Dear Reader: Previous installments of this continuing story are here. I’m hoping to wrap this up in a few more parts.
Part 1: Tessa Takes a Walk in Her Party Boots
Part 2: The Man in the Fedora Hat
Part 3: Tessa is a Messal
Part 4: Joelle Meets the Guy from Last Night
Part 5: A Walk Down Memory Layne
Part 6: Hacking with James
Part 7: Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing
Thanks again for reading!
Chirping birds jerked Tessa from her faint dream state, the kind that left her wondering if she had slept at all. Joelle insisted Tessa bunk with her in her twin-sized bed, which meant Joelle flailed her arm in her face all night, a regular slap fest. It was a sharp contrast, a penance perhaps, from the previous evening’s carefree slumber, no doubt a moonless night. This morning, Tessa’s thought processing was more fluid, easily returning to the last night’s abrupt ending, leaving James with the eerie sparks from his computer equipment.
The more pressing matter of the strange, bubbling lipstick weighed on her mind, as she licked her lips. They were dry and chapped, as if she had spent the whole evening camping outside without a tent. She searched her purse for its black container, rimmed with gold; its pink protrusion like a mini volcano. It’s not lava for God’s sake. Why would it bubble?
She held it in her hand as she went to the kitchen to examine it in the morning light, and still had it in her hand when she shut her door to get coffee. A travesty, really. It was the second morning in a row that demanded Tessa to function without coffee. She unknowingly applied the pink lipstick to her lips in her fog state more out of habit even if it was cotton candy pink, likening its color to demon spawn.
Stepping into the coffee house half a block from her apartment; its aroma and buzzing of people and Sunday morning reading set her mind at ease, her lipstick temporarily forgotten. The grinding of coffee beans was a pleasant noise she could tolerate.
“Large dark roast,” Tessa leaned into the counter to steady herself. She wanted to turn around, feeling the weight of someone’s stare at the back of her head, possibly her ass.
While the cashier ran her card, Tessa licked her lips to moisten them. Putting on the lipstick only seemed to make them drier. She noticed the numbers of her transaction “$2.25″ flash on and off a few times.
“Let me run than again,” the barista nodded at Tessa. “Sometimes it’s finicky.” One more swipe and the total flashed again, but stalled. “Huh. That’s weird,” she slid the card again, this time in a different direction. “Not taking it. Do you have something else? Cash?”
“Um. No, I don’t,” Tessa stared at the blinking numbers on the screen, flashing $2.25 erratically.
“Let me get that,” said the guy, who waited behind her.
He brushed Tessa’s hand, and recognized him instantly from the picture in the phone. She knew that satisfying arrangement of facial features anywhere. His curly head of black hair looked wind-blown, like he traveled miles to get to this coffee shop at this moment in time. Tessa observed him, transfixed by his moist lips and the hint of stubble on his face. The light covering of hair on his arms as he reached over to pay for her cup of coffee, a glimmer of healthy masculinity, drove the eternal question home: Did they sleep together? Was this the guy? She searched for the answer in his measured eyes, but he only peered at her with a laser beam focus with a warning in its message. At least he was getting her coffee.
“Oh, rats! I can’t get my door open,” the barista punched the same button over and over on her machine as if it were a child’s toy that ran out of batteries. “That’s really weird.”
“Oops,” Tessa said, and the espresso machine popped, coffee grounds and its milk counterpart shooting into the air in frothy union. The cashier and her co-working team responded in a fury of cursing and cleaning.
The man at her side threw down a five on the counter, grabbed Tessa’s arm and headed for the door.
“Hey, I need cream and sugar.”
“Not today,” he pulled at her arm and didn’t speak until they were away from the drag of shops. “What are you, crazy?” He swung his arms around her, clutching one arm across her chest; with the other, he brought his hand to her face, wiping her lips with one swift motion.
“What are you doing?” Tessa said. “Stop it.”
He brought the palm of his hand to her face and revealed a chalky, pink residue. “Sorry, look I had to. This stuff shouldn’t be on your lips. It’s dangerous. Your lips are weapons.”
Tessa pulled away, and stared him down. “You know, you should lose that line. It’s not working,” and she walked ahead of him in the opposite direction of her apartment.