Chapter 5 of
Now that the crews had seen the drawing of the park, they worked at a furious pace. Except for the workers Tessa had brought in, they were all familiar with the old park. The new park was definitely different and would be spectacular. Everyone was eager to see it finished. Two more trailers were brought and signs were placed on them, one for Security and one for Technical Systems.
Tessa had hired two people from the local technical college to work Accounting after Dave moved his office over to the Security Trailer. Jennifer Colefield completed her move and began setting up her office in the Tech.Systems trailer. Tessa encouraged Jennifer to bring Bethany to work with her as school was out, instead of a daycare center. Jennifer appreciated that and Bethany was thrilled, as once or twice during the day, Dave or one of the nurses would take her for a ride around the park in the Medic Cart.
A welcome addition came when Tessa had a play area set up behind the trailers and invited the workers who had children Bethany's age to spend their week days there. The two nurses, Leslie and Tracey, alternated days watching over the kids. Tessa informed Jennifer that she would organize a daycare for park employees that had children below school age and for those too young to look after themselves after school.
Tessa rode with Dave over to her house site on a Friday in his Security cart. The crew there needed her to decide where various things should placed. Electrical outlets, cable, switches and so on. The crew leader told her that the dry-wall would be going up the following week. A plumber and an electrician would be installing the emergency generator that ran off natural gas would be installed then as well. Already they had an excavator digging for the swimming pool and spa.
"You're doing a fantastic job over here Lance." Tessa commended the crew leader.
Lance pointed to the crew. "The credit goes to the folks Miss Frost. You hired 'em and they're doing a first-rate job Ma'am."
Tessa nodded. "I believe I hire the right people, Lance."
The crew leader couldn't argue, as he was included, so he chuckled. "This is where I'm supposed to say Yes Ma'am, so I will. Yes Ma'am."
"Very good Lance." Tessa gave a sly smile as she climbed into the cart with Dave.
Lance waved as they drove away and said to himself. "You're somethin' else Queen Tessa. You're gonna be a legend for a long time."
Dave drove them over to the dorm site. The crew there were working on the exterior walls now. The building looked like an inverted pentagon. Two V's pointing at each other connected with a central hall. The dorm would house 130 cast and staff members. The ground floor of the central hall would have a security office, two common rooms, a mail room and the cafeteria. Each floor and wing would have a laundry room. Dorm residents would also have the benefit of covered parking in their lot with area at the two far ends for car maintenance stations. They would be able to clean the inside, wash their cars and even do minor service such as oil changes there.
Tessa didn't stop to talk to the crew leader there as he was on top of things.
"All go, no quit." Dave remarked.
Tessa nodded. "They're doing it right and I like what I see."
The crew leader looked down and saw them so he called over the radio. "Need somethin' Cap'n Dave?"
"We're good, Jerry. Tessa and I were riding around and passed by to see how it's going here." Dave answered.
Jerry called. "Hey there Queen Tessa. We're all over it here. Looking good. Want I should come down and show you?"
Tessa took the radio. "No need Jerry. I can see what I need to and I like it. Stay on it Jerry."
"Whatever you say Queen Tessa." Jerry replied then off-radio yelled out. "QUEEN TESSA SAYS WE'RE GOOD, SO LET'S STAY ON IT!"
"YEAH!" A chorus of workers called out.
Tessa held onto the side of the cart as she stood up and waved. All within sight waved back and went on with the work. Tessa smiled and sat back in the cart.
"Onward, Captain Dave." Tessa chuckled.
Dave didn't miss a beat. "As you wish My Queen. Hi-ho Can-Am, AWAY!"
Tessa laughed as he drove off. She liked that his demeanor had been changing. In Vegas he had been very uptight, as of late he seemed to be more easy-going. He had went down to the VA after Tessa hired Zeke for nights and found another veteran that was having a difficult time adjusting and finding work. Dave hired him after talking with him to work the guard shack during the day. He had been a SARC, Special Amphibious Reconnaissance Corpsman and saw his fair share of action in Iraq. He worked the shack during the day, took the night course for Security Guard. After he completed the course, and Tessa pinned on his badge, Dave informed him his next task was to apply for a Paramedic License with ACLS certification.
That proved to be fairly straight forward and Mark Crandal became the park's primary First Responder. After that, Mark was given new red polo shirts that had First Responder on the back and a matching ball cap. Mark felt pride well up as he took the box of spare shirts from Tessa along with a word of congratulations. Dave gave him a badge-holder that clipped to his belt for his Security Guard badge.
Mark stood proudly and saluted. "Thank you Skipper. Ma'am. I'm grateful!"
"One of these days, I'm going to finally stop looking for a boat when you and Zeke call me Skipper." Dave joked.
"Sorry." Mark chuckled then turned serious. "It's just that you remind me alot of my team leader. He looked after us. Best man I ever served under. You're just like him. I don't know what was going to happen to me if you and Queen Tessa hadn't showed up. I can't say thanks enough."
Tessa nodded. "I believe I understand Mark. We have a lot of people here working, after that, there will be people here to enjoy the park. I hope it won't be needed, but they may need your help. Do all you can for them and us."
"Aye aye Ma'am." Mark said proudly then saluted Dave.
It was the end of the day, so Mark went to clock out, passing Zeke who was clocking in.
"Lookin' sharp there Sailor." Zeke nodded.
Mark nodded back. "Thanks Marine. See you in the mornin'."
Monday found Tessa starting her day in session with her psychologist.
"So Mark is now in a position of prestige?" Brad confirmed.
Tessa nodded. "Yes. As I understand it, he looked after the physical well-being of the team he was on. From the way Dave explained it, the team was family to men like that. They lived or died because of each other. For Mark, his position made him feel responsible for them. That he was as important to them, as they were to him. I'd like to try giving that back to him. That feeling of being part and not just needed, but wanted as well. I want Zeke to feel the way. That he matters."
Brad went on that. "What about you? Do you feel that you matter?"
"Yes. It's my dream that they are all working to make come true. That's why we are all there." Tessa replied.
"And you personally? They see you as the woman, Tessa, not just the person paying them?" Brad asked.
Tessa shrugged. "I have no idea. You really expect them to speak against the person paying them?"
Brad regarded her intently. "Money doesn't change everybody."
"True. There does come a point though, where money will talk and bullshit will walk. When somebody has to pay bills, hatred and stupidity are not accepted forms of currency." Tessa pointed out.
Brad decided to shift things slightly. "What about when hormones have their effects and on your body?"
Tessa laughed. "You really think they'll notice when my lips, hips and tits become real instead of silicone and padding?"
Brad had to contain his laughter at her bluntness. "Well, I believe your apparel may become more daring when they are."
"You might be right about that." Tessa laughed.
"Since we are on the subject of hormones, would this be a good stage to begin them?" Brad asked.
Tessa nodded. "Actually, yes. The people immediately around me would understand the emotional effects."
Brad looked surprised. "They all know?"
"Everyone I hire personally is aware. I'm not hiding. If they can't accept me, then they won't accept others and I can't have that." Tessa said flatly.
"So I could give you the letter of recommendation today?" Brad asked.
Tessa nodded. "Sure. It would probably be better to do it now, as opposed to later. It would be hard to explain to vendors and so on that, 'no I'm not upset at your product or price, it's just that I thought the logo for it was so cute I went to pieces because I'm on hormones right now'."
Brad chuckled. "Yes, I see your point. That could be a delicate situation."
Brad opened a portfolio and held out a page. Tessa took it and read.
"The letter." Tessa stated. "Thank you."
"No whoops? No emphatic 'YES'?" Brad asked.
Tessa looked at him confused. "I'm taking a step forward Brad, not clearing the Grand Canyon from a standing jump."
"Interesting." Brad commented.
Tessa sighed. "One step at the time Brad. There's a lot of steps to cover a mile. After that, you don't stop. Even after my final surgery, I'm not done. I'll just be on the right road, going to the same place everybody goes."
Brad regarded her closely. "Where is that?"
"I don't know." Tessa replied.
"You don't?" Brad asked.
Tessa shook her head then asked. "Do you?"
"The rest of your life." Brad replied.
Tessa shook her head. "After that. Where does everybody go?"
Brad now understood. "I guess, death."
"Is that where everybody stops? It seems that way. Though, many argue that there's more. I don't know, so I have to say so. I don't know." Tessa explained. "The only thing I do know for sure is; we all die sometime. How and when varies, but everybody does die."
"I see your point. Do you think there is a 'more'?" Brad asked.
Tessa shrugged. "I have no proof. Usually when somebody says they've been there, they get blown off. The same could be said for me, is there actual proof I am correct, that I should be a woman? If there was, I wouldn't need you. Even with your letters and all that, there are people that refuse to accept. They argue that it's all a hoax. That I'm confused. Some want to throw in the God aspect. That God made me a certain way and going against that way is sinful, wrong and damnable. They can't actually prove that, but they'll keep throwing it out there."
Brad was surprised. She presented the opposing point of view and showed it for just that; a point of view. She also put him on the spot as well. Nice trick, accept that one didn't really know what happens after death or reveal an unsubstantiated belief.
"Very clever Tessa. You have me at a fork with no way back." Brad admitted then laughed. "I feel like I dug a hole for you to fall in and you challenged me to see if it was deep enough, so I jumped in!"
Tessa began to laugh. "Wasn't planned, but I like it!"
The timer gave a soft beep.
"I think that's a good place to leave off for now. Very good Tessa, you actually got me." Brad shook his head.
Tessa chuckled as she wrote out a personal check and laid it on the coffee table. Brad handed her a pre-written receipt. As Tessa got into her car, she called a local endocrinologist. She had an appointment in thirty minutes. An hour and half later, Tessa had a prescription for testosterone blocking pills and small bandage on her right buttock from the injection. Using her better judgement, she went to her apartment for the rest of the day and worked mostly by phone and computer.
Three weeks later Tessa walked into the house and began looking around. The tips of her heels clicked on the tile floor. The tiles were ceramic, but looked marble. The wall were a soft white, carpets were light grey and cabinets were a lighter white. She walked from room to room smiling. On the balcony for her bedroom, she looked down to see the spa already filled and water now filling the swimming pool.
Tessa went back downstairs and out the front door. Everyone that had worked on the house stood waiting on the grass.
"It's beautiful. I love it!" Tessa told them and smiled. "Thank you so much!"
Lance, ever the prankster, called out. "HAIL, QUEEN TESSA!"
The crew echoed. "QUEEN TESSA!"
They all went down on one knee.
Tessa laughed. "Oh get up, all of you. You did a fantastic job. I'm showing my appreciation with a bonus and say thank you again. It's Friday. Take the rest of the day off and enjoy your weekend!"
The crew cheered and made their way to the trailer, pulled by a tractor, to bring them back to the office trailers. Lance held out a set of keys to Tessa.
"All yours now." Lance said.
Tessa smiled and took them. "Thank you Lance. Enjoy your weekend."
Bill chuckled. "What about you? Are you going to enjoy your weekend?"
"Of course. I'm going to spend the rest of the day shopping for my new home." Tessa laughed.
The next day saw the arrival of delivery trucks for appliances, furniture and electronics. Monday, work resumed for everyone, though Tessa was back over at her house for the phone company and satellite TV technicians. Just after lunch, the house was ready to move into. It took to late morning to get all her things packed at the apartment Tuesday and Bill came over in his own truck to haul the boxes. On Wednesday the local charity came by to pick up the furniture she bought from the rental store. Tessa even paid for a maid service to clean and had a carpet service steam clean all the carpet. The owner, who lived next door, tried to give Tessa her deposit back. Tessa waved it off and hugged him.
Lance and his crew had joined Jerry's crew at the dorm on Monday. Fresh from the weekend and motivated by the bonus and Tessa's praise, they dove into the work. This fired up the rest of the workers.
At Lunch Jerry, with Lance standing by, announced. "You all heard Queen Tessa gave the house crew a bonus. Well, she did. They did the job right and nobody got hurt other than an ouchie. Now I wanted to save it for a surprise, but she said the dorm crew will get a bonus. That bonus comes with conditions. We gotta do it up right. Nobody can get hurt. Those're the two big things for her. Safe and right!"
"We can do that. Me and my crew are jumping in with you. Together, we can get it done! Don't you all want her to smile and be proud of you? Made me and my bunch feel great! More than just building a house, felt like we built a real castle!" Lance called out.
Jerry nodded. "The house was for Queen Tessa, but the dorm is for the park people. She wants them to come in here and have no problem calling it home. A community. Maybe even family to each other. Here's our chance to do that. The old park didn't have anything like that. Those folks didn't thnk like that. Queen Tessa does. She thinks about the people. She even thinks about us. We can't let her down. We gotta step up, for her and the folks she's gonna have here!"
"Yeah! So let's make sure that their home is the best!" Lance said.
With that, lunch was over and the crew went back to work. None had seen Dave standing outside by an open window listening. Quietly, he slipped out. If Tessa knew how those workers felt, she'd more than likely cry. As of late, she had finally gotten her emotions back under control. However, she was more expressive with them now. The former Intelligence Captain understood after having it explained by the two nurses, as they had already completed their transitional processes. Every other Friday evening, one of them administered Tessa's injection.
Over the weekend, relaxing in her new house, Tessa searched the internet. She was searching for cast and crew members. It was a balancing act; finding people that fit the park's needs that were at high risk where they were. It wasn't easy and she was chatting with them to screen them without letting on as to why. Late Saturday night she suspected she had hit pay dirt. A video posted from a patron in a club in New Orleans featured an alleged transgender performer that actually sang instead of lip-synced while she danced. The girl looked young. Late teens to early twenties. The video quality wasn't that great as it had been shot with a phone.
Quickly Tessa tried to send a message.
I'm very curious about the performer. Is there a way I could contact her personally? I'd like to see more of her performances if possible.
A few moments later she received a message with a name and an email address. She copied it and sent off an email.
Hello. My name is Tessa Frost and I saw the video of your performance. I would like to know if you have other performances on video that I could see, preferably of better quality than a phone video?
She was very surprised when an email came back ten minutes later.
I'm sorry I don't have any personally, actually I didn't know person make video until they tell you message about. I'll try borrow video camera and do something for you. I assume you have club and want book me. I tell you now, I don't lip-sync. The voice you hear is real me. For that reason I charge more than many performers. I am financing my transition. Another thing, travel distance. The further I have to go, the more I charge. I think once you see a better video of me, you'll see quality is worth it. I send it this email.
Tessa went to enjoy a bubblebath in her large garden-style tub. After that, she went to bed. It was late Sunday afternoon when she checked her email and found a new message from Nicole. Tessa read it, general information with an estimated price. Tessa giggled that she had added a note that it was just a preliminary price and final quote would be when Tessa told her of the location. There was also a video attachment. Tessa played it and was soon smiling. Nicole left no doubt, singing acapella. She sang two songs, one a pop tune and the other seemed to be in French so Tessa assumed it was a local song. Afterward Nicole told two jokes then addressed her on camera.
"I hope that clear things up Tessa." Nicole said then finished in a heavy accent. "I be waitin' hear back from you, Yeah?"
Tessa laughed to herself. "Oh she's a real character!"
In the information was a phone number so Tessa called it.
"Yeah?" An accented feminine voice answered.
Tessa smiled and said. "Tessa Frost here, hello Nicole."
"Ah bonjour Mam'selle Tessa. How ya'll?" Nicole asked.
Tessa chuckled. "I'm well. I just got through watching the video you sent. I am impressed! I'd like to video chat. Can you do that?"
"M'yeah Cha." Nicole replied.
A minute later the two were looking at each other.
"Cha, look at you!" Nicole exclaimed. "So pretty! What you need me for?"
Tessa smiled. "Why thank you! Well I won't lie to you. I'm not wanting you to come for a night. I'm looking to hire full time. How would you feel about that? Steady pay, housing, benefits. Would you be interested in that?"
Nicole looked at her warily. "What I do?"
"Exactly what I saw you do. Sing, dance, maybe tell some jokes. Do it with that cajun theme. Can you do that? You'd be the lead in the show. Two shows a day and the rest of the time you'd kind of wander around and pose for pictures and give directions." Tessa said.
Nicole looked puzzled and asked. "Directions? How big is this club?"
Tessa laughed. "It's not a club, it's an amusement park!"
"Only park I know havin' a cajun theme is under six foot of bayou, Cha. Six Flags Nawlin's been swamped since Katrina and ain't gonna clean up no time soon." Nicole said flatly in her accent.
Tessa shook her head. "My park isn't there. Pretty far off. Well I told you about the job. Here's what you get; prime pay, a great room in the on-site dormitory, full medical and dental insurance that covers transition. No rent and all meals in the dorm are free. Basic cable and internet are free too. How much did you make for your show last night?"
"I get fifty dollar bookin' and a little over hundred in tip." Nicole said. "There was six others there so I only do two set."
Tessa looked at her intently. "A thousand dollars plus round trip plane tickets and I'll even pay for a hotel room, just to come see me in person."
Nicole didn't let up though. "I ain't gotta do nothin' shady?"
Tessa shook her head. "Strictly on the up 'n up. Real deal job."
Nicole sat for a long couple of minutes then asked. "For true? No lie? A real job?"
"A real job. How would you like to be Princess Nicole?" Tessa asked.
Nicole looked hopeful for a moment then devastated. "I got problem. Knew this too good be true."
"What do you mean?" Tessa asked.
Nicole sighed. "You seem nice 'nough. I no lie. I got juvie record. I run'way after I get rape at foster home. I live on streets since 16. I never get busted but cops know I turn some trick to stay free. I 18 now, prove it too. I legal and don't turn trick no more, but some know I did. Understand you don't want now."
"What will I find if I run your prints? Be honest." Tessa said.
Nicole shook her head. "Just I run'way, that it. Nobody look for me. Swear it."
Tessa nodded. "Ok. I'll believe you for now. Offer stands, a thousand plus expenses to come see for yourself. I'm going to run your prints. You come back clean, you get the offer. Fair enough?"
"Yeah. Fair 'nough. I come see you." Nicole agreed.
"I need your real name." Tessa said.
"Nicole is real name now. Nicole Benoit. I change it six month ago. I got ID card. No license, can't drive. Never learn how." Nicole said.
Tessa nodded. "That's fine. I'll pick you up myself at the airport. How do I send you money?"
"I got paypal. You can send that way, yeah?" Nicole asked.
"Sure I can send it that way. Give me the account." Tessa told her.
Three minutes later Tessa pulled the video window back up. "Sent."
Nicole looked and came back. "I got. You say you get plane tickets, too?"
Tessa nodded. "I'm booking your flight now. You'll get a confirmation in your email shortly. All you have to do is show up at the counter and tell them your name and destination. Just bring clothes and make-up. They don't like big bottles of anything in your luggage. No nail polish remover so do your nails before coming."
"Ok. I gotta go now. This my friend computer, she let me borrow while out. I see later, yeah." Nicole said then closed out.
Tessa closed out her side and sat back. "Princess number one. Maybe."
For the rest of the afternoon Tessa continued her search.
Monday morning Trent called Tessa to inform her that they had to go back to her home town, for a court appearance the next day. He drove them himself and they stayed at a hotel close in the downtown area. Despite the late arrival and early departure, both were sharp and ready when they appeared at court the next morning. The judge though seemed to be rather harried and barely gave Tessa a second look, pronouncing her name and status change with a simple 'So Ordered' and called for the next case.
"That was anti-climactic." Tessa remarked as they walked out.
A group of people arguing almost ran them both down as Trent tried to pull Tessa out of the way.
Trent sighed after they passed. "Now I see why he wanted us done and out."
"Was that?" Tessa asked pointing to the now closed doors.
Trent nodded. "Yep. Councilman Thompson and his soon-to-be ex-wife. Looks like they're at it again."
"They've remarried and divorced each other seven times now. Right?" Tessa asked.
Trent shook his head. "No. Eleven. They just can't stay away from, or live with, each other. The question is, which one are they doing today? Let's go before it really gets ugly."
Trent drove them straight back and the next day Tessa spend all day going around changing over all her holdings and so on.
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