Tessa Takes a Walk in Her Party Boots

It was much too early for Tessa Tillsdale to summon the strength. Every time she composed a thought, her head pounded, blocking entrance to the full functioning of her brain. Not so fast. Just who do you think you are? It teased her.

Her Doc Martens would have served her better than her stiletto party boots. Tessa sunk into watery patches of what she deemed solid through the marshy wetlands. She imagined the “No Trespassing” sign at the end of her journey, forbidding passage across what must be preserved open space. But certainly if there was a path, it was acceptable to walk on through. For the time being, it was the only place to be. She saw her town across the field, if only a mile away. Still the marshy field felt like endless, unchartered territory, the likes of which she had never seen before.

When Tessa felt she was in the wrong place, she shrugged it off. It was something she was accustomed to. Her hometown of Collinwood never felt like home. Its name suggested a town surrounded by an idyllic forest. Newcomers were often disappointed with its miles of strip malls and overpriced boutique shops. This wetlands preserve, if that’s what it was, could be added to the list of the town’s natural attractions, along with some parks and a polluted pond. The longer Tessa walked through it, the less she thought it was worth a “No Trespassing” sign.

Her heels choked up glop and slime, soaking her leather pants. She would skip work entirely, except Bianca, her boss, knew of last night’s plans. How could she not after Joelle announced it to the whole store as if it were some prize, a bit of juicy never heard gossip: two attention-seeking ladies have a plan to paint the town. Joelle Robbins, her roomie and co-worker, not to mention her best friend, bubbled with enthusiasm, “We’re going to ‘The Crush.'” No one could be bothered to respond.

She could have just as easily called it “The Velvet.” But heavens, you would never be caught calling it by its actual name, “The Velvet Crush.” You didn’t belong then. Tessa swore the place off, but somehow returned again and again, usually at Joelle’s pleading.

Last night’s events at their beloved Velvet Crush floated through her mind like pieces of rusty junk metal with dead links. Joelle was there and then she wasn’t. They had been together at the bar, drinking and dancing in a sea of sweaty bodies, her ears ringing, making communication impossible. Tessa felt sucked in and swallowed, and spit out into an empty, dark warehouse; She woke up wrapped up tight in a blanket. Lights out. All of it was a dark empty space in her mind. There had been a guy. Good-looking, she remembered, but his features were fuzzy. This morning, all alone, she was surrounded by cardboard boxes and milk crates. Someone either was moving in or out. A wine glass stained the previous night’s beverage confirmed someone drank last night. She would bet it was her.

It would have been impossible to make it back to her apartment to change and ready herself for work. This much she knew. She padded her jacket for her cell phone again. It was still missing, and she had no idea what time it was. The position of the sun in the sky indicated she might make it in time for her 10:00 a.m. start time. She could hardly react. All that mattered was making it through the marshy field. For whatever reason, she convinced herself that her arrival at work would fix everything. It was within reach, the building glistening like a beacon in the sun.

When she opened the doors of Sultrix, the glare of the white walls blinded her in waves and she stumbled, grabbing onto a glass shelf to steady herself. She slipped through to the back and hurried to her locker that she shared with Joelle. Sultrix, the only retail outlet that provided lockers to their workers. That really should have been the only red flag that Tessa needed, but she had needed this job more.

A quick turn of the combo lock and Tessa spied what she was after, a fresh, black shirt. Tessa held the fabric up to her nose and sighed relief. It was one of Joelle’s favorite. She climbed through the sleeves. It hung on her like she was playing dress-up with her mom’s clothes. No matter. It was clean and possibly a better wardrobe selection than she had in her closet in their apartment. She splashed water on her face and made her way to the floor. Her hair, a bird’s nest with at least a year’s worth of spray, would hold up for another eight hours. She would apply a few test samples of product to her face and be good to go.

The usual preparation for work would take considerably more time, and Tessa gave credit where credit was due. It was Joelle who kept Tessa looking sleek, lathered and primped with the proper products. Tessa admitted “beauty” was never her strong suit. After applying all the products for her specific skin type and color, Tessa felt she paled in comparison to her co-workers, suited in their chic, black attire. Any combination of black was acceptable, so long as your makeup was the star; it must shine through and say to the customer, “You, too, can have eyes like me.” Working at Sultrix meant a discount on all beauty supplies and an unending quest for eternal youth.

Sultrix had any beauty fix you needed; undo, redo, de-age, unblemish, brighten, tone, firm, prime, plump, volumize. Poof, Sultrix had your number and she kept score. Points for all your products. She knew you better than you knew yourself. It’s not something Tessa knew before she worked there, and now that she had settled in over the last five weeks here, it creeped her out.

Passing by the mirror, Tessa stopped and focused, as she usually did, on the circles around her eyes, appearing deeper and darker than they did yesterday. At 23 years old, her youthful glow diminished by the day, or so it seemed. She scanned the scores of eye creams on the shelves, all promising age-defying odds of perfect skin, and packed with minerals from alien planets, stuff she had never heard of. Dead sea salt, that can’t be good. She knelt at the creams as if in prayer, whispering the ingredients, “Bionic serum, butylene glycol, plant stem cells, madonna lily, alpha-arbutin.”

This is how the handsome man in the fedora hat found her.

photo credit: …love Maegan via photopin cc

43 thoughts on “Tessa Takes a Walk in Her Party Boots

  1. Love this: “a bird’s nest with at least a year’s worth of spray”… I’m having 80s flashbacks. Looking forward to hearing about the man in the hat and what he has to say about all this!


    1. Aww, thanks for stopping by, Tara! I never got into the hairspray myself. You? Do you think the younger set still wears it? I’m not even sure. The man in the fedora hat…It may not be what you expect, not that you expect anything.


  2. I love this: “a bird’s nest with at least a year’s worth of spray”… I’m having 80s flashbacks. I’m looking forward to seeing what the man in the hat thinks of all this! Nice work.


  3. I don’t think you need that last line for this to be a compelling bit of writing and to already feel like part of a longer story. It fits really well into a larger story, even if I don’t necessarily know what your version of that larger story would be…. I had pictured one as I was going through this. Hooked my imagination, that’s for sure. Great job Amy.


    1. I guess I could of have left it off. Hmm. I wonder if it changes it. I really hadn’t thought of it. I just thought it was kind of transitional point is all. But, I’m glad I hooked you! I’m not sure where this is going. I’m only a few paces ahead at this point. Thanks so much, Trenty!


      1. Awww. That means everything to me. Thanks! Don’t worry. I haven’t forgotten my other story. I’ve added a lot, but it’s not quite done!


  4. Really nice reading. Don’t ask me why but as I was reading this, I could only think of “The Black Dahlia”.
    Engaging, would love to read the longer version.


  5. Nice work Amy, it’s a good standalone piece and is already drawing me into the longer version. If I have one criticism (constructive of course!) it’s that I feel I know more about beauty products after reading than I do about Tessa. They each seem to get roughly equal billing. Although I like what I do know of Tessa, she sounds like a fun girl… 😉


    1. Ha ha. I’m laughing. Of course, Tessa is fun! She’s too fun as she gets into trouble. She makes the mistakes you wish you could make. I got maybe carried away with the beauty products. I see Sultrix (don’t know if I like the name) as kind of the center for the story. I started with beauty products, so I’m not too surprised that stands out right now. Also, I have no idea where this story came from at all. 🙂


  6. A handsome man in a fedora? I hope she’s still wearing those killer boots. They should get his attention. Your “” is sounds very much like my guilty addiction “Sephora”. I’ll be waiting for more.


  7. Nice writing, Amy. I was just about to say this sounded like the end is the beginning of a whole new story, but then I went up and saw the note you put at the beginning. Is this a novel you are working on, or just a continuing serial story?


  8. The good looking guy was certainly no knight in shining armour leaving
    such a young and sweet lady to cross the marshy field alone, but what an
    intriguing story my wicked friend 🙂 Well done on part one…

    Andro xxxx


  9. Ah, Amy, I remember days like this after nights of partying – although not in stiletto party boots – strange things always seemed to happen. I wonder if it’s the same for Tessa?


    1. Mark, thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you reading even this little bit! I know it’s quite a bit to catch up now. I probably won’t have such a long story in the future. I’m so thankful for those that have kept up with it! I appreciate the time for any reading. So, thanks.


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