November 18, 2014

Tessa's Story

by Zahra Barnes

Grant? Can you hear me? Youre all frozen again.

Grants face on my laptop screen was so warped it looked like something from The Ring, post-Samara encounter. The FaceTime connection sputtered defiantly, so all the pixels that composed my maybe-possibly-not-quite-boyfriend jerked in a sluggish imitation of the movements he was actually making nine hours and 6,843 miles away.

I groaned and ended our FaceTime session, giving my computer a second before I tried to reach him again. We should have agreed on who would call who if this happened, I realized. It would be typical for both of us to hit the call button at the exact same time, creating some technological tangle that would prevent us from connecting and deliver some sort of foreboding message about our real-life relationship in one fell swoop.

His email said he had big news, I reminded myself. That could be either good or bad. The thing was, I didnt know what would qualify as good or bad in this situation. The stolen conversations and fired off emails wed shared since hed been in Abu Dhabi had a certain romanticism to them, that much was true. But spending this time alone was different from my period of self-imposed solitary confinement when Id just found out about him and Sophie. I wasnt in mourning this time around.

Instead, I was coming to life. I was rekindling my love affair with the city, exploring, experimenting, evolving. All the worries and scheduling and maintenance that came with a long-distance relationship werent part of the rosy picture I was painting for myself. I was slowly realizing that ever since I found out about Sophie, I had been straddling a line. This time on my own had shown me which side I fell on.

Thats not to say I didnt miss Grant, or wish it could have worked out at the time. Sometimes I did so much that it ached, the pain radiating from my core into the tips of my fingers and spilling out of my eyes. Still, even though I had never understood why people sometimes said love wasnt enough, I was getting it now. I adored him. I treasured him. I loved him, but as the inimitable Samantha Jones said, I loved myself more.

The video sparked to life and I crossed my legs to stop my bodys jittering. I hadnt had coffee all day, but I was still reacting like Id mainlined caffeine through an IV. I smoothed my curls down as Grants face appeared in front of me.

Is this better? he asked, his mouth finally moving smoothly. I could see his sleek hotel room in the background. The couch behind him looked so plush. Perfect for hotel sex. Why has no one created a teleportation machine yet? I wondered for the hundredth time.

I shoved away the intrusive thought. Yeah, that works! You look so good. Nice beard. It went perfectly with his flannel shirt.

Thanks. Someone told me facial hair can be seen as a sign of maturity here, so Im taking it a little further than usual. But I feel like Im verging on looking a little like a vagabond, so Ill probably shave soon. As he stroked his whiskers, I felt the urge to reach through the screen and do the same.

You shouldnt. Between that and the flannel, youre prime lumbersexual material.


Sexy lumberjack. How are you not keeping up with the American zeitgeist while youre in Abu Dhabi? I joked. I knew he was doing much more exciting stuff than reading trend pieces about millennials sexual urges.

Well, the flannels just because my hotel room is freezing. I could take it off. He arched an eyebrow at me, and I knew we were both thinking of just giving into FaceTime sex instead of discussing what Id started thinking of as The Issue of Us. If only it were that easy.

No! Youre cold, keep it on, I blurted out. So, how are you?

He told me how things were going on his side of the world. Part of the reason wed barely talked was because he was immersing himself in the city and falling head over heels in love with it. The stories surged out of him with the kind of enthusiasm I hadnt really heard from him in months. Then he moved into asking more about my neighbor Brian and the faux break-in. After hed gotten the texts Id sent him that night, hed practically had a conniption. Now, he still had more to say.

You need to get him kicked out.

It was just a drunk college kid. He didnt take anything and he didnt hurt me, so seriously, dont worry. And Finn came to make sure everything was okay.

Still, I wish I could have been there. This kid sounds like a creep.

I promise, its fine. We made sure to get a new lock installed, so were totally safe. You couldnt break in if you tried. It was time for a distraction. I got your letter.

He had mailed me a letter but also emailed me to tell me not to open it until we FaceTimed. There were technological methods from three different decades involved in that one request, but Id done what hed asked.

He looked torn, and I could tell he wanted to pursue the break-in conversation. He decided to let it be. I was worried it wouldnt get there in time.

Can I finally open it? I waved it around in front of my laptops camera. Ever since Id gotten it via express mail two days before, Id taken to holding it in my hand at random moments. I liked feeling its heft and trying to divine the meaning tucked away on the leaf of paper inside. I knew I was potentially holding the future of our relationship in our hands.

I think you should wait until we talk a little more.

Okay. Well, let me guess what it says. Youre staying? I was tired of dancing around the subject in some sorry impersonation of a ballerina. My heart wasnt that nimble.

He held eye contact, and for a moment, the screen faded away. I could feel him, and his wistful presence, in the room with me like a ghost. He nodded.

Yeah, they figured out they want me to stay on already. They cant tell me how long, but they said something about a big showcase in May. So were talking months, not weeks. He explained that the market for a company like his in Abu Dhabi was wide open, and hed be a fool to leave so soon.

I agreed, but still, my sadness and resignation mingled in a way that made my heart feel like it was taking up all the available space in my chest. I thought so. And Im so, so happy for you. He looked confused, but I continued. Even if it means the end for us.

Do you think it does?

I stared at him until his face was seared so hotly into my brain its ghost twin remained when I squeezed my eyes shut. I think we are. Right? Its justso much. Its been so much. My job, and Sophie, and the distance. Now were both doing different things, and maybe wanting different things, and growing into different people. I didnt realize I was yanking a curl until I felt a tug of pain at my scalp. I focused in on the dark brown shot through with gold in that one lock of hair. As simple as it was, it grounded me.

Right. I mean, maybe things would be different when I get back. Maybe we just do our own things now and see what happens in the future.


We fell into silence. I knew I couldnt only have one all-consuming love in my time. I didnt believe that life was unfair, that it would give me a glimpse of the magic that can happen when you recognize part of your soul in someone elses, then never let me discover it again.

Tell me what youre thinking, I said quietly.

I dont really know. I agree with you, and Ive been thinking the same thing ever since they told me they want me to stay. But its different to say it out loud.

I know. Its pretty weird, especially after everything weve been through. But isnt it better to realize it now than drag it out and end up hating each other? We can still be friends when were 80 and look back on the time we were together and you would show up on my stoop without warning, I said.

He smiled weakly. After a beat, he cleared his throat. You can read the letter now, if you want.

I moved my finger under the envelopes flap as tenderly as possible, feeling like I owed the letter the delicacy our relationship sometimes lacked. When I looked up to ask Grant if he was sure, I caught him swiping irritatedly at his eyes. I pretended I didnt see and hurriedly glanced down at the letter, which Id worked out of the envelope. I unfolded the lined sheet of paper and started to read.


First, let me say that no matter what conversation we just had, this will always be a love letter. Stop rolling your eyes and keep reading. Do you have to be so stubborn? I guess if you werent, you wouldnt be you.

I wrote this because I wanted to get my feelings down before we decided what were doing. I want to have something physical that proves what we had. That we were something special to each other once, and hopefully always will be. I know I sometimes have a hard time expressing myself. And I know Ive fucked up. Trust me, I do. But no matter what happens, Ill always give you the last olive.

Love always,


I looked up at him through blurred vision, tears swimming in my eyes.

Can you promise me one thing? he asked, giving me enough time to choke down the golf ball-sized lump in my throat.

Depends on what it is.

Can you promise me one day, years from now…” The rest of his question hung in the air, heavy with oaths and regret and many things left unsaid. Just dont forget about me.

I hesitated. This sounded like something from an eyeroll-worthy romantic comedy, like, if were 40 and havent found anyone else, why not come together again? But arent romantic comedies so seductive precisely because they portray what we wish we could have, deep down?

I cant make any promises, but Ill do my best. As long as you dont forget about me, either.

We spent the next four hours reminiscing about every moment of us as a couple. We covered when we first met on the subway, how wracked with nerves he was on our first date, the first orgasm he gave me (through my lace underwear, like the magician I suspected he was), and the first time he leaned his forehead against mine and whispered that he loved me. I bashfully fessed up that even though I teased him about his Old Spice addiction, I still had the ratty sweatshirt of his that smelled faintly of it because it comforted me. He whipped out the love haiku Id once written him on a Post-it, which Id never realized he always kept in his wallet. We talked about Sophie, and how things were almost back to being perfect until Abu Dhabi came up. And how maybe they still could be, just in a different way than we pictured.

Finally, we quieted. It felt almost too easy and too syrupy-sweet. Where was the ugliness? The screaming? Where was the rawness that usually came as the sister of the heartache in a breakup? I knew it might arrive in the future, but in the moment, all of that was absent. As I studied the familiar planes and shadows of Grants face, conflicting relief and sadness swelled in me. This was really it.

We finally said our goodbyes, each of us murmuring two I love yous apiece. I scanned his letter over again until my monitor winked off, the heat that had always burned between me and Grant finally cooling into embers of us.


  1. I just cried.

    You captured these emotions perfectly.

    1. I cried too... very well written...

    2. I agree. Reminds me of the time when my best friend decided to part ways with me. I cried hard then and this post reminded me of it so I cried again.

  2. She had better find that nude model and bang him immediately.

    1. I am in total agreement with this statement.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Why because his penis twitched when he saw her or because he did some stalking to get her email?

  3. Chris - @nylonlover69 on Twitter/IGNovember 18, 2014 at 2:50 PM

    Wow, Zahra. Just. Wow.

  4. This is so fucking sad.

  5. this is the saddest thing ever. :-( I thought the letter would be a plane ticket or something asking her to come there. long shot sure, but ugh. heartbreaking.

  6. Ah! And now I'm fighting off tears while on an elliptical at the gym! This post was so sad, but so good because you really captured how the situation would feel! Amazing writing, as always


  7. not feeling this post. I just don't think a break up would have happened so quickly and I don't think he would've been so level headed about it, not even sure he would've stayed in real life based on how close they were. I'm totally fine with unrealistic scenarios in fiction, but just wanted to say it didn't read as well.... Tessa going back and forth with being totally in love with Grant to "I'm just not so sure" feelings seems silly and forced into the writing to keep the storyline changing and moving. However, we all know a steady boyfriend isn't great blog material so I'll be more than happy to see what's next.

    1. There's an a couple blogs I read where the main character is in a committed relationship and they're really good. Love life LA and Life's Greatest Journey.

    2. Grant was level headed because he knew it was coming. Hence the letter sent like a week prior to the breakup. Why wouldn't Tessa be so back and forth? I would be too if the love of my life cheated on me and we got back together. I don't think my heart would be at 100%.

    3. her back with grant were way too intense and lovey to change her mind, it just wouldn't happen that way in reality. It's not like she took him back and was so so about him, they were really into each other ...but anyway, not gonna defend my stance suffice to say it didn't feel/sound/resonate as realistic to me and felt as if the author was forcing the swaying to fit each post rather than something naturally fluid following the character's emotions as they would be.

  8. I thought that was terrible, so sick and tired of authors always trying to part characters just so they can move on and introduce new ones and keep it dramatic. Surprised you didn't just kill him

  9. On to the new! ;)

  10. Such an amazing post. If only breakups REALLY happened like this. Beautifully described.

  11. Wow, that was great...I actually she'd a few tears. great post!

  12. Wow, that was so well written and relatable. It's nice to see a couple maturely decide to part instead of it being all pain and tears. Although, I got a little teared reading it. Seriously. I loved the idea of the letter he sent to her and it was comforting to see that they'd already come to the same resignation that the relationship had to end.

    Ignore the trolls Zahra. :)

  13. Let me throw my fit and then shower you with love.
    When the blog first started I LOVED how great things were with Grant. They were fiery and sweet and there was enough other tension to keep the story moving and then it got complicated and I HATE complicated. So I wish you wouldn't have done this.
    BUT, you did. And you're a phenomenal writer. And I'm still hooked and I want to see where this goes so I'll be back on Tuesday of course :) PLEASE PICK FINN. Thanks :)

  14. Simply amazing. My favorite post so far.

  15. First, let me say "WELL WRITTEN!"; then let me say "ARGH, NO!!!" I admit I have wanted the storyline to work out for Grant and Tessa SO much! I know real life happens like this, but for me the best part was a couple that seemed to weather and EXTREMELY bad patch. I hope, I hope they return to each other in the future! Just sayin'.

  16. That was flawless. Great writing to make the readers feel the emotions. It totally made me cry cheer and cry some more. Just wonderful!

  17. Ugh this story is the worst. I don't even care what happens. Where's Elizabeth's story?

  18. Wow that was emotional, but I am glad they broke up. That means there are new adventures ahead for this character :D

  19. Really well written. Thank you for this post! Onward & upward!

  20. I'm posting just because I wanted to congratulate you on such a well-written post. It's hard to be a writer and put yourself out there to criticism this way, but this post clearly indicates that it's been good for you. This post was excellent. You should be proud! Keep it up!

  21. That was unnecessary, just like in the movies or sitcoms where they break the couple up with a bunch of wish washy lines that aren't a solid reason. I agree with others it was so up and down one minute she loved him the next she didn't anymore. Haven't liked this blog since you made the character cheat but after their makeup bathroom scene, it seemed the two characters who loved each other were going to give it a try. Now this "find myself" crap, more like how to introduce new hot guy drama. And yes for all those who will take it personally and think they need to respond and defend the author I have no problem with the writing just the storyline and yes just like a book you don't like I won't continue reading.

  22. This was a wonderful post. If it's truly meant to be, they will find each other later in time.

    Grant and Tessa are so sweet and ended their relationship amicably, which is awesome. Now Tessa is officially free!

  23. I liked the post. It's a good example of how it's possible to part ways in a mature way. I like how it pays tribute to their time together but acknowledges that they need to move on.
    Anyways, I would really like to see where this goes now!

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