Friday, November 23rd
IKEA was packed with shoppers on Black Friday. As Tessa and her mother rode up the escalator to the showroom Tessa cursed her own vivid imagination. She’d pictured being here with Fitz so often and with such clarity that her absence was sharply felt.
‘I love furniture shopping… it would be an absolute blast with you, Tessa.’ Tessa shook her head, trying to shake away the memory. It didn’t work out for house hunting and it didn’t work out for this. I should stop getting my hopes up. She’s just my teammate. Tessa took a deep and tried to ignore the sting behind her eyes.
“You seem down,” Tessa’s mom noted.
“Just tired,” Tessa lied. There was no way to explain to her mom how disappointed she was that Fitz wasn’t the one shopping with her. Not without both hurting her mom’s feelings and raising some awkward questions. Why do you care so much about shopping with your teammate? Tessa took a deep breath. Focus on what you need.
Tessa tried to focus but it was hard. After what felt like an eternity of slowly meandering through the maze of little rooms the only thing Tessa had settled on were a couple bookshelves. Tessa stopped in the bed section. She considered Michelle’s commentary regarding her bed. Maybe a real bed frame would be a good idea.
Across the room Tessa caught sight of two young women. They laughed together as they bounced around the room, trying out different sofas and chairs. One took the other by the hand and led her, smiling through the room. Tessa’s chest burned with jealousy and longing.
“What is it?” Tessa’s mom followed her gaze. “Oh. Public displays like that are so uncomfortable, aren’t they?”
“Yeah,” Tessa said faintly, unable to look away until the couple had turned the corner into the next section. Tessa looked down at her surroundings. I should just forget about the bedframe. It’s a waste of money. Nobody sees my room anyway. “I think I’m done up here, I want to look at lamps but then we can go.”
“I thought you would want to eat here. They have those really good meatballs,” her mom said.
“I’d rather not stay here. There are too many people,” Tessa suddenly wanted to be anywhere but that store. “I’m in the mood for tacos anyway.”
Tessa hurriedly paid for her items, barely saying a word to her mother as she did. Always keeping an eye out for that couple, both dreading and hoping to catch a glimpse of them again. But she never did. If her mom hadn’t seen them too she might have thought she imagined them. ‘Displays like that are always so uncomfortable.’ Would her mom had said that had they been a straight couple? Tessa honestly wasn’t sure. Stop thinking about it.
“I can tell that you’re not just tired, you know,” Tessa’s mom said as they ate their lunch.
“Yeah, I suppose.”
“What’s going on, hun.”
“I don’t know…” Tessa searched for something to say that was both true and not about Fitz. “I guess I’m a little overwhelmed by my new house. Sometimes I’m not sure it was the right idea.”
“You’re a grown woman, Tessa,” her mom said. “I think it’s good that you’re getting out on your own. But I understand that it might be a little lonely.”
“Yeah.” Tessa tried not to slurp down her margarita too quickly. Lonely. She wasn’t used to feeling lonely. She didn’t like it. She didn’t want to think about it much less talk about it with her mother. She didn’t know what she could possibly say that wouldn’t lead to awkward questions about her dating prospects. Tessa was far from ready to discuss such things with her mother. Especially after her earlier comment. She would never understand how I feel about Fitz. Hell, I barely understand it. All Tessa knew was that when she dwelled too much on that lonely feeling, she invariably thought of Fitz.
“What’s on your mind, Tessa?” her mom asked, snapping Tessa out of her thoughts once more.
“I’m thinking about work,” she lied. It wasn’t too far from the truth, work had been on her mind today as well. “Did I tell you? I’m going to have to fire Sebastian next week.”
Her mom nodded sagely as she chewed her food. “Mmm-hmm. You told me about that. You know, you don’t need to feel bad about firing him, it’s just a part of life. It’ll be good for him in the long run. He sounds like he needs to grow up,” she said. “I was fired once, did I ever tell you?” She had, but Tessa knew if she let her mom tell the story she wouldn’t ask any more questions about Tessa’s mood.
“No, I don’t think so.”