Sure, Tess tended to stalk into the office in the morning, like her eyes just needed a misplaced ‘hi’ to flare from smoulder to fire. And sure, her tongue had been acid etched by the poison Tess spread daily amongst her co-workers. But, Dragon Lady? Why’d they have to call her that?
She often thought about taking it to the union, but then she’d have to explain her own actions. And she was by no means blameless. Take the time she’d called the local radio station to nominate her boss for ‘Asshole of the Day’.
It had been one of those silly phone-ins, but she’d had the misfortune to do it when a senior manager was on her way to the dentist, in her car, with the radio on.
Tess had been lucky to keep her job.
It was Friday morning, and James was doing the breakfast run for the office. “Would you like a sandwich, Tess?” More than a hint of tentative in his voice.
“No thank you, James, I’m more than capable of catching salmonella under my own steam, thank you very much.”
“Okay,” he said, head downcast. He remembered the time that Tess had told his then-girlfriend that he was cheating on her with that woman from accounts. Hell, he couldn’t even remember the woman’s name, but he sure remembered the look of scorn that both Tess and his girlfriend had given him.
As Tess tapped her way through an email, she half-heard James phone the order through to the local sandwich shop and, for the hundredth time, wished she had her own office. Despite trying to concentrate she heard him announce that a new guy would be delivering breakfast – someone by the name of Luigi.
‘No – it couldn’t be!’ She felt as if she had been thrust into an oven. The walls closed in and she stood, swayed and sat back down again. Terror flowed behind her eyes. ‘Please let it not be him!’
Five, years earlier. An altar. Tess as a bride, standing, staring at the love of her life. The man she had been about to promise her life to – willingly, lovingly, achingly. She watched him running, literally running towards those big wooden doors, then wrenching them open, letting in a flood of sunlight, and a deluge of darkness. That day had been a hand at her throat, a knife in her heart and a draining from her veins of every joy she had ever known.
Sitting in the office now, Tess began to bargain with the universe.
‘Not him and I’ll …’
By the time she was done, she had turned out her life and examined every sinew and thread. The hardening of her heart, the slowing of her life, the poisoning of her mind through the long months of hard liquor. The slow clawing back to health. Coming together again but in a different way. A twisted form. A darker Tess – one that felt pain and lashed out at the slightest provocation.
All this, she took into her mind and promised away, if only it was not him!
She had not seen Luigi since that day in the church, except in her fevered mind as she tossed her covers back and forth at night with the constant turning of her body. Long years in which she had experienced a harrowing fall and then a tremulous rise to become … Dragon Lady!
The recognition of how she had become this hit her like a blow, and as she finished connecting the dots, the buzzer on the door sounded. Thirty minutes had fled as she had sat – unseeing, unfeeling, with her mind focused inwards. Her heart had been frozen in time and was now melting with terrifying haste.
Hardly daring to breathe and too bound inside the moment to move, Tess watched as a figure entered the room. The same height, the same bearing – so confident of himself. Tears blurred her vision and she scrubbed them away furiously. His face came into sharp focus. It was not him.
She sighed deeply and closed her eyes to say that all-important thank you. When she opened them again, she found that this man was stood before her. Hair the colour of night – falling with serpentine grace around his face, skin that had kissed the sun through long summers, and eyes that spoke of sea and light. Eyes that were locked on her own. A spark passed between them. A recognition. The opening of a flower.
One Luigi had been her downfall. Maybe, just maybe, another was to be her redemption.
(continues in Resumption?)