Dear Reader: Previous installments of this continuing story are here.
Part 1: Tessa Takes a Walk in Her Party Boots
Part 2: The Man in the Fedora Hat
Part 3: Tessa is a Messa
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
Part 8: Coffee, Tea or Lipstick
Part 9: Remi Presents A Business Card
Thanks again for reading!
“What did you just do? Why? Why?” He grabbed his hair at his temples, staring at the ground. “How could you do this?” He got quiet, slowed his speech. “Tessa, you don’t know what you’re dealing with.” He held his arm across her chest in a clutch hold. “Do you think this is some kind of joke?”
“No, no, I just figured you could get another one. You’re a Formulation Chemist, aren’t you?” Her voice shook.
Pulling both her arms behind her against his chest, he tugged. “You will find me this lipstick.” He let her go and pointed ahead.
They marched in unison with him clipping at her heels like a rushing tide closing in. They both witnessed the flying lipstick, but he expected her to show the way as if in the act of throwing it she alone determined its destination. Not true. She hadn’t a clue. From the looks of things, it probably landed in a bush of thorns.
Tessa chose a direction for the sake of having one, making her feel more aimless. She launched it with the hope that she’d never see it again, not that she’d be retrieving it seconds later. It may as well have been hours. Remi smirked and sighed at her every turn. With blood patches smeared on his face, he made Tessa squirm, compromising her search and backtracking when it didn’t show up in places she had hoped.
Remi tagged closely behind, about to snap at any second, breathing out his nose in uncomfortable bursts. He held her forearm gently as if she were a robot guiding him, doing the dirty deed, so as to never get his hands wet. He mostly observed her like the scientist he claimed to be; as she kicked mud at her feet, Remi couldn’t be bothered to bend at the waist.
Her eyes focused solely on the dirt in front of her, searching for the shiny band of gold encasing the pink prism. Thin blades of grass creeped higher, dotted with shrubs. Several times Tessa picked up shiny things, a lifesaver wrapper, a soda cap, rocks, only to toss them aside like broken pieces of her life. Tessa contemplated maybe she didn’t throw the lipstick at all and patted her pockets, hoping it was there, in reach, in her grasp. She feared the searing disappointment of Remi’s face burning into her, and continued her search.
Tessa heard herself sighing every time she had a question for Remi she knew she shouldn’t ask, including anything about her sleepover the other night. The loaded silence between them made Tessa want to bolt. What would happen if she couldn’t find the lipstick? It dawned on her that the lipstick might never be recovered and she wrung her hands free and took a new course farther away from the projected target. Remi wandered away from her in a new direction with his back to her. For a microsecond, she thought she might run, but she saw him concentrating, looking painstakingly under every rock. Tessa fantasized they would simply drift away together, and the missing lipstick, a figment of their imagination. Then she saw the pink triangular shape muddied in a puddle, and snatched it up.
“Found it. I found it.” Tessa felt the plastic in her hands for mere seconds before Remi tore it from her, flopping his arms around her, picking her up, and dotting kisses on her nose and cheeks. Tessa smiled meekly and he planted a firm kiss on her lips, slipping his tongue in her mouth and performing a series of swift figure eights, swimming in a pool of saliva. Tessa reveled in the strangeness of it and that he tried so hard. They collapsed on the hard dirt, falling into feathered weeds as if they were on a flowery hillside, not in the middle of stray, urban field, unattached to a business plan.
They laid there for what felt like hours, watching the sun glean a brighter day. A passerby might wonder if they were having a picnic sitting there in the dirt with gnats playing in their hair. In all his talk about the glories of science, the evening at The Crush never came up. With science as the centerpiece, her questions of sex on hold. Occasionally, Tessa’s mind drifted there, most mostly hung on to Remi’s every word. For all its focused attention, the lipstick faded into the background and out of sight, stashed inside Remi’s pocket. He spoke a few words about changing the formulation, a mention of a few ingredients, and then hummed a few bars of a classical piece Tessa had never heard. Just another day in the field of dreams. She moved in closer to his side.
“Scientists are like artists, Tessa,” he tousled her hair, and then stared into the alley before them and the backsides of apartment dwellings. “Science will save the world.”