Tag Archives: Ursula

Plaster of Paris; chapter fourteen, part two

“We should go to the hospital,” I say urgently.  We gather our stuff, forgetting about our brainstorming session.  It’s more important we reach the Jensons and Paris before anyone else does.  As we’re rushing down the front steps, Inspector Robinson is walking up them.  She is wearing a taupe pantsuit that flatters her figure nicely.

“The Three Musketeers,” Inspector Robinson says, an edge to her voice.  “Just the trio I want to see.  Let’s go back up to your apartment, shall we?”  Despite being couched in question form, it is an order, and we all know it.  We shuffle upstairs without saying anything.

“Can I get you anything, Inspector?”  My mother asks as we enter the apartment.  Before Inspector Robinson can answer, my mom is up and in the kitchen.  Lyle and I look at the inspector, but she remains silent.  I realize that she is waiting for my mother to return, so I don’t start a conversation.  She will tell us what she wants to know, when she wants to tell us, and no amount of coercion will persuade her to do differently.  The silence is taut, but not uncomfortable.  Although the inspector is radiating anger, I don’t think it’s directed towards us.  Of course, I could be mistaken, in which case, we are in for a long night.  I look at Lyle who is staring at nothing in particular.  I look at Inspector Robinson who is perusing her notes.  I open my mouth to say something, then shut it quickly.  Now is not the time for me to be nosy or smart-assed or to use any of the  half-dozen of my usual responses.  There is one question I need to ask the inspector, however, and I voice it.

“Inspector Robinson?”  I make sure my voice isn’t tentative because I don’t want to sound like a beta dog rolling over to have my stomach scratched.  The inspector looks up at me and waits for me to continue.  “Do you think Paris is still in danger?”

“I do,” Inspector Robinson says immediately.  “Him, you, your mother, Mr. Kingston.  Possibly Ms. Meadows’ other children.  Less likely her husband or the Jensons.”

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Plaster of Paris; chapter thirteen, part one

“What a day,” Lyle mutters, the first to break the silence.

“I say we don’t talk about it for the next hour at least,” my mother says firmly.  “Let’s talk about the inspector manufacturing excuses to see Rainbow, instead.”

“What?”  I exclaim indignantly, my cheeks flushing red.  “She came because Paris woke up.  She needs his statement.”

“Oh please, girlfriend,” Lyle says, rolling his eyes.  “Paris is in no shape to give a statement, and she knows it.  She just wanted an excuse to see you again before the night was through.

“Did you get a chance to talk to her, alone?”  My mom grins at me, her temporary fatigue forgotten.

“You guys!”  I blush deeply, unable to control my reaction.

“Did you kiss her?”  My mother’s eyes are mischievous for the first time in a long time.

“Mom!”  I do not discuss my sex life with my mother.  Not that I’m ashamed of it, but I’m just not comfortable sharing the tidbits.  However, I am bursting with the news, and they are two of the people closest to me.  “I asked her to dinner once this case is over,” I confide, slyly grinning myself.

“You go, girl!”  Lyle crows as he and mom hi-five each other.  “Pay up!”  He holds his hand out to my mother who slaps a five dollar bill into it.

“What is that for?”  I ask, glaring at both of them impartially.

“We had a little bet,” Lyle explains, slipping the five in his pocket.  “I bet you’d ask the inspector out while the case was still ongoing while Songbird bet you’d ask after.  I should have bet more.”

“You guys are unbelievable,” I laugh, shaking my head.  Friends and family betting on my love life.  Well, I’m glad someone gets some enjoyment out of it.  “Did you bet on me breaking up with Vashti as well?  Perhaps the date?”

“No, honey,” my mother says, placing her arm around my shoulder.  “We wouldn’t bet on something like that.”

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Plaster of Paris; chapter twelve, part four

“All right, that’s enough!”  My mother says loudly.  Everyone but me is so shocked, they immediately stop what they are doing and practically snap to attention.  “You are all acting like children.  Is this the image you want to present to Paris?”  The nurses continue on their way; the cop sits back down; Lyle slowly deflates; Mrs. Jenson’s shoulders sag; Mr. Jenson continues posturing.  “I have tried to be diplomatic, but I have failed.  Catherine, Douglas, you have the right to do what you want, of course, but I think it’s a crying shame that you want to banish one of the few people who loves Paris for who he is.  Why don’t you ask Paris what he wants or don’t you care?”  From within the room, we all hear a distinct if faint, “Want Lyle.”  Mrs. Jenson has the grace to blush while Mr. Jenson continues to scowl.

“May I go in now?”  Lyle asks, his head held high.  Mrs. Jenson nods her head slightly.  Lyle disappears into Paris’s room as my mother shepherds the rest of us back to our seats.  I wait for my mother to soothe things over, but she says nothing.  Her silence jolts me into understanding that this vigilance has taken a toll on her as well.  It’s unsettling news as I count on my mother to be my bedrock when all else fails.

“I think we all need some real sleep,” my mother finally says, the indignation stripped from her voice.  “We should be celebrating instead of fighting.  Paris is going to be fine.”  She isn’t her usual charismatic self, and I have a feeling I’m not the only one disappointed.

“Susannah, don’t think we’re not appreciative of your efforts,” Mrs. Jenson says stiffly, each word wrenched from her tightly-pursed lips.  “You, too, Rayne.  But this phase of Paris’s, it has to end.  See where it’s gotten him!”  Mr. Jenson is nodding his head like an ugly Greek chorus in the background.

“What happened to Paris has nothing to do with him being queer,” I say hotly, ignoring my mother’s warning looks.  I also ignore the throbbing of my jaw as I’m pissed off.  “Don’t turn this into a platform for your agenda.”

“If Paris hadn’t taken up with that Lyle, he wouldn’t have been hit,” Mrs. Jenson continues, pursuing her own line of reason.

“Lyle has nothing to do with this!  Paris being queer has nothing to do with this!”  My voice is rising despite my attempt to keep cool.

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Plaster of Paris; chapter twelve, part one

“Let’s go talk,” Lyle says, grabbing me by the arm.  With a wave at the others, he steers me to the cafeteria.

“Isn’t it great, Lyle?”  I say, a goofy smile on my face.

“I forgot to tell you about Ursula,” Lyle says as soon as we sit down.  Neither of us is hungry, but I grab a piece of chocolate pie anyway.  Lyle has a monster cookie which he is munching.  Both of us have coffee as well.

“Ursula?”  I look at him blankly.

“Paris’s birthmother,” Lyle prods my memory.  “I never told you about our talk.”              “Shit!  That’s right!  Dish,” I order.  Lyle spills all he knows.  As we guessed, Ursula tried to feint and dodge, but Lyle’s charm finally won her over.  To a certain extent.  She confessed that she had talked to Paris’s birthfather ‘once or twice’ since the blessed event, but refused to divulge his name or where he lived, saying it wasn’t relevant.  She admitted to discovering Paris months ago, but sat on the information because she was nervous about facing him.  Plus, she had a deadline for the book she was working on, and she couldn’t afford to let anything interfere with that.  Her husband was still out of town, or so she said.  Lyle couldn’t see any traces of him in the living room or the kitchen, the two rooms he actually saw.

“She was tense,” Lyle says, frowning as he sips his coffee.  “She tried to cover it up, but I could tell.  Everything was just a hair off.  You know, laugh a little too loud; gestures a little too broad—that kind of thing.”  I know exactly what he’s saying; it was the same way when we met her in Luna Park.  An actor in a play of her own making—Lyle and I are just bit players on her stage.  The spell she cast over me when we first met has long since dissipated.

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Plaster of Paris; chapter eleven, part one

Wednesday.  Four days after Paris was almost killed.  It seems much longer, and yet, it seems like it just happened.  Time is the first thing to go in a period of crisis because it’s simply no longer important.  If someone you love is hovering between life and death, what does an hour or a day really mean?  With this mentality, I make it through the day at work.  I keep my nose to myself and don’t mind so much the snubs that are pointedly aimed at me; most of them sail right over my head.  I receive an email from Libby accusing me again of trying to sabotage her wedding, and I barely flinch as I delete it.  This feeling of detachment is marvelous, and I wish I could cultivate it permanently.  I idly consider meditation or becoming a Buddhist, but it seems like too much effort.  I decide that it’s much easier to be in denial than to reach nirvana, and it feels pretty much the same.  I remember that I half-promised my mom I would talk to Libby about her ‘if there is a wedding’ statement, but I don’t have the energy.  When this case is over and Paris is better, then I’ll talk to her.

After work, I take the bus to the Tenderloin where Jenna lives.  It’s not that she doesn’t have money—she’s one of those white-bread liberal girls who thinks she has to show her compassion by living in what’s possibly the worst neighborhood in San Francisco, an area even I wouldn’t live in.  She’s also the one who flipped when Paris broke up with her after a month, threatening to sue him for breach of promise and an assortment of other spurious claims.  She would show up at his gym and start screaming at him, then cry when he tried to calm her down.  He quickly learned that the best way to deal with her was to not engage her at all because she thrived off the interaction, no matter how small. Just as he was about to get a restraining order slapped on her, she stopped.  I hadn’t liked her while Paris was dating her, and I certainly didn’t like her when she stalked him.  I am careful to keep my purse next my body as I press the buzzer to her apartment.

“Yes?”  Her nasally voice grates on my ears.  She’s from one of those Midwest states and came to the Bay Area to study archeology or something equally boring.

“Jenna?  It’s Rayne.  Paris’s friend.  I need to talk to you.”  Belatedly, I realize that she might not want to talk to me.

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Plaster of Paris; chapter nine, part two

“If I am not knowing better, I would think you were avoiding me.”  Vashti’s husky voice causes the anger inside of me to melt into something much nicer.  I am practically deliquescing on the street.

“Sorry, Vash,” I say lamely.  “I’ve had a lot on my mind.”

“I understand.  How is Paris?”  Concern laces her tone, and I’m grateful.  I know she and Paris aren’t the best of friends, but she’s a kind-hearted woman.

“The same,” I say, my throat tightening.  “He’s still in a coma.”

“Oh, Rayne, I am so sorry,” she sighs.  “Is there anything I can be doing for you?”

“I’d like to see you,” I say impulsively.  I can’t spend all my time working on the case or at the hospital, or I’ll go mad.

“I cannot see you tonight, but how about tomorrow?  I’ll make you dinner.”

“Sold.”  Vashti is a fabulous cook, and I have no qualms about letting her cook for me.  We agree on seven o’clock, then I click off.  Immediately after, the phone rings again.

“This the cunt roommate of Paris?”  The voice is hoarse and ugly-sounding, not the same one as the one who’s been calling my home number.

“How did you get this number,” I demand, like an idiot.  Why on earth would he tell me that?

“Don’t worry about it, bitch.  Back the hell off before someone else gets hurt.”  Before I can respond, he hangs up on me.  I immediately press *69, but with little hope.  Just as I suspect; it’s scrambled.  I call Lyle.

“Hello?”  His voice is low.  “Rayne?  Let me call you right back.”  He must be in the hospital; they don’t allow cell phone conversations in most parts of hospitals.  He calls me in five minutes.  “What’s up?”

“That bastard or one of his friends called me on my cell,” I fume.  Lyle doesn’t ask which bastard, for which I am profoundly grateful.  “Told me to back off.”

“Your cell?  I wonder why he switched?”

“To show that he can get an unlisted number,” I say impatiently.  “There are very few people who have this number.”

“We’ll talk about it and more when you come here.  I talked to Bil—Matthews.  I cannot in good conscience call a guy over twelve Billy.  Anyway, get here as soon as you can.”  He clicks off before I can tell him I’m on my way.  I’ve run out of steam, so I hail a cab to take me the rest of the way.  The cabbie is an older white gentleman who calls me, ‘doll’ and ‘babe’.  I find it oddly enduring and don’t jump on his shit as I normally would.  He tells me about life as a cabbie, something he’s been for over thirty years.  He doesn’t believe the city’s become more dangerous—we’re just more aware of it.  He has a high school diploma, but never went to college.  Didn’t really see the point.  Got out of being drafted for ‘Nam because of his fallen arches.  He is sympathetic when I tell him about Paris.  Turns out he has a friend in St. Luke’s, too—a fellow cabbie.  The guy was driving his shift one day when he had a heart-attack.  He managed to drive to St. Luke’s since he was in the neighborhood before passing out.  Zachary, my cabbie, says his friend had to have a quadruple bypass, and wasn’t that a bitch?  I agreed that it was.  I give Zachary a healthy tip when I exit his cab in exchange for him cheering me up.  I stride to the ICU waiting room where my happy band of fellow sufferers are waiting for me.

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Plaster of Paris; chapter five, part one

“I see,” she says at last, picking up her fork again.  “Perhaps you have a problem with me yourself?”  She doesn’t look at Lyle, but concentrates on her food.

“I’m just having a hard time believing it’s a coincidence that Paris gets hurt immediately after you show up in his life.”  Lyle has his arms folded across his chest and is glowering at Ursula.  I cannot reconcile this sullen, angry man with the easygoing, laidback Lyle that I have come to know.

“Are you accusing me of hurting my own son?”  Ursula sets down her fork again, the better to glare at Lyle.  I barely restrain a sigh of impatience.  There is enough tension between Mrs. Jenson and Lyle without adding this complication to the situation.

“I’m not accusing you of anything.”  Despite the soothing words, Lyle’s countenance becomes even more grave.  “I’d just like to know why you chose yesterday to contact Paris.”  Although I would have phrased it differently, I’d like to know the answer to that question as well.  Ursula sits up straight in her chair, losing her insouciance.  She places her napkin carefully by the side of her plate.

“Giving up the t—Paris was the hardest thing I’ve had to do in my life.  My parents told me in no uncertain terms that I would be out of their house if I kept a child out of wedlock.  I cried for the last month of my pregnancy.  Jersey?  Horrid.  The trip to Tijuana?  I don’t even remember it.”  She pauses to take a sip of water.  “Paris was the sweetest, most perfect baby ever.  Oh sure, I know all mothers think that but in this case, it’s true.  He didn’t cry and when he smiled, I just melted.  When the lawyer took him from my arms for the last time, I felt as if my soul was ripped from my body.  I had to bite my tongue until it bled so I wouldn’t beg for him back.”  Ursula laughs a shade bitterly, bemused by her own stupidity.  “I saw him everywhere I went.  Of course, I didn’t know his name was Paris.  I only knew he was adopted by a healthy Caucasian couple.  Back in those days, they didn’t tell you anything!  I got on with my life as best I could, but still thought of—him every day.  Five years ago, I had a little cancer scare and realized life is short.  It was time to reconnect with my past.  I hired a private investigator.”

“It took the P.I. five years to find Paris?”  Lyle interrupts, his forehead furrowed.  “He must not have been very good.”

“She was fine,” Ursula says pointedly before relaxing again.  She waves off the server who is hovering behind her.  “It’s just, my second husband served me with divorce papers around that time, leaving me for his secretary.  What a cliché!  That’s when Lois started acting out.  One day, she’s a sweet, tiny thing—the next, she’s this big, blond monster.  She shot up over night!  We moved to San Francisco for the proverbial new start.”  She reflects for a minute, her eyes hooded.  They clear as she continues.  “If it weren’t for the support of a very dear friend, I never would have made it through.  Those were some desperate days before my breakout book.  ”  She made twenty-five million in three years?  That’s simply amazing—unless she had money to begin with.

“Still, five years?”  Lyle protests.  “I’m surprised it took that long.”

I don’t say anything as I digest what I’ve heard.  I want to believe her not only because I like her, but because she’s Paris’s birthmother.  However, there is so much about her that has been left unsaid.  She is glibly explaining why it took five years to find Paris.  She didn’t know his name at all, which was a big stumbling block.  By the time she started her search, Mr. Frantz was dead and Paris’s mother had remarried which made the trail doubly hard to follow.  There were other things she had to deal with in the meantime.  I am eager to hear what exactly those other things are, but Ursula declines to talk about them.  She also declines to talk more about Paris’s father, saying she doesn’t even know his full name.  Seeing the skeptical look on our faces, she hastens to explain that he just told her to call him Benny.  She hasn’t seen either him or his sister since high school, and that was almost thirty years ago.  I can’t really fault her for that as I have a porous memory myself.

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