Shane lifted her head from where it rested on Jenny’s shoulder and looked at her with her eyes half open. “I’m not sleeping, I’m just resting.”
They were sitting in the waiting room at the hospital, waiting for the nurse to come and tell them they were ready to start with Shane’s chemotherapy. Before they sat down to wait they had both seen a doctor; Shane to make sure she was strong enough physically to handle the treatment and Jenny to check that she didn’t have anything Shane might catch when the drugs would break down her immune system. When they both seemed okay they’d been told to wait until the drugs were sent up to her room.
“Okay,” Jenny said softly and frowned a little when she realized how tired her friend looked. “You can sleep during the treatment, right?” She sat with her left arm around Shane and was slowly stroking her thumb up and down Shane’s upper arm.
“Yeah, I usually do,” Shane said, relaxing her head onto her shoulder again with a sigh.
“Are you nervous?”
When she’d been asked the same question the night before the answer had been ‘no’, but she realized that wasn’t the case anymore. “Yeah,” she mumbled, trying to swallow the lump that was forming in her throat. “A little.” It wasn’t the treatment itself that freaked her out, it was pretty much the same thing every time and she knew what to expect. But she’d said some pretty messed up things when Jodi had followed her there and a lot of them had been plain cruel. She only remembered parts of it but she knew she’d been out of line, and how could she be sure she wouldn’t do the same thing to Jenny now? She’d been lying awake for hours worrying about everything and nothing, hoping she wouldn’t say something she couldn’t take back, or that at least if she did, that Jenny would know she didn’t mean any of it.
“It’ll be okay,” Jenny said, giving her left shoulder a soft squeeze and her lips formed a small reassuring smile that she wasn’t sure Shane could see. Had it been the day before she would have stroked her hand over Shane’s hair, but now all she could do was put her lifted hand down on the knitted cap she wore to keep her recently shaved head warm and place a soft kiss on her temple. “I’ll be with you the whole time.”
Shane tilted her head back just a little so she could look at her when she replied. “Thanks for coming with me.”
“Of course I’d come with you,” she smiled, wrapping her arm around her again. “You’re not alone in this.”
Shane said a quiet “okay” and relaxed a little, closing her eyes for a while. When she opened them again, unsure of how much time had passed, she glanced up at the TV across the room and saw that ‘The Golden Girls’ was on, smiling a little to herself. “We should be like that,” she mumbled as she peered sleepily at the three old women on the screen who all shared a house.
“What?” Jenny giggled, glancing around the room before she looked back at Shane to figure out what she meant.
Shane lifted her hand to rub at her nose and blinked a few times while she tried to put her thoughts into words in her tired mind. If she was this sleepy before she even began her treatment there was no doubt she’d fall asleep when they started it. “Like… like fifty years from now, or something like that,” she said, waving her hand at the screen. “We could live together and just… be old and happy.” Pinching the bridge of her nose, she added, “And wrinkly.”
“Oh, Shane!” Jenny exclaimed but lowered her voice when the other patients around the waiting room all turned to look at her. “You would be like Blanche!” she giggled while pointing at the TV.
“Last time I checked I didn’t have a habit of running around fucking a bunch of guys, thank you very much,” she coughed, trying to sound offended. “So… Then who’d you be? Rose?” Comparing Jenny to the scatterbrained little lady forced a chuckle out of her and Jenny slapped her lightly.
“Did you just call me stupid?”
Shane just shrugged a little. “I said you’d be her because she’s the cutest one, but if you want to call the glass half empty, that’s your choice.”
Jenny could feel herself blushing a little but didn’t have time to say anything as a nurse came to get them and led them over to what would be Shane’s room for the next few hours. When Shane had made herself somewhat comfortable on the bed Jenny watched in a panic she struggled hard not to show as the nurse prepared her for her treatment. Shane herself didn’t seem to be too nervous about it, but for Jenny it served as yet another reminder of how sick her best friend had gotten in such a short time, and that there wasn’t anything substantial she could do about it.
When the IV had been put in place on the inside of Shane’s elbow, she took off her hat for a moment and told the nurse that Jenny had helped her ‘get rid of’ her hair and Jenny watched and listened as they both laughed and she got complimented on a job well done. They seemed to know each other from before and it all just made her feel even more left out. So much had already happened, and she should have been there with her. As if Shane had read her mind, she reached out her right hand, grabbed Jenny’s and gave it a reassuring squeeze when the nurse left the room.
“Hey,” she said softly as Jenny pulled up a chair and sat down by her side. “If I say something weird… I don’t mean it, you know that, right? Please don’t take anything that comes out of my mouth today seriously.”
“Shane, I know. Both you and Jodi explained it to me, even Max did. I know you can’t control this.”
Shane gave her a slow, barely visible nod and they sat in silence for minutes that felt painfully long for Jenny who watched the medicine flow into the vein in Shane’s left arm. ‘The things we do to torture ourselves’ she thought when she caught herself doing it. Shane had closed her eyes and for a moment Jenny thought she might have fallen asleep until she spoke.
“How’s that whole thing with the movie going? You haven’t said anything.”
Jenny froze. Maybe it wasn’t the best time imaginable to tell Shane about what had happened with Lez Girls, but if there was anything she’d learned the last week it was that they had to stop keeping secrets from each other or everything would just continue the way it had the last month. In all honesty, Jenny couldn’t even bring herself to care about her movie anymore. It all seemed so pointless and trivial compared to what Shane was going through, but she knew it still mattered to her friend. No one had encouraged her and supported her through all of her projects the way Shane had and she had to choose her words wisely to not risk upsetting her.
“I—I honestly don’t know right now,” she mumbled, feeling Shane’s eyes on her but avoiding looking back at her. “I don’t know if you heard, but the morning after that night at the Yamashiro Tina told me the investors had decided to change the ending. They’re gonna make Jessie go back to Jim and…”
“What?” Shane stared at her, blinking and licking her lips before she went on. “Just… Why? Can they do that? I mean, shouldn’t that be your decision?”
Jenny shrugged and let out a short uncomfortable laugh. “They think the movie is too gay.” She saw Shane raising an eyebrow in disbelief – or what would have been an eyebrow if she hadn’t removed what was left of them as well as her lashes the night before – and smiled a little. “I know, right? But there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do about it and honestly, at this point, I don’t give a shit. It’s not important to me anymore.”
“But it’s your movie. Your really, really gay movie, Jen.” She’d started out looking serious, but as she reached the end of the sentence they both had small smiles on their lips.
“It was my movie. Shane, I mean it, I really don’t care. The only thing that matters to me now is getting you better.”
Shane wanted to believe that Jenny meant what she said but there was still a little voice in the back of her head telling her that she was just trying to make her feel better. It wasn’t helping either way; she could have spent the last month helping Jenny get her movie back the way it was supposed to be, and where had she been? Hiding in Jodi’s living room. Thinking about it, she soon discovered the flaw in her own argument; she’d been sick and that wasn’t something she could have changed simply by willing it away, but she could have chosen not to hide from Jenny. She could have been there for her still and helped her figure something out, but the thought hadn’t really occurred to her before that even if she might have brought Jenny’s moods down by staying in the house, Jenny might still have needed her around the same way she needed her.
“I’m sorry about all of this,” she mumbled, feeling like a complete idiot.
Squeezing Shane’s hand and trying to smile at her, Jenny shook her head. “No,” she said firmly. “Stop that right now, you’re not allowed to say you’re sorry anymore. There’s nothing to be sorry for.”
“Yeah, there is.”
Jenny raised her free hand to brush some of her hair away from her face and sighed. “If there’s anyone here that should be sorry, it’s me. I shouldn’t have let you push me away like I did. I know you, I should have known there was something else going on…”
Her voice trailed off as a vague memory of something Max had said was suddenly triggered and surfaced in the back of her mind. The gears began to turn in her head when she recalled when he had told her about how Shane had found out she was sick before everything happened with Niki and that that had been the reason why she did it in the first place. The wrap party had been on a Saturday night, but what Jenny was finally starting to remember was the afternoon before that, when Shane had taken a phone call out on the back porch…
“Oh my god.”
“What?” Shane asked with concern, sitting up just enough to be able to place her other hand gently on top of Jenny’s. “What’s wrong?”
Jenny just stared blankly at her. She knew this had been the very thing she’d been trying so hard to remember the last few days, the missing piece of the puzzle. Now that she’d finally found it, it made her nauseous and she looked down at their hands, trying to swallow the lump in her throat and hold back the tears. This of all moments was not the right one to burst out crying. It had been right there in front of her the whole time, why hadn’t she realized it sooner? Before Shane had felt that she had to hurt her and leave her the way she had.
“Jenny?” Shane’s voice quivered a little and startled Jenny enough to look up at her, revealing the tears that now filled her eyes.
“That day,” she started, sniffling a little and pulling her hands away to wipe the tears from her cheeks while trying her hardest not to meet Shane’s gaze. “Jodi’s art show. Before we went to The Hammer, you were on the phone…”
“Yeah,” Shane mumbled and swallowed. For some reason she found herself completely unprepared for that conversation and she had no idea what to tell her. Jenny wasn’t an idiot, she should have known she’d think of it sooner or later and ask her about it. She silently wished she’d remembered to bring it up herself instead, that she’d thought of a way to explain what had happened that day.
“That’s when they told you.” Jenny’s voice was soft, and there wasn’t even the slightest hint of blame in it, something that calmed Shane enough to be able to look her right in the eye and nod slowly. “I knew something was wrong,” she went on with a barely visible shrug, rolling her eyes as she once again struggled to stop the tears from trickling all the way down to her chin. “Why didn’t I ask you?”
“You asked me, remember?” Shane replied quietly, once again filled with the stabbing feeling of guilt as she berated herself for the millionth time for all the lies. “I just couldn’t talk about it then, I couldn’t even understand it myself at the time. And after that things just… got out of hand and I’m not gonna try to place the blame for that on anyone but myself. There’s just not a whole lot I can do about it now.”
Jenny nodded and managed a smile through all her tears. “Just focus on getting better, that’s the only thing that’s important.” She put her hands back on Shane’s, noticing they were both still cold and when she realized Shane even shivered at her touch she changed the subject. “You’re freezing. Do you want me to get you a blanket?”
Shane gave her a small nod and Jenny got up, pulling something out of her bag. Shane smiled when she realized Jenny didn’t just cover her with one of the hospital sheets, but she’d actually brought one of their own from their house. “Thank you,” she sighed sleepily when Jenny was done tucking her in.
“Is that okay?” Jenny asked, sitting back down on her chair. “Is there anything else you need?”
When Shane shook her head, the movement was so slight she could barely see it, and that was the only response Jenny got from her before she took her hand and drifted off to sleep.
Several hours later Jenny pulled up in their driveway, got out and headed over to the other side to help Shane out. Shane blinked sleepily and pulled the hood of her black sweatshirt over her head again after it had fallen off when she got out of the car. Slipping an arm around her waist, Jenny kept her steady as they walked together towards the front door and she glanced nervously around them when she heard a car stop somewhere near them, but she couldn’t see anyone. Shane had made it pretty clear to her that she didn’t want anyone they knew to know she was back in the house, which was why Shane’s car was still at Jodi’s, and they did all they could to keep her presence from being noticed by their neighbors – especially Bette and Tina. Jenny knew they usually spent their late afternoons playing ‘happy family’ with Angelica in their backyard now that they were officially back together, and the front door should be the safest option. Yet this time they only got to the porch before they heard a voice shouting from behind them.
“Holy fuck! Shit, Shane, where the hell have you been?”
They both turned around and saw Alice running over from her car that was parked outside of Bette’s house and Jenny just stared as she came closer to them. Shane on the other hand took a much less subtle approach.
“Why?” Shane yelled back at her, holding on to the nearest pillar on their porch, and it hurt Jenny to hear her doing that when her voice sounded so weak, but Shane didn’t seem to care and went on. “Are you asking because you really give a shit or just because you want something to talk about with Phyllis or god knows who?”
“What?” Alice exclaimed and she seemed significantly paler now that Shane had turned her way, and Jenny wondered if she could see from where she stood just how sick she was. If she could, that would definitely explain her change of expression. Shane didn’t seem to take any notice of it though and just kept on yelling.
“Cut the bullshit, okay? I know what you and Bette said to her, she told me.” She paused as she started to laugh, and Jenny felt tears welling up in her eyes because it sounded like Shane was doing it to keep herself from crying instead. “God, that must have been the best day of my goddamn life. I got to find out what my so called friends really think about me, and that I…”
“Shane...” Jenny said softly, right as she thought she was about to start sobbing, and she put her arms around her again, taking a steadier hold this time and Shane slowly let go of the pillar, letting Jenny support her instead until a second later, she changed her mind.
Shane shook her head, placing her hands on Jenny’s arms and tried to push them away, causing the hood to fall off her shaved head again. “Don’t touch me.”
“No, Shane, please listen to me,” Jenny begged her; the tears were running down her cheeks now but she didn’t even feel them. “Please,” she repeated and managed to place one of her hands on her forehead. “You’re burning up, Shane. Shane? I think you should come inside with me. Or do I need to take you back to the hospital?”
She didn’t say anything for a while, but just stood there looking completely panicked and glanced from one side to the other until she finally looked pleadingly into Jenny’s eyes. “Where are we?”
Jenny tried to smile at her a little through her tears but she wasn’t sure if it worked, so instead she just wrapped her arms around her and hugged her as tightly as she dared to and was relieved to feel Shane hugging her back. “We’re at our house. We’re home, we just gotta get you inside. Okay?”
“Okay,” Shane whispered quietly into her ear, she seemed to have calmed down at least a little though Jenny could still feel her friend’s heart beating faster than it should from all the excitement. They stood like that, just holding each other until they heard Alice’s voice again, closer now. Jenny had completely forgotten she was there when she had to take care of Shane, and hearing her now was a shock to her.
“Is anyone going to tell me what the fuck is going on?” Alice asked and Jenny didn’t need to look at her to see that she was crying too. She stood frozen on their front lawn but Jenny just couldn’t deal with her right now. Shane had to come first.
“This isn’t the right time, Alice. I can’t. I’ll call you later or something,” she managed to say before her voice broke and she turned back to Shane to try to help her inside. “Just hold on to me,” she said quietly. “Is it bad?” Shane just nodded at her and she barely had her eyes open. Jenny’s heart began to beat harder in her chest and she struggled with her keys to open the door. This was not good. Not good at all.
Left to herself outside Jenny’s house, Alice just stared at her friends as they walked through the door. She tried to move from the spot but it took all the strength she had just to manage to wipe the tears away and it felt like all the air had been sucked out of her lungs. She tried to piece together what she’d just seen and what Shane had yelled at her and it was too much to take in. Instead she just felt completely blanked out and didn’t even react when a voice called out to her.
“Hello? Alice?” Tina repeated when she got closer to her and once she reached the fence of Jenny’s front yard she let Angelica, who she’d been carrying over there, down on the ground. Bette came after them, pulling Angelica’s new bike with her and smiled brightly. “What’s going on?” Tina said, concerned when Alice still didn’t say anything.
Walking on unsteady legs, Alice managed to get out through the small front gate and sat down on the sidewalk, feeling the world spin around her even then. She soon felt Tina sitting down next to her and heard her asking her if she was okay, but all she could do was shrug.
“We just heard someone yelling,” Bette explained, brushing some hair away from her face once she’d stopped next to Tina, apparently somewhat oblivious to how Alice’s world had suddenly begun to tear itself to shreds. “First I thought it was Shane’s voice, it sounded just like her.”
“Sane, Sane,” Angelica echoed and grabbed Bette’s designer jeans at the knees, pulling the fabric until she picked her up.
“Yeah, Shane,” Bette said, forcing a smile when her daughter wrapped her arms around her neck and made herself comfortable in her embrace.
“Who was that bald woman Jenny was hugging? Is she seeing someone?” Tina asked Alice, but still got no response from her. “Alice? Are you okay?” she repeated.
Even if Alice hadn’t heard much of what they were saying she appreciated that they were there and their voices at least to some extent managed to keep her connected to the world around her. But no, she wasn’t okay. She shook her head nervously and after a moment she willed herself to meet Tina’s questioning eyes, hoping she wouldn’t see her tears. “That…” she said quietly. “That was Shane.”
“What?” Bette grimaced at her in disbelief and then gave Tina the same look. “The woman with Jenny? It didn’t even look like her.”
Alice didn’t seem to be doing well at all, and Tina felt an urge to reach out and put her arm around her, but something about the look on her friend’s face told her it wouldn’t be a welcome gesture. “Are you sure?” she asked softly. “I mean, Shane’s pretty skinny, but not like that.”
“And shaving her head is a bit extreme even for her,” Bette added. “But why would she even be here? It’s not like Jenny would let her into the house at this point, so I can’t imagine she’d be hugging her. Or would she?”
Her friends kept talking to her but Alice still had to struggle to make out a single word of what was being said. They didn’t understand; even if they’d been there and witnessed the conversation they couldn’t possibly fathom the myriad of feelings she was dealing with all at once. As bad as they all were, knowing Shane was right and the guilt that came with it was the worst of all.
“What’s wrong, Alice?”
Tina’s voice made her look back at her and she shook her head while trying to piece together whatever her mind had managed to catch of what they’d said to her. “It was her,” she mumbled, biting her bottom lip. Each heartbeat seemed to hit with such force it was almost painful. “I talked to her.” She pulled her knees up to her chest and hugged them so tightly she could barely breathe as the tears came back. “She’s… she’s not acting like herself. I think something really, really bad is happening.” Alice paused again to take a few deep breaths and felt Tina’s hand squeezing her shoulder. Her body relaxed a little but the panic and chaos in her head worsened for each passing second. It was all too familiar. “She didn’t know where she was,” she sobbed, just barely noticing how Bette cast a nervous glance at Tina. “She reminded me of… she reminded me of Dana. When she was sick.”
“Oh my god,” Tina whispered when Alice’s words started to sink in and she tightened her arms around her friend without realizing it. She might not be correct with her assumptions, but at least now they had an explanation for their friend’s reaction.
“Shit,” Bette mumbled and shook head. “Do you think she has…?” she started but Alice didn’t let her finish her sentence.
“Please, don’t say it.” She knew what she’d seen and heard and she knew what it meant. That didn’t mean she was ready to deal with it. She’d never be ready to relive the most difficult time of her life.
Jenny hadn’t expected Shane’s first chemotherapy session since she came back home to be all sunshine and puppy dogs, but she hadn’t been prepared for how bad Shane was really going to feel afterwards either. Max didn’t seem to be home and calling Jodi seemed pointless at the time. Shane didn’t appear to be sick enough to need to go back to the hospital, but she needed someone to help her now, not in twenty minutes, or whatever amount of time it might take Jodi or Tom to get there. She should know what to do, but now that she actually had to do it, and fast, everything suddenly seemed so cloudy. Even the brief but heated encounter with Alice only minutes ago had slipped her mind completely and all she could focus on was getting Shane across the living room to sit her down on the couch until she could figure out what she needed to do next.
“It’s okay. Shane, I’m gonna help you. What do you need me to do? Are you nauseous?”
Shane blinked a few times and shook her head before finally looking up at her and mumbling a quiet “yeah”. Her right hand found Jenny’s while she covered her face with her left one, sighing deeply as she racked her mind, looking for the words she needed. “I have to go to bed,” she finally managed, not even sure if that was what she’d intended to say but it was true nonetheless.
“It’s okay, I’ll help you there.” Jenny put her arm around her again and gently pulled her up from the couch, careful so the movement wouldn’t make her feel worse than she already did. As soon as Shane was somewhat steady on her own legs she felt her wrapping her arm around her waist and when she leaned her head against Jenny’s shoulder as they started to walk slowly toward Shane’s bedroom, Jenny couldn’t help but smiling a little in spite of how scared she was.
She eased Shane down on the bed and made sure her bucket was close enough for her to reach in case she’d get sick which she knew she most likely would sooner or later, and that reminded her of something.
“Shane, you can’t sleep yet,” she said softly when she noticed that her friend’s eyes were already closed even though she was still sitting up. “You have to take your meds first. Promise me you’ll stay awake while I get them.”
Shane opened one eye just a little and peered at her before closing it again and Jenny had to struggle a bit to get her to sit up straight, leaning against the headboard while she went to the kitchen. “Fine,” Shane mumbled.
When Jenny reached the kitchen and began to look for the list of Shane’s meds and when she was supposed to take each kind and how much, the first thing she found was a note from Max saying he and Tom had decided to puppy-sit Sounder for the day. She immediately felt a twinge of guilt when she realized that’s what was different – her dog wasn’t home. She was grateful for the help though, she wasn’t sure she could handle taking care of both Shane and Sounder on a day like this.
The list she was looking for was right under Max’s note and it turned out the only thing Shane needed at the moment was something she should mix with water and give her to drink so she wouldn’t feel as sick when she woke up. She followed the simple instructions and hoped she got it right and that Shane would be able to drink the orange liquid, then got a glass of water just in case and hurried back to Shane’s room.
“This is the only thing you have to take right now,” Jenny announced as she entered the room and sat down on the bed next to her after placing the glass of water on the nightstand. She was about to try to help Shane drink from the other glass when Shane just held up one of her hands defensively in front of her and her face contorted into something that looked like a frown and a pout at the same time.
“That shit is disgusting,” she whined and tried to back away from the glass and Jenny’s heart sank at the sight of it.
“But it’s good for you. Trust me.”
Shane sighed and did as she was told, letting Jenny help her drink by holding the glass for her and when she was finally done she took a few sips of water to get the taste out of her mouth. It didn’t work as well as she’d hoped. It never did.
“See, that wasn’t so bad, was it?” Jenny said softly and stroked the back of her hand over the side of her friend’s head. “Do you want your hat?”
Shane nodded. “The big black one.”
“The big black one,” Jenny mumbled and held back a sigh. She knew which one Shane meant but she had no idea where it was until she noticed something black in the corner of the room, on the floor beneath the window and got up to check what it was. Luckily enough, it was exactly what she was looking for, even if she had no idea whatsoever why Shane would have thrown it across the room. She dismissed that thought and picked up the big knitted hat Shane loved so much and went to give it to her, finding that she’d already managed to crawl down under her big duvet. “Found it,” Jenny told her and carefully helped her put it on. “Do you need anything else?”
“Will you stay with me?”
Shane glanced at the empty side of the bed and Jenny nodded, smiling at her.
There wasn’t anything she’d rather do.
Half an hour after Bette and Tina had found Alice outside they were all in their living room and had only just started getting something more than incoherent sobs and whispers out of her. After Bette had asked about the one thing she wouldn’t talk about, Alice had been inconsolable but now at least she was willing to talk to them.
Kit, who’d been in the kitchen making a snack for Angelica while they were out playing was now keeping her niece occupied with a coloring book by the kitchen table while still listening with one ear to the conversation the others were having. She couldn’t think of any words to describe the relief she felt now that Shane was back home again, regardless of what was going on with her or her reasons for leaving. The idea of simply walking over to Jenny’s house to ask what was going on had already crossed her mind more than once, but the way they had abruptly dismissed Alice made it pretty obvious that they wanted time to themselves – or possibly just time away from Alice.
“But how can you be sure that it’s cancer?” Bette frowned, pacing back and forth in the living room. “I’m just saying that with her history and what she did to Jenny and then disappeared, even her appearance with the weight loss and shaving her head, it sounds more like drugs to me.” She stopped in front of the others and paused, shaking her head slowly. “It’s not like it hasn’t happened before, she could have gotten into something heavier this time and…”
“Bette, she has CANCER!” Alice interrupted her, her voice shrill and with fresh tears glittering in her eyes. She let out a helpless sigh and leaned back against the couch. “I know what it looks like. I’ve gone through this once already, remember?” Flashes of memory from Dana’s room at the hospital on the day she died started to play in front of her and she began to shiver as she closed her eyes to shut them out, without any success. She felt Tina’s hand gently stroking her hair and she failed to hold back a whimper.
After a moment’s silence, Tina began to speak softly. “I don’t think Jenny would have let her back in the house if she was doing something like meth or heroin now. As angry as she’s been with her after the Niki thing, I mean, the last time we saw her she said Shane was dead to her, and I don’t even know if she’d have tried to get her help for it. But if she’s really sick… God, Jenny must feel awful now.” It wasn’t too hard to imagine. Tina had, in all honesty, not said too much about Shane since she left, but she still felt horrible for the few things that had escaped her lips at one point or another, especially at the beginning. But there’d seemed to be no end to Jenny’s anger the last month and she never ran out of things to say about her old best friend. Tina knew how close they used to be and everything that had happened that night and ever since had been completely out of character for both of them and there had to be some explanation to it that she had yet to find out about.
“Her skin was…” Alice began and the sound of her voice diverted Tina’s thoughts and she turned to look at her. “Almost yellow. I don’t know of any drug that can do that.”
“Sounds like something’s wrong with her liver,” Tina mumbled. “Doesn’t it?”
“I think… now that I think about it…”
Alice, shook her head, staring blankly in front of her. “I’m almost positive Jenny asked her if she needed to go back to the hospital.” Maybe she’d just imagined that part. She tried to remember exactly what it had sounded like to prove to herself that she hadn’t heard what she thought she had, but at the same time a voice echoed in her mind, telling her to accept the truth and deal with it. A second later it was followed by Jenny’s, asking Shane the exact question she was trying to remember. And then Shane’s fragile voice, sounding as if she was about to start crying, but she still kept trying to yell at her…
“She said that…” Alice whispered as the memories of what she’d done to her and the look on Shane’s face when she told her tried to sink in once again. “She said that she knew what I’d said to Phyllis about her.” She noticed that Tina was looking at her questioningly and began to explain. It was something she needed to talk about, even if she was ashamed of what she’d done. “Shane was yelling at me, that’s… That’s probably what you guys heard. She was upset and… I think I told Phyllis at some point about how she’s always been with women. And how we always used to say that whenever she’d walk into a room, some girl would leave crying.” She paused for a second to wipe another set of tears from her eyes and sniffled. “I probably told her what happened with Carmen and the wedding. I don’t know what else she could have meant; I think most of what I said was a long time ago, back when I was still going out with her. But I don’t know what Bette had told her, Shane didn’t tell me any of that.”
Tina froze. “Bette?” She’d been listening to Alice’s story and had tried hard not to judge her for what she was hearing when she could imagine what it would have done to Shane, because at least Alice seemed remorseful. It was just yet another case of Alice talking too much and not thinking enough. She hadn’t meant anything bad with it. But Bette? What did she have to do with it?
“Yeah.” Alice rubbed her nose and avoided Tina’s gaze. “Shane said Bette had told Phyllis something.”
“What did you say to her?” Tina turned to glare at her girlfriend who had been unusually quiet during the whole conversation and now she saw her shifting uneasily.
“Well I…” she shrugged, “I might… have said that if Angelica ever went out with someone like Shane I would put an end to it. Before she wound up getting hurt. It’s…”
Tina couldn’t do much but stare at her as the seconds passed. Someone like Shane? “Bette!” she exclaimed, but nothing followed – she just didn’t know what to say to her. She sat with her mouth half open, trying to process what she’d just heard. Whichever point Bette had been trying to make to Phyllis she couldn’t possibly grasp how she could have used Shane and Angelica as an example. Shane, who’d always been there for Angie ever since the day she was born. Maybe Bette hadn’t noticed any of it, but Tina knew how much their daughter meant to Shane and that she’d never even think of doing something that might hurt her in any way. Shane might not be the best girlfriend imaginable, but she was a great person and that was just a low blow. Tina clenched her teeth together and shook her head slowly at her girlfriend who as usual didn’t even look like she could have possibly done something wrong. They would talk about this more later after Alice left. “How did Shane even find out about this?” she asked Alice instead, though she realized there was really only one likely way.
“Phyllis told her.” As she said it, almost surprised by her own words, vague and blurry memories began to play back in front of her eyes and she realized she’d probably been there when it happened. Her eyes widened and she looked from Tina to Bette and then over to Kit who was on her way from the kitchen to join them in the living room. Of course there was no way for her to be sure, but it didn’t seem impossible that she might be right. “I saw Phyllis come up to her at the Hammer,” she said, “right before Jodi’s show was about to start, and they walked off into some other room. Now that I think about it, she didn’t act like herself after that. She didn’t say much, she was even quieter than usual and she barely even looked at me until the next day. And even then, her eyes were… She’s never looked at me that way before.” Thinking about those piercing green eyes seeming to look right through her, as if they could see every thought in her head, still sent cold shivers down her spine and she made an unsuccessful attempt to shrug it off before she continued. “And that was around the time when she broke up with Molly, wasn’t it?”
“She never had a chance, did she?” Tina stood up from the couch so quickly she heard Bette gasping behind her as she stormed across the room before turning back to glare at them; first at Bette, then Alice and then back again. It was all very clear to her now what had actually happened and she couldn’t believe they’d spent all this time wondering when some of them had had the answers all along. “I’m not gonna pretend that I’ve never said anything about one of my friends behind her back, we all have, but going to someone’s girlfriend’s mother and telling her things like that? Did you deliberately try to break up her and Molly? Huh?” Bette opened her mouth, but Tina didn’t give her a chance to speak and she continued with her voice filled with disgust. “I’m not done, Bette. I know you weren’t happy about Shane dating your boss’s daughter. Because you thought whatever happened between them could affect your career. That’s what you told me. Is that what this is about? They were happy. She even said she was in love with her. How many times have you heard her say that about anyone? And you took that away from her… because of your job?”
“I’m so sick of this shit!” Kit exclaimed from the other end of the room where she stood, leaning against the wall by the front door. “I can’t believe you people. How’s that girl ever gonna be able to change anything even if she wants to, when you won’t even give her a chance? No wonder she lost it that night and took off and won’t return anyone’s calls. No wonder she didn’t tell you she’s back home. You’re supposed to be her friends and all you do is try to find new ways to fuck shit up for her?” She shook her head in disgust. “Some friends she’s got.” Her speech had been directed at both Alice and Bette, but after a short pause, she turned to her sister. “And you. Who are you to pass judgement on anyone after what you did to Tina and to Jodi? Huh?”
As she finished her sentence she felt a small hand in her own and looked down to find her niece looking nervously back up at her.
“Why are you yelling?” Angelica asked quietly.
“No one’s gonna yell anymore,” she replied softly, picking the little girl up and opening the door behind her, glaring over Angelica’s shoulder at the women who were still sitting on the couch and staring back at her. “Come on, baby girl, let’s go outside and practice riding that new bike of yours.”