a woman tries to maintain her personal boundaries but a friend challenges that effort.
|A Matter of Ownership
Glynna stood in the open doorway of her guestroom amazed at the chaos
inside. Everything Joanna brought was unpacked and scattered around-
which in itself was of no consequence - but everything looked so new, she
half expected to see tags still hanging off each item.
Her words on the phone, "I'm just going to throw a few things into a bag and
come down. I'm not in any shape to see anyone. I just want to be alone and
quiet. Don't plan anything for me." seemed unattached to this display.
Glossy stilettos, exquisite boots, plaid chiffon and embroidered velvet were
tossed on the bed. An evening bag hung from a bedpost. Twill trousers and
silk shantung in a silvery color were heaped on a chair.
She turned away, feeling as though she'd been tricked into something.
Those clothes were definitely not faded jeans and old loafers. Joanne surely
wasn't wearing chiffon or velvet to hide out in the bedroom, or sit reading
in the yard.
She wanted to talk to her old friend and soon but she would have to wait.
She repeated her mantra, "this doesn't belong to me." Meaning Joanne's
emotions, needs, expectations-the whole mass of feelings that had brought
her to Glynna's home.
As she reached her own room, she discovered Joanna's long haired cat
nestled in the center of her bed. She laughed ruefully and scooted the
cat away. Smoothing her coverlet again, she looked at the cat hairs left
behind and muttered "some of it does belong to me, damn it."
She had a pot of chicken soup simmering on the stove. Delicious smells
from the kitchen had begun to waft through the house. She'd planned a
casual dinner of comfort food - crusty warm bread, thickly sliced ham,
garden tomatoes and lettuce for sandwiches, a perfectly seasoned soup,
coffee and later, some brandy with a plate of thin crispy cookies, lacey and
Joanna had left the house early after emptying her bags, saying she had a
quick errand. That was midmorning. It was nearly evening. Glynna ate
alone. She wrapped everything and put it in the refrigerator, all the while
wondering if Joanna was safe If she started calling around to hospitals or
the police it could definitely signal the publicity Joanna had clearly wanted
to avoid. Her instinct told her Joanna was safe. She hoped she was right. If
there had been an accident, she'd never forgive herself for having done
She felt disappointed and annoyed, at Joanna's absence all day. Certain that
she'd just been browsing at the village shops, or had run into a friend or a
fan and got caught up talking, or whatever- she had asked to come, Glynna
was happy to offer the hospitality and comfort that was asked of her.
She'd had to make a few adjustments to her own schedule but she didn't
mind. No one had asked her to cancel plans-so she was wrong she reminded
herself, for feeling put out.
As the evening wore on, empty, because she'd cleared the time, she worried
and talked herself out of worrying, and worried again. Finally, appalled at
the lateness and furious at herself for not acting sooner, she was looking
up the police non-emergency number in the phone book when Joanna came
She was knocking and calling out- "hey, I'm locked out," and laughing.
Glynna answered the door to a disheveled and giggling woman and a man-
both apparently quite drunk, Joanna falling toward the door and righting
herself. "This's Paul, old friend" Joanna attempted an introduction, "This
"Goodnight Paul" Glynna said.
"No! No, he's staying, he's gonna stay tonight. I can't be alone.. Paul's an"
old old -"
"Sorry" Glynna said, her hand up to ward Paul off, while she shook her head
"When'd djubecome suchabitch?"
"I really am not comfortable wi-" Glynna began patiently.
"Paul! There's house rules. Less go ta your place."
Joanne was having trouble standing up. Holding the doorframe for support.
Glynna caught the look of alarm on Paul's face, and laughed, "I don't think
his wife would like that, would she, Paul?"
"I'm a gentleman, I- wouldn't do anything- I respect uh- don't tell her,
Don't say anything, kay? G'night. G'night"
She closed the door. Joanna started to lose her balance when her ankle
weakened, but caught herself and entered the living room. Lighting a
cigarette she dropped into a chair, and the cigarette dropped onto the rug.
Glynna felt like someone's warden. She hated smoking in her house, quickly
retrieved the cigarette, and glanced at Joanna, who was falling asleep in the
"Does not belong to me" Glynna muttered as she bent to retrieve the
cigarette. Her ivory carpet now had a black line burned into it.
She wanted so much to pack Joanna off to a motel, where she could smoke
in bed, have over all the men she wanted, throw things around and spend the
whole time drunk- but, she reminded herself, if that was what her friend
needed or wanted she could have arranged just such a thing. She wanted to
come here. And Glynna had of course welcomed her.
"D'ju take my cig'ret?"
"You finished it." Regretting her scolding tone, Glynna softened, saying
"You look worn out, How 'bout I help you up to bed?"
"Yeah, alright" Joanna pushed to her feet. "Piss'd at me?"
"We'll talk in the morning"
"We'll talk- we'll say Bye bye"
She added, muttering, "Shdna come here."
Glynna stayed behind Joanna, to catch her if she stumbled but she didn't
want to have to help her at all.
She'd originally intended to make popovers for breakfast but after the
sleepless night she'd spent, she decided coffee was as much hospitality as
she felt like providing. Joanna slept until well into the afternoon. Glynna
hung out in the kitchen for the first hour or two, anticipating Joanna's
She thought of going to the post office, or the library but knowing that
Joanna would probably wake up, burn something with another reckless
cigarette, get drunk again and possibly repeat all of yesterday's performance,
she stayed home. Not wanting to get caught in the act, she listened for
footsteps while she carefully snipped the burned fibers out of her carpet
using manicure scissors. Joanna did not walk in on that act. Nor did she
appear in the kitchen that morning. Afternoon began. Glynna made a
sandwich and ate it over the sink. She cleaned her bathroom, laundered her
coverlet and then vacuumed. The sun was well across the sky when at last
she heard water running in the upstairs bathroom. She went into the kitchen
and put on a fresh pot of coffee.
"Is this how you spend your life, putzing around the house all day, all
night?" Joanna greeted her. She looked fabulous, her long blond hair
brushed off her face and curling against her shoulders, her snow white pants
perfectly creased and her sleeveless silk blouse, a flawless fit. Glynna
sighed trying to relax the corners of her mouth and refrain from the irritated
response that rose in her throat.
She handed a cup of coffee to Joanna, who was seated at the table. "I think
It would be better if you made other arrangements." she said.
"What? What the hell is wrong with you?"
"I'm not up for all this. And I'm sure you are used to-"
"What? Getting kicked out?- I am not used to it. I had no idea you've
become such a nasty bitter person."
"Well, that's just it, I am, right now, and I don't want to be feeling like this."
"Fine, I'll go."Joanne said it but sat still, holding her cup with both hands.
Glynna had felt angry, but the anger died abruptly. She felt like she had
become her mother- who was often coldly furious, and usually over trivial
Joanna spoke. "I told you I was in trouble. I told you I needed someplace
safe and private to just hang out. I didn't ask any more of you than that."
"Its my home." Glynna explained quietly.
"You thought I'd come here and cry on your shoulder and you'd comfort me
and give me advice and you were glad to do it, right? Because-you'd feel so"
"Stop. This is ghastly. I do want you to leave."
"Please don't-"Joanne's tone had changed, "I can't bear this alone."
She continued, "I was acting out last night, I realize it, and I am sorry. - do
you have any cream, or half and half?"
"Öh I have milk."
"Black is good, black is okay. Thanks anyway." She looked like she was
trying to smile.
"Yesterday- I wasn't ready to tell you- and I just wanted to be away by
myself for I don't know- an hour, and then I wanted to be around people
but not to talk. I knew we'd end up talking and - I just couldn't. I went to a
bar, it was dead, then people came in and by then I'd had too much to drink
and - I can't apologize enough. I am so sorry."
"We don't have to talk- I didn't feel a need to -"
"I'm dying." Joanna's face was blank, she was looking straight at Glynna.
Glynna looked at her, unable to respond. Joanna lowered her gaze, carefully
placed her coffee cup on the table, took a deep breath and began. "It's a rare
form of leukemia, and nothing can be done. I have a few weeks."
"This isn't possible."
"I didn't want to read about it in the tabloids, or for anyone else to, either. I
had to be released from the film I was doing, they have to reshoot all my
scenes, - the insurance is claiming it was a pre-existing so they want me to
repay the company, and I had to break my engagement to Tony, I could not
tell him why. Ye gods, he'd be all Love Story and no- I just wanted to be
somewhere normal. I don't want sympathy, and I don't need a caretaker, I
just wanted normalcy."
"I wish you had - I'm so sorry, I "
"I know. I know you, Glyn. I know- and I didn't want to tell you- and yet, I
didn't know quite- I just thought I'd be able to trust myself to come here
and just visit awhile, just sit in your garden and chat with you about your
day, and be here when friends drop in, or go shopping with you. That kind of
thing. But now you know, and I wish I hadn't told you. I've got to get out of
here. This is crap. Crap. Crap!" she got up abruptly.
"Joanna, You can't do this. You can't tell me this and then walk out. Let me
take it in, let me try. You can have exactly what you wanted."
Do you really think so- no maudlin conversations, no sorrowful looks?"
"So am I- If you can deal with it, so can I. You're the one its happening to."
"You're my best friend. The only one I really trust, and yet -well, this- You
"Are you hungry?"
Glynna rose from her chair. " breakfast or lunch?"
"Lunch is good. Its timely. Practically late enough to have supper, for that
matter. Should I order a pizza?"
Glynna laughed, "Ï can fix a ham sandwich for you."
"Sounds perfect. Can I doctor this with something?"she motioned to her
coffee. "I've been offered all kinds of drugs, but I'd just as soon have a
drink when I feel raw like I do."
"What would you like?"
"Got some brandy I can put in this?"
"Yes, " Glynna went to the living room to get the bottle, but had an uneasy
feeling she tried to get rid of.
Drunkenness pushed her buttons. She couldn't fully understand her extreme
dislike of drunks. But it was a deep aversion. Now she was bringing her
friend a drink - but then again that's the cure for a hangover, isn't it? And
anyway, she kept liquor in the house. And anyway it was almost dinnertime.
She was still struggling with her feelings as she returned to the kitchen.
Forcing a smile she handed Joanna the bottle.
"Would you like to do anything special this evening? " Glynna asked.
"What would you be doing if I wasn't here?"
"Got a guy?"
"Yeah" Glynna smiled. "He'd be coming over."
"Why don't you call him. I can hole up-"
"when I said I wanted to keep a couple of evenings free, he took a buddy's
shift- so he's working tonight."
The phone rang, and Joanna quickly said, "if its for me, you haven't seen
"Hello? Yes, no- she doesn't take calls at this number. No, I haven't seen
her. Alright, I don't expect to. Alright, yes, I will. Good bye." Glynna said,
"That was someone named Michael Jeffries, he said if you were here, you
need to call him right away."
"I will call him but not right away. Otherwise he'll know I'm here. I'm
always trying to dodge the press, and well-"
"People will lie, they'll say anything to get a story. Anything. "
The phone rang again. The two women exchanged a look of exasperation.
It was for Glynna, though, and while she talked Joanna picked at her
sandwich, got up and wandered outside.
She was standing at the edge of a small herb patch when Glynna came out
to join her.
"What's in there?" Joanna motioned toward the small cottage in the back.
"My studio." Glynna replied.
"Yeah- working on anything these days?"
"a teen graphic. Doing the ink."
"Like anime- in still?"
Glynna laughed. "Putting classics in a hotted up comic book format- called a
teen graphic. Its for adolescent girls- a modern imagery for-"
"No, no-its not like that, its-"
"I'm out of smokes. I'm gonna run out and get some. Need anything?"
"Whatever you take in your coffee."
"Oh good memory" Joanna tossed the contents of her cup and headed back
to the kitchen. Glynna stood a minute or two longer at the garden's edge
and then returned to the house. Joanna's car was pulling away from the
driveway. Glynna wondered if she'd be back soon, or if she was going to be
out for the evening, now. She sat down in the living room, watching the
shadows closing in. she tried to meditate, tried to rid herself of the depressed
frustration she was feeling. How does it feel, she wondered, to know that
you are dying. That there's nothing new to start, no point, no friendship, no
love- is getting drunk over and over really the answer? I guess it's a way of
coping, but what did she hope to find here? Normalcy she said. Well, she
doesn't hang in for any kind of conversation- she's jumpy and - it must be
When an hour had passed she knew that she would not see Joanna until very
late. She went upstairs and drew a bath for herself.
She slipped into the hot scented water and rubbed soap against the
washcloth. I don't know what to say to her, or how to be with her, I don't
feel welcome to go along with her, and I'm glad she didn't ask and yet-
I don't know what she wants from me. How would I feel if the doctor said
that to me, no cure, no time- I don't know that I would drop in at a friend's
house and go off to bars each evening, come home plastered. That doesn't-
the doorbell sounded. She dried quickly and pulled on a robe, certain to see
Joanna, locked out again, and maybe this time, upset about it. Should give
her a key, she thought.
But it was Rick standing there. In uniform. "This is a surprise."
"Glyn" he looked serious, "Your friend arrive?" Glynna stared at him.
He must know she'd arrived, he was surely here with some horrible news.
"Rick- don't tell me."
"Is she alright, is she-?"Glynna backed into a chair, and sat.
"we gotta talk."
"I got a call in a D&D drunk and disorderly, and I went in , she's in bad
shape, and she was- well, at a table with a guy- and anyhow, I tried to get
her to come with me quietly, I'd a brought her here, but she made a run for
her car, and I ended up taking her in. I ran her license. There's a warrant.
How much do you know about what 's going on with her?"
"I don't know about a warrant- but she is very ill- she told me in
"She tell you she was court ordered to rehab?"
"You don't know, do you?"
"Not about rehab-"
"She slipped away. I have to send her back, she may end up with jail time."
"where is she now?"
"Ïn lock up"
"So what happens now?"
"They'll send someone to escort her back up there. We'll be holding her
"Rick, she said she was dying. She has leukemia- some rare form."
"Take a look through her stuff, see if there are any prescription bottles, get
the name of a doctor. If she's that sick, her doctor should be aware of what
Glynna stared at him a long time.Slowly taking a deep breath , she got up
from the chair. She did not want to go into Joanna's room, or touch her
She did not want to be a part of this at all. She felt a deep resentment at
Rick, at the law and ashamed somehow of being here instead of with her
friend. She felt confused. She knew she'd spent the last 48 hours stewing
and mentally raging against Joanna, but now, the thought that she was in
jail, was being shipped to another jail, was forced into rehab- it all seemed
wrong and Joanna seemed forlorn and helpless.
"Rick, I'm sorry, I wonder if you'd mind just leaving?"
"I- I don't feel so well right now, I need-please, its not a law thing- going
through her stuff, is it, its not -"
"Please Rick, let me be."
"I should have been easier on you- I thought you were hiding her, I thought
you knew, I was angry, you didn't know I saw that, I am so sorry I just"
"Rick, please, I really need to be alone. Please."
"Try to locate her doctor, if she has one."
"Can I just ask her?"
"She's drunk out of her mind. Ask her tomorrow."
"You gonna be okay?"
"Call me when you feel better, I'll be at the station."
She sat down in the living room after he was gone. Her mind was blank. She
had come to the door soaking wet, with her robe pulled on quickly, and she
was still wet- and the robe was sticking to her skin. She got up and went
back upstairs. She would dry, get ready for bed, and hang up the clothes in
Joanne's bedroom. Suddenly she remembered the cat. Neither of them had
prepared a box, a bowl of water, a dish of food. Where was the cat?
She went into Joanna's room. The meowing was faint. She opened the closet
door. An ermine coat was in aheap on the floor. Ermine in summer? Why
had she brought ermine? It was chewed apart in places, and rank with cat
urine. And tags hung from the sleeve. She folded the coat inside out, and put
it back on the floor of the closet. The cat had darted past her when she'd
opened the door.
She followed the cat out of the bedroom and tried to pick it up. The cat
clawed her arm. This cat had never been to a groomer. It had fleas and
earmites, its claws were never trimmed. She took the struggling animal to
the kitchen and filling a bowl with water, set it down to drink. She opened a
can of tuna to feed it. After it ate, she opened the back door, and let it out.
Joanna escaped whatever place she'd been in, stopped somewhere and
bought whatever she saw that would amount to clothing and grabbed the cat
off the street and came here. Everything on impulse. The phone call was a
lie. She went upstairs, with a large plastic bag, for the coat. The price tag
was twice the cost of her car, new. She poured peroxide over the scratch
before going back into Joanna's room.
She carefully picked up everything, and carefully hung it all on hangers. The
evening bag had tissue in it. The suitcase, the make up overnight bag,
everything she'd brought was purchased on the way.
Glynna felt used. There was no prescription bottle nor were there any pills.
She did find a baggie with some marijuana, a small vial with traces of
white- probably cocaine, and that was it.
She went downstairs. There was a place in the city that would clean the coat.
She'd leave everything in place until Joanna was free for real to pick it up.
She was sure some guard or whatever would be helping herself to it all
otherwise. She wondered who Michael Jeffries was. She wondered what the
"This does not belong to me." she said softly. "None of it belongs to me."