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Subject: Checking in
How is everything? Hope it’s good, going well. Could we have a catch-up on skype tomorrow? 0830 your time works for me but please suggest alternatives.
We miss you round here!
Big hug from me.
Tina read the email and then shut her phone. Before she saw it, she’d been strolling a row of vines, pushing a mountain bike alongside her and trying not to obsess over the phone call she had with Bette after her meeting with Wendy.
‘Good,’ Bette had said.
Good . . . Tina had been sitting out on the balcony of her room, straining every last sinew to decipher exactly the tone in her voice. Good? Tina closed her eyes. Was she being tactful? Was she keeping it short because she was driving, or resented Tina having called, or because she was hungry? Maybe she was overjoyed but thought it unseemly?
‘I’m glad,’ Tina said quickly. Bette didn’t reply. ‘I’m sorry, I . . . Should I not have called? I thought—’
‘I just need a little time to process it, Tee.’
A drumbeat of distant panic had begun in Tina’s chest. She pushed it down.
‘I’ll call you when I get home. Back to LA.’
The way Bette clarified ‘home’ as ‘back to LA’ buzzed like a mosquito in Tina’s awareness. What did it mean?
Silence. Tina’s jaw was trembling. She didn’t trust her voice.
Then Bette said, ‘You didn’t tell me she collects photographs.’
‘Does she?’ Tina said, too loud.
‘Yes. They’re amazing . . .’
The rest of the call was a blur. Tina’s ears pounding as Bette spoke about photographs, which Tina didn’t give a fuck about, and she stood up, pacing and screaming at herself not to panic, it didn’t mean Bette had spent the whole session being avoidant, which maybe she was entitled to do anyway, since this meeting was originally supposed to take place next week and it was Tina who brought it forward because Wendy had a space on Thursday. Maybe it would be good to have it out of the way? Good for who? Was that controlling?
Bette had sensed something wrong on the call. Tina said she had to go. Bette told her she loved her. Some moments later Tina had heard someone calling her name. Kurt was down on the driveway, astride a mountain bike. Did she want to go with him to collect samples on the south-west side? Act as if . . . Float past . . . Take the body and the mind will follow. Tina knew them all, and sometimes they worked.