squeezed her hand having finally figured it out. She smiled smugly back up at me and I furrowed my brows. I’ve never really cared for movies, but Tina, Tina loves film.
I saw the posters lined up as we drew closer to the gathering crowd settling onto blankets in the park, and eventually a poster for ’All About Eve.’ That explained why the gay couples outnumbered the straight. I don’t know what it is, but gay people love Bette Davis. She was undoubtedly a classically beautiful woman. I looked to the other poster and furrowed my brows.
There, on the poster, was a picture of me and Tina sitting on the bottom rungs of our patio stairs. I remembered this picture. Shane took it. It was early and we had been making love for most of the night. It was a Sunday, and Tina was beautiful in her simple forest green blouse, her blond waves pulled back into a low pony tail, the whispy strands of her bangs loosely framing her adorably mischievous smile, and a mug of coffee in her small hands. I was sitting closely to her left, slightly behind her, in a plain white cotton oxford not fully buttoned, holding a matching cup of coffee, my hair wild and loose around my shoulders, and a bright smile that reached my eyes.
We were so happy. At the top of the poster is said, ’starring Tina and Bette Porter-Kennard,’ with a title just beneath it that said ’Baby Girl!’ It looked like any poster you’d see at a theatre and it was no wonder given Tina’s connections. Beneath us it read, ’Coming January.’ It took a moment for it to sink in as I gazed at the poster but once it did, I couldn’t help the bright smile that mirrored my counterpart in the poster.
I turned to Tina’s beaming, radiant, glowing face and she raised that beautiful eyebrow as she started to chuckle with unadulterated joy. Tears welled in my eyes and I took her in my arms, using every ounce of my strength not to crush her or our child with a tight embrace. I leaned back and asked the question with my eyes. I wanted to see her, hear her confirm it, so that my soul could truly feel it. She smiled warmly as she stroked my face and nodded her head. ”We’re going to have a baby girl…”
We both started to laugh and I couldn’t help but reach in and kiss her with all the adoration and devotion pouring from my very heart, my very soul, her very domain. The kiss lasted long, glorious moments before we heard clapping start to pick up momentum around us. We finally broke the kiss and looked at the small crowd of passersby, strangers, celebrating this happy moment with us. There were even a few wolf whistles and cat calls.
The tears came harder and faster, matched with equal parts joy, devotion, love, and disbelieving gratitude. I stroked her face and gazed deeply into her eyes as I said, ”I love you…thank you…I love you…”
She chuckled as I crouched down and rested my forehead against her hard tummy. How hadn’t I noticed that it felt harder? I smiled brightly as I said, ”You hear that baby girl? Your mama B loves your mama T…and we both love you…so, so much…” I leaned in and kissed our child as I felt Tina’s fingers tangle in my dark curls and hold us all together for our first real family hug.