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Tina laughed. ‘She had some kind of student art show down the block so Fake Bette ducked out of the karaoke and went to see it.’
‘What was it like?’
‘Not my thing. Oh, but apparently this one artist Fake Bette spotted is going to “redefine neo-expressionism”.’
‘Wow,’ Bette said, still flossing. ‘And did they do the deed?’
Tina shook her head. ‘She told Fake Alice and Fake Shane that she’s not into Pippa that way, just wants to work with her. But Gigi also asked her if she really thought there was anyone out there who could tick all her boxes and she said, “Yes.”’
‘Oh,’ said Bette, eyebrows raised, ‘that’s interesting . . .’
‘I thought so.’
They looked at each other in the mirror above their twin sinks.
‘We’ve never discussed whether we want them to get back together, have we?’ Bette said, pulling a tissue from the chrome-plated box that sat on the counter.
Tina applied night serum and mulled the issue.
‘Well?’ Bette prompted, popping her used floss in the bin.
‘The problem is using Fake Tina to fix Fake Bette,’ Tina said. ‘If I had the showrunner’s ear – and boy, would I like to have this showrunner’s ear! – I would explain that Fake Bette has to deserve Fake Tina, not become worthy of her only after she gets her. That’s ass backwards.’
Bette made a face like she could see Tina’s reasoning, and then her mind flew elsewhere. ‘Y’know, the only time I ever did karaoke was that place in Rome.’
Tina got a slightly wistful look. ‘La Saletta.’
‘They did a fried pizza that was to die for.’
‘You sang “My Baby Just Cares For Me”.’
Bette paused, unexpectedly verklempt that Tina recalled the very song. ‘I did,’ she said softly, her eyes sparkling.
Tina gave her a sweet smile, then looked down.
Bette wasn’t Fake Bette, she knew that, and yet . . . That woman – Fake Bette – didn’t come out of thin air. That time they’d remembered a couple of weeks ago, the message Tina had composed for Bette to send to Jodie Lerner, came back into Tina’s mind. Bette’s tendency when threatened or out of control to put people – women – in boxes, strip them of complexity, even of humanity . . . ‘this one is to fuck, this one is to marry’ . . . Those traits, those warped misogynistic energies, were part of her when they’d had all their problems, and it had taken work – real work, and not a little courage – for Bette to identify their origins and change not just her behaviour but her thinking.
Presently, Bette finished her ablutions and went to leave the bathroom but Tina reached out and took her wrist, gently but firmly. Bette stopped in the doorway. Looked back at her wife, who was looking down at their hands.
‘Bette . . .’ Tina began, her voice husky with emotion. ‘Do I tell you enough how proud I am?’
Bette moved her head a fraction, as if she wasn’t sure she’d heard correctly.
‘Do you tell me?’ she asked.
‘Yes,’ said Tina, looking up, her eyes full of tears. ‘Of the work you did. For us, in therapy. How you listened and learned and taught me with your example . . . your dedication . . .’ She ran her eyes over Bette’s face. ‘You show our family every day what love looks like.’ She laughed suddenly. ‘And no one expected it! No one thought you could do it, not Kit, not Alice, not me most of the time. Bette Porter, a stay-at-home mom? But you did it. You reshaped your life around me and the kids, and they are . . . Bette, our children are spectacular. And it’s because of you.’
Bette furrowed her brow. ‘Is this to do with that stupid show?’
‘Yes,’ Tina said honestly. Wiped a tear, sniffed. ‘But also, y’know . . . I just want to say it.’
‘Okay,’ Bette laughed, casually caressing Tina’s face. ‘But the kids are down to both of us. Except when they’re bad. That’s all you.’
Tina smiled and hugged her. ‘I love you with all my heart.’
Bette didn’t say it back, but the way she buried her face in Tina’s neck and kissed her there was eloquence itself.