January 20, 2015

Tessa's Story

By Zahra Barnes, posted late by Jessica Knoll (Sorry, everyone and sorry, Zahra! Forgot to schedule it before I ran out this afternoon and was not by a computer for the last few hours.)

I emerged from the 42nd Street subway and took a deep breath to quell my jumpy nerves, then immediately started choking on a lungful of cigarette smoke. Ah, Times Square. Land of tourists who like to stand in the middle of sidewalks, creepy life-size Sesame Street characters, and clouds of the aforementioned rank cigarette smoke. Just what I needed before crashing Marians day at Revel.

I checked my phone again for directions to the office. Even though I knew exactly where Revels building was, I couldnt stop pulling up Google Maps like a nervous tic. I started off down 7th Avenue, dodging a pile of trash and almost snapping a heel in the process. Pull it together, Tessa! You look like youve got it all figured out, now act like it, I thought. Even without my watch, which Grant hadnt emailed me back about yet, I was much more dressed up than Id ever been at Grey & Boehm. Fake it till you make it, right? In that vein, I kept running over my game plan in my head: disguise myself until I could find Marians office, where she was likely decompressing after her morning commute, then barge in and tell her we had to talk. She could either think this move was admirably plucky or atrociously disrespectful. I could only pray it would be the former. Oh, and there was the whole avoiding Liv thing, which I hoped luck would take care of for me.

After getting shoulder-checked twice, I realized that if Marian wouldnt have me back, at least Id never have to return to Times Square, AKA the obvious ninth circle of Hell. I finally came to a stop in front of Revels office building, a modern space outfitted in sleek chrome and marble. There were security guards standing behind a massive desk, which was the first sign this wasnt going to be as easy as Id hoped. Id been crossing my fingers that Revel would have an unmanned entrance. I reached out to open the door, but a sudden wave of anxiety made me snatch my hand away like Id been burned. I crammed myself against the building to avoid getting run over. Was I seriously about to go in and talk to Marian without giving her any warning? This was either brilliant or the dumbest idea Id ever come up with. I really wasnt sure.

All I knew was that I couldnt do what I would have with a more reasonable boss and call or email her to explain. When Marian cut someone out of her life, she was done. If she thought shed been crossed, she was the type to delete emails without reading the contents and send someone to voicemail for eternity. She was all about scorched earth. I would have been ignored, and I needed to say my piece before giving up and moving on.

I looked around to make sure there werent any smokers nearby, then took another deep breath to stabilize my shaking hands. I pulled my largest sunglasses out of my bag and slid them on. Between those and my disobedient hair in the type of slicked-back bun I did a few times per decade, I hoped Id be able to avoid anyone (namely Liv) recognizing me until I got to Marians office. I yanked the door open before I could convince myself to walk away, then breezed through the lobby. Or tried to, anyway.

Maam? Shit. A security guard was calling out after me. Maam, you need to check in!

I kept hustling, pretending I hadnt heard her. With a speed I wouldnt have guessed she had, the short, squat security guard caught up to me and stood in my way. They made a good hiring decision there.

Excuse me, she said with some attitude I admittedly deserved. Her hair was pulled back into a severe bun, much like my own. You need to check in before you can go upstairs.

Oh, so sorry! I cant hear anything over this Bluetooth. I laughed nervously and pointed towards my ear. The security guard peered at my ear suspiciously, so I hurriedly pressed my finger into it and started talking to a phantom caller.

Have to run now! Will call you back in a second, I enunciated loudly like I was on the phone with an elderly relative. I smiled at the security guard, who was watching my every move. These things are so tiny! Modern technology, right? What a time to be alive, I said. Tessa, I warned myself, if you dont shut up and act normal, youre getting thrown out on your ass before you even make it into an elevator.

With no other options, I followed the security guard to the front desk. I glanced back at the turnstiles I had almost gotten to. So close, yet so far. But even if I had made it, I wouldnt have had a pass to get through. What would I have done, hurdled over them? You really should have cased the joint, I reprimanded myself. Wait, since when did you turn into a character in some mob movie?

Name and ID?! The security guard, whose badge told me her name was Eileen, practically shrieked in a way that made it clear she was repeating herself for my benefit.

Crap. My name. What was it? I didnt know if she was going to buzz up and announce my entrance, so I couldnt quite give her my real one. As for ID? That obviously wasnt happening. Her eyes bored into me.

Uh, Regina. Regina Phalange, I said. If this woman was a Friends fan, I was screwed. Thankfully, she just wrote it down without comment. And my wallet actually got stolen yesterday, so I have no ID. What is with the crime in this city? I shook my head disgustedly.

Eileen barely suppressed an eyeroll. Maam, I cant let you up without ID.

Oh, of course! Eileen, I completely understand that youre just doing your job, I said, remembering the tip Id heard that using someones name endears you to them. Im just new to the city. Its my first day, you know? And my new boss is a monster who will absolutely kill me if I dont make it up to my desk in the next few minutes. Can we just let this slide, just for today? I crossed my fingers under the counter to account for my bald-faced lying.

Eileen eyed me up and down.

I was getting desperate. Ill even bring you some Starbucks when I make my first coffee run for her, how about that?

Eileen looked around and, seeing that the other security guard was busy, leaned in conspiratorially. My boss is a real pain too. Go ahead, honey. She printed off a day pass for me and jerked her head toward the turnstiles. No coffee necessary.

I resisted the urge to throw my arms around her. Youre an angel, Eileen! Thank you. I ran over to the turnstiles and rushed into an elevator that was just about to close.

When the doors opened on the 16th floor, I was on high alert for a flaming head of red hair. If Liv caught me, the jig would be up. She clearly had no problem sabotaging me, so she wouldnt give me the chance to talk to Marian without her interference. My head swiveled this way and that, but I didnt see Liv anywhere. I was ready to make a beeline to Marians office as soon as I figured out where it was. I spotted a mail guy, who pointed me towards a glass office at the end of a long hall. I straightened the collar of my coat, then marched down the hallway, my knees locking up like I was walking the plank.

Suddenly, my heart skidded to a stop before my eyes could fully process what I was seeing. Liv had turned the corner and was walking towards me while chatting with a gorgeous brunette woman who was laughing at what she was saying. I looked around wildly, but there was nowhere to hide. I ducked into a tiny adjacent cube where a cute guy happened to be tapping away at his computer. I crouched down and trained my eyes on the floor, hoping Liv would just breeze by.

First I heard her voice, chattering away about how shed been to the club 1 OAK the past weekend. Ugh. Id always wanted to go there. I wanted to be part of this conversation! I wanted this pretty new colleague to like me too! Now Liv was so close, I could hear her footsteps. I held my breath until theyd faded away, then quickly realized I was being watched. I looked up slowly and made eye contact with the cute guy, who was staring at me with a bemused expression.

I laughed wildly, then swept my hands over the ground like a lunatic. Thought I dropped an earring!

Youre wearing both your earrings, he said with raised eyebrows.

I reached up and rolled my fingers over my studs like the thought hadnt occurred to me. Huh, youre right! Eagle eye youve got there.

We stared at each other in awkward silence until I popped up to my feet and dusted my skirt off. My right knee creaked on the way up, which I didnt appreciate since I wasnt going for the sexy geriatric vibe. Well, thats settled. Keep up the good work. I nodded approvingly, since it was really all I could do. I looked around for Liv and, since the coast was clear, continued on to Marians office. At least the guy would have a good story to tell his friends after work.

Marian was in her office alone, her inky black hair in perfect place as usual, her oxblood suit and stony expression not inspiring much confidence in me that shed somehow cultivated a warm and fuzzy side in my absence. She was staring off into the distance, and I was about to shatter the days calm. Her office showed no signs of warmth. It was all steel and glass, no personal trinkets or kooky art prints like shed had at Grey & Boehm. Her suit was the only colorful thing in the room. I took off my sunglasses and knocked on her door. I might as well show some semblance of manners, even when doing something so wildly rude.

Marian looked my way, then did a double-take. She just stared, no beckoning me to enter but also no screeching in disbelief, so I pushed the door open and stepped inside.

Marian, hi. My voice wobbled and I cleared my throat. Im sorry to interrupt, but I need to talk to you.

Her hand was at her clavicle, playing with the lapel of her suit. She looked much more amused than Id expected. Where was the rage?

This is a surprise.

Yes, Im sorry. I would have called ahead but I thought youd refuse to see me, and I decided to risk it. Putting it all on the line for something you love is something I learned from you.

Marian looked me up and down with a laser-like gaze that made me want to fidget. I kept my shoulders back and tried to show no signs of fear. Marian was like a feral dog that way; shed sense if I were afraid and eat me alive with room for seconds.

Continue, she said, nodding like none of this was news to her. I should have known ego-stroking would be the way to go. She waved lazily at the chair in front of her desk. I sank into it and kept going.

You also taught me that mistakes can be forgiven if theyre fixed before they become an issue. I called Imogen this morning. Shes not going to sue, and I had her send me an email that says as much so I have it in writing. You know how hysterical she gets. Remember when she freaked out before her opening? It was true. At first when Id called, shed screamed at me like she was doing her best banshee imitation. Then shed calmed down. But I appealed to her sense of justice, which was easy. She feels too guilty to keep threatening us when she knows she signed the amended version.

Marian raised an eyebrow at my use of us, but said nothing. I carried on.

If you let me come back, I can draw up every missing contract and have it out to the artists to get resigned by the end of the day. That will take care of any documents that were thrown out of the back room.

That got thrown out because you put your work on Olivias plate, Marian corrected.

Yes, I said without hesitating. A mistake that will absolutely never happen again, I can promise you that. Ive been with you for years, Marian. Were an amazing team, and you know you can trust me. I made some very stupid mistakes, but Ive learned from them. I want to help make this acquisition perfect, I said. You know I can! Weve always worked so well together.

Marian nodded and seemed like she was actually considering what I was saying. She really did give off a calmer vibe, possibly because she was having regular sex. I couldnt help but think of her and Tom all tangled up, leaving assprints on her pristine glass desk. Marian spoke and interrupted the disturbing vision.

Maybe if you had made one less mistake, Tessa. Maybe if your sloppy roommate hadnt ruined a potential deal, or if the triplets opening hadnt almost been a disaster, or if we hadnt almost been sued. My face reddened as she listed my screw-ups. I waited for the but that was sure to follow. But youve made a fool of both me and my judgment. Ah, there it was. Im supposed to forget your mistakes just because youve realized you were caught and are scrambling to fix them?

She waited for me to answer, so it clearly wasnt a rhetorical question.

No, but I would hope all my successes at Grey & Boehm would outweigh the few times Ive slipped up. It was a ballsy thing to say, but I didnt know how else to defend myself.

Its not that simple, Marian said flatly. How would it look to my new bosses and the team I manage if I let you back on after such egregious errors? They would think they could get away with murder. If Grey & Boehm hadnt been joining with Revel, you would almost certainly have your job back. But it is. So thats what this was really about? Making an impression on her new colleagues? Making an example out of me?

Marian, to be frank, the person whos getting away with murder is Liv! She almost ruined the triplets opening on purpose. I have proof. I pulled out my phone, ready to play the recording, but Marian held up her hand.

Your proof isnt necessary, Tessa. Olivia has been much more honest with me than you have, which makes it hard to believe you. I appreciate everything youve done for Grey & Boehm, but thats where your relationship with the company ends. At least she was being somewhat kind about it. If you were anyone else, Id have security escort you out. But I assume you can find your way. OK, scratch that.

I was tempted to play the recording for her, especially the part where Liv mentioned Marians relationship with Tom, but a thought occurred to me. Did I really want someone like this to be my boss? Someone who wouldnt believe that over the course of a few years, yes, Id made some mistakes? Someone who refused to have faith that I would learn from them and change? Sure, I loved Grey & Boehm, but I also had pride. I wasnt about to beg (well, more than I already had), when Marian so clearly didnt want me. I wasnt going to change her mind, especially not when Liv had something over her. I was done.

I nodded and pushed my chair back. Thank you for hearing me out, Marian. Good luck with the new company, I managed to say without a hint of the bitterness that burned my throat. I got up and walked out of Marians office for the last time. I slid my sunglasses back on and headed down the hall towards the elevators, just wanting to get home and figure out where to go from there. The cute guy Id practically accosted stared at me as I went past, but I barely noticed.

An elevator was about to close on its way down. I thrust my arm in between the doors, only to have them smoothly slide open and put me face-to-face with Liv.

She smiled, not recognizing me for a moment. She gasped when it clicked, and her grin faded. Tessa! What are you doing here?

I debated whether I could be in close quarters with her without doing something I regretted, then got in anyway. I just needed to leave.

Seriously, what are you doing here? She looked scared, and all of a sudden, I was bone-weary. How would I even have made it work with Liv if Id come back? There was no way Marian would have gotten rid of her, not with what she knew.

You win, Liv. I turned to face her as the elevator glided down, the numbers on the overhead panel glowing in reverse order. I talked to Marian, and she doesnt care about what I have to say. So good luck having her as your boss. You may be working for a great company, but there are tons of those out there. Ill find one of them. As soon as I said it, I knew it was true with a fierceness that made me stand up a bit straighter. But you? You have to work under someone who will forget every good thing you did for her in a heartbeat. No matter what you do, no matter how hard you work, youre always going to be disposable. Good luck with that.

The doors pinged open and I strode out, my heels strong and steady across the marble tiles, leaving Liv speechless in my wake.


  1. I was really hoping to see Liv crash and burn

    1. Me too! This post was not satisfying :(

    2. It was so self righteous and all in the beginning and it kinda just.. died down. It is one thing to not work with a boss like Marian but another to let the boss get the impression that you 'can get away with murder'.
      Rather anticlimactic to say the least and am super looking forward to the next post to see how Tessa ended up.

  2. Good for her. Seriously, I have more respect for her for giving it a shot and then deciding to be the bigger person than trying to exact revenge any day of the week. Maybe it make for less exciting blogging, but it's just one entry.

  3. This was a really good, really realistic post. But holy hell I wanted to see Liv go down soooooo bad! I know that's not how it goes in real life, but I'm going to hold out hoping this isn't the last we've seen of Liv. I am glad that she's so fierce and sure about moving on. Love her confidence.

  4. Everyone complained in Jessica's blog that Josie always got her way... Now Zahra is painting a more realistic picture and still no one is satisfied. It's time to find a different outlet to channel your negative energy on

  5. I don't think it was realistic...taking the high road when you have a recording in your bag about how you got completely screwed over...and not sharing that when given the opportunity, that's not realistic. she could have not gotten her way, that would've been fine but her not sharing the evidence and making mariam squirm is both unrealistic and unsatisfying.

    1. i kind of understand Tessa's thought process and actually do think it's realistic because it was apparent that, regardless of whether or not she played the recording, it seems marian made up her mind and wasn't going to change it. knowing that, whatever tessa would have done would have been automatically considered begging.

  6. I don't think it's realistic either. Obviously Marian wasn't going to just say OKAY TESSA You can have your job back.. she did screw up really badly. She didn't fight at all with that conversation. What was the point of this post.

    1. I think the point was she decided she didn't WANT to fight for it because she realized that she didn't want to work for Marian or with Liz and put herself in that kind of situation in the future.

  7. I thought this post was amazing! Job well done Zahra, seriously. Work relationships are tricky, and I can definitely believe that Tessa would hold back on playing the recording, because by then it was so clear Marian had made up her mind. What was Tessa going to do, blackmail her into giving her a job because she had a recording saying Liv knew about the affair? The she'd be no better than Liv. And that epiphany she had at the end made sense, she knows Marian better than anyone else, and would know when to throw in the towel. I loved her speech in the elevator and I can't wait to see where she goes next!

  8. Very realisitic and admirable and fun to read!

  9. Great post!!! Substance, no cliffhangers, but still intrigue over what will happen next. :) :)

  10. some are saying it's realistic but then why did she go in, if she wasn't going to fight? This was almost a repeat of their original conversation.

    1. She did fight. Going in there - despite being terrified - and talking to Marian is fighting. What she didn't do is stoop. She didn't stoop to begging and she didn't stoop to blackmail or pettiness. She walked out of there with her dignity intact and Liv is stuck with Marian now. I love how it ended, personally.

  11. I actually like this post very much! Some people think certain jobs are the end all be all, so to read about a character holding her head up high as she's able to admit to herself that it's not the end of the world, is very satisfying. It's a very subtle underlying, but I can see that it's almost her choice at this point, regardless of whether or not she was fired. Marian did her a favor. And to be able to say what she said to Liv was the best part of the post. It indicates a quality of strength; a change in the character who is developing into a courageous person.

    I very much admire the writing of both Zahra and Jessica! Thank you girls!


  12. Chris - @nylonlover69 on IG/TwitterJanuary 21, 2015 at 10:09 AM

    You. Go. Girl.

  13. Even though she's wouldn't ask for her job using the recording, I still wish she at least showed Marian the recording to get Liv in trouble and make Marian uncomfortable

  14. The one thing I'm left wondering about is whether or not Tessa will be able to use her former job with Marian's company as a reference. She spent a substantial amount of time there, increased her responsibilities and skills by a lot, and basically needs that reference for her plans to get a new, better job. I'd hope that Marian would be objective and decent enough to give her a good reference, but I don't know how professionally sound her judgment is after the reveal about her affair with the new, married majority owner. She's walking a tightrope, and doesn't seem to be thinking clearly. Having to get rid of Tessa because Liv has the goods on her affair with the boss is a BIG mistake she (Marian) made herself; for her to lecture Tessa about "mistakes" over a couple of minor things is laughable, considering the position she's gotten herself into. Liv's blackmailing her now, and it'll probably only get worse. I hope we'll get to read about the self-destruction of both Marian and Liv professionally. Tessa is lucky to be away from that...now if she can just get a good reference and a better job. Wonder if Liv would be able to tweek any reference Marian gives Tessa? She seems to have her hands into everything. Hope not.

  15. She tried her best, and things happen for a reason! Can't wait to hear what happens next

  16. I love how your fictional character can be so relatable. In the end it was amazing to see how much pride she has in herself. We all need lessons in that at some point in our lives...telling ourselves what we know we bring to the table. Thanks for this amazing post!

  17. Great post! I can't wait to see where this takes Tessa in her career.

    Check out my brand new blog, first post is tomorrow!


  18. I hope Liv gets what's coming to her!

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