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“OK Kit what have you done with Melvin Porter?”
“What are you talking about baby sis?”
“Look at him over there.” Bette and Kit sat on lounge chairs by the pool at Bette’s house in West Hollywood eyeing their father across the yard. It was early evening and Melvin stood with Tina having a conversation as she showed him her herb garden. Every now and then Melvin would bend down to smell something or uproot an herb to be added to the dinner he was helping to prepare.
It had been years since Bette saw her father so relaxed and gregarious. Never had he shown this side of his personality in Tina’s company. On the few rare occasions when Bette and Tina had socialized with Melvin he was barely civil and always referred to Tina as Ms. Kennard. They usually met for dinner in some stuffy overpriced restaurant of his choosing. He was generally pressed for time so he’d rush through the meal as if he couldn’t wait to be rid of their company. If Bette or Tina showed any affection towards one another even something as innocuous as holding hands he would grunt his disapproval. It always upset Tina that Bette would quickly pull away making them feel embarrassed or admonished for demonstrating their love.
Bette was also surprised at his attire that day. With few exceptions Melvin always dressed in a custom-made suit, white button-down shirt with cuff-links, a hand-made silk tie with matching socks and spit shined lace-up black or brown dress shoes. His idea of casual was wearing a sports jacket without a tie and he’d trade the cuff-links for buttoned cuffs. Today he was dressed in relaxed fit khaki pants, a golf shirt and slip-on loafers. He was even sporting a straw Fedora hat to shade against the setting sun.
Tina was just as baffled about Melvin’s behavior as Bette was but true to his word from the night before he was there to earn their forgiveness and to forge a relationship if they were open to it. Having never spent this much one on one time with Melvin or having a conversation that wasn’t berating or belittling, the blonde kept bracing herself for one of his harsh remarks but the old Melvin never surfaced. He was endearing, charming and respectful. She never noticed how handsome he was because most of the time when they’d met in the past he was wearing a frown as if something smelled bad right under his nose. But today she could easily see where Bette and Kit had inherited their beautiful skin, deep chocolate brown eyes and the almost irresistible Porter smile. He’d dropped the Ms. Kennard but took to calling her Christina instead of Tina which she didn’t mind. It took some time but Tina finally let her guard down when she sensed his genuine affection and struggle to make amends for his intolerance and contemptuous behavior towards her all the years that she and Bette were together.