October 28, 2014

Tessa's Story

by Zahra Barnes

Grant had something to tell me? My stomach continued to react as though I were on the type of roller coaster that took you high above everything, then just let you drop into a free fall. Id always hated those with a passion. I told myself to calm down, but my physical reaction was undermining my command and urging me to panic.

What is it? I clutched the knot in my towel so tightly my nails dug into my palm. Is everything okay?

Grant kept pulling at his tufts of hair. Should you maybe sit down? Sure, I thought. Should you maybe give me a heart attack?

I walked around the couch and sank down across from where he sat. I instinctively tensed all my muscles as a form of bracing myself. Well, I tried to. My staunch avoidance of the gym came back to haunt me and my muscles just quivered tentatively, unused to the strain.

My job wants to send me to Abu Dhabi for a bit.

Just like that, the alarm drained out of my body. Its not Sophie, I realized. He didnt cheat again. I was so relieved I started cackling like Id lost my last lonely marble.

Wait, thats it? Abu Dhabi? I mean, thats amazing! I gulped some air. So amazing. But I thought it was going to be something terrible, Jesus. When are you going?

A week from today.

Wow, thats so soon! Okay, but it gives us some time to do a few fun things before you leave, at least. When do you come back?

Thats the thing. Its not exactly terrible, but its sort of up in the air. Theyve decided to open an arm of the company over there. They need some of us to scout things out for about three weeks.

Grant! My wave of relief collided with a fierce sense of pride. I launched myself across the space separating us and threw myself onto him. Well, first I snatched off that ridiculous shower cap. Then I pounced. Three weeks was totally doable, plus this news meant potentially huge things for his career. I was ecstatic.

As I wrapped my arms around him and squeezed, I realized something was off. He cradled me stiffly, like I was his great-aunt who smelled like cough medicine and old crackers. It was a totally perfunctory hug, and the end result was about as comforting as nuzzling a gargoyle.

I pulled back. Whats wrong?

Its three weeks—“

I know, that isnt bad at all!

“—to start out, he finished.

Oh. What does that mean, three weeks to start out?

Like I said, everythings up in the air. If things go well, and it looks like they might, they may want to keep me there longer. There are a few long-term positions over there, but no one knows how its going to shake out.

How long-term? Getting answers from him is starting to feel like pulling teeth, I thought. My brain, taking its cue to ratchet up the freakout once again, ran with the tooth thing and conjured up a Saw-esque image involving pliers and an impromptu dental extraction. I shuddered. Id never been one for torture porn.Your brain is officially short-circuiting, I worried.

Are you okay?

Im fine, Im fine. Just tell me what you know.

I really dont know much. My bosses are being as transparent as possible, which is a plus. But it all depends on what happens when we actually land and get things going.

So thats what youre going over there to figure out?


Whos going with you?

Sophie isnt going. He rattled off a list of coworkers who were traveling with him in addition to a few high-ranking people who were already on the ground. I hadnt wanted to out-and-out ask about Sophie, but hed known what Id meant. Thats what I hated about the new us. Everything was laced with subtext.

Why Abu Dhabi? Why not, I dont know, Paris or Shanghai?

Abu Dhabi has so much money from oil and gas, and the Emirates is trying to break free from their petro-state identity. A lot of companies want to funnel some money into sprucing up their images, and graphic design is booming out there. Thats where we would come in. His voice got more animated as he continued, dipping and rising with excitement.

Well, bottom line, this is unreal! Right? You just got that promotion and youre already on your way up! I didnt want to be so short-sighted about whatever would happen to us that I didnt make it a point to congratulate him, like a few months before when Id totally forgotten about the presentation that had landed him the promotion.

Finally, a small smile played on his lips. Its pretty incredible. But I was just nervous that the second you heard, that would really change us. Or whatever this is.

So here it was, The State of Our Union. Its not like we could go on pretending everything was normal when he was about to ship out halfway across the world.

Well, what do you think it means? I tried not to be too obvious about holding my breath, but Ill be honest, my lung capacity got a workout. I was confusing the hell out of myself. The possibility of us breaking up because of long-distance was much less heart-wrenching than the alternative: because we just couldnt make it work after all wed been through. At the same time, would it feel like we were giving up? Wasnt the point of love that youd fight for it, no matter what? Wed been having so much trouble that part of me just wanted to throw in the towel, and I wouldnt have blamed him if hed felt the same. But had we really done all this work to get broken up by distance?

A thought wormed its way through the tangle. Wait. When did you find out about this? I wasnt trying to eavesdrop, but it sounded like youve known for a bit?

He did his best to stop himself from wincing. My boss told me a few days ago.

How many days?


My foot started jiggling madly, seemingly of its own volition. We werent even officially back together, so I knew I didnt actually have a right to be upset that he hadnt told me immediately. Then again, since when do emotions care what logic has to say about anything?

I didnt even know if I was going to go at first, he followed up.


Because of us. He motioned back and forth between our chests. I wanted to wait to tell you until I was sure.

My annoyance receded. Grant, you cant think like that! You have to do this, and more of these kinds of things. Youd just end up resenting me otherwise. You love your job so much.

Yeah, but I love you, too.

I know. And you know I love you.

Okay, but where does that leave us?

Why dont we just see where it goes? I mean, you dont even know how long youll be there beyond the three weeks.

He nodded. Youre right. So we stay…”

Together-ish. Basically what weve been doing.

Just me and you in this, except a few thousand miles away from each other, he said.

Right. For the three weeks. And then we can revisit it. I mean, isnt this basically why FaceTime was invented?

A comforted look settled over his features before he kissed me. Rocked by the thought that he would be leaving me soon, I pushed him back onto the couch, suddenly hungry for him. He gripped my hips and pressed me into his lap, obviously quite ready for me, too. I leaned in and sucked his bottom lip, knowing exactly what it would do to him.

Get this off, he groaned and tugged at my towel.

I played dumb. What? Oh, this? I held one end to my chest and the other away from my body, exposing some skin while keeping all the goods under wraps.

Yes, this. He yanked it away roughly and threw it across the room, then went for my nipples like they happened to be dispensing his favorite kind of beer.

I worked my way into his pants and held him, pulsing, in my hand. I felt a heady rush of power at the quite literally rock-solid evidence of the effect I had on him.

He hoisted me up thanks to a surge of hormone-induced power, ready to whisk me away to my bedroom. I kissed his neck as we went, losing myself in him until he stopped in the middle of the living room.

What? I breathed.

He turned and looked into my eyes. Debating going back for the shower cap. It was kind of sexy.

I bit his neck in retribution for his teasing my silly, yet totally functional, bath wear. When we got to my room, he threw me onto the bed and made me forget Sophie, Abu Dhabi, and anything that didnt involve the two of us taking each other in like he was leaving the very next day.

- - -

Abu freaking Dhabi? Are you shitting me? Marley gaped at me over her huge slice of pizza. As soon as Grant had left, Id called her, telling her to get over to my place ASAP. Shed shown up at my doorstep bearing pizza and red wine, cementing her place on the good friends list for life.

I swear. Abu freaking Dhabi.

Is he going to be safe over there? Marley wasnt overly fond of Grant at the moment, but her brow creased with worry all the same.

Oh, totally. Its one of the most stable places in the Middle East right now. Of course Id done some research while waiting for her to arrive. Im not worried about that.

Okay, but youre definitely worried about something.

I mean, depending on how long he stays, this could be it for us. I hate even saying that.

But maybe its whats right after everything thats happened? Just because hes your first love doesnt mean he needs to be your forever love.

I guess. I know whats happened lately hasnt exactly been good, but its kind of like when youve been waiting for the subway for like twelve minutes and it doesnt seem like ones coming. You feel like you might as well keep waiting because youve already been there for so long, you know?

Tessa. You should never say might as well when youre talking about your relationship.

I cringed, catching what Id said after the fact.

Any guy youre with should make you feel the way you do when youre sitting in a restaurant and you see your food coming, she continued. He should make you exactly that excited. Youd never say, Well, I might as well eat this.’”

Where did she come up with this stuff?

Youre crazy, but youre also right. Ugh, and things are even weirder after I ran into that guy, Jack. Worst timing ever.

Oh my God, he was so delicious. I almost dropped my pants right there at the bar. It would have been better than dropping them later that night. She rolled her eyes. After sending me her conquests drivers license information, Marley had been more than willing to go home with him. Height is deceptive, shed texted me after. Turns out that even though he was tall, hed been working with about four inches down below. But what do you mean things got weird?

I filled her in on the heated conversation Grant and I had dealt with when Id told him about Jack. When I was done, she put her crust down and dusted her hands off on her black velvet pants. I made a mental note to borrow them on our next outing.

That was a dick move.

Well, sort of, but I can see where hes coming from.

She stared at me, obviously amused. No, I mean what you did. That was a dick move. That guy was so hot, theres no way you werent having a full-body orgasm when you told Grant about him. Youre no Jennifer Lawrence, you wont be winning awards for your acting anytime soon.

What?! I wasnt having an orgasm when I talked about him! I was totally normal. Jacks eyes flashed through my mind and I shoved them away, trying to tamp down the heat I felt rising on my face. I admit that it wasnt the most self-aware thing to do, but we used to be fine with stuff like that!

It doesnt matter if you were fine with it before, Tessa! I read about a couple just like you two in Glamour. Cheating changes the foundation of a relationship and you cant count on anything being the same in the aftermath. Like, if Abu Dhabi had come up before the whole cheating thing, what would you guys have done?

I answered without a doubt. Wed be staying together, no question. Wed basically been on the forever track before, so even considerable distance wouldnt have stopped us.

And now youre just going to wait and see. Everythings different. Dont forget that.

I paused, reliving the the Jack blowup between me and Grant. How had I not guessed it would turn out the way it did? If only I could rewind time and shove that clueless anecdote back into my mouth before it reached his ears. Why are you always right? It would be annoying if I didnt love you so much. I pushed my pizza away.

She shook her head and nudged it back. Tessa, any pizza is a personal pizza if you try hard enough. You know this.

I climbed onto the couch next to her and rested my head in her lap. Nibbling absentmindedly on another slice, I felt a bit reassured. No matter how up in the air things were, this would never change. I didnt know what would happen when Grant left, or even the next day. But in that moment, Marley rubbing my shoulder and sitting with me in silence was enough.


  1. No offense this post seems unrealistic to me. Last post wasn't Tessa more or less over Grant and pissed that he got upset over her "funny" story. Now we open with her wanting to be with him. I'm so confused and the who Abu Dhabi move is unreal in my opinion. At least Marley set her straight about her "funny" story. Still see her as wanting to hook up with the nude model. I keep coming back to this blog but I'm so disappointed with Tessa's story. Before I get the whole you don't have to read it or start your own blog response which is common with any type of criticism. I can't connect with Tessa and find her dense and unlikeable. None of the characters seem like anyone I'd hang out with and I'm struggling to remain interested.

  2. I agree the story isn't believable but I think believable is too much to ask for in a blog that gets written once a week. I mean, on one hand people are always crying for more substance, something big has to happen in every post or people will call it filler or fluff, but then when something big happens in every post it feels unrealistic. Of course it's unrealistic. Something big doesn't actually happen to people once a week. This is written for people who enjoy the roller coaster of a good love/sex story which is why you come back to read.

  3. I disagree with the first anon and like the points of the second anon. I feel like this blog is VERY believable for someone in a relationship. Dealing with a what to tell the boyfriend after a girls night thing is a real issue. Also, it is hard to have a majorly awesome post every week. But I don't think that you guys are seeing the beauty of where this story line is going. Posts like this are necessary for set up.

    Tessa gets to keep her options open. Grant is being put on the back burner (abu dhabi) and Tessa is going to be single. Then maybe... just maybe... later he can come back and things will be better with them, it will be like hitting the reset button. But in the meantime we get to see what's going to happen with the twitcher. Can't wait!!

  4. I originally liked Tessa, but the more I read the more I think she is pretty pathetic. While Grant seems like the perfect guy he CHEATED on her. It took her one encounter for her to get back with, I feel like anyone deserves more respect than that. Also its kind of unrealistic that she is so ok with him going to a far off place. Being in a long distance relationship means you have to have enormous trust in one another and it doesn't really seem like Grant deserves that...

    I think Tessa should end things with Grant or at least agree to end things while he is away and maybe they could revisit it in awhile. Idk she seems so desperate about him, its kind of unhealthy. Give her some independence!

  5. Ay ay ay, it's a story, a fake story, for entertainment purposes, it's not meant to be realistic! What do u even watch on TV that's realistic? That's right, nothing because not even reality shows are "realistic". Unless you're buying a biography, I'm pretty sure even the books you own are not full of realistic story lines. What do people expect when they come to read blogs like this? Are they coming to read realistic story lines where you can basically guess what happens next, or are they reading for entertainment? Geez. The story is damn good zahra, you're a good writer, keep it up

    1. I so agree! I often wonder if these people write letters to writers and editors when tv series that they watch so unrealistic.

  6. I'm hoping we get to see more of Jack now that Grant is moving!

  7. I am really looking forward to Grant leaving. Tessa needs to realize that their relationship has changed and has pratically if not gradually ended. Jack seems like an awesome guy, and Tessa needs someone like him to finally appreciate her.

  8. Elizabeth's story should be 2x a week. Tessa needs to go... this story is going nowhere and it is boring. Sorry to be blunt, but it needs to be said.

  9. I really like this story! I like Tessa, she is not perfect, but who is? I am glad you pointed out Grant is Tessa's first love. I feel like people are forgetting what your first love is like. It's something that is hard to let go of, no matter the situation.

  10. I love this blog and actually wish it was written twice a week!

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