by Charity Tahmaseb
Tess stood at the perimeter of Casa de Clooney, a roll of toilet paper in her hand. Technically, she was on the road, at the mansion’s boundary, leaning against her free-and-clear sedan. It was sleek, sophisticated. A grown-up car.
She still held the toilet paper.
The sight of a black and white police cruiser creeping up the road didn’t surprise Tess. Any moment, two burly security types would charge through the gate and drag her away, a trail of toilet paper flapping behind her.
The police car stopped a few feet from hers. An officer eased out. The mirrored sunglasses went on before he took another step.
“Miss? Do you need assistance?”
She’d rounded the corner from “miss” to “ma’am” a few years back, but this officer was close to her age. He wore a bland expression beneath the mirrored lenses. This was southern California after all. Maybe her flavor of crazy failed to make a blip on the Richter scale.
In those lenses, Tess caught the expression in her own eyes and the deep circles beneath them. She’d driven all night and arrived at George Clooney’s mansion the same moment the sun did.
“I’m sorry, Officer,” she said. The warmth on her cheeks was from sunlight, not her apparent foolishness. Jane would understand, even if this man didn’t. “It was a pilgrimage, of sorts.”
“I’m going to have to ask you to move along.”
Tess tossed the roll of toilet paper once and then squeezed it. “I wasn’t really--”
The officer nodded. “I know you weren’t, Miss.”
“Back in high school,” Tess began, the words surprising her, “after my sister bought her car, we went for a joyride.” Jane had worked for two solid years, bought the creaking Ford outright.
Equipped with a twenty-four pack of toilet paper, they’d hit the star quarterback’s house, the student council president’s, and then the Junior ROTC commander’s, because Tess had a thing for guys in uniform.
In the last days, the hardest days, they let Netflix bring the unattainable hotties to them--Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, and of course, George Clooney.
“She died of breast cancer.” It was the first time she’d said it out loud. The worst that could happen was those words would bounce off the smooth lenses and hit her in the face. “When I made the last payment.” Tess touched the sedan. “Something--” Snapped? Unhinged? Crashed through her defenses?
The officer removed his sunglasses. “A few years back, my wife--” He didn’t need to finish. Tess saw the expression in his eyes--it was like looking at her own.
“Thank you,” she said. “I’ll leave now.”
Halfway to the cruiser, the officer turned. “I’m off shift in half an hour. Would you like to grab a cup of coffee? We could ... talk.”
She hadn’t talked since Jane. “I’d like that.”
He nodded toward the mansion. “I’m no George Clooney.”
And she wasn’t Julia Roberts. Tess smiled. “That’s a good thing.”
About the author: Charity Tahmaseb traded BDUs and combat boots for power suits and high heels, then traded those for the dissolute life of a technical writer. She splits her free time between her pee-wee football player and his sister, the aspiring mermaid. On most days she’s reminded that you can take the girl out of the Army, but you can’t always take the Army out of the girl. Visit the author at her blog.