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Tina, however, presented an array of reasons not to go this route: a litany of risks and probabilities, all of them bad, but Bette was gently, sweetly adamant. She just wanted to try. Could they not at least try?
So they tried. And nothing happened. Bette knew that Tina was having to stand with Bette in wishing for an outcome that she, Tina, didn’t actually want, but she did it. She attended the inseminations, gave Bette the hormone shots, scheduled ob-gyn appointments. She also stayed at work late sometimes. And drank a little more wine. And went back to Xanax. In the end, after a year of frustration and disappointment, and with Angie starting to act out a little at school, Bette agreed to stop. She fell into a depression, which was made more difficult to endure because the only people who knew she was even trying for a baby were her doctors, Marcus and Kit. Then another year went by, and another. They were busy. Money was pouring in, Angie was healthy. Adoption would pop into Bette’s head often, but it didn’t feel how it had felt before. It had now become the symbol of her failure. So she decided the glass was half-full and let the dream go. And as she did, Tina slowly became happier again too.
Bette stared out the window of the car. It was, objectively, a good thing that Tina felt sufficiently secure with Carrie to have told her that they kissed. That was what Foxworthy would have called ‘real growth’.
She picked up her speech again and scanned the text, which was now swimming about through a film of tears. Rapidly, she blinked them back. Whatever the reason was that Tina could not be honest with her throughout their marriage, and before, didn’t really matter now. They’d never grown together, at the same time. That happens to some couples.
She cleared her throat. ‘Okay. Now, this part here,’ she said, pointing with her pen. ‘I hate the word unleash, what about “encourage”?’
After lunch, Tina and Carrie headed to the airport. On the flight, Carrie couldn’t stand having a secret from Tina, so she told her about going to see Bette. Initially, Tina was puzzled and angry. She felt it was a controlling thing to do. But then, when she saw that it had been born out of something she’d done – Carrie needed reassurance because Tina had kissed her ex – she climbed down off her high horse and felt that it was overall a good thing that Bette had given Carrie a courteous reception, listened to her, and answered her truthfully.
Back in Toronto, they arrived at their apartment around ten-thirty local time. It was still early in LA, so they didn’t feel quite ready for bed. Carrie put together a tray of wine, cheese, crackers, grapes and olives, and they got into pyjamas and watched a Seinfeld rerun. Then, just as they were switching off the living-room lights, Carrie saw her bag and remembered.
‘Oh,’ she said, putting the light back on. ‘Wait a minute . . .’ She went to the bag and got the envelope. ‘Bette gave me this for you.’
Tina was standing in the doorway between the living room and the hall as Carrie went past and handed her the envelope and walked towards the bedroom. As her footsteps padded softly away, Tina’s eyes fell on Bette’s handwriting. Bold, confident letters. The slight whip-curl on the stroke of the capital ‘T’ of Tina’s name thundered with familiarity. How many times had Bette written that, on every kind of document, from notes telling her they were out of almond milk to inscriptions in books to countless cards with countless gifts of flowers and jewellery and . . .
The ache was back. The longing. The deep, deep gravitational force that kept pulling them back to each other was rising up again as the silence in Tina’s living room allowed her to hear her inner voice.
I belong with her.
She closed her eyes and, almost in a panic, tore the envelope open. Inside it was a single sheet of luxury notepaper, rolled up tightly inside a golden ring. Bette’s wedding ring.
A gasp caught in Tina’s throat. She could hear Carrie in the bathroom. The tiny hum of a sonic toothbrush.
She pulled the paper out, gently unrolled it and saw these words written in Bette’s unmistakeable hand.
‘If equal affection cannot be, then let the more loving one be me.’