October 21, 2014

Tessa's Story

by Zahra Barnes

“I have no idea why he thinks I’d respond when I clearly told him about you. But it was just so weird! New York is too small to be real sometimes.” I laughed and tucked a wet plate onto the drying rack. I’d just finished telling Grant all about my run-in with Jack the night before, including the email he’d sent me after. Instead of Grant’s laughter in return, I was met with such an acute non-response, I could hear the ticking of his wristwatch. I peeked over my shoulder and he was just staring at me blankly, sort of like a brainwashed cult member.

He broke the quiet. “Really riveting story, Tessa.” The biting sarcasm took me by surprise.

My smile faded. “I thought it was funny?” I do my best to banish uptalk from my speech, but his stony glare was a little unnerving. I turned to face him so I could better size up the situation.

“You thought it was funny. That some guy you stared at naked. Showed up at the bar you were at when I wasn’t there.” In all our years together, I’d never heard him speak in this type of clipped staccato tone.


“I guess I don’t really see the point in telling me that.”

“Okay, well, you asked me how my night went so I was explaining what happened. It wasn’t a big deal.” I stood there, mystified, and watched his anger evaporate. He folded into himself, now giving off a sulkiness that made him seem like an overgrown child.

“Thanks for sharing,” Grant mumbled resentfully, "really."

Wait, I thought. Is he seriously jealous right now? Grant had never been the type. We’d always had a pretty honest relationship when it came to the fact that being together didn’t mean we weren't human beings who found other people attractive. I’d told him all about who my celebrity pass would be (Ryan Gosling, come to mama) and had teased him about how he was at danger of drowning in his own slobber when Shakira was on TV.

More than that, we’d always been able to poke good-natured fun at each other about real-life crushes. We once ran into a woman he’d had a massive thing for while at Columbia, and his fumbling introduction had kept us laughing for days. The lack of jealousy, which some of my friends definitely found weird, actually brought us closer. We always felt like we could be totally honest with each other about something many couples had to skirt around, pretending it doesn’t exist. That was part of the reason it was so easy for me not to focus much on Sophie when dealing with what he did—I once told him I’d never be threatened by another woman, only by his feelings towards her. He’d felt the same about me and men, except now, he straight up pouted. I hesitated, unsure of how to proceed.

“Grant, what’s going on? I didn’t mean to make you feel weird. I thought you’d think it was funny.”

“Funny that you’re out doing whatever you want with whoever you want while I’m at home waiting for you?”

“Are you serious right now? I didn’t even flirt with him! I told him all about you, then I came home to you and told you all about him! Marley can back me up on this, not that you should even need her to.” I was so baffled, I was sputtering.

“You have no idea how you come off sometimes. It kind of sends a bad message.” He finally looked at up at me, albeit accusingly. I went still, feeling the quiet that preceded the kind of white-hot anger that sent my pulse ricocheting through my veins. Grant had always been pretty progressive, but this was veering into territory I didn’t like.

“What are you trying to say?”

“Nothing.” He shrugged, all faux-casual. “I think you just don’t realize how you act with guys. Like, you may have said you had a boyfriend, but you were probably acting pretty single.” I reared back like I’d been slapped. His words hung between us, clogging the air like smoke.

“You have got to be kidding me. First of all, what you’re insinuating is so incredibly dickish. I can’t believe I’m even hearing this from you. Second, I didn’t flirt with him! And isn’t it better that I told you? I wasn’t hiding anything. I didn’t do anything wrong.” My voice trembled as I tried to wrap my head around how the day was already a disaster even though it was only 10:45 a.m.

He shoved himself back in his chair. The sharp scraping of metal on wood startled me, and I flinched. In my surprise, I knocked a not-quite-empty glass of red wine off the counter. It promptly shattered everywhere. Not breaking his stride even at the sound of tinkling glass, Grant stalked off into the bedroom, leaving me standing in the middle of the physical representation of the emotional wreck we were at the moment. My head spinning, I gingerly stepped over the glass and burgundy pool creeping over the floor. On my way to grab a broom, a shard of crystal embedded itself into the tender pad of my right foot. Perfect, I thought bitterly as a few drops of my blood mingled with the wine. Because I really needed a constant, painful reminder of this stupid conversation.

After cleaning up the mess, I let Grant cool off in the bedroom as long as I could. Eventually, my stir-craziness got the best of me and I needed to get out. I had been planning on doing some remote work via email since Liv was holding it down at the office, but I figured I might as well go in and focus on something besides Grant for the day. I slipped into his room, where he was lying in bed scrolling through his phone. He refused to look up when I came in.

My urge was to crawl into bed and nuzzle him, anything to get rid of the tension. But I knew I had nothing to apologize for, so I resisted. Grant wanted it both ways, but it wasn’t possible. He couldn’t ache for our relationship to be back to normal and then freak out when I tried to help make it exactly that. I collected what I needed for the day and when I left, we still hadn’t said a word to each other.

I stewed on my way to Grey & Boehm. My mood was only made worse by the fact that the second the doors closed on the subway, the words “showtime, folks!” rang out as if on cue. It was these kids who performed some sort of fusion of dance and acrobatics on subways, and they always made me want to scream. I was obviously all for people showing off their art skills in public, since loving that was a huge part of my work. But being forced to deal with an obnoxiously loud show in a place I couldn’t escape was enough to annoy me on a regular day. Today, I was scowling so hard the guy across from me kept shooting nervous glances my way.

When I walked into Grey & Boehm, Liv jumped about a mile high. “What are you doing here?”

I threw myself into my chair dramatically. “Shit weekend. Why are men such…men?”

“If I knew the answer to that, I’d be a billionaire. What’s going on?”

I filled her in on what was happening with Grant.

“I honestly didn’t think it would bother him. This type of conversation would have been totally fine before our whole issue happened,” I finished up. “But I guess things are different now.”

She twirled a flaming lock of hair between her fingers and looked at me pensively. “You know he’s just projecting, right?”

I nodded. “I had a hunch. He did something shitty he never thought he’d do, so now he’s suspicious of me being capable of it. Is that what you mean?”

“Exactly. And that’s really not fair. You need to talk to him about it.”

“I know. I will.” I already wanted to change the subject. “Do you remember the name of that new catering company? I want to try them out for the sisters.” I’d thankfully booked someone in place of Mary, a set of triplets who each performed in a different medium. Much of their work revolved around their incredibly twisted, competitive relationship. It was a trainwreck in the best way. It would be one of our last shows before we moved offices, and Liv had already done an admirable job of helping me drum up press on various art websites. I spent the next few hours shooting off emails with the sisters and trying to keep all their simultaneous bickering replies straight. Liv left before I did. I eventually stopped working and stared off into nothingness. I tried to sort out my feelings, but they were as tangled as a ball of writhing snakes. They eventually settled at the base of me like a hard little knot that I could almost physically feel, it was so dense.

Can you guess who was waiting on my stoop when I finally got home?

“Are we turning this into a thing? You just hanging out and waiting for me like this is a romantic comedy? Because it isn’t.”

Grant looked up at me bashfully. “It’s a good thinking spot when I need to realize how stupid I’ve been. Plus, my phone’s dead and I left my charger upstairs.” His attempt at a joke fell flatter than my chest when I was 14. Realizing this, he produced peonies from behind his back like a magician and held them out to me. “I’m sorry.”

I cocked my head like a confused dog on Instagram. I’d been hearing those words a little too much lately. We kept ping-ponging from feeling blissed out to having our recent mistakes stick to the relationship like gluey, suffocating black tar. It was exhausting.

He sighed and put the peonies down. “My therapist said something like this might happen.”

“Something like what, exactly?”

“I feel guilty about what I did, so I take it out on you.”

“Well, yeah. You’re projecting what you did onto me, which isn’t fair. I have no intention of hooking up with some nude model, or anyone, while I’m with you. You should know me better than that.”

“I do know you better than that! I just feel like I don’t fully have you back yet, I guess. So it’s not like before when we’d talk about this stuff and I didn’t care because you were mine.”

“No, it’s not exactly like before, but I’m trying to get us there. I know you’re working too, but when you say things like what you said today—”

“I know. Totally off-limits. I was freaked out that you’d think now it’s fair game for you to hook up with someone. You know, level the playing field.”

“That would be a pretty sick thing to do if we were working on things. I’m just a little tired of hearing ‘sorry.’ We need to figure out how to make this better.” Or I don’t know how it’ll work, I finished silently.

“I swear, I’ll talk to my therapist more about it.” He’d been keeping his sessions under wraps. Out of respect for his confidentiality, I hadn’t pried, but that made me feel a little better. “And I’m sorry for what I was suggesting about you. That was messed up. I was just scared.”

“You mean that I’m a vengeful slut who will pretend to work on forgiving you then sleep with someone else?”

He looked wounded, which was pretty rich. “I didn’t say that.”

“That’s the point of insinuating something! You don’t actually have to say it to get your message across!”

“I know! I know, the fact that I didn’t actually say it doesn’t make it right. I’m just so scared of losing you.”

How did he not realize that by acting the way he did that morning, he was in danger of exactly that? He’d never done anything like that before, and I wasn’t ready to deal with a boyfriend who was suspicious and cruel because of his own actions. A Whitman phrase I’d studied in college came back to me: “I am large, I contain multitudes.” That helped me realize I could never fully know someone. Now, I just didn’t want to come to terms with how shocking those multitudes could be. To say I wasn’t thrilled by this new facet of his personality would be an understatement.

“Okay, well, I’m exhausted.” That was my “give me my alone time so I can think about the state of our relationship” hint.

“Oh, of course. Okay, I’ll let you get some rest. Can I grab my phone charger, though?”

I called out for Celine when we walked into my apartment, but just heard my voice echoing back at me. Grant plugged his phone into the wall charger and looked up at me sheepishly. “Just wanna give it a little juice, then I’ll head home.” I nodded and retreated to the bathroom.

A mini spa session was exactly what I needed to unwind a bit. I turned on the shower, more than ready to steam all the city grime out of my pores (and hopefully bad energy out of my soul). I pushed my hair under my frilly shower cap that kept humidity out like a bouncer at the latest celebrity club turned away normals like me, then realized I’d left my new Lush face mask in my bedroom. I wrapped myself in a towel and headed to my room to grab it.

On my way, I heard Grant’s voice reverberate through the apartment. The roaring shower almost drowned out what he was saying, but the minuscule size of the place meant I could still pick up his voice even though he was doing his best to stay quiet. “Of course I’m going, Mom. It’s an amazing opportunity. I just need to figure out the Visa situation. I read that I can get one as soon as I land, but I don’t know if that’s true.”

A pause as I came closer. He was so into his conversation, he didn’t hear the floor creaking beneath me.

“No, I haven’t found the right time to talk to Tessa about it.”

“Talk to me about what?” I blurted out from behind him.

He started and whirled around, eyes wild. I stood there in my towel and shower cap, feeling ridiculous and suddenly gripped with the certain knowledge that everything was about to change.

“Mom, I have to go. I’ll call you later.” He slowly put his phone down and did his best to keep eye contact, although I could tell he was fighting the urge to look away. He must have been holding his breath, because he let it out in a whoosh. His entire body deflated.

He ran a hand through his growing-out hair, leaving disheveled tufts sticking up all over the place. The sad look in his eyes made me feel like someone had taken an ice cream scooper to my insides. “Tessa, I need to tell you something.”


  1. Chris - @nylonlover69 on TwitterOctober 21, 2014 at 2:11 PM

    F@#&! Are you KIDDING me, Grant?

  2. Okay I can definitely see where this is going. Grant and Tessa have hit one too many bumps when it comes to their relationship and this one is the straw that finally breaks the camel's back. Enter nude model.

  3. Lol at Anonymous commentor above! This thing with Grant is simply not working... at all! I feel they are really trying to force this upon themselves at this point!

  4. okay Tessa and Grant need to move on with their lives. that fight was so overly dramatic for no reason (and this is coming from a drama queen). and now he's potentially leaving the country. let it go.

  5. Tessa is crazy thinking any man wants to hear how to male model showed up at the bar. It wasn't this hilarious story. I think it sucks that Grant is going to move far away and that will be the end so Tessa can move onto the male model or whoever. Tessa is so dense and unaware of herself and all of her friends agree and automatically side with her. Also she was flirting with the male model. She never take accountability for anything.

    1. I kind of agree...picturing my boyfriend in this place its like, not that innocent. Like its not someone random, even though it wasn't sexual she saw him naked. I think subconsciously its her being like "look hot guys want me too, just like Sophie wants you!" because its not like the other examples she described, especially since it's like a guy she met on the break. Its just different from like some old crush or some celebrity, especially because he's trying to get with her (unlike in the other examples she gave...) I think that would weird anyone out.

      Like if my boyfriend saw a girl naked to draw her and then saw her at a bar where she was hitting on him, and he didn't just shut it down and walk away and kept joking around with her, I'd be pretty pissed.

    2. I agree completely. It's like Tessa is looking for any excuse to bitch about Grant and break up with him. Why even try to give him a second chance if your going to get butt mad over everything. Personally I'm finding Tessa very selfish.

  6. The way Grant behaved was definitely not great, but I don't think it was a huge deal, seeing as he realized his mistake and apologized. Now with him moving (?), things aren't looking good. I'm finding it hard to let go of Grant! Who else is overly sad about this fictional situation?

  7. Whoooaaa, thus us good but I feel sick for Tessa :(

  8. I am liking this. Nude model! Nude model! Nude model!

    1. Why because he's cute we don't even know him he could turn out to be a Jerk, and getting in contact with her even though he knows she had a boyfriend is jerky

  9. This was intense!! I feel like they were just getting to a good spot before Grant pulled that bonehead move. I hope they can work past it, even with all their shit they seem good together

  10. I don't think he reacted as bad as she made him sound

  11. Ah! Where is he planning to move to?! And why would he be so stupid to discuss it IN Tessa's apt.

    I honestly want her to see where things go with the model, things with Grant just seem too exhausting. If they're meant to be together, maybe it will work better a few months or a year from now.


  12. Once someone in a relationship cheats in anyway emotionally or physically it's over there will never again the trust that once was

  13. Wtf Grant...he needs to go. Doesn't seem worth the headache!

    1. I agree!!! I get trying it again because it's comfortable, but it's really not comfortable anymore...nude model or some other guy, she needs someone new!!

  14. If it's a visa he will get when he lands, it's probably a tourist visa. If he was moving somewhere he would have to figure out the permits prior

    1. And he is having this convo with his mom. Family trip?

  15. Like the posters above said, I feel like this relationship is more work than it's worth... I also really want to see where things may go with the model.

  16. I agree that grant is going bye bye and tessa is going to end up with nude guy, to experience the love she felt the couple at the bar were having, fully connected. This is just that kind of story. It seems all the comments went too quickly from "grant, grant, give grant another to chance" to "obviously it's not working" once nude guy came back in. I guess that tells you what we're here for, steamy romance. While I personally wouldn't have given Grant another chance in a million years, it was good for the story..adds closure. You can't just bring a character in and kill them off, but a super stable relationship isn't ever going to be good blog material, so good that he's going. We were to believe, based on what he told Sophie, that he and Tessa aren't really as in sync as they think anyhow.

  17. and to those of you who said "give grant another chance" this story maybe helps you to understand what cheating really does to a relationship. Of course this is fictional, but nothing is smooth and dandy after cheating. It changes everything and there's not much point into getting back together like that (unless kids/marriage are involved perhaps).

  18. Oh grant why looks like the end :(

  19. I think it is Tessa that acted like the idiot, here. Yes, Grant overreacted, but they are NOT back to normal yet and Tessa knows that and the fact that she got pissed off when he freaked out is not fair. She has put him in an unrealistic and impossible position. She can be pissed about things not being normal, but when he gets upset, she gets all snarky about it? DOUBLE STANDARD. She needs to grow the hell up.

  20. "I just need to figure out the Visa situation. I read that I can get one as soon as I land, but I don’t know if that’s true.”

    Is this mofo going to Cuba????

  21. Am I the only one getting the vibe that Liv is up to something sneaky behind Tessa's back? This post isn't the first time I've gotten that feeling...

    1. I think so too! I thought that when she volunteered so quickly to clean out that back room a while back.

    2. Totally agree. She seems really sneaky, I don't trust her

  22. I wish I could find a blog with a happy couple. Tessa is a flake. Telling grant that story was unnecessary. It figures she'd blame him for getting upset. Zahra you're a talented writer and can write a great story about a couple. Why not do that and be unique instead of being like every other blog?

  23. so if your boyfriend saw a gorgeous woman nude, who then tried to buy him a drink and dug up his email address the next day and send him a message... you wouldn't want to know? I don't think she was trying to make him jealous. I think if the tables were turned, you'd want to know and even though not much comes from it that is good, it's still the right thing to do.

  24. Of course Grant was going to be unhappy about the story; Tessa would feel exactly the same way if the events were identical, but switched around opposite. She'd be ok with Grant letting the gorgeous model he'd seen nude (and felt obvious and understandable attraction for) hang around him all night, making herself available to him...even though she *knew* he had a steady relationship? Instead of hanging around a ticking time bomb all night, Tessa would have been smart to shut down that situation right away...but she didn't. Then she blithely told Grant all about it, and unrealistically expected him not to react negatively. That's a prime example of how unaware Tessa is regarding how her actions affect the person she's with; she's nice, and basically honest...but she's not always honest with *herself* about her own motivations and justifications. So, she wouldn't be jealous and highly annoyed with Grant for sticking around the same type of situation all night? Bullshit. *Anyone* who's in love with just the average amount of normal human feeling and typical emotions regarding that would not react positively to that "funny" story. It sounds stupid for Tessa to even pretend she thinks Grant would find it funny. Bottom line: she doesn't want to admit it, but Tessa wants to punish Grant a little on their way to the return of their blissful, former relationship status. Not saying she's "wrong" or terrible or anything...just that she should be more honest with herself about her own motivations, and quit trying to be the perpetual good-girl who's *always* right and *always* above reproach. She's pissed, and this situation was a fantastic way for her to stick it to Grant a bit. She should just call it like it is. And, yes...Grant had a right to let her know how lousy all of that made him feel; even cheaters have a right to express honest feelings (especially considering that Tessa agreed to stay and work on their relationship). Either dump him, or stop playing head games, then playing innocent about it and getting all self-righteous.

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