Authors: Karin Kallmaker
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Lesbian, #Lesbians, #Class Reunions, #Women Singers
Bella Books , 2004
“… has indicated that the cabin has reached cruising altitude. For your safety and comfort…”
“This is all about you being cozy and comfortable. You could get up off your ass once in a while!”
Rett shook her head against the stiff airplane seat and tried to find a way back to sleep that didn’t include reliving that humiliating fight with Trish. She was so tired and wanted so much to sleep all the way from La Guardia to LAX. She hadn’t slept well all week, not with every word Trish had said pinging around in her head.
“Can I get you something to snack on while lunch is being prepared?” The nasal-voiced steward was back again. Rett was unused to the solicitousness of first class. She’d been hoping the more comfortable seating would turn out to be worth every mileage point she’d cashed in for the upgrade, but that would only be the case if she got some sleep. Still, it was nice to be waited on hand and foot.
“Some water,” Rett mumbled. She was behind in her daily intake and sleep seemed unlikely. She drank the bottle down in a few gulps and closed her eyes.
“… on the right, you can see the thousands of lakes that cover Minnesota, as well as Lake Superior …”
“You’re so superior. So you can sing. Whoopity-fucking-doo. We’re taking in less money this year than we did last year and you’re running out of time for that Ms. Nice Girl act. You want to be famous, you gotta act that way. “
Thoroughly disoriented, Rett opened one eye and saw the steward delivering a freshly tossed Caesar salad to the man next to her.
“You’re awake,” the steward said cheerily. “Would you like the filet or Chicken Newburg?”
Rett cleared her throat. Her voice still came out a froggy squeak. “Chicken.” She put her hand to her throat. “And more water.”
Swallowing produced the merest nuance of pain that made her singer’s reflexes wince. She’d overused her voice all week, enjoying the band she’d been appearing with, as well as the appreciative, swing-and jazz-loving audience. She sang as long as anyone would listen, not wanting to go back to the hotel to replay The Fight one more time.
She didn’t want to break up with Trish, but maybe it was inevitable. Trish was right she’d be forty in just three weeks, and she was running out of time for all sorts of things. God, it had been a gruesome fight. She’d seen Trish dismantle other people, but Trish’s barbs had never been directed so relentlessly at her.
She was so tired…
“… the great visibility means both sides of the plane can see the Continental Divide all the way to the horizon…”
“You want to expand your horizons? Stupid little thing, people like us are stuck in Woton, Minnesota. You were nothing when you were born, and you’ll never be more than nothing.”
Rett woke up clutching the arms of her seat. She’d gone from Trish to her mother, good God. She knew she was tired, but what on earth was happening to her that she was coming so mentally unglued as to dream about her mother after all these years?
Afraid to go back to sleep, she picked at the hot fudge sundae the steward urged on her. She found herself blinking back tears and cursed herself for letting the tears get that far damn it, her throat was tensing up and the resulting ache and diminished volume would last at least twelve hours. Her throat was already sore enough to require some time over the vaporizer. Trish would say vapor therapy was just an excuse not to go out to some party or some premiere or another pointless opportunity to make “do lunch” promises to people she’d never see again. No one ever remembered Rett Jamison.
Stop that, she admonished herself. You’ve got enough grief to think about without dumping more self-pity on the heap.
She rested her forehead against the cool window. She was so tired…
“Stop it, please,” she had pleaded. “Nothing you say is going to make me beg some producer for a callback.”
Trish snarled, “Beg? Is that my job?” She kicked at a bath towel on the floor. “I work my butt off and now you act like you’re above a phone call? As if you’re anybody! As if you could ever get anywhere without my help!”
Trish had never been this angry with her before, but Rett didn’t want to give in. “You always told me to concentrate on my craft and you’d take care of all the messy details. You get fifteen percent for it.” Rett didn’t want to bring up money but there it was.
“I deserve more. That audition was damned hard to set up and you won’t even make a follow-up call.”
“Naomi set it up, not you. And Naomi hasn’t suggested that any kind of follow-up call is necessary.”
Trish trembled with anger. “Don’t bring that bitch up. Next you’ll be telling me you made more when she was your manager and not just your agent.”
It’s true oh, how Rett wanted to say it. It took the little self-control she had left to keep the words off her tongue. Shakily, she began, “I’m leaving for New York in two hours”
“Which is why you should march your ass over to that phone and call that producer. I schmoozed at four parties to find out who was producing that movie.”
“I think it’ll backfire.” Mere discomfort at self-promotion was not what was making her stubborn. She trusted Naomi, who had been her agent for a long time, to let her know when calling a producer might be necessary. Getting this singing part in a Disney animated movie was the chance of a lifetime and she didn’t want to screw it up.
“What the fuck do you know about it? You don’t know anything about the business of keeping Rett Jamison, Inc. in the black. You don’t trust my judgment. You’re so fucking Midwestern sometimes. Christ, you are so pathetic. Look at you buttoned to the neck and a tighter ass than Nancy Reagan. I don’t know why I even bother.”
“Don’t do this, Trish. I have to get on the plane” Rett stirred in her seat, wanting to end the relentless playback of their fight.
“I might not be here when you get back,” Trish had snapped. “I have other places I can be. Just remember that money is tight while you’re in New York.”
“… cool New York morning to a pleasant sixty-seven at the terminal in Los Angeles. We’ll be starting our descent in just a few minutes. The tailwind that helped with the wonderful visibility during our flight is also getting us to the gate forty-five minutes early …”
Suddenly, Rett could hear Louis Armstrong crooning “What a Wonderful World.” The words floated in her sleep-befuddled brain and she wanted to stay inside the song where the skies were blue and Trish was not yelling at her. She’d dreamed she was singing a duet with Chet Baker, or had it been Tony Bennett? No, no, it had been Ella Fitzgerald or even Rosemary Clooney. She was reliving the past week, when she’d crooned their songs and the crowd had begged for more. She should feel like a million bucks, like a star.
She felt like a popped balloon.
A pert voice drowned out what was left of her dream duets. “We are beginning our descent into Los Angeles. The captain has turned on the Fasten Seat Belts sign…”
“Can I get you anything else before we land?” The nasal-voiced steward for first class was hovering again.
“Water,” Rett said automatically. He was back in a flash with another bottle of spring water and Rett tried to shake off her fatigue while she sipped. She felt a little better for the rest, but her days of gleefully running on less than three hours’ sleep were long over. She lacked the emotional reserves to cope with the ugly situation between her and Trish. She sighed.
“Rough trip?” The man next to her was putting away his computer. When they’d first boarded she’d been afraid he would want to talk the whole way, but as soon as there had been a “computers okay” announcement, he’d headed for cyber-broker land.
“Just tired. I don’t bounce back the way I used to. Once upon a time I could sing until three A.M. and be ready at nine for studio work. And I could do that for weeks on end.”
“I hear that.” He stowed the computer in the overhead bin, then eased back into his seat. “There was a time when I’d get off this plane and go right to two meetings, a cocktail party and a lengthy business dinner. Now all I want is a soak in the spa and bed.”
“That sounds fabulous,” Rett agreed, then realized her fervent agreement had sounded like a come-on. She looked sideways at him. “I have a Jacuzzi tub at home and that’s where I’m headed.”
He looked relieved. “Same here.” There was a brief, awkward silence, then he said, “Did you know you hum in your sleep?”
Rett blushed. “No, I didn’t.” It was not a personal tidbit she had ever expected to learn from a man. “No one has ever mentioned that.”
“I think it was a Cole Porter song.”
“I sing a lot of Cole Porter,” Rett admitted. “He’s a favorite.”
“Of mine, too. Do you perform around L.A. somewhere? I have a friend who likes that kind of music jazz, that sort of thing.”
“I’m appearing at the Newport Jazz Festival in late July. With David Benoit and others.”
“I’ll have to get passes.” He whipped out a Palm Pilot and jotted frantically with a minuscule stylus. “Rett Jamison, right?” He grinned. “I saw it on your luggage. We’ll look for you. After your set I’ll tell him I heard you sing in your sleep that’ll raise his eyebrows.”
Rett’s gaydar beeped. “Just don’t tell my girlfriend that she’s not the understanding type.” Actually, Trish was the understanding type, but Rett wanted to make sure he knew she had received his message and replied in kind.
His bass voice was now tinged with a slight Southern accent. Atlanta, she thought. “I doubt you’ll remember me by then, but if you do see me in the crowd, wave. I’ll be as cool as the other side of the pillah.”
“I’ll remember,” Rett said. “I never forget a face. I never forget just about anything, for that matter.” A photographic memory near-perfect recall was a blessing for a performer and allowed her a wide repertoire. It also kept every single word Trish said fresh and unrelentingly painful in her mind.
The steward took away her empty water bottle and a few minutes later the plane touched down smoothly. A glance out the window confirmed that the captain had been right. May in L.A. meant mild breezes, blue sky and warm sunshine. Today looked like no exception. It was still a little nippy in New York, especially at night.
Her cell phone chirped as she walked out of the terminal in search of a shuttle. The digital readout said it was Naomi Grey, her agent. “I just got off the plane,” she said without a hello. “At least let me catch my breath.”
“I need to see you right away.” Naomi sounded only mildly apologetic. “I’m about five minutes from the airport I’ll give you a lift home.”
“I’ll let you have your way with me if it means not having to take a shuttle. You know my stop would be last and it would take three hours to go twenty miles.” Rett felt a wave of relief. “I’ll even talk business. Well, I’ll listen business. I’m pretty worn out.”
“I know, sweetie. But it can’t wait.”
She stood at the curb and wondered what Naomi had to convey that was so urgent. A new gig, maybe? No, Naomi would not have waited to relay something mundane. She’d have left a message. Unless it was really, really good news. For a moment Rett’s heart pounded. Maybe she had gotten a callback from Disney. She’d be an actress’s singing voice in an animated feature. If she got that callback the entire fight with Trish would be moot.
She quelled her enthusiasm. By definition, a performer’s life was one long series of rejections interrupted by moments of glory. She was lucky enough to have the rejections down to a minimum. She had found her steady niche and that was more than most performers could say. Besides, she just wasn’t lucky enough to solve her problems with Trish that way. It would only be a temporary fix at best.
Naomi’s Audi veered across several lanes to brake at the curb. Rett tossed her suitcase and carry-on into the trunk and lowered herself into the passenger seat. Naomi had always liked low-slung cars.
Rett waited to ask questions until Naomi was safely onto Century Boulevard. She deeply distrusted airport shuttle drivers and was convinced driving around an airport was more dangerous than flying. “So what’s the news that couldn’t wait?”
“I’ll buy you a drink and then tell you.”
Naomi was ill at ease; Rett could see that now. No Disney deal, then. “I don’t need to be anesthetized for bad news.”
“I do,” Naomi said shortly.
“We can have a drink at my place.”
“We need some privacy.”
Rett mulled that over. A bar was hardly more private than her place. But it was likely that Trish was home, which meant that what Naomi really wanted was privacy from Trish. Great, just great. Trish and Naomi had always had problems and she’d always played the peacemaker. She couldn’t do that right now, not since her relationship with Trish was barely breathing.
Trouble between the two women was not new. From the beginning, it hadn’t been smooth. Four years ago Rett had changed her relationship with Naomi from agent-manager to just agent so that the love of her life could be her manager. Trish had managed several starlets and another singer early in their careers all were doing well now. Trish could give Rett a hundred percent of her attention. They were in love. It had seemed logical to Rett at the time, but now she asked herself why the other talent Trish had managed all moved on to other managers after a few years. It was a disloyal thought and one Rett didn’t want to pursue at the moment. There was too much on her Trish plate as it was.