|This article is about Hessa in the film series. You may be looking for their relationship in the book series.|
|“||Hardin: There's no one else for me, Tessa. No one. I love you.
Tessa: I love you, Hardin.
They have a complicated relationship filled with vibrant moments that clash heavily with the most vicious of fights. They bring out passion, lust, love, and adventure in one another. Despite their sweet moments, Hardin's harsh and jaded attitude often pushed Tessa away, until he finally opened up to her about his traumatic childhood.
Their relationship was torn apart when Tessa learned that their relationship only began as part of a bet Hardin made to get her to fall in love with him, only to then turn off his emotions for her. She believed him to be a liar and ended things between them. Hardin later wrote her a letter professing his love for her in a desperate attempt to repair their relationship.
While the road to repairing their relationship was rocky and was both full of pain and pleasure, they separated once again for the sake of their own wellbeing. The time apart ended up being for the better, and when they reunited at Vance's going away party, they were able to reconnect stronger and better than were before.
Throughout the Films
The pair had a chance meeting met during Tessa's freshman year of college, then again at a party. Tessa was dared to makeout with Hardin by his circle of friends, only to reject his advances which damaged his ego. Molly remarked that it was his first rejection, though they shared a moment later in his room when she was admiring his book collection. After that night, he seemed to everywhere she went and they even had a banter in English class due to their differing views on Pride and Prejudice. Tessa tried to keep her distance from the rude student and even told him so, but his persistence swayed her into going with him to a lake. It was at the lake, which Hardin explained was his "secret place", that Tessa had her first romantic encounter with him.
They kissed and made out in the water, before having a sensual encounter on land. This quickly turned sour when Hardin coldly informed her at a diner that, despite them having lunch together and seemingly bonding, that he doesn't date. She was hurt by this but was led back to Hardin by their mutual friend, Landon Gibson, who asked her to come over and help Hardin who was in a drunken spiral. He confided that his estranged father was getting remarried, even breaking a glass nonchalantly to prove his point of being upset. She cut her finger on the glass so he helped her clean her minor cut, where he apologized for his actions earlier, admitting that he's a mess. She returns the sentiment and they share a second kiss followed by another sexual encounter before they fell asleep together.
This was the catalyst of Tessa's breakup with her high school boyfriend, Noah, and led to a fallout between her and Hardin who knew about her boyfriend and made a point of showing up when he shouldn't. The fallout lasted a few days before she came to him and admitted that she felt different being with Hardin then she did with Noah. They kissed and began a committed relationship filled with cute couple moments. They were caught making out by Tessa's mother, Carol, who disapproved of the relationship due to Tessa not focusing on her schoolwork and instead on Hardin. She wanted Tessa to end things but she refused. To show her how serious she is, Carol cuts her daughter off financially, pushing Hardin to act by renting an apartment that the couple can share together. She was reluctant but accepted the invitation.
He invited her to his father's engagement party which she happily attended and he opened up to her about his traumatic childhood, and the incident he witnessed happen to his mother. They shared a dance and had a good night despite the tension between Hardin and his father, Ken Scott. When they returned home they consummated their relationship and continued to be in a loving relationship, though Hardin's friends seemed suspicious about it.
One night, Tessa found Hardin's phone as it wouldn't stop chiming with messages from Molly. This sparked jealousy and concern only for Hardin to brush it and her off and leave only asking that she trust him. She waited for hours for him to return before taking matters into her own hands and going out to find him. She found Hardin with his friends, Molly, Zed, and Steph. Molly showed Tessa footage of Hardin making a bet from the night of the truth and dare game. After she left having been rejected, he sensed his friends mocking manners and made a bet that he could make Tessa fall in with him. He would then turn off his charm and loving demeanor to break her heart. Tessa turned to Hardin, who was emotional, and asked if it was true and his silence confirmed.
They broke up outside in the pouring rain with her having realized that their entire relationship was a lie. Hardin tried to protest but Tessa refused to be swayed and left. Weeks went by before their mutual English professor, Professor Soto, reached out to Tessa and gave her a letter that Hardin had written. It was supposed to be for an assignment, but Soto sensed that it was meant for Tessa instead. The letter proclaimed Hardin's love for Tessa by claiming that he loves her the most in the world. Hardin dreamt that after she received the letter, they meet at the lake where he took her for their first unofficial date and looked at one another as they sat.
But alas, this was a mere dream and when Tessa rested her head on his shoulder she slowly faded away leaving him alone once more. When he awoke in his car, Hardin immediately checks his messages but sees that his texts to Tessa over the past month are still unread. Meanwhile, Tessa is on her way to her first day at her internship with Vance Publishing, and finds herself looking at Hardin's Instagram feed solemnly. Despite their time apart, Hardin shows a fierce protectiveness over Tessa when he continues to defend her to Molly, who makes advances towards him which he rejects due to still having feelings for Tessa. Tessa herself also finds herself relating to Kimberly's story of finding love in the oddest places.
Things begin to change when Tessa goes on a work trip to a nightclub, where she gets heavily intoxicated and dances with a random stranger. She hallucinates that the stranger is Hardin, whom she kisses before hurrying off. She then calls Hardin from the nightclub. She flaunts that she looks hot and he isn't here to see it all while refusing to tell him who she's with or where she is. He reminds her that she still shares her location with him and is shocked to hear that she hasn't been wearing any underwear that night. She asks why he hasn't called her, but he has texted her but she hasn't replied. She abruptly hangs up on him so he drives to Seattle to make sure she's okay.
He bangs on her hotel room door and they see each other in person for the first time in a month. He invites himself in and is angered when he sees a pair of men's glasses on the nightstand, and kicks in the bathroom door to find Trevor Matthews wearing only his boxers, waiting in the bathroom. Trevor hurries out of the room and Hardin flippantly closes the door in his face. Tessa calls Hardin a dick and they banter over why he decided to come here, with her reminding him that who she sleeps with isn't his business anymore. He asks if she was going to sleep with Trevor which angers her. A moment passes before she begins to change her physical demeanor into that of a condescending one, and taunts him with the idea of sleeping with someone else. She then comes onto him but he is reluctant because she's drunk, even though she claims to have missed him. He is worried she'll hate him tomorrow but she claims she hates him already and wants to sleep with him. Hardin eventually concedes and they sleep together.
The next morning, Hardin wakes up in bed with Tessa. He fell asleep on her lower back, and rolls over to lay on her back, his fingers touching her shoulder blade. She wakes up a little confused and leaves the bed to answer a work call that requires her to leave. He can tell that she isn't entirely okay with what happened the night before to which she agrees, but she declines his offer to talk as he hurt her and she can't forgive him. He asks if last night meant nothing to her even though she clearly missed him. She justifies her actions as her being drunk and accidentally mentions the guy she kissed in the club. Their argument extends to the hallway, where Hardin states that "his" Tessa would never kiss a stranger. She angrily yells that there is no "his Tessa" anymore. Now hurt by her words, he lies that while she was kissing that guy he was sleeping with Molly. This angers Tessa even more, and she throws a large roll of bread at him.
Desperate for advice, Hardin seeks out Landon who isn't pleased with Hardin's actions towards Tessa. He calls him out on his behavior lately, and Hardin admits that he did mess up but he's trying to make things right, he just doesn't know how. He becomes irritated by Landon's judgmental body language and starts to leave when Landon asks if Hardin really does love Tessa - no bullshit. Hardin doesn't hesitate to say that he does love her, he just wishes he didn't mess it all up. He was planning to take her with him to London but that's not happening now. Hardin then drives away. Across town, Tessa receives a text from Landon that tells her that Hardin was sorry for what happened and that he didn't sleep with Molly. Tessa thanks her friend for his candor and takes a moment to look at her lockscreen which is still a photo of her and Hardin.
The next day, December 19th, Tessa returns to the apartment that night after work, believing that Hardin will be out of town. She is flooded with memories they shared in the apartment, from him introducing her to the place to them in the bath together. She sits cross-legged on the bed and takes one of Hardin's shirts that he left on the bed, raising it to her face as she cries softly. She finds a wrapped package on the bedspread with her name on it. She opens it to find a Kindle inside along with a note that reads, "all your favorite books in one place". Already saved on the Kindle are her favorite novels including Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice among others. With this, she remembers Hardin reading to her in the library which makes her even more emotional than she already was.
She is soon surprised by the unexpected arrival of Hardin and his mother, who came to America for the holidays. Hardin explains to Tessa that Trish was so excited about Tessa and their relationship that he couldn't ruin it for her by telling her they had broken up. Tessa agreed to play along as if they were still together, since she was heading out of town for her birthday anyway. Trish convinced her to stay the night so they could celebrate her birthday together, much to the awkwardness of the fake couple. The evening is peaceful and Tessa gains a little insight into Hardin's childhood, and finds herself enjoying the kindness that Hardin exhibits around Trish. The night, Tessa believes they can share a bed without anything sexual happening, though Hardin is skeptical.
Once in bed, they say goodnight. Tessa rolls over to tell him that she's leaving early in the morning to head out of town to see her mother. He rolls over to look at her, thanking her for staying that night. She thanks him for having her and he tucks a hair behind her ear, then instantly apologizes. She tells him it's fine and the tuck leads to a shoulder rub which feels nice for her. They talk about her birthday. Hardin asks if Tessa had a nice birthday, to which she tells him she did. She thanks him again for the gift. He's glad she likes it. He tells him that she got a new car, a white one. He wishes her a happy birthday with her saying goodnight before kissing him, and they exchange multiple kisses and unsuccessful goodnights.
Things are better between them in the morning, with Hardin helping her leave for her mother's house. She returns late that night after getting into a fight with her mother. He waits for her outside the apartment and they share an emotional hug that is the first step in repairing the damage between them. That night, Tessa experiences Hardin's nightmares first hand but able to soothe him quite easily. He is calmed by her presence, and the next morning, Trish opens up to Tessa about Hardin's difficult childhood after he witnessed her assault.
When Hardin does wake up, he gifts Tessa a birthday card to make up for him not being able to watch her open the Kindle. The card simple says, "Tessa's perfect day. Love, H", which means that whatever Tessa wants to do that day he will oblige without any sarcastic remarks or tantrums. She is happy with the gift and he kisses her to mark the start of her countdown. They try ice skating, which is an ill-fated idea due to Hardin's lack of experience and refusal to use a walker to guide him on the ice. After he falls twice in a row, she offers up another suggestion - yoga.
He complains a little about the heat but she shushes him. He compliments her bottom during a position earning another shush. They quickly realize that they aren't in beginners yoga but instead, acrobatic yoga. They partake in another position where he uses the time to tickle her ribs and break her concentration. They eventually leave when they realize the heat is getting to them - in more ways than one. They return to the empty apartment where they share a shower whilst giggling, kissing, and accidentally breaking a shower gel cap which Hardin tosses to the side when he realizes he broke it. Tessa's phone rings in the midst of the shower and she realizes it's Kimberly and has to take it, which baffles Hardin.
An evening of babysitting Smith goes better than expected, with Hardin keeping his promise not to throw any tantrums about the event. When the babysitting is over, Hardin gifts Tessa her Christmas gift; a charm bracelet that has the sentence "Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same" engraved in the book charm. She sits on the desk and asks if there is anything he wants for Christmas, to which he quickly responds with "another chance". She wants him to act like this everyday which he can't promise, but he promises to try his best. They kiss and Hardin begins to seduce her but she is reluctant since someone could walk in at any moment. He shouts out if anyone is there or can hear him, to which she merely sighs as he has an answer for everything. They continue to kiss and, eventually, have sex. Hardin then tells Tessa that she is the only one for him and that he loves her, to which she returns to the sentiment. He asks her not to say the word "too" since it sounds like she's agreeing with him. She smiles and repeats the line without the "too", and they continue to kiss and have sex in her office.
Their happy bliss expires at Ken's Christmas party, when Hardin punches his father and makes a scene. Tessa also learns of Hardin's plans to return to England after graduation. Upon returning to the apartment, Hardin breaks a lamp then drones out the world, including Tessa, by listening to music. Things smooth over when Hardin replaces the broken lamp and reaches out to his father to apologize. Tessa also shows a protectiveness over her relationship while talking to Trevor Matthews. Their peaceful lives resume uninterrupted and they even decide to attend a New Years Eve party at the frat house, with Tessa remarking that if it blew up in their faces they can always stay in next year. This pleases Hardin to hear that she was planning a future with him in it. Tessa later receives a call from her boss with a job offer in Seattle.
The party is enjoyable for both of them, though Hardin disappears after a few hours while Tessa parties with Zed, Ally, Tristan, and Steph. When Hardin resurfaces they are intercepted by Molly who taunts Tessa into staying for another drink against Hardin's better judgment. He is surprised when Tessa wants to play truth or dare, but she kisses him as a way of assuring him that she can handle this. The banter between Molly and Tessa began and Hardin was amused by his girlfriend's feisty side and supports her as she taunts Molly by calling her a whore, and refusing to let Molly's snide comments bother her. But when Molly begins to taunt Tessa with her past relationship with Hardin, specifically their physical relationship, Tessa snaps and tackles the woman. She is able to exchange a few blows before Hardin pries her off Molly, puts her over his shoulder, and carries her upstairs.
They laugh once they are safely in a bedroom and it isn't long before Tessa is kissing Hardin. They exchange flirty banter before having sex while the party goers downstairs countdown to the New Year. When everything settles, he zips up the back of her dress and they exchange a kiss before she excuses herself to use the bathroom. He calls to her that her phone is ringing but she doesn't hear him, so he picks it up only to see messages from Trevor congratulating her on the job in Seattle where he is, "looking forward to spending some time" with her. Now annoyed by the texts, Hardin tosses the phone on the bed and leaves the room. Tessa returns to find him gone and follows him to the stairwell, where she overhears Hardin asking a girl to keep what happened that night between them, with her telling Hardin that she "doesn't kiss and tell". Tessa believes this to mean that Hardin cheated, calls him a liar, and storms out of the house.
She flees the party with Hardin running behind her. To spite him, she grabs a random party goer and kisses him in front of Hardin. Hardin grabs Tessa's arm to stop her and she turns around while he demands to know what that was all about. She emotionally asks why he cares as he just kissed that girl. She begins to cry which angers him as she just kissed a guy right in front of him. She asks what he did and he emotionally proclaims that he didn't do anything. She doesn't believe him and quotes back what the girl said about not kissing and telling, then shoves him backward calling him a "fucking liar". Hardin is in disbelief since that's just an expression and Tessa should know he would never cheat on her. She asks if he was with Jamie tonight and if she is who he disappeared with the whole night. Hardin admits to it but quickly tells Tessa that he was trying to make Jamie forgive him, because he wants to be a better person for her and for their relationship.
He wants to know what else he can do to make her believe that he loves her. A moment of silence passes and he emotionally realizes that she's never going to trust him. She asks if he really thinks she should trust him, to which he does, and she loudly asks where that has ever gotten her. He realizes she's never going to forgive him and will just keep bringing up the bet every time they have a fight. She exclaims that it's because she doesn't trust him. Hardin is taken aback by this and angrily remarks that she acts so innocent, like she's perfect, even though she really isn't. He walks away from her while muttering "fuck this". As he storms off he shouts "fuck you" at her and she returns the sentiment as they walk away from one another, the rest of the party goers watching them.
Later that morning, Tessa attempts to reach Hardin to apologize for the night and asks him to come home. Her messages aren't read so she ventures out to search for him, as he never came home. Hardin spent the night at the frat house and got a ride from Jamie, who has a phone charger he can use in the car. He sees the texts and attempts to call her back, but she is unable to reach the phone because of her seatbelt which she then unbuckles in a further attempt to answer her phone. When the light turns she continues on without her seatbelt, and is hit by an oncoming car. Hardin and Jamie pass the crash site and he demands she pull over. He runs after the ambulance. When he returns to the apartment, he calls five hospitals looking for her. Landon arrives and tells Hardin that Tessa was looking for him when she crashed. Hardin attempts to call Tessa when Trevor answers, warning that he's toxic and bad for Tessa. When Hardin hangs up, he tearfully leaves the apartment without another word.
When Tessa comes home she finds a letter from Hardin that explains everything that happened from his past with Jamie and also to why he is leaving to go to England. He believes they aren't meant to be but that in time, they will get over their pain, be okay and move on. They each wallow in the breakup and pain, looking at photos of one another and them together as a couple. They each remember specific moments from their time together. Hardin's nightmares shift to include Tessa in his mother's place. It isn't until Trish does convince Hardin to attend Vance's party and get Tessa, that the two are finally reunited after nine days apart.
The reunion is followed by a silent reconciliation, where they board the same Uber and drive off together. She rests her head on his shoulder as they drive away. That night, he gets a tattoo across his back to commemorate their relationship that reads, "I never wish to be parted from you from this day on". They leave the parlor hand-in-hand, with Hardin wondering if this is the happy ending they were meant to have. A man approaches Tessa from behind and touches her shoulder, making Hardin react protectively and slam the man against a wall. As he is gripping the man's shirt, Tessa recognizes him as her absent father, much to Hardin's shock and surprise.
- First Met: 2019, during Tessa's first few weeks at Washington Central University.
- First Kiss: The lake at Hardin's "special place".
- Second Kiss: Tessa came to the Chancellor's house to see Hardin who had just learned his abusive father was remarrying. She helped him clean up and he admits he's a mess. She returns the sentiment.
- Separation: 2019, Fall, when Hardin outed their relationship with Tessa's boyfriend Noah Porter. She was angered at his actions and the fact he deliberately hurt Noah and kept her distance from him.
- Started: Fall, 2019, when Tessa approached Hardin on the rooftop of the fraternity house and confided that she felt differently about him then she did with Noah. Thus, they begin their committed romantic relationship.
- Moved in together: A few weeks later, Tessa was cut off financially from her mother due to her dating Hardin, whom Carol disapproved of. Hardin felt that he had to help his girlfriend, so he secured an apartment near campus they could share. She was reluctant to move in with him at first, but agreed after a few minutes of persuasion.
- First time: They attended Ken's wedding where Hardin finally opened up about his traumatic past, which explained much of his behaviors. They shared a romantic evening together. She was there to support him and they bonded in a closer way. They returned to their apartment where they had sex for the first time.
- Ended: When Tessa learned the truth; Hardin had only started dating her for a bet. Following this, they didn't speak for quite some time and Hardin wrote a letter for his English final in the Spring, confessing his love for Tessa.
- Reunion: December 19, the week of Tessa's nineteenth birthday. This can be considered them unofficially getting back together, due to their mutual reluctance and Tessa "pretending" to be with Hardin for the sake of his mother.
- Started: Approximately December 20th, 2019. She agreed to give him another chance after he promises to try and behave better towards her. He also gifts her a charm bracelet saying, whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.
- First I Love You: They first said I love you to one another after reconciling their relationship in her office at Vance Publishing. Hardin was the first to say it, though she happily returns the sentiment. He asks her not to use the word "too" as it sounds as though she's agreeing with him. She repeated the corrected phrase, I love you.
- December 31: The events of New Years Eve was supposed to be a simple party at the frat house, but quickly turned disastrous when Hardin drifted from Tessa for hours and she fell into Molly's trap to anger her. Hardin later found a text message from Trevor congratulating her on a new job offer in Seattle and continued with how excited he was to spend time with her there. Hardin left the room he and Tessa had just had sex in, but was stopped on the stairs by Jamie. Tessa overheard their conversation and took Jamie's expression of "I never kiss and tell" literally, and stormed out of the party. What followed was a series of bad choices; from Tessa kissing a random stranger to Hardin realizing that Tessa still didn't fully trust him. They had a huge fight on the front lawn that resulted in mutual "fuck you"s and them spending the night apart.
- January 1: Hardin wakes up at the frat house and secures a ride with Jamie back to the apartment, hoping to apologize to Tessa. She wakes up in the apartment to see he still hasn't read her messages, unaware that his phone died. She goes out looking for him when another car T-bones her at a green light. Hardin chases after the ambulance but doesn't catch up to it. Landon lashes out at Hardin, blaming him for the accident as Tessa was looking for him. Hardin calls Tessa's phone and Trevor answers, telling Hardin that if he cares about Tessa he'll leave her alone.
- Ended: January 1, 2020. Hardin leaves for London after writing Tessa another letter apologizing and explaining his actions with the woman, Jamie, as he had been trying to apologize to Jamie for a past indiscretion so he could start over with Tessa. However, and claims they aren't meant to be. Tessa tries to reach him but fails. They are apart for nine days.
- Started: Approximately Sunday, January 12, 2020, after being reunited at Vance's going away party.
- Tattoo: In January, Hardin decides to get a tattoo to show his commitment to Tessa and profess his love for her. It is a quote from their favorite book that reads, "I never wish to be part from you from this day on". The tattoo is inked across his trapezius.
Recurring Themes and Symbolism
- Pride and Prejudice/Jane Austen - Their relationship and individual character traits can be compared to those of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. This started in Professor Soto's English class when Tessa and Hardin had a verbal match regarding their passionate feelings toward the storyline. In After We Collided, Hardin calls Tessa "my Elizabeth Bennet" in his letter to her apologizing for his actions and ending their relationship. After rekindling, he gets a tattoo of a line found exclusively in the movie adaptation of the novel, "I never wish to be parted from you this day on".
- Wuthering Heights: In After, Tessa wandered into Hardin's room at the frat house and found his extensive collection of classic novels including Wuthering Heights. A recurring quote used from the book is, “Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.” Hardin gave Tessa a charm bracelet with the infamous quote engraved into the book charm.
Notes and Trivia
- Josephine Langford (Tessa) and Hero Fiennes Tiffin (Hardin) were the only actors not to have a chemistry read, because of how fast Josephine was cast. Hero had previously tested with Julia Goldani Telles, the "first" Tessa.
- The song "Bitter Love" by Pia Mia is considered "their" song throughout the first film.
- Tessa lost her virginity to Hardin. He was also the first person that she had any kind of sexual relationship with.
- Hardin spelled out, I love you on Tessa's back during their bubble bath together, as she was trying to guess what he was writing. She didn't know what it was and he chose not to tell her the truth and kissed her.
- Hardin called her, "my Elizabeth Bennet", in his letter to her.
- Hardin has a tattoo on his shoulder for her that says, "I never wish to be parted from you from this day on.". This is a quote from Pride and Prejudice.
- Hardin (about love): "Love is just a transaction. We're all hardwired to desire. We present the correct set of desirable traits and boom! We can turn it on or we can turn it off."
- Tessa: "I thought you just wanted to be friends."
- Hardin: "I don't think we could ever be just friends."
- Tessa: "Nothing could ever change the way I feel about you."
- Hardin (writing on Tessa's back with water): "I love you."
- Main article: Hessa (book relationship)
In the original five novels, the relationship between Hardin and Tessa is depicted differently than that of in the After film. Their relationship was rockier and more exaggerated, with everything being heightened. For instance, the original bet that Hardin made was to take Tessa's virginity in return for a large sum of money from each of his friends. In the novels, Hardin and Tessa work to overcome the bet when she returns to their shared apartment to collect her things. They pretend they are still together for the sake of Hardin's visiting mother, though the faking eventually led to a reconciliation. They eventually rekindle their relationship, though obstacles presented themselves at every step. Tessa and Hardin both compromise their relationship with varying degrees of betrayal, secrets, and lies, to the point where she was worn down from the intensity of their relationship and disgusted by the way they suctioned everyone around them into their drama. They separated for years, though they continued to care deeply for one another, but knew that being apart was the only way to eventually end up together. A few years after college, they reconnected and agreed to put the past behind them as they moved forward with a more mature and stable relationship. They eventually became engaged and welcomed two children.