”Good morning sunshine!”
Looking at the bedside clock, I see it’s eight am. Rolling over with a groan, I crack open my eyes only to find Alice’s face right in front of mine. ”Fuck Alice!”
She laughs and I grimace. ”Alice…it’s eight in the fucking morning…”
”Yep, and we have a lot to do today so come on…” She kneels on the bed and starts bouncing up and down like an excited puppy.
I grab her by the forearm to stop her but somehow wind up pushing her off the bed instead. The thud resounds in my still alcohol fogged skull like the crashing of a gong. I take a deep breath. Opening my eyes a little further, I see Alice standing with her arms folded over her chest, scowling at me.
”I’m sorry, I wasn’t trying to push you off, I just don’t feel well and all the movement was making it worse.” Seemingly from nowhere, she pulls out a bottle of water and ibuprofen and holds them out to me. I pull myself up slowly, feeling heavy and lethargic. It’s painful. Too bad that truck that hit me last night didn’t finish the job.
Rubbing my eyes, I look, again, to Alice. She looks as bright and cheerful as ever, though a bit impatient at the moment. She shakes the proffered items to punctuate this, and I finally grab them. ”Aren’t you hung over at all? Fuck Al, I was barely keeping up with you last night.”
”Nope, I’m good to go, but you look like poopy shit.”
Glowering at her, I irritably crack open both bottles and swallow a couple tablets.
”Hey guys…” Dana’s voice is decidedly less cheerful. She wobbles into the room and crawls onto the foot of the bed, landing face down and skewing her sunglasses. Her phone vibrates, and after a few moments of hopeless fumbling, she finally flings it at Alice before going limp and whimpering.
Alice quickly retrieves the phone while both Dana and I moan at the sudden motion. After a few moments of reading, she sighs and drops the phone onto the bed in frustration. ”I can’t believe this shit! You guys… Shane says Tina wouldn’t answer her phone or her door after she left last night, so she just sat in her jeep hoping to wait her out. Then, about thirty minutes ago, the cops showed up and kicked her off the premises! She’s on her way here now.”
The cheerful tones of I’ve got a pocket full of sunshine fill the room and Alice jumps to retrieve her own phone from her pocket. Her face grows more and more incredulous with each scan of her eyes before shouting, ”You’ve got to be fucking kidding me?!”
”ALICE!” Dana and I both regret the outburst as soon as it happens.
”Sorry, but fuck! It’s Helena. She just got a call from Tina demanding that she be sent to the Alaska shoot with Sam. She wants to know what the fuck is going on. What do I say?”
Dana turns her face to the side, and in a muffled voice says, ”Tell her that unleashing both of them on the Alaskan populace would cruel and inhumane for the whales…” Dana starts to giggle and Alice swats her on the ass. ”What? It’s true…” This earns her another swat. She rubs her ass and whines, ”Okay, okay, I’ll stop.”
Turning to face me, Alice reiterates, ”What do we do,” in a serious voice.
I close my eyes and consider this. I’m resigned to the fact that something has to be done to help Tina, whether she wants it or not. But it’s all still very uncomfortable. There has to be a way to get Tina to stay, get Sam away, and talk her off her ledge without forcing her; remind her that she doesn’t really want to jump.
Turning to Alice, I ask, ”What did Helena say to Tina?”
Alice starts to type but quickly realizes calling would be easier. Dialing the number, it’s answered on the first ring. ”Helena? Hey, okay, Tina wants to go with Sam. What did you say?” Pause ”Uh huh.” Pause. ”Uh huh” Pause. ”Okay…just a second.”
Alice hits the mute button. ”Okay, she asked her why she wanted to go shoot Alaskan whale migration habits when she’s the lead producer for Lez Girls, a movie they’re about to start shooting that’s supposed to be a pretty big deal. Tina said that she just needs a break for a while. She said that if Helena doesn’t let her go, she’s going to quit. Helena wasn’t sure what to do but told her she’d get back to her with a decision by this afternoon. The discussion didn’t go well. Apparently, Tina’s as angry with her as she is with you Bette, though it’s harder to deck someone through the phone…and when they’re your boss.”
I give Alice an annoyed glance and will my brain to focus. Okay, deep breath. Tina needs a break, a vacation. A vacation! ”When does Lez Girls start shooting?”
Alice puts the phone back to her ear. ”Okay, you still there?” Pause. ”Helena?”
Dana lifts her head and raises her sunglasses looking at Alice. With a weary sigh she says, ”Take the mute off Alice,” before allowing her head to flop back onto the mattress with a bounce.
”Oh…right.” She hits the button and tries again. ”Helena?” Pause. ”Okay, when do you start shooting Lez Girls?” Pause. ”Okay, just a sec.” Muting the phone again, she turns and says, ”July 16th, about two months from now.”
I smile at her and lean forward conspiratorially. ”Okay. Tell her to call Tina and break it to her gently that she can’t fire the current producer because he’s part of the discovery contract. She also can’t afford to have anyone but her best producer head up their biggest project. But, she insists that Tina take a vacation, starting now, with full vacation pay of course. Then, when Lez Girls is due to shoot, she can return to work. If Tina wants to quit, give her a raise, a new car, beg, plead, whatever it takes, but make it an offer she can’t refuse. The new Tina is just like the person I’ve been for the last year. Her job is her life. She won’t turn down an amazing offer, not for emotions. Trust me.”
Alice looks at me with an astonished but wary expression. ”Shit Bette. You’re kinda creepy right now,” she says seriously. Keeping her eyes on me as she turns her head, she eventually focuses on the phone. ”Helena?” With an aggravated sigh, she rolls her eyes and stands up, walking from the room as she jabs the touchscreen. ”Helena? Okay, look…”
I turn to Dana and catch movement out of the corner of my eye. Shane is walking up to the back patio doors. I throw back the covers and roll out of bed. Reaching the doors, I fumble with the locks before successfully granting her entrance.
”Hey Bette.” None of her usual calm is present. She seems tired and weary.
”Hey, come on in. You look exhausted.” I shut the door and return to the bed, lying on top of the disheveled covers. Shane takes her boots off and sits against the headboard, resting her arms and chin on her fully drawn knees.
”Shane, it’s not your fault. I’ve seen you and Tina play that way a hundred times. She’s just not herself, you know that.”
Shane turns her head and rests her cheek on her forearm. Her eyes are bloodshot and the emotional turmoil behind the cool façade is palpable. All she can manage is to nod her head and say, ”Yeah,” before sniffing and swiping at her nose.
I smile sadly at her and reach up to squeeze her forearm. ”It’s going to be okay. If you guys can reach me, there’s not a force on earth that will keep you from Tina.” Shaking her a bit, I reassure her, ”We’ll get her back Shane.” Her returning smile is sad and weary but much more genuine.
”Okay you guys. Helena’s calling Tina now. She’ll call us after and let us know…Oh, hey Shane.” Alice crawls up on the bed with all the grace of a pregnant moose and lies down with her head resting on Dana’s ass. Taking a deep breath, she says, ”Okay guys, we need a plan. If this works, as Bette says it will…” Everyone looks at me. ”…then what? We still have to reach the man behind the curtain, if you catch my drift.”
Ugh, Alice…”Ugh, Alice. Look, everyone’s hung over and exhausted. We have some time while we wait to hear from Helena. We can’t really go to step two until step one works. So why don’t we all go home, get some more rest, and meet at the planet at noon for lunch?”
Dana nearly falls off the bed in her exuberance to get going. Alice starts to object. ”Bette, how can you…” but the words are cut off as Dana puts her hand over Alice’s mouth and turns it to face her.
”Alice, let’s go home. Waiting three and a half hours won’t kill you.” Dana lifts her hand a tiny bit only to clamp it back down when Alice starts again. Alice isn’t to be deterred though, so she keeps mumbling outraged garble. ”Alice…please?” Alice sighs dramatically before removing Dana’s hand and using it to help herself up. ”As long as I live, I’ll never understand you people.”
Dana starts to pull her out the door. She turns on her way out, walking backwards and pointing at me and Shane, ”Noon, on the dot, don’t be late,” before sharply disappearing around the corner.
I meet Shane’s tired gaze and return it with one of my own. I smile and pat the bed. Without hesitation, she stretches out. We’re asleep almost instantly.
Shane and I stroll into the Planet a few minutes past twelve. Some sleep and a shower have energized us, and the smell of food and coffee is most welcome.
”Hey baby sis!” I turn to see Kit beaming at us from the counter. She hands her customer his change and walks around to greet us. ”Everything okay? You two don’t look much better than Dana.” Kit points to the back corner table. ”The girls are over there. Why don’t you both go on over and I’ll bring you something.” We smile at Kit as she shoos us away with her hands. ”Go on now.”
We make our way to the table where Alice is working on her laptop and Dana has her head face down on the surface. Alice looks up at the sound of our approach, quickly snaps her laptop shut, and shoves Dana roughly on the shoulder. Dana jerks up and fumbles with her sunglasses, situating them on her face. Giving Alice a sour expression, she demands, ”Alice…what the…”
”It’s about damn time you two showed up! You’re late!” Dana looks in our direction and mumbles out a ’hey guys’ before resting her head on her folded arms. Shane and I take a seat and I turn to Alice.
”Al, it’s six after.”
She huffs a little as she rolls her eyes before saying, ”All I hear is, ’blah, blah, blah, I’m a dirty whore.’ Anyway…” Reaching into the bag at her feet she pulls out a small stack of papers. ”While you lazy vagina’s were sleeping, I was solving all our problems.” She pulls the pages apart and hands each of us a matching copy, again shaking Dana to force her to participate. Dana blows out an exasperated sigh, grabs Alice’s coffee, and sits back looking at the paper and taking a long sip.
Looking at Dana speculatively, she grabs her own paper and leans back, mirroring Dana’s position. ”Okay, first off, Helena called two hours ago and confirmed that Tina took the deal. She had to give her a fifteen percent pay increase and the keys to her house on Broadbeach, but…” After a slight pause Alice’s enthusiasm hits the ceiling, along with Dana. The shrill outburst causes Dana to jump so sharply that she spills some coffee in her lap. Giving Alice and incredulous look that is completely ignored; she grabs a napkin and starts to blot at the darkening stain. It’s a good thing she’s wearing black.
Alice continues, ”OH, OH, OH! Sam and Tina broke up!”
We all stop and stare at Alice in hopeful disbelief, all except for Dana. Alice grins from ear to ear and nods her head. ”It’s true. Helena said that Sam came into the production office just as she was getting out of a meeting with Niki Stevens. Sam storms in positively livid and accidently slammed into the starlet, who fell and twisted her ankle! Helena spent an hour kissing Niki’s ass to avoid a lawsuit. After a trip to the hospital, Niki still signed for the lead of Lez Girls. It’s a good thing too, Niki’s hot!”
”Alice…” She stops her rambling and looks to Dana who gives her a reproving glare and says, ”Get to the break-up already.”
”Okay, sheesh, so impatient.” I look to Shane and then Dana, who sounds our collective thought with a mumbled, ’Look who’s talking,’ under her breath.
Alice gives her a scathing look. We all lean in to listen and she continues. ”Anyway, when she got back to the office, Sam was on her way out, so she asked her what the hell was going on. Apparently, Sam had given Tina an ultimatum to come with her to Alaska, but, of course, Helena had talked her out of it, so she broke up with her. Like Bette said: Money before emotion.”
”So that’s why Tina wanted to go to Alaska; Sam was trying to force her.” Alice looks to Shane and nods her agreement. ”And Tina was going to let her.” Everyone sits back and absorbs this information silently.
”Tina was going to let who do what?” Kit places two plates of waffles and two coffees on the table in front of me and Shane. She puts her hands to her hips and looks to each of us waiting for a response when Alice asks, ”Kit, you don’t know how to check your text messages, do you?”
She looks at Alice and understanding dawns on her face. Speaking slowly, she asks. ”Is…that, what my phone was doin’ all that buzzin’ about?”
We all laugh and once Alice has collected herself, she says, ”I’ll show you before we leave. They’ll explain everything.”
Kit throws her hands in the air and lets out an exasperated, ”Okay…” before leaving the table. We all look to Alice still chuckling a little and she continues. ”Anyway, where was I? Oh, right! Sam and Tina broke up and Sam is scheduled to board a plane for Anchorage this evening at six pm.” At this she looks to me with a satisfied expression and I can’t help but smile and wink at her.
Dana, who has been engrossed in reading the paper in front of her blurts out, ”Al, what the hell is this? I’m scheduled to be anywhere Tina is every few days.” I look down at my own sheet and notice that my schedule is similar. Shane grabs hers off the table and notices her name written there as well.
Alice’s satisfied smile becomes wider and she addresses the table. ”That’s how I’ve solved all our problems.” Leaning forward, she rests her arms on the table, drops her voice an octave, and looks us all in the eye to make sure she has our full attention.
”After I spoke with Helena, I started thinking about what Bette said this morning and came to the conclusion that, while rare, Bette’s is right.” I give her an annoyed glance. She just shrugs her shoulders and addresses the table. ”Tina told, well screamed, last night that she wants nothing to do with any of us anymore, right?” Shane nods her head in the affirmative and Alice continues. ”Well, that’s exactly what Bette did. She cut us all out and practically disappeared.” She looks to me and I finally understand what this schedule means. It’s genius. It will be hard, but it just might work. I look to Shane and see understanding dawn in her eyes as well as she mutters, ”We just don’t let her.”
Alice’s eyes brighten with mischief as she shouts, ”Right!”
Shane looks at the schedule and says, ”It’s crazy Alice, but it just might work.”
Alice gives Shane an annoyed gaze and says, ”Crazy like a fucking fox you mean. It’ll work. Trust me.”
”What will work? I don’t get it you guys…” Alice leans back in her seat glaring at Dana disapprovingly before Shane pipes in.
”What she means Dane, is that like Bette, Tina’s going to push us away. But unlike Bette, we’re not going to let her. Alice has scheduled us to basically babysit Tina in turns.” She holds up the schedule and the same lightbulb from yesterday blinks into brightness above Dana’s head.
”Oh! Okay!” Giving Alice a bright toothy grin that crinkles her nose, Alice patiently pats her hand before linking their fingers.
”Okay, so you’re all in? We’re agreed?”
I look at Alice and say, ”It’s a great idea, but this is the old me we’re talking about. How do we force Tina to see us, spend time with us?”
Alice smiles and says, ”I thought of that too. It won’t be easy, but the five of us…” Dana looks around the table and back to Alice like she’s touched in the head. Squeezing Dana’s hand, she continues, ”…including Helena…” Dana mouths the words, ’oh,’ and then ’sorry,’ before settling back with an expression indicating her determination to keep her mouth shut. Again, Alice continues. ”…will need to keep in touch. We follow the schedule as closely as possible; when your time is up, you report to the next person. Basically, we stalk the shit out of her.”
Shane pipes in. ”What about work? Bette’s on holiday and you set your own hours, but Dana and I don’t.”
”Right, that’s why Bette and I have the most hours on the schedule. Also, if one of us needs to switch a shift, someone else fills in for them. So long as we communicate and stick with it, it will work. We can’t be with her every waking moment, but enough to irritate the shit out of her. That in itself is reason enough to do it.”
We all laugh but then Shane brings up another hurdle, a not easily managed one. ”And what if she calls the cops?”
Alice’s face becomes decidedly crazed and she laughs maniacally. We all lean away in self-preservation; Dana even releases Alice’s hand. ”Please Shane. Who do you think you’re dealing with?” She rolls her eyes and adopts a smug demeanor. ”I have the first shift, starting tonight. I’m going to meet her at the studio as she leaves work. She’ll have no choice but to speak with me if she doesn’t want to cause a scene. I think she and I will reach an understanding. If not, she’ll have enough trashy news attached to her reputation to make Lindsay Lohan blush. I own OurChart. I am OurChart. A few clicks and she’ll find herself tits deep in a hot bed of incestuous lesbian bushwackers ready to take her to town. If she truly is becoming evil Bette Porter, she won’t risk her reputation, job or the money involved. No, I think she’ll be reasonable.”
Dana visibly pales and scoots her chair closer to Shane while Alice continues. ”If I’m wrong, which rarely happens…” A chorus of snorts is heard around the table but Alice soldiers on. ”…we’ll be sure to harass her in public places only. It’s hard to get the cops to care when your complaint is, I saw someone I don’t like at *insert very public place in one of the largest cities in the United States here*.”
Repeating Alice’s words to me from this morning, I turn to her and say, ”Shit Alice! You’re kinda’ creepy right now…” She smiles warmly and we all relax a little.
”Okay, any more questions, concerns, unnecessary doubts or lack of faith in my manipulative powers?”
There’s a chorus of a hesitant ’No,’ from the table.
”Good, alright then!” She stands and claps her hands together with finality before putting her laptop away and gathering up her things. ”I’m going to go show Kit how to use her phone and I’ll be in touch with you guys after I speak with Tina.” She points to the full plates of cooling waffles in front of me and Shane and says, ”Eat your breakfast,” before disappearing into the back of the café.
Dana stands wearily and says, ”As the blond goes, so goes my nation,” before stalking away after Alice. Shane and I look to each other, pick up our forks, and start to eat.