Chapter 3. We start off at episode 7, season 6. Jenny slips to Tina about what she saw the other night after the gallery opening. Tina is devastated and is only convinced Jenny's right after she sees the photo Jenny took, showing her the harsh truth about Kelly and Bette.
I didn't feel like talking to Bette at all, especially not since I knew she was calling from work so she would be sitting next to the little rat while she would be pretending to be nice to me over the phone. This was about the fifth time the phone rang today, showing Bette's number in the display but I still wasn't intended to pick up. How dare she pretend to me like nothing had happened when actually she was having an affair with that bitch, eating her out the other night and probably even having fun together in their office this very moment? How could she do this to me after the promise she had made not too long ago? I thought that I could trust her but apparently she hadn't changed one bit. I had been fantasizing about this perfect family life for the past few weeks, at last feeling like I had found what I was looking for. Jenny's visit had changed everything and had sent all my fantasies right down the drain. The picture of our perfect family life in my head was smashed into a thousand pieces as soon as Jenny shut the door behind her.
Since then I haven't been quite sure how to feel any more. For some reason I just can't cry, no matter how devastated I am. I felt like actually I should be mad at myself too, mad at myself for believing Bette's bullshit again. I was just blinded by love and caught up in the moment, believing her words of promise. I should have just stopped this from the very beginning. I shouldn't have allowed her to collaborate with her ex-crush, what was I thinking? From the moment Bette mentioned the collaboration I felt it wasn't right. I just felt that it wasn't going to work, especially after Kit said that she 'almost killed herself over Kelly'. I should have read the signs and stopped everything before it was too late. I guess I trusted her then and the only thing I could think was: why would I stop her from taking on a job that meant so much to her and not to mention to our bank account? We really needed money and my job wasn't going all that well. The collaboration seemed to come at a perfect seen as I knew Bette wasn't going to agree to move to New York for my job offer. O well, it didn't really matter anymore. The dream of moving there together with her had faded away ever since I couldn't erase the photo of Bette and Kelly from my mind. I didn't even need her money anymore now that we weren't going to be a family. I could move to New York by myself.
I sat on the couch for hours holding Angelica close to me as if she too was fading away together with Bette. Fortunately she fell asleep closely after diner so I had time to change before Shane arrived. Tonight was a special evening at Hit and of course we had all been invited, including Bette. Some popular band was going to perform at the club and Kit had been talking about it for the last few weeks as if the queen was coming to visit. I had thought of it for a second not to go, having no clue what so ever what to say to Bette. I didn't feel like having everyone listen to what we had to say to each other, if there was anything left for me to say to her that is. But I felt bad for Kit and Helena if I wouldn't show up, so I set my mind off the fact that Bette would be there too. I would just try not to talk to her and fortunately the music inside was mostly so loud that having a conversation was impossible.
Kelly and I had had a really busy day at the gallery so I was glad I could finally step out of the damp office and into the streets. I really felt like going home first to take a shower before I was about to go into the crowded club, but I knew I unfortunately didn't have the time for it. James had brought my dress to the gallery and I had changed in the bathroom as quick as possible, trying to keep Kelly out and barging in on me half naked. That girl really didn't understand the word 'no'. How hard was it to understand that a teenage love – over 20 years ago - doesn't last forever? Time goes on and so do people.
Unfortunately she isn't that easy to convince, especially not after a few drinks. The photo Jenny made was the unmistakable truth that she really didn't understand when she went too far. I still had no clue what she had actually photographed seen as nothing had happened, but it was obviously so convincing that she seriously thought that I was having an affair with this women. I was glad she hadn't told Tina because whatever was on the picture would be hard to defend seen as Jenny seemed really convinced of her right.
I stepped out of the car half an hour later and wondered what the band was called again as I walked up the steps and into the club. The whole Kelly thing had stressed me out so much that I just couldn't remember their name. I did feel sorry for Kit because it seemed like I didn't really care about her club seen as it meant so much to her. But honestly, the only thing I could think of was that I was at last freed from Kelly and I was going to see Tina again. For some reason I had missed her a lot more than I normally do since I last saw her. She had been on my mind practically the whole day and I would have given anything for her to pick up the phone at least once to have been able to hear her voice.
As soon as I entered the club the party had already started. It was very crowded and people were all packed around the main stage, jumping up and down to the music that the band was playing. I had to agree it did sound really great. I made my way through the people, pushing everybody aside that I came along, having absolutely no idea which way I was actually heading. The band had apparently brought their smoke machine, judging by the white haze that filled the space. The whole club was filled with some sort of fog that made the club feel even more crowded than it already was. I wasn't able to spot anybody after what had seemed ages walking in circles, seeing the same people over and over again. In the end I decided to sit at the bar and have a drink and try to text Tina to ask where she was. The text wasn't answered, she seemed to not have noticed it come in, so I tried Alice who fortunately texted back immediately: "We're in front of the stage, a little to the left." I got up and made my way through the people again. I was feeling lost again as I was once again surrounded by strangers, having absolutely no idea where I was when I happened to spot Jenny. I rushed over to her, and hugged her, realizing a little too late I was only happy to see a familiar face rather than being happy to see her. I had actually been hoping she wasn't going to be there at all but unfortunately she had showed up. I was scared she would spill to Tina and I really didn't trust her at all after all the things she had thrown the last couple of weeks. Luckily I spotted the rest soon after the awkward embrace Jenny and I had just had and I was able to set Jenny off my mind again. I decided I wasn't going to let her ruin the night.
We stood in a row up against the stage, seen as the crowd behind us pushed us towards the stage with every jump of excitement. I was the last person in the row on the left and Tina was on the other side which made the gap between us so big that even seeing at each other was impossible due to the thick smoke that came from the smoke machines that were now right in front of us. I had seen her this evening but it wasn't more than a faint hug before she walked back over to Shane. She wasn't ignoring me – at least, I hope she wasn't – but she did seem a little detached for some reason. No matter how badly I wanted to be with her, it seemed like she didn't really feel like it and I decided to let her be. I tried to convince myself that she wasn't ignoring me, because she wasn't, right? In spite of the huge urge I had to go over to her and kiss her I decided not to force anything tonight. Tina was grumpy or at least tired, and hugging and kissing in a public place wasn't something that would make her feel better. I knew she was having a rough time with her job, or rather the fact that she didn't have one anymore. I understood that she felt more like going out and having a good time dancing and drinking with friends rather than being with me the whole night. We had time enough to cuddle up together at home.
I spent the evening enjoying the good music and talking to Kit and Helena who had joined us a few minutes after I had found everybody. I had to say that I too felt more like partying than cuddling with Tina, although I wouldn't have minded a genuine hug and kiss as welcome instead of the absent minded hug I got, if that's what you can even call it.
I hadn't looked over to where she was standing till later that evening - which fortunately didn't seem to be causing me as much trouble as I thought it was - but as soon as I turned around to look for her all the way on the other side of the group, I saw instantly that something was wrong. She had her hand in front of her mouth and – even though it was hard to see through the smokey air – it was obvious from her movements she was coughing. After what seemed as a coughing fit that took ages to recover from she just stood there, face down not talking to anybody, not showing any intention to dance or at least tap along with the beat.
I was a little shocked at seeing her like this and it seemed like it wasn't really getting to me yet what was actually happening. I stood there staring at her as she had a few more coughing fits and how eventually Shane who was standing with her back towards Tina turned around and put her hand on her back. I saw how Tina looked up and faintly smiled and nodded at a question Shane had apparently asked her. After something that seemed like a conversation between them Tina pointed towards the door and Shane nodded as she put her hand on Tina's back and pushed her through the crowd. It was then that I realized I had been standing there for god knows how long, just staring at what was happening like a complete idiot, not doing anything to help Tina even though I knew exactly what was wrong. This crowded, cramped, stifling and smoky place was the worst place for Tina to be right now, especially now that her asthma was bothering her again. Before I knew it I was running through the crowd, for as far as you could call it running that is, because with all of the people that were in my way it seemed like even crawling over to her would have been faster. I felt in my bag to be sure I had brought the inhaler this time.
Ever since the attack during the Pink Ride I was really scared she would have another one and that there wouldn't be anybody there to provide an inhaler. Since the attack, I had brought it with me almost everywhere I went with Tina. It seemed like she didn't think of it as so serious and I knew she didn't bring it anywhere.
I had finally reached the door I had seen her go through just now with Shane. The cool wind welcomed me outside as I searched for the two who had disappeared in the crowd. Even out here it was packed with people smoking and making out. Luckily I spotted them quickly, sitting on a park bench further up the road, far from the smokers. As I approached Tina looked up but turned her head away as soon as she saw it was me.
"Tina, are you okay?" I asked as I reached the two girls. Tina shrugged and looked back up at me as she said: "I'm fine, why wouldn't I?" I knew she was having trouble breathing, it was really obvious, but her words sounded as if she was doing her very best to make everything sound ok. She hadn't actually told me to leave but the way she said the latter gave me the feeling that she didn't want me there. I assumed she was just ashamed of the fact she couldn't put up with the smoke inside. Shane looked at Tina and then at me, looking very confused. She put her hand on Tina's back. "Are you sure you're ok? You don't have to pretend you are, we really don't mind." Shane's voice sounded sweet and comforting. It was clear she had no idea what was happening to Tina. She too assumed Tina snapped at me because she was afraid and ashamed of her situation.
"I know, but.." Tina tried to speak but her voice was weak and she stopped in the middle of her sentence to take a deep breath. It was obvious she was about to start coughing but she seemed to just be able to suppress it making a noise like she was scrapping her throat instead.
She had apparently found a little bit of air because she was able to speak again, even though it was really softly. "I'm fine. Go back inside, I'll be right in after you." She faced the ground as she spoke and looked up one last time as she gave us a forced smile as if it was our last hint that she really meant what she had just said.
I was really worried about her because I knew she absolutely wasn't feeling well. I knew though that she really wanted us to leave and despite of the huge urge I had to stay with her and give her her inhaler, I obeyed. Shane and I left Tina outside and went back to the other inside. Shane had apparently believed her words of reassurance and went on partying as if nothing had happened. I couldn't keep Tina of my mind though. I just hoped she had brought an inhaler herself for once and that that was the reason she wanted us to leave, so she could use the inhaler without anybody seeing it. I didn't know how long I could take it though, waiting for her to come back in. The truth was I didn't have any confidence in the fact that she had taken her illness seriously for once and brought the medicine that were so important for her.
There I was, on a park bench at two in the morning outside club, feeling like I was going to die. From the moment I had entered the club I knew it wasn't going to be a good night for me. Going to Hit was never a good night for me. Since the first asthma attack since my childhood at Bette's house I hadn't been able to stay the whole night at a club, especially not Hit where it seemed like everyone had reinvented smoking the moment the stepped through the door. I did make it home every time though and it was always in time to take my inhaler in time, before my chest tightness pulled me into an attack. This time though it felt different. The smoke machines made everything even worse than it already was, and the fact that the whole city apparently didn't want to miss the band playing didn't help either, leaving even less oxygen for me.
I had been able to keep it to myself this evening for quite a long time. Shane and I had arrived at ten, which meant that I had been able to manage for over four hours inside. As soon as I started coughing though I knew it was going to get bad. I should have left earlier to stand outside to prevent myself from having the attack in the first place but I didn't want to alarm anybody. Besides, I'm always ashamed of myself if I have trouble breathing. I'd rather not tell anybody, I just hate it when everybody feels sorry for you. I want everyone to have a good time and having someone there who has to go outside at least every hour and has to be taken care of just isn't what everyone is waiting for during a night like this. I would rather sit out here alone and have an attack than ruin everyone's evening.
Bette was the only one who knew I had trouble breathing every now and then. She had seen me having trouble at the club a few times before and she always believed me when I said I was all right and that I was going to make it home. The fact was, up till now it was always the truth when I told her that. I knew that just now when I told her I was fine she hadn't believed me at all, but for some reason she had left as I had asked her more or less. I was glad she walked off. I really didn't feel like talking to her at all, especially not now she had been lying straight to my face the whole night. She hadn't really said anything, but maybe that was the whole problem: she just wasn't going to tell me! The only reason I hadn't hit her in the face after she followed us outside was because I knew she had brought an inhaler. But even the fact that she was carrying the device that could save my life wasn't enough for me to keep her there with me. I would be fine.. That was what I was trying to tell myself at least.
I was glad that most people that had been smoking outside had left. The few people that were left stood close to the entrance and fortunately their smoke couldn't reach me. I knew that one more breath of smoke would really suffocate me. I had been outside alone for god knows how long and the attack was really starting to kick in right now. The coughing didn't seem to stop, tightening my chest even further. I clutched my chest in pain, as if I could pull the skin up and ease the tightness. At this point I was really scared. It was unbelievably hard to slow my breathing down which made me panic even more than I already was. Even my own wheezing – which was now to be heard with my inhalation as well as my exhalation – sounded more frightening than it had ever done. It felt like my own body was giving up on me, as if it was telling me I had really gone too far this time. Every breath felt like the last one, breathing out the last bit of air that was left inside of me. I had come to a point that it seemed like no air at all entered my lungs with every inhalation, only costing more of the little energy that I had left. Even the use of every single muscle in my body to draw in some air didn't seem to be enough anymore. It sounded stupid, but right now I would give everything for my inhaler, even if it meant that I had to see Bette. I just needed somebody there with me because I now understood that I just wasn't going to make it on my own. I felt that I wasn't going to hold it a lot longer without meds for too long seen as I was now almost lying on the bench rather than sitting on it due to immense fatigue. My body had lost the strength and, just like when I was younger, I longed for someone to give me back the power to breathe again, the power to make it through the attack.
That was the moment I realized that Bette was the one I needed, the only one I needed. No matter how much I hated her right now for lying to me and cheating on me again, I knew she was the only one who could help me. The rest probably didn't have the slightest idea what could be going on with me. They had probably already even forgotten I was out here on my own. I knew Bette had by no means forgotten I was still out here. I had seen by the look on her face she knew I was having trouble breathing. How could I have sent her away? I knew she was the only one who knew about me and also always carried an inhaler with her. Why hadn't she come outside to check on me? That last thought was pushed form my mind instantly, the explanation wasn't hard to give. She hadn't come out here because I had been so harsh to her, sending her away. I couldn't really blame her. Besides, she was probably making out with Kelly in the V.I.P. room this very moment. I had probably left her thoughts the moment she entered the club, being immediately replaced by Kelly.
My thoughts brought tears to my eyes, making me cry like a little kid. It certainly didn't help my breathing, if not making it even worse. I tried my best to stop the crying and concentrate on my own breathing but it only seemed to get worse. The pain and anxiety seemed to be taking over me, and there was nothing I could do about it.
Despite the fact I couldn't do anything about it, I knew somebody else could, and it wasn't too long before that person came. Together with the hundredth failing breath and the thought that it was the end, a hand ran along my back and picked me up from the bench, pulling me up against a strong warm body. As soon as I realized that it was Bette's hand that was raped around me I wanted to push her away from me, suddenly remembering that the hand could have been raped around Kelly just a few seconds ago. I let go of my chest and put my hand on her arm but it was no use. I didn't even have enough strength to breath, let alone push away Bette's strong arm. Besides, why would I push her away a second time? I knew I needed her and to be honest, the her warm body against mine didn't seem to bother me that much. Her gentle voice in my ear was the last thing I needed to realize that she was the only one I had actually longed for to come and help me all the time. Ever since I saw her walk back into the club with Shane I longed for her to be there with me and help me through the attack like she had done before. The anger in me blocked that thought but now the attack had reached the worst part I was able to look past it. After all the love I had felt for her for all this time and not being able to act on I couldn't stay mad at her for too long, knowing she was the one I wanted.
"Breathe Tee, breathe." Bette's voice sounded soft and sweet but determined. I dropped my head on her shoulder, the tears streaming down my face again, but this time of joy and relief.
I felt how her body trembled behind me as she shook the inhaler before bringing it to my mouth. I inhaled it greedily and felt how it reached my lungs instantly, giving me the feeling that this one puff had already saved my life. "Kelly was drunk and dropped her glass, I was cleaning up after her." Bette spoke the words out of the blue without telling me what she was talking about but I knew exactly what she was on about. The photo Jenny had showed me had been in my mind the whole night and I immediately understood that Bette was explaining what the photo showed. In my head I had already forgiven her for going with Kelly, just wanting to be with her after all of these years having to keep at a distance. But now, I knew that she hadn't broken her promise again. Her words explained everything and gave me the strength to believe that Jenny was wrong about her and Kelly. I knew now she was to be trusted, just like she had said. I had still had some hope after seeing the photo that it wasn't true but uptil now there just wasn't anything that gave me reason to believe that. I sighed deeply with relief and gave my body over to Bette's, it had never felt so good.
The only question that remained was why Bette started about the picture out of the blue but honestly, at the moment I didn't care what the reason was. I just couldn't be happier to sit here in Bette's arms, at last being able to get air in my lungs and breathe normally. My chest did still hurt but my mind was kept off it for most of the time by her hand running through my hair and the kisses she pressed on my forehead every now and then. It felt great being able to lean in against her chest and feel her breathing behind me, reminding me of how normal breathing was supposed to be. I had at last found the strength to try and breathe the same way, together with Bette. It felt like at the same time it gave me the strength to think about me living the same way as Bette and Bette living the same way as me, together, forever.
Jenny had at last agreed to let me go outside to Tina. Ever since I had entered the club after being sent away by Tina she had been annoying me. I had approached her right away, feeling like beating her up in the middle of the club for everyone to see. I knew that the only reason for Tina sending me away, carrying the inhaler she needed so badly, could be Jenny telling her about me and Kelly. Or at least, what she thinks what is going on between me and Kelly.
Jenny had indeed told Tina as it turned out, but she didn't seem to feel sorry about it at all. It seemed like she felt really good of herself for telling Tina, like some good friend who can't stand somebody cheating behind someone's back. I decided not to start about the fact that she told Tina because I couldn't blame her for trying to help Tina. The only I was worried about now was tha fact that she just didn't seem to understand she was wrong and that there was nothing between me and Kelly. I had to calm myself to not do terrible things to her because it seemed to take me ages to convince her that nothing had happened. She at last showed me the photo she had taken. "So, how can you explain this?" She said the words as if she knew for sure she had me now, and was quite shocked to hear me laugh and explain what was actually on the photo. Against my expectations, she believed my explanation. I wasn't up till now that she seemed to feel a little sorry for what she had done. She finally let me through, at last admitting that maybe I wás the person Tina needed right now.
I couldn't wait to run outside and tell Tina the truth, at last holding her close to me again and proving to her that I was able to keep a promise just like I had told her.
There I was, finally. I sat on some random park bench, in the middle of the night in the cold, but it didn't seem to bother me at all. The only thing that mattered was that I was holding Tina again, holding her close to me as she at last was starting to feel better. I just couldn't stop thinking of our perfect life together, never having to let her go again and not letting her have attack's this bad ever again. It all felt so perfect despite the fact that Tina was still wheezing and coughing my arms.
I held her even closer and hugged her as she put her head on my shoulder and I pressed a kiss on her forehead. 'I'm here honey, you'll be fine. Just breathe slowly, that's it.'
My words seemed to be sinking into her really quickly and it wasn't too long before she had found the strength to turn around and face me, pushing herself up against my arms. She looked into my eyes and before I was able to drown in her gaze she pressed a kiss on my lips and dropped her head on my chest before folding her arms around my waist. "I love you.'' The words were hardly louder than a whisper but they had never sounded so real. It was as if I had been waiting for these words the whole evening. A tear ran along my cheek as I said softly: "I love you to. I have never loved you more."