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Bette On It: Weird Adolescence

Graduation: June 1, 2004. June 2, 2004. Epilogue

By Tinka Boudit She/HerPublished 3 years ago Updated about a year ago 37 min read

Continued from Senior Year

June 1, 2004

The evening of graduation and Bette had taken a nap in the afternoon before she got her cap and gown ready. The school used to rent nice ones, but in the last few years, they switched to ones that were basically disposable. That night Bette wore a sleeveless teal V-neck blouse, a denim knee skirt with her black leather belt, and Mary Jane shoes. She stuck a white-out pen in her pocket before she left her bedroom that day. She prepped her backpack with a change of clothes for the all night graduation party that would immediately follow the graduation ceremony. All the students would board buses and go to the event center and get locked in and have food and sodas and get to enjoy the place all night with games, fun, and entertainment. The same event center Bette and Ozzy went on for their first date. Before leaving, Bette and her family had dinner at the house. It was a simple dinner of tacos, fruit salad, and flan for dessert. Bette's grandmothers and grandfather came from out of town for the dinner and ceremony. There were lots of pictures taken in the yard of the house. When John and Lorna took Bette to the ceremony, they let her know that they would leave Lorna's car at the event center for after the all night graduation party and Bette could take it home. John and Lorna volunteered to do clean up at the party and hadn't told Bette about it until the drive to graduation. She wouldn't have talked them out of it, she wouldn't have been embarrassed by them, but she was surprised all the same. She just thought she was going to get picked up by John in the morning. The car was a last minute surprise if she wanted to go out and get breakfast with her friends or anything like that. They gave her the car keys and she stuck them in her backpack. They dropped her off at the local college gymnasium where the graduation was held before parking the car. Public North's auditorium didn't have big enough accommodations for the graduating class, families, faculty, and band; weather was always too iffy to have it outside. As soon as Bette was dropped off, she took out the white out pen from her pocket and got to work on her cap. She wrote on the black cap "❤ MOM & DAD." Where her parents were up on the gymnasium bleachers, she knew they would see it.

Bette got in line with everyone else alphabetically by last name and her heart started to race when Ozzy started to approach to get in line behind her. They hadn't spoken since they broke up just over five months earlier, and they hadn't been in such close proximity since then. They both knew this moment was coming, their pictures were next to each other in the yearbook and their names were next to each other in the graduation issue of the school paper. It was an inevitable moment that was about to last hours. The black hair dye had fully washed out of his hair, shaved off his goatee, but still had his eyebrow pierced. His skin was already growing more tan from working outside with the lawn care company. He always did tan quickly. He didn't touch her or even stand that close to her, but she felt him all the same. She felt his energy, his strength, his power and it made her nervous. She felt her dinner move in her stomach. She was grateful to be standing for some time before the ceremony started and shifted her weight from foot to foot and shook out her hands in the billowy sleeves of the gown. With the last name Wheelan, she was one of the last 15 people to walk into the gymnasium. She was grateful to have had the time to shake out her nerves. Her nerves mostly dissipated when she saw her parents and grandparents up in the bleachers. She blew them kisses and she could see that they could see the top of her cap and they reacted with big smiles and laughter. Only a couple other people had dressed outside the formality of the gown. One guy wore shorts and barefoot so he looked naked, another girl wore a feather boa, and one girl put Mickey Mouse ears on her hat. Bette was the only one who put words on hers. She sat through the ceremony and listened to speech after speech. After each speech ended, she immediately forgot what it had been about. She was so distracted sitting next to Ozzy she couldn't think straight. She tapped her toes inside her shoes and tried to breath and meditate through it and just thinking about anything else to distract herself. She thought about cartoons, comedians, her next shift at work later in the week, what she might do for breakfast tomorrow, what she would do at the event center that night; anything to distract herself from the tension that she felt from him. When the reading of the names began and everyone started to go up and get their diplomas, she was happy to see her friends go by. Jenna, Skye, Cassandra, Ami, Sonja, Greyson, Tylor, Hank, Robert, and so many familiar faces over so many years. They were all grown up but still looked exactly the same as they were when they were kids and it was a weird feeling. When they read the name 'Mark Hall in abstention,' Bette's nervousness got the best of her, and she let a tear fall. She thought she was done crying over him, but he was still there making her heart ache. She closed her eyes, sniffled, and wiped her cheek. She took a deep breath through her mouth. Bette felt a tap on her forearm. She opened her eyes, and there was Ozzy's hand. Between his fingers extended to her were a couple of tissues. God damn it, he knows me too well. She tentatively took the tissues, closed her eyes, and dabbed her face to not ruin her makeup. She lifted the side of the gown and stuck the tissues into her skirt pocket. She stared forward again and tried to distract herself with the reading of the names. She felt another tap from Ozzy on her arm, this time, he held out a notepad and a pen.

The note pad read: U OK?

Bette glanced at the pad and slowly up at his face. He wasn't angry. He wasn't sad. He genuinely looked concerned. The notepad wasn't new. She didn't page through it, but she knew he would have kept it on himself for song ideas when he had them. She took the pad out of his hand.

She wrote: I am. How have u been?

She handed the pen and pad to him.

Ozzy wrote: Good. Weird. Hard. Mom's here. Dumped Vanessa.

He handed her the pen and pad. The names being read were alphabetically up to the 17 Johnsons in the class. She couldn't believe he told her so much in so few words.

Bette wrote: Why? Ur both staying here in town.

Ozzy took the pad and wrote: She lied to me.

Honesty had been an issue with Vanessa and Ozzy in the past, and the question itched at her fingers as she held the pen and pad. She wrote: Can I ask about what?

Ozzy wrote back quickly: U. Jenna and Grey told me you wanted to open the door. You asked Van to tell me. She never did.

Bette looked up at Ozzy, they both looked sorry at each other. She wrote: Why didn't you try to open the door?

Ozzy wrote: Because U told me to STOP. I gave U no reason to trust me again. And Mark

Bette wrote: What about Mark?

Ozzy wrote: U were with him. I was ur ex. U 2 were in❤️.

Bette wrote: U talk to Grey. U know he's gone. U know why?

Ozzy wrote: I do know.

Bette wrote: Telling Grey everything was not an accident. I'm no fool. If I couldn't open the door with U, maybe I could leave open a window with Grey.

Ozzy wrote: U always were the clever one in the room. Bette Wheelan, In the Gymnasium, With the pen and paper. Clue-dun-it.

Bette wrote: Yet U were the one who beat me at the game. U brought the pen and pad. Ozzy White, undefeated in Clue-dun-it.

She breathed a laugh. He heard it and laughed too. She still held the pad and wrote: It was so long ago, but it feels like last week.

Ozzy wrote: True.

The notepad was almost out of pages. Ozzy lifted the side of his gown, pulled a small piece of paper from his pocket, and he handed it to her; it was an invitation to his graduation party for Saturday June 5. Bette pulled lifted the side of her gown and pulled a piece of paper of an invitation for her graduation party on Sunday June 13. Ozzy took her invitation and the notepad and put them back in his pocket. There was so much more she wanted to say and he left her voiceless in that moment.

The commencement ceremony ended. Bette found her parents and took more teary-eyed pictures with the white-out written cap. She saw Ozzy on the bleachers with his Aunt Darrah and his mom. She had never seen Ozzy's mom before in person or in pictures. She didn't even know her name. Bette wondered if she knew anything about her. She was tall, had Ozzy's skin tone, and hair color, but that was where the similarities ended. Ozzy probably looked like his father, and that was probably hard for her. Bette quickly hugged her family, left the cap and gown with them, found Jenna, and zoomed to the buses for the all night grad party. Jenna and Bette ended up on a bus with a bunch of people who were not their friends during the years of school: mostly hockey and football players. They chanted filthy things about each other, but it was all in good fun and Bette and Jenna joined in the chants. There was 'Paul licks pussy,' 'Adam eats ass,' 'Rod's big rod,' 'Meghan's big muff.' When the guys started to taper off from their friends, Jenna shouted, 'Jenna licks genitals!' And the guys continued chanting her words with laughter and screams. When her chant died off, Bette shouted, 'Bette on blow jobs!' The guys embraced her chant too.

Bette and Jenna inhaled a pizza and a pitcher of Diet Coke when they got there. They changed out of their skirts and put on their jeans and sneakers and grabbed the free disposable cameras that were included in their backpacks. They started off by bowling a few frames but quickly got bored, reset the game and moved on. They went to the batting cages where almost no one was. Bette and Jenna got cages next to each other and got really into it, grunting hard like tennis players. Jenna was a switch hitter, so they could look at each other while they were in the cages. Bette cracked ball after ball until blisters started to form on her hands, but it felt so good. She hadn't been in a batting cage since she was a young kid and she knew she would be sore in the next couple days because of it. They pretended to be men and adjusted their jocks and gave each other fake baseball signals. Bette kept telling Jenna to steal third. Jenna said she always does. When they got out of the cages they took pictures of each other pretending the baseball bats and balls were penises and testicles on themselves until they cried laughing. Bette gave Jenna a piggyback ride through the event center until they came to the magician doing card tricks and Bette stopped dead in her tracks. Bette stopped and watched with some other girls watching the tricks. Bette got to pick a card and jumped and squealed when the magician tricked her with his illusion. She jumped up and down and applauded like a little kid when he was done with each trick. She forgot how much she loved close up card trick magic. Jenna shouted to Bette, "Sequin and fringe dresses!" Bette's head spun and she went running to Jenna. There were a bunch of dresses and suits that were open in the back like hospital gowns and faux backgrounds along with motorcycles to pose with. Bette and Jenna changed into costume after costume and took pictures on the motorcycles and in the different backgrounds. They went in the changing booth together and took one of themselves in their bras together with silly faces. After getting dressed, the pair found the hair station. Bette saw Cynthia volunteering there and gave her a great, big hug. She was pregnant again. She waited for her station to have her braid her hair back. Jenna had her hair braided by another stylist. While there, they exchanged yearbooks with other grads and signed messages to each other and recounted memories of years past. The Rosaline twins had gone to the other middle school and were in line to get their hair braided too. As Bette got to chatting with them, she was laughing and joking with them; they were amazing girls. They were honor students yet total partiers. They invited her to a party they were having that weekend, and not just their graduation party; a party-party. She wondered how she was not friends with them sooner; they had absolutely embraced who she was in that moment. She called them powerful ladies and they high-fived slapped their chests and they both hugged her. Jenna offered to bring weed to the party; the twins said 'pot-lucking' was encouraged.

After the braiding, Bette took some time to walk around the event center to find other people to sign her yearbook and talk about old times. A guy named Raymond told her that her Lady Marmalade dances at prom were a total turn on, and he grunted and put his hand on his crotch. They had flirted once or twice in physical science class freshman year, but she couldn't believe he was telling her this. She told him to call her, but the look on his face was total shock when she was sincere. He was joking around, she wasn't. The politics of high school didn't matter anymore, she didn't care what people thought. She was single. He was a blond, auto shop, farm boy-type; totally different than anyone she had been interested in before. She wasn't even sure if she was interested, but why not give someone new a chance? It was more of a chance than most guys had given her. She wrote her phone number in his yearbook, applied a layer of lipstick, and put a kiss print next to it. It was another What the fuck am I doing?! moment, but when she walked away, she could feel her face turn red. Ray's buddies with him made lewd comment about getting 'two hands full' and his 'wick dipped,' and she heard all of it. She found Skye and Terry and told them about what had just happened with Raymond. Skye told her she had heard that Ray likes to 'take care of his ladies' but make sure to make him wear a condom. Bette said that anyone who wants in her Wheelhouse is required to have Rubbermaid tires. Terry and Skye laughed.

She realized how good, confident, how powerful of a lady she continued to be; she couldn't be stopped. She went to the high ropes course and got harnessed in. She climbed the ladders and crossed the bridges and obstacles. Her heart races as she stared down at the plank and pulled the rope to ring the bell at the highest point of the course. It got applause from the people below. She was sweating and her hands were shaking, but it was all worth it. She went down the three story corkscrew slide to get back to the bottom and her hair was staticky from the plastic tube and she was dizzy when she got there, but she loved the thrill of it. She wanted more thrills. She ran around and found Jenna again. She challenged her to the inflatable games. There was an inflatable relay race and Jenna beat Bette two out of three races. There was a game of giant sumo suits and Bette beat Jenna at that game. There was a game of pugil sticks on platforms to knock each other off, They each won two rounds and decided to keep it a tie. They had someone in line take pictures of them playing all the games. Bette was having the time of her life with her best friend.

When the commencement ceremony ended, Bette took off like a shot away from Ozzy. He wasn't ready for her to leave. She went and embraced her family. He figured he had a few minutes to do the same. He went up the bleachers to Darrah and his mom and gave them each a hug and handed off his cap and gown to them. They told him how handsome he looked and how proud they were of him. It took everything in him to keep it together. He had already given Bette his tissues. Tylor and Greyson yelled to him to join them on the shuttle bus to the all night grad party. Greyson and Ozzy sat together on the bus. Greyson showed Ozzy the nicotine patch he threw on to keep himself from going insane all night from not smoking. Ozzy showed Greyson the notepad; his back and forth with Bette. It was the most they had spoken since their break up and they hadn't said anything out loud, and he had Greyson to thank for it. Greyson told him the night was young and there would be more opportunities to talk out loud. Ozzy wasn't sure how much she wanted to talk. Greyson pointed to the note: Telling Grey everything was not an accident. I'm no fool. If I couldn't open the door with you, maybe I could leave open a window with Grey. "She wants to talk. She said so. Don't be the fool," Greyson said.

"Not sure when I'll find the opportunity," Ozzy said worried.

"You'll know it when you see it." Greyson was not concerned. "You already got the invite to her grad party. You gave her yours. If not tonight, there's always then."

Ozzy sighed. Something about finally breaking the silence of the last five months told him that this was his opportunity to talk to Bette. He didn't want to wait for the weekend. The guys got there and shared a pizza. Seeing Bette shotgun a pizza and half a pitcher of pop cracked him up, she never was afraid of eating. He saw her go to bowl. She doesn't even like bowling. Tylor wanted to bowl, so the three guys went to bowl too. The Ricks and Norman bowled in the lane next to them. They were six lanes down from Bette and Jenna. By the time Ozzy got up to his fourth frame, Bette and Jenna were gone. He tried to dismiss the idea of catching up with her in the short term and have fun instead, but he was a terrible bowler, despite being so strong; he couldn't focus. Half his throws were gutter balls. They finished the game and Ozzy wandered near the arcade. He played some games and could hear Bette grunt and laugh in the batting cages. He tried to be entertained by the games, but he kept losing. He kept listening for her. Bette and Jenna took off in the opposite direction of the arcade and he missed his opportunity. He went back and sat with the guys while they bowled another game. He exchanged and wrote in yearbooks with people around them while they bowled another game. Greyson gave Ozzy a look and a shrug. Ozzy shook his head no. After the game, Ozzy took a lap around the event center, he didn't find Bette. Tylor told him to buck the fuck up when he met them back at the service counter. He tossed Ozzy a mini golf club and a hot pink ball. Ozzy joked that it was Tylor who loved 'the pink' and Tylor snatched the ball out of Ozzy's hand and reclaimed it for himself for their game. Ozzy relaxed through the 18 holes of mini-golf and won the game. They got off the course and the trio was laughing and joking. They returned the clubs to the service desk and they heard Raymond and his buddies talking about how he was going to fuck Bette and were taking dates as to how soon it would happen. Ozzy came up behind them and asked if they were serious. Raymond was under six feet tall and not intimidated by Ozzy. Ozzy and Bette's friendship, relationship, and breakup were public knowledge. Ozzy said there was no way Raymond had a chance with her. He opened his yearbook and showed him Bette's entry: Raymond- We once had physical science, maybe we could have chemistry. Call me. (You Can) Bette 'on it' Wheelan. Along with her kiss mark and her phone number, Ozzy couldn't believe she had been that forward with Raymond. He couldn't remember a time when they had ever even talked about Raymond. Raymond asked Ozzy if he had any tips for him. Ozzy cheerlessly told him not to lie to her. He walked away from them and went to the vending machines. Ozzy got a Twix out of the vending machine and ate it upstairs in the bar area of the event center and sipped a Mountain Dew. There weren't a lot of people there. There were mostly parent volunteers between shifts enjoying the quiet. He looked through the glass that overlooked much of the center. He stepped back when he realized how high up he was and it made him uncomfortable. He saw his own reflection in the glass and became irritated with himself. Fool.

He stood there looking when he heard a familiar voice, "Hi Oz." It wasn't another graduate; it was Bette's father John.

"Hi." Ozzy stuck the empty wrapper in his pocket and offered John a handshake and he took it. "What are you doing here?"

"Lorna and I signed up for volunteering. We were never big joiners for school events for Bette. This was our last chance. We didn't even tell her we were doing this until we were on our way to commencement."

"Have you seen her yet?" Ozzy prodded but tried to remain casual.

John pointed out the glass to the high ropes course. Bette was at the end of the plank ringing the bell. She had a huge smile on her face. "She always has been fearless. She gets that from her mother."

"Really? She used to tell me you were the traveler, the outgoing one, you could talk to anyone."

"That came from how I was raised. My mother made sure my brother and I knew how to behave. It's all variations of manners. You always had good manners. But Bette, Lorna--" John shook his head. "You can't teach what they have. Did Bette ever tell you how we met?"


"Right. She said she never could lie to you. I guess maybe she could have trusted you with this story. When she tells people how we met, she doesn't tell the full version." Ozzy looked at John confused. "Lorna and I met right after college. We were recruited into the same agency at the same time."

"But she works at the hospital. You're an accountant," Ozzy was more confused.

"Now she's an administrator for the hospital. She made the change when she got pregnant with Bette in '85. She didn't want to stay in the same State Department sector, but I did. We made it work. But I digress. We met when we were 22 and fresh out of college. I didn't have a dime to my name. To be clear, Lorna was recruited, I applied. They technically weren't taking applications. You know how hard it is to find an application for a job that technically doesn't exist? They hired me on the spot when I figured it out how. It was quite the puzzle. We were in D.C. with all the other recruits and they broke us up into smaller training groups. You ever hear the nicknames that Bette's mother and I call each other?"

"She calls you JW. You call her Lorna Vue."

"That's right." John smiled. "Vue is short for Voogt. It's her maiden name." John patted Ozzy on the shoulder. "The groups were alphabetical by last name. Think about it." John walked away from Ozzy.

Ozzy looked back out at the ropes course and saw Bette was gone from it. He finished his Mountain Dew and left the bar area. He found Greyson and Tylor and got them a karaoke room. Ozzy powered himself up singing. They all sang songs from late middle school: 'Thong Song' by Sisqo, 'I Want It That Way' by The Backstreet Boys, 'Bad Touch' by The Bloodhound Gang, 'Forgot About Dre' by Dr. Dre featuring Eminem and a bunch more. Ozzy was free.

June 2, 2004

Ozzy saw Bette hug her parents and her girls as she got ready to leave the event center at the end of the all night grad party. Greyson saw him looking at her. "She's right there. It's not too late," said Greyson.

Ozzy made a dismissive face. "Ah," he scoffed. "There's always this weekend."

"She's literally going out the door. If that's not a direct metaphor for your relationship, I don't know what is," he said flatly.

Ozzy opened his mouth to speak again, but Tylor interrupted. "Go you fucking dumb ass!" Greyson and Ozzy looked at Tylor. "I thought she liked me because she winked at me at Cassandra's party and played pass the orange with me. She always liked you best, whether you were her friend or her boyfriend. If you don't, someone else is going to. Go!"

Ozzy looked at Tylor wide eyed and walked to the doors like a man on a mission. The guys followed behind him and kept walking to Greyson's car. There she was tying her shoe. You’ll know when you see it. Ozzy walked fast to get close behind her before she got up. She stood and swung her backpack.

They had their awkward talk about their first date and when he sang 'Bridge' at the talent show for her. She asked to write in his yearbook.

Bette took his book and found a spot. She had wanted to say so much to him for so long. She could have written an encyclopedia for him, but she started.


We've had five amazing years of friendship and more. It breaks my heart we lost the last five months. Hopefully we can work on that. We are living in the future now. I'll be around for a while and always a phone call, an email, or an AIM away. There was never a time I didn't need you: The lie detector. The giant. The rock star. The Highland man. My confidant. I may not always be the one you want or need in the right moment, but hopefully you will see that the door came off the hinges a long time ago. You are always welcome. Whether it's been five months, five years, or five decades. My door is always open; you just have to find it.

(You Can) Bette 'On It' Wheelan

She blew the ink dry on the page before closing it. Ozzy was already finished writing in her book. "I'll see you this weekend?" He asked.

She smiled, "I will grace you with my presence," she said playfully.

They handed their yearbooks back to each other. They hugged, high-fived, and slapped their chests. Ozzy took his book and started walking away. Something in Bette itched. What did he write? Find it NOW! She opened up the front and back pages of her yearbook and found Ozzy's entry to her.


We fixed the bridge together in the end

Impossible work without you, my friend

Will it hold or will we have to mend?

It's up to both of us, I guess it depends.

For all we've gone from stream to sea

This bridge still stands only we can see

It cost so much and yet the price was free

We're standing at the arch just you and me.

We built this bridge. It was an honor to-

Build this bridge with you.

And he signed his name.

He was well over 20 feet away from her when she yelled to him at the top of her lungs, "Fruity pancakes!" Ozzy turned around and gave her a knowing smile. Other people looked at her, but she didn't see them. She didn't care. "You told me you made pretty good pancakes." She just wanted him to say something back, anything. "Is that still true?"

He nodded. "I do."

"You said you could make pancakes without a bad first pancake." He started walking back to her.

"It's true."

"Could we go make pancakes? Would you teach me?"

Ozzy turned and waved off his other friends.

"Let's go."


April 18, 2012

It was a pretty typical day for Bette. She had been managing the storage unit facility in the suburbs for two and a half years now. April was the time of year when things started to get busier. It was Wednesday morning. She had already done her bank run for the day and the initial check of the doors. It was mid-month, so there weren’t any new move outs. It was a decent morning, and no new leads had come in by email. She started to prepare her phone list for the day. She didn’t have that many late tenants to call who hadn’t paid their rent yet. It was the same 30-40 people by this time each month. She would make the calls in the slower part of the afternoon. She would rather get the outside clean up done in the morning while it was still cool outside. She would make her checklist for the garden beds and let the regional manager know how many bags of wood chips and flats of flowers she wanted for the three garden beds. She lived in an apartment; the gardening in the spring was a nice thing to work on. May was the busiest time of the year for her work with storage unit turnovers; this was the calm before the storm.

She got her gardening gloves, a couple garbage bags, her walkie-talkie, her keys, and put on her Panama hat and was about to go walk the property to pick up garbage and move any wayward palates when a sleek, new BMW pulled into the lot. She had no scheduled showings that morning, but walk-ins were always anticipated. She took off her hat and stood. She watched the tall, blonde woman get out of her car and walk up and into the office.

“Good morning. How can I help you today?” Bette asked with a smile.

“Hi. I guess I need some storage for my stuff.” The woman said.

Bette was 5’7” in her work boots. This woman was 5’11” and had a strapping, athletic build. She had stunning bone structure in her face yet gentle-looking around her eyes. Bette recognized plastic surgery breasts a mile away, but hers were spectacular and proportional to her body.

“You’ve come to the right place. My name is Bette. Can I get your name please?”


“And what are you looking to store Brenda?”

Brenda took a deep breath. “I guess you could say I’m starting over. I’m sorting through some old stuff and I need a place to keep it while I put the new stuff where it belongs.”

Bette offered a comforting expression, “I understand that around here. Nobody puts stuff in storage for reasons like ‘I won the lotto’ or ‘I have too many Porsches at home.’ I am here to make things as easy as possible.” She picked up a clip board and asked a few more questions to Brenda about what she needed to store and let her know what spaces they had available. Bette walked her out on the property and showed her a storage unit to suit the needs she required. Brenda had a confidence about her, but a melancholy too. She spoke with softness in her voice that Bette recognized as practiced. Brenda opened up a little about how some of her family didn’t speak to her anymore since she started over and Bette sympathized with her. There was a familiarity about her that Bette absolutely knew about her but would never say out loud, it would be unfathomably rude.

“I want to let you know, I’m here to help. I know that this is just one little thing: storing your stuff, but there’s quite a bit I can do here. You need palates to get yours stuff off the concrete, I got you. We can put your stuff in a south facing unit if you know you have to access it in winter, less shoveling. See the cameras? I can put you in a unit directly in front of a camera if you need. And I protect the anonymity of my tenants. No one will know you rent here but you so long as you don’t tell anyone. Discretion is incredibly important to me.”

Brenda gave Bette a smile, more of a smirk as they re-entered the rental office. “I believe that about you. I read a couple reviews about your facility online. I was looking for a place to store my stuff and there are half a dozen places to store within five miles of here, but the reviews said I could ‘Bette on you,’ to take care of my storage needs.”

Bette smiled. “I do what I can within my power to help people.”

Brenda put out her hand palm up, she was asking for a high-five. Bette gladly gave her one. Brenda slapped her chest afterwards. “Powerful ladies unite. We are everywhere.”

Bette’s face grew shocked. Brenda gave her a knowing smile. “No way,” she said in disbelief, Bette finally fully recognized the woman in front of her.

“It’s been a long time, Bette.”

“I would have never guessed,” she said it with a big grin.

“It was like you were the first to know after me. It’s why I looked so shocked when we were kids. It’s like you read my mind. You knew what I dreamed of when anyone else would have thought it was a nightmare. And I was so cruel to you.”

“I am so sorry. You know I had no idea,” Bette was still smiling in disbelief.

“I’m sorry too. I was awful to you.”

“May-May I hug you?” Bette asked.

Brenda nodded. “Absolutely.”

Bette stepped around the desk again and looked at the tall, fashionable, fabulous woman before her. “You look great. You know that, right?” The pair hugged.

“It took years to look this good, honey. You get to roll outta bed and look that pretty.”

“Oh God, I look like Hell. I wear men’s shorts, steel-toed boots, and no makeup to work, and keep wasp spray behind the desk to make sure I don’t end up serial killer victim. Frump is a safety precaution when you’re a woman.”

“Oh, I’ve learned. I may not be small, but I’m not as strong as I used to be, physically. I’m lucky to be standing here.” They let go of each other.

Bette saw the powerful lady before her. This was a woman she had known for years. This was a woman who had sent her home from school crying when she was a child. When she was eleven and called Jason Kaye ‘dickless,’ this was not the end result that she had in mind.

June 23, 2020

Bette had been working from home for the last four months. Working in the zoning permit office for the city was a job that could be done remotely and she was one of the first ones to volunteer to work from home when COVID lock-down began. She liked working from home. Government work was great. She got paid well, had great benefits, which was an absolute blessing for her, especially in the last three years, and she had a lot of downtime between her tasks to do whatever she wanted around the house.

She received all her tasks by email and all the filing was done online and only had to make phone calls to people when they filed their permits incorrectly. Most of the time, they didn’t answer their phones, so she left a lot of messages. No one answered their phones anymore. Since lock-down, lots more homeowners were doing home improvements which led to a large influx of permit applications and therefore, more filings errors. Bette had a decent workload each day. She put on her music playlist of Celtic music and got to work for the day. She looked in her inbox and saw the series of names to call. She saw a name on her call list and it made her smile. She chalked it up to coincidence but still changed her music playlist to her teenage years mix.

She spent her morning trudging through her emails and making calls. She left messages and took the calls of the people who returned them. She got to the name that made her smile and she dialed it, she fully expected a voicemail, but didn’t get one.

“Hello?” He answered.

Her heart palpitated a bit. “H-Hello. Good morning. This is Betty from the city permit office. We got your application for your back yard project and I needed to follow up on a couple of irregularities on it.” When she started working there, someone in the office called her Betty and she never bothered to correct them. It was on her work email and that tiny bit of anonymity at work versus her private life was nice. Work was work, her private life was her private life, and she did not mix the two. She liked it that way.

“Sure. One sec, sorry,” She could hear him lower the phone. “Ellie, JJ, enough with the iPad. Go play outside.”

“Yes Dad.” The children said without whining. Bette could hear them over the phone. Her headset picked up everything.

“Sorry about that.” He said. “You said there were some problems with my permit ap?”

Bette went over the blank spots in his architectural drawings, he missed filling in a couple numbers and missed another line on the application itself. He answered her questions and she was able to fill in the blanks he had left behind.

“I have to say, this was one of the more interesting applications I got to look at in a while. Not everyone builds their own playground equipment. It looks a bit like one from the elementary school I went to.”

“That’s what I designed it after. I drew it from memory. I’m using reclaimed wood from the barn on my property. I didn’t think they had wood and steel playground equipment at the schools around here.” He said.

“Oh, I’m not from around here. I’m from up north,” she said casually.

“Really? Me too. The design is from Pebble Lake Elementary. They had to tear down the old playground about 15, 20 years ago. I guess they didn’t think it was safe enough for kids anymore.” He almost laughed as he said it.

Bette’s heart palpitated again, she almost whispered, “I went to Pebble Lake Elementary. They got rid of the see-saws when I was in second grade. I once got hurt on them once and some kids blamed me for them being gone.”

I was in second grade when they got rid of the see—Are you listening to Enrique Iglesias?!” He asked with a bright tone.

“Holy shit.”

“I beg your pardon?”

Bette stared at her screen at the application in disbelief: the name, the voice. It had been half a lifetime. She had occasionally searched for the name but it was so common that he had been impossible to find. He wasn’t even on Facebook among their mutual friends. He had been dust in the wind for well over a decade when his email addresses didn’t work anymore. His was a voice she thought she would never hear again.

“I’m sorry. I- I just can’t believe it. It’s been so long. I know you don’t like it when I swear, Mark.”



She could hear him drop to his couch. “Holy shit is right.”

“You’re telling me. There aren’t that many Bette Wheelans out there, but do you know how many Mark Halls there are?”

“Yeah, I do actually. Holy moley. How are you?” He was genuinely interested.

“I’m pretty good all things considered. I’m locking down and staying safe. My mom lives close by now so she and I bubble together.”

“Your dad?”

“Pancreatic cancer, four years ago. It was genetic. You wouldn’t believe the domino effect that caused.” Bette touched her abdomen and her chest where her hysterectomy and mastectomy scars were. She wasn’t the hot, young, stunner he once knew, she didn’t feel like it, at least she was healthy and safe now.

“I think you know I would I would understand that kind of effect better than anyone.”

She had a bittersweet smile on her face. “What about you? How are you? You’re a dad. That makes so much sense. I bet you’re an amazing dad.”

“The kids and I are great. It’s so different now than when we were kids. That’s for sure. I try to raise them like I was. Ellie is nine, JJ is seven now. But damn it’s hard. Everything’s faster. Did it feel this fast when we were kids?”

“God, no. It took forever. But it feels like an eternity ago now, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah.” They were silent for a moment on the phone for a moment. Bette’s music played, ‘Crazy’ by K-Ci & JoJo. “Um, you’re working. I should let you get back to it,” the joy left his voice.

“Yeah. I guess I should. Of all the Mark Halls to call today, I can’t believe I got to call you.”

“You always were a lucky star.” Bette felt herself turn red in the face. It was a feeling that hadn’t happened for a long time. “Can we talk again?”

Bette adjusted in her home desk chair. She heard Mark’s phone vibrate over her headset. “Check your messages.”

Mark looked at his smartphone and opened the text message. The photo in it showed Bette: messy black hair, no makeup, a big smile, glasses, a chubbier face, in a t-shirt filled out with A-cup breasts. The message read: No lie, I’m looking forward to it.

Bette’s phone buzzed back with a photo of Mark. He had a full goatee with a few silver hairs in the beard, some in the mustache, and scattered about in his scalp. His hairline wasn’t receding, but she would call what he had a ‘five-head’ instead of a forehead. He had a wrinkle or two around his eyes. His cheeks had grown full and his neck had grown thick. His blue eyes still had a sparkle to them and the same grin she remembered. The look and grin that he made when he looked at her when they were teenagers. The same expressions in the photos she had in old albums. She knew she was the one who put that expression there in that moment. His message read with it: Today may be Tuesday the 23rd, but Wednesday the ten never changes.

For more Tales of Bette:

The All-Night Grad Party - Raymond's Perspective

Reunited 2020 - Part 1

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About the Creator

Tinka Boudit She/Her

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The Soundtrack BOI: WA


Bette On It: Puddle, Desks, Door, Gym, Condoms, Couch, Dancers, Graduate.

Purveyor of Metaphorical Hyperbole, Boundless, Ridiculous, Amazing...and Humble.

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