9. Summertime

I. 

Jo has a quiet, quiet day. Bed, food. Ignoring the phones. Glad that she didn’t bring Gracie home last night. For once, that offered hand at the end of the evening didn’t appeal. Not at all.

And Vita’s restless. For a while there, she’d felt ‘normal’. It was wonderful to dance. But she regrets telling Firefly who she is when she’s at home. Yes, she wanted to see his reaction, just in case he’d heard about her story and Mop. But of course it was the tennis story he remembered. And, yes, it was ego, too. For a moment, for Firefly, she wanted to be more than who she is here, running City Radio, camping out. To be her old self, with her well-earned well-respected by-line. She felt the pull of home, in many senses. This isn’t home she thinks, as she pulls the bar on the door to the fire escape, and sits in the sun for a few minutes. And then she’s back again into the heartbreak. And out of it. And it’s different this time. Thinking about a future. That dance shifted something. She goes to the fridge, takes out the last of Jo’s beautiful miniature desserts. Admires the special wee box again, cleans it, and decides to use it for pencils etc. (Vita’s big on pencils etc,)

Gracie’s restless too. New Year’s Day with her parents, and Lisa. She can’t tell her dad about the fuckwit-with… because she’d have to tell the whole story. And her mum: no way. But she wants to tell someone. And Jo might be pissed off; she wanted to be the one to administer justice.  Loves that white charger, Jo. Obviously upset it didn’t go well with Vita. Why not? And not answering her phones. Is she at Rebecca’s? No. Rebecca hasn’t seen her today, can’t get hold of her either. Gracie sighs: a smoke a smoke a smoke. And then Lisa tugs at her. They get the stroller. Join the world at Oriental Bay. And, when Lisa gets tired and cranky, buy an ice cream at Kaffee Eis.

Stroll on through Courtenay Place to Jo’s place, Lisa nodding off just as she reaches the end of the cone (small mango & banana, all fruit).

Jo’s place is actually Rebecca’s place, which Jo’s slowly buying. (The last time Jo broke up with someone and went home to Rebecca, Rebecca pushed Jo out of the nest. She bought this apartment two minutes from Hemingway’s, a five-room sun-filled factory conversion, put it into Jo’s name and got rid of her at last. And her boxes.  Took over Jo’s bedroom as a study. She loves Jo, loves her to bits, but coming-home-to-mama is no longer an option.) And Gracie has a code and a key, easy-peasy just to walk in. But she rings the buzzer, waits for a reply. And there’s no reply, so she walks away, knowing that, if she’s there, Jo will have heard the rattle of the stroller coming down the alley, known who was coming, and probably checked discreetly, in that little window in the stairwell.

So, yes, Jo’s gone to the mattress. Feeling rejected. Lonely. Stuck there. Considering a smoke. That Christmas bottle of brandy. Choosing chocolate instead. Rejecting a movie option. Knowing the library’s closed today. Uninterested in shopping.  And OH NO NOT Gracie-and-Lisa. Rings some mates up the road at a beach. Arranges to visit tomorrow. Cooks herself a tiny tasty something. Listens to summer classics. Jackson Brown. A tiny bit of the Beach Boys. A whole lot of Janis Joplin.

Dances a little. Does some ironing. Has a long bath. Masturbates. Sleeps.

And that’s it, for new year’s day.

II.  

2 January.

Lisa wakes up with the light. OOOPH. 5.45. By 7.30, Gracie and Lisa have been to the beach, and come home with seaweed for Gracie’s mum’s garden. (Gracie’s mum wouldn’t be seen dead collecting seaweed in full view of the neighbours, on that classy strip of beautiful old wooden homes and po-mo condos overlooking the Oriental Bay beach. But she’s thrilled with the seaweed.) They’ve almost finished breakfast. Lisa’s drooping a little. Into bed for her, and onto the net for Gracie. WHO is the woman Vita said she is?

She Googles. Tries a few specialist databases. (Thank you, law school, for not cutting me off yet.)  Finds photos of Vita, articles by and about her, blog posts about her. It takes a couple of hours. But she learns what she needs to know.

When Lisa wakes up again, Gracie’s SO glad to see her. And Lisa’s so glad that here’s Gracie totally engaged, reading to her, playing with her, singing, making lunch. And Gracie’s mum’s pleased, too. Maybe Gracie will take more responsibility for Lisa this year, WHEW. And Gracie keeps trying Jo’s phones, without success. By evening she’s pissed off: it’s not HER fault Vita and Jo didn’t hook up, Jo could at least text.

But Jo needs a break. And she has one. Among old friends who are used to her blurts-and-rambling. And her silences. And Love her cooking. And don’t care that today she doesn’t feel like cooking, just enjoy her suggestions re possible uses for endless ham. And make her a wonderful feta and red pepper salad with lots of their own herbs. Have a go at a summer pudding, and break out the Kohu Road ice cream. Who do for her what she so often does for Gracie. Including a telling off.

—She’s like Gracie. She’s STRAIGHT.

— You say you want a girl friend.

—But you’re trying the wrong places.

—If you really want one, get out more.

And it’s her turn to make excuses.

—How can I get out more when I work these hours?

And the telling off includes the usual suggestions. (Try the net. Join a dinner club.) Ends with the usual offer, the one she always refuses:

—Let us find you someone.

—Let us organise some introductions.

And Vita? She’s does her laundry. Feels lonely. Cleans. Shops (a couple of geraniums for the fire escape landing, a second little dress from Zambesi, on sale). Wonders about Jo. Looks her up in the white pages: o, she’s just round the corner.

III.

3 January

Firefly’s always a goal-oriented guy. Having Tai in his bed, tucked up between him and the boyfriend (Firefly shook his great head and blinked a little when he realised that Tai’s place in the bed was very similar to the kind of place a pet might have, a large-ish Labrador, say) doesn’t divert his focus from his current concerns: retirement; coming out; and how best to manage them.

So, first thing, Firefly rocks up to City Radio, looking for Vita.

And finds her at work with the new techie. She isn’t happy. Especially when Firefly says that Tai told him that he’d find her here. What else had Tai said? Little shit. Firefly sees her irritation and turns on the charm.

—Let me take you to Hemingway’s for lunch.

—They’re closed till next week.

—I have a proposal for you. Somewhere we can talk?

She takes him into another studio, shuts the door (the techie’s totally excited that Firefly’s in the building, hanging on every word).

And when Firefly explains, she’s not happy to be the chosen one. She tries excuses.

—I’m fully committed, really busy. What about the All Blacks PR people? Wouldn’t they be best?

And he explains again. How a precisely placed story, overseas, while he’s overseas, would be perfect. How she’s the perfect person to do it.

Finally as she dithers, he asks her if the gay thing worries her (surely not).

And finally, firmly, she tells him a smidgeon of the truth.

—My life’s changed. I don’t do that kind of work any more.

And, because she too has a charming side–

—I’m really sorry. I’ve even changed my name. I was a bit pissed and trying to impress you. That was a lovely dance we had. Let me think of someone else?

He gives up, for now. Asks her to show him round City Radio. Wonders what its appeal is for her. Wonders if she really lives there, or Tai got it wrong. Can’t see any signs of a domestic life. Forgets to ask her for her phone number.

Firefly’s used to getting what he wants, a bit tetchy when he reaches the street again and bangs into Ivan. So his Happy New Year to Ivan isn’t particularly warm. And it takes him a moment to crank up a smile. Ivan usually capitalises on an opportunity to niggle and today’s no different.

—Tai still with you? (An almost leer.)

—Sure is. Doing great. (But oh fuck, it’s a bit different now, and this is the last person I’d want to know that.)

—A word to the wise. A wee problem over the ditch. Could spread.

Firefly almost sighs. Fucking Ivan, always on about some kind of grim portent. But. Be pleasant.

—Look, wish we could have a drink. But I’m on my way to a meeting. Let’s get together soon.

Ivan gets serious.

—Very soon. You need to know about this.

Firefly spins away.

—Happy New Year, mate. We’ll be in touch.

And forgets about Ivan, immediately.

Firefly’s meeting’s with his laptop. The apartment’s quiet, Tai and the boyfriend off shopping.

And he searches for Vita, curious about what might have changed her life. And he finds one possibility, one tiny mention. Her child died. Drugs? Then looks further. There’s a LOT of links. And finds an article Mop told him about. He’d forgotten about that. Hmmmm. Grabs his togs, strides round Oriental Bay to the Freyberg pool, has a workout near Jemaine Clement, each of them ignoring the other. Then a long swim. Head clearing.

Decides (of course) to call Mop, who’s unavailable. Leaves a message.

Then he’s sidetracked: the boyfriend gives Tai some hard stuff. When Tai stops buzzing and crashes, Firefly and the boyfriend fight.

—We had an agreement. There’s no reason to change that.

To and fro. The school holidays make no difference. Or do they? It makes no difference that Tai’s sleeping with them. Or does it?

The boyfriend has the last word.

—So he’s old enough for you to fuck, but not old enough to choose his poison?

Is the boyfriend on the way out? Not yet. They make up: the boy friend wants that promised trip to New York–

NOTES

Jackson Browne

Jo plays this one sometimes:

Apologies. Have been distracted by the oil spill. Appreciating messages like this one, as a break from the heartbreak over the beaches and wildlife. Finishing this off while my mate’s in the longest beer queue I’ve ever seen, at Eden Park. Go All Blacks!

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