[Story] Tess: On roommates…
This story is part of the portfolio I submitted to Graduate School. As I’ve not heard back from them yet, I figured putting this up and getting some positive energy buzzing around couldn’t hurt. It’s a slice of life genre story, with no real big climax or resolution. Just a small revelation, like anyone could experience. Granted, the setting isn’t just regular people–that’d be too boring, right?–but I don’t want to spoil things for you. Story follows the break. As always, feedback and thoughts are appreciated.
This story, like many, is just the middle of something larger. A chapter, if you will, in the life of someone who just so happens to be half spider. Tangora Del’Tessa, just Tess really, was a writer with a penchant for supernatural mystery and was a reader of all things occult. Though, to be honest she hadn’t written anything of late.
School was partly to blame for her funk. She had come to River City to go to one of the “absolute best” schools for writing in the country, but after nearly two months she was wondering if that had just been overstated marketing. Not one of the classes her “advisor” had signed her up for anything to do with writing, much less English in general. They were things like “how to use a day planner” and “history of the university”.
It wasn’t just the lack luster class experience that had her so depressed though. One would think that in a school with all kinds, a gothy girl with a spider-like lower half wouldn’t be an oddity. Turned out she was. The whispers and stares from her classmates had made going to the already boring classes even more of a challenge, such that most days she just lit some incense, laid in her hammock, and stared at the ceiling.
Today was looking like another of those days until a shot crashed into her door.
“TESS! DID YOU EAT MY OATMEAL?”
That was definitely Kao Folsmith, her roommate. Normally the two of them got along alright since the other girl didn’t avoid her and frequently made attempts to talk with her, but there were times where the pair really butted heads.
Scrambling out of her hammock at the shout, Tess rushed across her room, the points of her four legs digging into the carpet. Before she could even make it to the door however, it was knocked in by a massive foot. This left the doorway to frame Kao’s athletic build, making the tall girl look all the more imposing.
Like many of her generation, Kao’s less human heritage was a hybrid mess and the odd mix of kangaroo crossed with Australian Shepard played out in an interesting manner. While she looked like most ‘roos in terms of body shape, the usual tan and brown was instead a grey stained with black splotches.
“Oi, Spider-butt! My oatmeal box is gone and it was there Monday. Did you eat the last of it?”
“No,” Tess snapped. Glowering, she puffed at her bangs, trying to look like she hadn’t been in the middle of rushing. “Like normal, you left an empty box in the pantry, so I threw it out. With how…things have been lately I hadn’t gone to the store yet.”
“Oh.” Kao rocked from the balls of her feet back onto her heels, lowering her threat-level from imposing to average as she dropped down to eye level with Tess. “I suppose that’s reasonable.”
Tess rolled her eyes, all eight of them, at her flighty dorm mate. “You’re impossible, you know that?”
Kao laughed before walking away. “Impossible is my middle name,” she said over her shoulder as she pulled the door behind her.
Exciting moment over, Tess felt herself begin to slump again.
“OH!” and Kao’s head popped back into the room. “I was going over to the island today, did you…um, want to come with?”
Brushing away the annoyance and putting on a smile, Tess agreed.
The Island, as it was called by students and natives alike, was not much more than a patch of dirt and rocks that had decided to put up a fight for survival right in the middle of the river just east of the city—and it was winning. A veritable forest grew on the craggy spit, and the rocks on the south end were a go to destination for students. The improvised beach of low laying stone slabs was home to calm waters and provided just the right mixture of sun and shade.
That however wasn’t where Kao led Tess. Taking the north fork the pair headed into the thicker parts of the forest. While the trail was clear for bikers, it was obvious that not many came this way.
“Where are we going, exactly?” Tess finally asked after they had been walking for a few minutes.
“To my training spot,” Kao responded airily, waving her hand in a direction that was somewhere to their right.
Making a displeased face, Tess went to retort when the path turned into a clearing. Glancing around, she noticed many of the trees were wrapped with padding that showed quite a bit of wear. It seemed that they had arrived. Deprived of something to be upset about, Tess let her eyes and mind wander.
After a few moments she couldn’t help but think the cool green canopy, with its subtle chatter of bird and bug, to be the most relaxing place that she had ever been; even more than her hammock. With each breath, the stress from campus slipped away. Suddenly finding herself inspired, she reached around and pulled her sketchbook out and started scribbling down some plot points on a story she had been trying in vain to write for weeks. She caught a glimpse of Kao grinning at her as she settled down and tried her best to return the smile without losing her train of thought.
Kao nodded in acknowledgment and then took a fighting stance. She held her fists by her eyes, arms down so that her elbows stuck out to the front just a little bit. Shifting her weight forward, Kao rose up on her toes and brought her back knee up in one motion. Holding the new pose for a second, she relaxed and then did it again with her other leg before switching to another exercise. The day passed like this for the pair, until Kao, exhausted and soaked, finally bowed to her sanctuary and walked over to Tess.
“Ready to head out?” she asked of the spider-girl.
Tess didn’t answer at first, she was just putting the last touches on the climatic scene and Kao had to ask a few times before she responded.
“Oh,” she said finally. “Time to go already?” Looking up at her roommate, her eyes were shining with a light Kao had not seen before.
“Yeah, it’s been like, five hours.”
“Wow.” Tess put her notebook away as she scrambled to her feet.“Time sure flew.”
“You know,” Kao started as they began to walk back “I never thought you were a writer.”
Tess laughed. “What’d you think I was doing in my room all that time?”
“Honestly? I thought you were one of you know…those girls.” She said it in a rush, her a blush showing through her thin fur.
This caused Tess to laugh even harder. “Yeah, I can see where you could come up with that. I mean, most gothy looking girls are cam-whores.” She paused, blowing her bangs out of her face and Kao nodded for her to continue.
“Someone with my body couldn’t dress normally anyway,” Tess said, gesturing down at her legs. “Isn’t like they make four legged jeans with room for a thorax.”
Kao burst out laughing at the statement, causing Tess to join her. They walked like that for a few minutes until both girl’s phones went off at the same time. The ring tones clashed horribly as gravely basses growled to the accompaniment of ska horns. Each hurriedly fumbled for the screeching devices to silence the cacophony.
Tess managed to get her’s unlocked first and frowned when she read the sender. It was a mail from her guild leader and also her ex. She was asking—though demanding might be a better word—Tess to raid with them, even though the spider-girl had all but resigned from the group.
“Dave’s heading over to The ‘Burg in an hour,” Kao said, reading over her own message. “Can’t believe I forgot it was waffle night.”
“You guys and your silly traditions.” Tess didn’t look up from the email, pondering if perhaps she had been too hasty at throwing away those friends and their traditions—even if they only knew her as Tangora, the Troll shaman.
“You should come this time.”
Clapping her phone closed, Tess figured that a night playing wouldn’t be a bad thing. Looking up from the device still clenched in her hand, she halfheartedly smiled and said she’d think about it.
Kao teased her about having a date and Tess stammered a little before trailing off into silence. Trying to not ruin what had been a good day, she tried to cover the pause as they walked past the Civil War Museum, a building which had once been Black Mountain Ironworks.
“You know, some people swear that place is super haunted.”
Kao’s ears lowered as her face took on disbelieving grin. “Haunted by what, exactly? The ghost of a disgruntled foreman because they turned his house and factory into a museum? That’s premium Scooby-Doo-esc villain bio material right there.”
Tess glowered from under her bangs at her roommate’s mocking. “You know, just because I dress this way and happen to like goth metal doesn’t mean I also soak up b-grade horror like a sponge. I’ve got some standards.”
“I know, I know. The jab was just too good to pass up. Seriously though, you should come tonight. Tell us all about the ghosts!”
Taken aback by her roommate’s enthusiasm, Tess hesitated before finally agreeing. Anything was better than spending all night playing with her ex and the chance to tell stories was just too good to pass up.
Having hurried home and gotten cleaned up, the pair headed over to campus. When they got to the ‘Burg, the found Dave sitting by himself. He, like many of Kao’s friends Tess had met, was someone from High School who lived in the area and was going to the university on some athletic scholarship. Unlike many though, he was a pure human.
From there, it occurred to Tess just how many friends Kao had—and just how few she herself had. It had been months since she had felt close to anyone, in real life anyway. With only her own interactions to go on, she decided to imitate the tall girl’s outgoing nature and hope that things worked out okay.
“Guess no one else came,” Kao said to Tess as they walked in, pulling the spider back to reality.
“Hey Kao, Tess,” Dave half shouted from his back corner spot as the two entered. “Already ordered,” he added, holding up a large jug of Orange juice in one hand and a half empty glass in the other.
Unable to sit in the booth, Tess was thankful that Dave had picked an out of the way spot as she settled onto a stool that was mounted to the floor in the curve of the table. The two friends were already chatting, mostly about their coaches. Starting to feel left out, Tess decided it was now or never.
“We should go look for ghosts at the War Museum tonight!” She blurted out, halting the other conversation. It seemed like she had done something wrong and she was about to leave when Dave picked her thread up and ran with it.
“Ha! I could just see it now,” he started, looking off into space. Drawing himself up, his face took on an exaggerated expression of anger.
“What are you kids doing?’” he said in a mock authority tone, before turning ever so slightly to face his policeman-self
“Looking for ghosts, officer,” he replied with a feminine giggle.
Switching back to the other position, he smiled and waved his hand.“Oh? Well that is okay by me. Have a good time.”
Kao giggled and then winked at Tess. “You know, Scooby-Doo and the gang never had problems like that.”
“Yeah, but then again they never solved mysteries in the city either.” Tess added, feeling relieved that her outburst had gone so well.
“That was true for the original series, at least,” Kao agreed. “Thought, they solved “mysteries” everywhere in Thirteen Ghosts,” she added, making quote marks with her fingers.
“That was the one with Vincent Prince in it, right?” Dave asked over the edge of his glass.
“Yeah and Scrappy. Bleh.” Kao made a barfing motion as she finished. An action that sent the other two into fits of badly stifled laughter since she did it at the exact moment their server brought the waffles. Realizing the mistake Kao, laughed nervously as she took he plate, her face beat red.
“It’s alright, I hate Scrappy-doo, too,” he replied with a wink. “You guys let me know if you need anything else. Even if it’s a brown paper bag.” With that, he walked away, laughing musically to himself as his tabby tail swished behind him.
“OmiGAWD, that was Endie Catz!” Kao said after he was out of earshot. “I didn’t know he worked here.”
Dave grinned at her as he leaned over the table to grab his plate. “Yeah, now he’ll always remember you as barfing girl.”
Tess thought about saying something, but then wisely decided to fill her open mouth with syrup covered waffle. This action, while brilliant, left tense silence hanging over the three. A silence broken by Endie walking back past a moment later.
“Hey, there’s something you can get me. Your phone number.” Kao said in a rush. For a second Dave and Tess sat there frozen, waffle bits suspended in mid-flight.
Endie brushed a hand through his pompadour hairstyle, likely to try and buy a moment, and then laughed. “You know what? Sure.” He scribbled his number on a napkin and handed it to Kao. “The band’s not practicing Thursday this week. Give me a call then, k?”
Kao smiled and nodded woodenly as she held the napkin to her chest.
“So, about those ghosts…” Dave said, taking a bite of waffle.