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Disclaimer: Joss / ME / etc. owns these characters. This story is just for fun and not for profit.
Me: "Aw, Moooom, do we have to? Why can't we just stay here?"
Me: "For the last time: no, Tara. Now, the Rosenbergs were nice enough to offer to look after you all while your father and I are gone, so I want you on your best behavior."
Me: Mrs. Maclay leveled her gaze at Tara's older brother. "And that goes doubly for you, Donny."
Me: "Yeah, yeah. We'll be good. Don't worry," Donny sighed. "C'mon, Tare. Good try."
Me: The Maclay children had really been looking forward to having the house to themselves during the week-long trip their parents had planned--their Second Honeymoon, which was something neither Tara nor Donny wanted to even think about. As it turned out, they would instead have the pleasure of being babysat by the family three houses down. The Rosenbergs.
Mel: They are complaining?
Me: "What a bunch of weirdos," Donny grumbled as he threw some clothes into a large bag. "I still don't see why we can't just stay here. It's not like we don't spend enough time alone in the house after school, right?"
Me: Tara sat down on Donny's bed. "Yeah, tell me about it. We can take care of ourselves. Who's weirdos?"
Me: "Those Rosenbergs. You ever see the dad walkin' around in the back yard in that old lab coat? He looks like a total kook."
Me: "Uh-uh. Weird. I only know that Willow girl, from school."
Me: "Pssh. Willow," Donny scoffed. "What kind of name is that?"
Mel: A VERY GOOD ONE!
Me: "Heheh. It's like that magical midget from the movie," Tara giggled.
Me: "What's she like?" Donny asked. He didn't bother to notice anyone in grades underneath his own.
Me: Tara shrugged. "I dunno. She's pretty quiet, I guess. Sticks to her little circle of friends. Takes a lot of flak from Cordy's entourage."
Me: Donny looked up from his packing. "Who's Cordy?"
Me: Tara shook her head. "Never mind. Have you seen the mom?"
Me: "No, not that I can remember. You?"
Me: "I've seen Mom talking with her out in the yard a few times. She looks...I don't know. Don't judge a book by its cover and all. Mom says she's a killer Bridge player."
Me: Donny hefted his bag by a shoulder strap. "All right. Here comes a week."
Me: "And in here's the guest bedroom," Mrs. Rosenberg said, flipping on the light switch. It was a cozy little room with a trundle bed and an antique bureau. "I figure one of you can stay in here, and the other can sleep in Willow's room." When Tara and Donny exchanged confused glances, she added, "She's offered to sleep on the futon downstairs."
Me: "Oh." Tara frowned. "We didn't want to put anyone out of a room..."
Me: Mrs. Rosenberg cut Tara off with a wave of her hand. "I was going to have one of you sleep out there, but she insisted."
Me: "Of course, we've got perfectly good bedrooms in our own house," Donny muttered just loud enough for Tara to hear him. She elbowed him in the side.
Mel: Donny is a jerk
Me: "That door's the bathroom." Mrs. Rosenberg pointed at each door in the hallway. "Willow's room. Mine. That one's the study."
Me: (he's a teenager. :))
Mel: Lol, true
Me: "Where is Willow, anyway?" Tara asked. She figured Willow would have gotten home from school around the same time as she had.
Me: "Oh, she's off at one of her after-school clubs. I can never remember which day is which."
Me: "I'll bet it's Vaughn's Chess club," whispered Donny.
Me: "Donny!" Tara hissed under her breath.
Me: "Hey, Mom!" called Willow as she stepped through the front door. She pulled a multicolored hat from her head.
Me: "Hi, sweetie. How was your day?"
Me: "Mm. Good."
Me: "How was...the phenomenon group?"
Me: Willow rolled her eyes. "Mom, Phenomenology Club's Mondays and Fridays. Chess club's today."
Me: In the kitchen, Donny looked right at Tara, a smug grin on his face. She sighed and stuck out her tongue at him.
Me: Mrs. Rosenberg led Willow into the kitchen and made the introductions, although it was already obvious who was who.
Me: It was strange to see Willow outside of school, Tara thought. It was going to be twice as strange sharing the house with her for the next week. Would it change their (lack of) interactions at school?
Me: At the very least, she figured, they'd kind of have to say hi when they passed each other in the hallways.
Me: Dinner was awkward. There was no doubt about it: Mr. Rosenberg was one strange man. She couldn't put her finger on it, exactly, but Tara just felt like his brain operated on a different wavelength from everybody else's. He was smart. That much was obvious. It seemed that the exceptional intelligence was at the expense of social skills most other adults possessed. He seemed utterly incapable of reading social cues, and was oblivious to sarcasm, which was being piled on by Willow. Tara felt like a complete outsider.
Me: Donny offered little, answering in as few words as possible when Mrs. Rosenberg asked him questions, which she seemed determined to do. Tara tried to bring more to the conversation, but really--what was there to say other than the basics? Besides, she couldn't help but feel that Mrs. Rosenberg's interest wasn't terribly genuine; the woman seemed to pay little enough attention to the events of her own daughter's daily life. What did she really care for the girl down the street?
Me: But they played their roles. Mrs. Rosenberg fulfilled her neighborly obligation by attempting to engage the kids in conversation and trying to find common interests shared by the girls. And after dinner, Tara fulfilled a guest's obligation by offering to help with the dishes. Mr. Rosenberg eagerly took her up on the offer.
Me: Willow retreated to her room to practice her instrument--the oboe, Mrs. Rosenberg had revealed during dinner, which caused Willow to turn a deep shade of red. Apparently she practiced for an hour every day. That left Tara hanging out in Donny's room.
Me: "Huh, she's actually pretty good," Tara remarked. She could hear the music from the room next door.
Me: "Eh. I guess," Donny replied.
Me: "Hey, she's better at that than you are at guitar," she teased.
Me: "Yeah, well...if I practiced every day, I could be good, too."
Me: "Well, maybe you should. It'd be cool to have a rock star in the family."
Me: That got Donny chuckling. "You're a goofball."
Me: Tara was just beginning to get really bored when Willow knocked on the open door. She leaned around the frame. "Hey. Uh...the room's all yours; I think I got everything I need from it."
Me: "Okay, cool," Tara said. "You absolutely sure you don't want me to sleep out there? I don't mind at all."
Me: Willow shook her head and smile bashfully. "Nope, nope. It's yours. Silly posters and all."
Me: "Okay, this I've got to see," Donny said, setting his Gameboy down on the bed.
Me: He stood and waited for Tara to lead the way, while Willow stood nearby, apparently waffling on whether to follow them or not.
Me: There were indeed a good many posters on the walls. Several of them were of cats--one hanging precariously from a tree branch, another staring back at them with gigantic, pleading eyes. One depicted a cartoon rabbit in a straight jacket ("Cute, but psycho. Things even out.")
Mel: >.> I have that poster
Me: Tara wondered at that. Did it describe Willow? She supposed the girl could be described as cute, in a rather unique sort of way.
Me: But psycho? Well, if psychosis was genetic, Willow was clearly doomed.
Me: "You can take 'em down, if you want," Willow said from the doorway. "Or move whatever around. Uh, you know...it's your home for the week, so...whatever is fine."
Me: Donny, presumably deciding that nothing in the room merited funny stories for his friends, shuffled out of the room. Tara continued her circuit of the bedroom, while Willow watched from the entrance.
Me: "It's nice," she declared. "Heh. Nicer than my room, anyway. I loved my room at our old house, but after we moved...I guess I was kind of peeved at my folks for uprooting us, having to leave our friends behind and all. So I was determined to make the place feel as little like home as possible. Which backfired, I guess, 'cause I ended up leaving most of my stuff boxed up."
Mel: Offer to share the room Tara!
Me: "Oh," said Willow. She looked startled, obviously not expecting Tara to strike up a conversation with her. "Uh...sorry. That's...unfortunate. Couldn't you, you know, unpack all the stuff?"
Me: "Well, certainly that would be the logical, intelligent thing to do. But I guess I'm stubborn and lazy," Tara laughed. "Besides, most of it's stowed in the attic, and I haven't felt like stumbling around up there."
Me: "If you want any funny cat posters," Willow offered, "I've got extras. No surprise, I'm sure."
Me: "Haha, thanks. I wouldn't want to be a copy cat, though."
Me: Tara eyed the bed. "Oh, man, you've got a big bed. I'm definitely getting one of these when I go to college." She grinned. "I might not have any idea where I'll be going, but darn it, I want to sleep in style."
Me: "Mm. Lucky. Mine's pretty much been decided for me. With two parents having attended Princeton, it's pretty much go there or be disowned." From her expression, Tara could tell she was joking, but only just.
Me: "Well, at least it's Princeton. Your parents could have attended the Southwest Wyoming School of Fence Repair and Miming."
Me: Willow blinked and inclined her head in Tara's direction. "Uh. Yeah. I guess that would be different."
Me: Whoa, Tara thought, I think I just out-weirded Willow Rosenberg.
Me: "So you guys must be thrilled at staying here, huh?" Willow chuckled.
Me: "Eh, it's a place," Tara said, shrugging. "Donny's pretty grumpy about it. I think our parents went a little overboard. I mean, it was nice of you guys and all, but...it's not like we'd throw a big party, or burn the house down, or anything like that, you know?"
Me: "My folks are the other way around. They don't really think anything of disappearing for days."
Me: "Lucky," Tara concluded, but Willow shrugged noncommittally.
Me: The conversation reached a lull, and Willow inched toward the door.
Me: "Hey," Tara said. "What's there to, uh...to do here?"
Me: "Um...well, there's the TV, but..." Willow paused and listened. "Yeah, I think my dad's watching some sports thing. Uh, we've got board games and stuff. Thrilling, I know."
Me: "Which ones?"
Me: "You know, the usual. Monopoly, Scrabble--I warn you, I am a Scrabble guru--uh...well, here." She opened the closet door and waved Tara over. There were a dozen other games on the shelves.
Me: "Ooo, you've got a Ouija board."
Me: "Hee, yeah. I haven't used it in a long time. Kind of doesn't work too well by yourself."
Me: "You think any of it's real?" Tara asked.
Mel: >.> I have a Conversations With Dead People Ouija board!
Me: "Uh, hard to say, I guess. The scientist in me cringes at the idea. Plus, having 'Parker Brothers' written across it doesn't help its case."
Me: Tara giggled. "Yeah, I know what you mean. I guess it is pretty silly."
Me: They stood in silence for a minute.
Me: "...so you wanna try it?"
Me: "...uh, I mean, if you do..."
Me: "...well, maybe it would be kind of fun..."
Me: "...yeah, okay."