Author: MissKittys Ball O Yarn
June 11th 8:00am
Times change. People change. That was the truth if Willow had ever heard it. Willow looked at herself in the mirror. She'd just gotten her hair cut. It was cut kinda short and a little shaggy on the ends, but the overall flow of it was in harmony with the way she was feeling, so all was good. Willow wasn't the same girl she used to be, but then again, Tara knew exactly what kind woman she'd turned out to be. There was nothing that Willow hadn't told the blonde, through countless letters over the past three years. But now was a time to put the letters away. The days of Tara scented paper was over. With graduation behind her and the mayor nothing but a flame broiled memory, Willow was ready to usher in a whole new era. The Tara-era.
Her friends didn't need her... not really. Sure she was useful when it came to the magic. She performed the services that made all their lives easier. But magic was not the soul of her. Magic was a seed and it had been planted years ago in the sunflower Fields of a small Kansas town. The seeds flourished on a hot day, under the shade of a tree... in the darkness of a room with a view of the stars outside the window; those had been the defining moments of Willow's life.
Willow placed the last stamp onto the corner of the large envelope. She smoothed over the postage with her fingers to make sure it was secured properly. This would be the last thing she would be sending to Tara for the rest of the summer. In ten minutes she would drop this into the mailbox and that would be the end of it. Willow kissed the envelope, pressing her lips to the name written in the center of it.
June 11th 8:30am
"Can I help you with those kiddo?"
Ira lifted the remainder of Willow's suitcases into the back of the car he'd bought her as a high school graduation present. His daughter had finally made it. She was an adult now and this was the last summer before she was to start college in the fall. Life was about to become very hectic for Willow but for now, she was free to do as she wished.
It had come as no surprise to him that she was going back to that rickety old Kansas town. He'd always known she would. Call it a fathers intuition, (if there was such a thing) but he suspected there was someone there she missed terribly. Ira watched his daughter over the years, go from a little girl, to a teenager, and into who she was now, a fine young woman.
Willow was smart. She had always been an excellent student, and was an active member in their community with a solid grasp on the realities of the world, So Ira had seen no problem when his daughter had came to him and said she wanted to drive halfway across the country. She was eighteen after all. Her mother, on the other hand had seen things a bit differently. He'd had his hands full trying to convince Sheila that this would be a good experience for their daughter. But ultimately Sheila had found her own way to deal the situation... from a distance. That's the way his wife dealt with everything. She was gone again, off to another conference, instead of here saying goodbye to their only child.
"Thanks dad."Willow said, stepping back so her father could load the rest of the suitcases into the trunk of the car. She was anxious to get on the road. The excitement of what she was doing was beginning to burn in her tummy. But as much as she wanted to get in the car and drive away, she wouldn't rush her father into a hasty goodbye.
"So... going back to the scene of the crime huh?" He teased. Ira's smile softened into a wide grin when he saw the expression on his daughters face. She didn't think he knew about what had been going on between her and Tara. She was wrong about that though, you'd have to be blind to have missed it. It was safe to say then, that Sheila had no clue about any of it. Ira let out a light chuckle at the thought.
"Scene of the crime? What crime? There was no crime..." Willow stammered. Surely her father didn't mean what she thought he'd meant. She was relieved to see her father's face brighten into a smile. He had been joking. Willow mentally wiped her brow. "Yeah" she said, offering her father a little smile.
"I'm sorry your mother couldn't be here to see you off..."
"It's okay... she's busy. "
They regarded each other uncomfortably for a moment. Her father made the first move. He pulled her into a hug, kissing the top of her head before he let her go.
"Oh! here's the map. And you'll need this..." Ira pulled out a folded up stack of bills from his back pocket.
"Dad no... I'll be fine-" But Willow was cut off as Ira put the money into her hand. He wasn't going to take no for an answer. "Thanks..." Willow said.
After promising to call as soon as she got there, Willow shut the trunk of the car. She sat down in the drivers seat and started the car. Willow rolled down her window, to bid a final fair-well to her father. After, she pulled out of the driveway and onto the street. Willow was finally on her way back to the only place that had ever truly felt like home. She was on her way back to Tara.
June 13th 9:30am
Willow pulled into the filling station. This would be her last fill-up before she reached the Kansas state line. Then, from that point it would only be four hours roughly, until she reached the small town of Cullison. If she had calculated it correctly, she could make it there by 2:30 this afternoon... just about the time the mailman would be delivering Willow's final letter. Timing was the key element in this surprise mission... timing was going to be everything.
June 13th 9:30am
Tara set the plant onto the window-sill. A small portion of potting soil slopped over the top of the clay pot. Tara brushed the dirt into her hand and redeposited it into the plant holder. She blew what remained from her hands. It was hot today, and the sun on the window pane only served to amplify the scorching heat. Tara touched the rim of the pot and found it was already warm to the touch, pretty soon, it would be hot enough to burn her skin.
Tara turned from the window and found herself suddenly blind in the darkness of the barn. Tara blink as she waited for her eyes to adjust to the difference in light. "Kerri?" Tara called out. She looked toward the barn's entrance but she didn't see any sign of the yellow Labrador. She'd left the barn door open so that Kerri could as she pleased which was the norm. Kerri liked the outdoors and spent much of the time following Tara as the blonde went about her daily chores. Tara suspected Kerri was out running around somewhere so she wasn't worried. Tara could see specks of dust floating inside the bright light that streamed in from the open door. It was cool inside the barn by comparison to the heat outside. She was sure there was a good 15 degrees separating the areas.
She made her way across the musty dirt floor to the ladder that led to the loft. The loft was a place Tara had been calling home for the last year and a half. It wasn't as comfortable as the room she'd once had in her mother's house, but it would do until she could save enough money to leave this place. Tara's father gave her money each month to run the farm while he was away. Since her mother's death her father had spent most of his time on the road, and Tara spent most of her time keeping things together here. She'd learned to do most of the repairs needed on the old farmhouse and had managed to set up an irrigation system on a part of the field she'd sectioned off for a garden. Donny helped out as much as he could, but there was only so much he could do, he wasn't exactly the handy type. But he did his fair share, she had to give him that much.
Donny had become something of a friend to her over the last years. After her mother's passing, they'd become closer as brother and sister. The rift between them settling into the dust as they pulled together to keep things going around home. Donny had been the one who had given her Kerri as a puppy.
Tara climbed the ladder, putting her foot onto the wooden platform she lifted herself into the small living space of the loft. Her bed sat a few feet in front of the the ladder. There was very little moving around space up there, but Tara didn't mind all that much. It was just her. Kerri slept in the corner of the barn underneath the loft, but only because she couldn't grasp the concept of climbing the ladder.
Tara picked a stray piece of hay up off the floorboards. This little piece of hay was one of the last remnants of the time when this space had once stored hay to feed the horses. Of course they didn't have horses anymore... even her beloved Kaneeda had found greener pastures in the days after her mothers death. Tara got to her feet and crossed the loft. She bent down and pulled a small box out from under the dresser.
The box had become a bit dusty in her absence. Tara took the box and sat on the edge of her bed. She traced the rim along the outside of th lid. She dust from the top of the box came off onto her finger. Tara placed the box down on the bed, she lifted the lid and pulled out the contents. She felt the weight from the stack of envelopes in her hand. They were cool to the touch and she ran her fingers over the ribbon that held them together.
She hadn't done this in a long time but that didn't matter. They had never left her mind even when she'd convinced herself that they had. She didn't know why today of all days would be the day that she pulled them out. Why take herself there? Maybe it was because she was alone today and felt safe to let whatever feelings that might appear to come out. She knew the contents of each envelope, she knew the curve of each letter, the crease in every piece of paper, she knew the way the paper felt soft under her fingers from years of reading over the contents with intent concentration. She'd memorized every line...
Tara slowly untied the bow and the knotted ribbon became only a silky line of material. It slid from her fingers, landing on the creamy crochet blanket... the one she'd taken from her mother's bed the day after the funeral. She still didn't know if her father knew that she had taken it. If he had noticed he'd never said anything. And that was fine with her.
Tara bit her lower lip as she traced the script on the outside of the first envelope. The thin graceful marks seemed to be pulling her into the familiar melancholy even before she slid the paper out it's covering. "Willow..." Tara said her name aloud and she read it on the front of the envelope. Tara took a deep breath, before having the thought that she should re-tie the letters up inside the pretty red bow, put them back in the box and hide them away again under the safety of the old dresser. No, not today... today she would read them... she knew she would sit there on the edge of the bed until she had read all of them, every single one of them. They were a journey, their journey and Tara longed for that feeling again. She unfolded the piece of paper in her hand and began to read.
Tara sat there for three hours reading through every letter, taking the journey she'd taken so often before. Reliving every moment of their separation through these letters. She wiped the tears off her cheeks, and tucked the letters back into the box. She didn't bother to tie them this time. Tara put the lid on and clutched the box tightly to her chest. Her heart hurt now, as she'd known it would. Tara pulled her feet onto the bed. She laid her head back onto the pillow, taking the box with her she let the contents comfort her as much as they could. She missed Willow. Tara had never told the red head this in any of the letters she'd sent, but Tara wasn't saving the money she made from working here only to leave this farm, She was saving up to go to California... to go to Willow.
June 13th 2:30pm
Donny was just making it home from hauling a load of dirt to a man a couple towns away. The day was hot and he'd stopped over in Wellsford and bought a Pepsi and a pack of smokes.
Donny pulled his father's old pick up truck onto the road near their driveway. The gravel underneath the tires made a crunching sound as he pulled hard on the steering wheel at the same time downshifting into second gear. The pickup slowed. He gave the truck a little more gas and gravel kicked up underneath the tires scattering out behind him. Donny was still quite a ways from the house but he was nearing the mailbox at the end of the driveway. The gas tank had a quarter tank of gas left in it. He should have stopped to fill up when he'd passed the little gas station just down the road.
Donny pressed the clutch down with his left foot, when he noticed Kerri sitting studiously at the foot of the mailbox. Her Labrador head cocked to the side, she studied him curiously. Donny pressed the clutch all the way to the floor and put on the brakes. He put the truck in neutral and left the stereo to blast the stones through the old speakers. The sound crackled a little but it was better than nothing.
"Hi girl," Donny said patting Kerri's head. The dog licked his hand but made no move to get up from where she sat. "Oh... I see, that's the way it is huh?" Donny smiled because he knew the reason the dog refused to move. He couldn't leave her there though, Old man Judd from down the road a few miles was expecting a couple slabs of hay to be delivered today and Donny didn't want to take the chance that Kerri might be in the middle of the road when the trucks came through. No, that definitely wouldn't do. "Come on girl," Donny said, Taking Kerri by the collar he walked her over to the truck. "You want to ride in front today? Alright, just this once." Donny opened the door and Kerri jumped in. Settling herself in the passengers seat, Kerri looked with amiable attention toward the barn.
Willow rolled the car window down, as the Cullison town sign came into view. She was almost there... she could taste the nervousness she felt as she steadily drew nearer to her destination. She didn't know how her romantically crafted plan would play out and this was causing an acidy sensation in her stomach.
As she neared the familiar road that she knew would lead her to Tara's Willow's brain started mentioning little tidbits of helpful advice... things like... it might not be best to go eighty miles an hour down the road. This advice was golden, but her foot had other ideas about the proper driving speed.
Willow fought with her foot for the rest the rest of the drive.
"Look who I found hanging around the mailbox again..."
Tara sat up on the edge of her bed at the sound of her brothers voice."Kerri!" Tara went to the edge of the loft and looked down at the dog.
"I had to practically drag her away this time." Donny said smiling a knowing smile.
"Did you check for me?" Tara brightened.
"No... from the way she was standing there, I though I'd better let you."
Tara smiled at her brother. "Come on Ker..." Tara said taping the dogs back in a playful manor.
As Tara started walking toward the mailbox she could feel her fingers tingling.There was only one reason Kerri hung around the mailbox and it wasn't to bite the mail man.
Tara opened the white metal box. She took the package from inside. The envelope was bigger than usual... and more lumpy. Tara felt a hard object pressed into the corner of the large envelope. Instead of opening it immediately though, Tara did the thing she always did first. She brought the letter up to her nose and inhaled the sweet scent of Willow's lotion. She smelled the soft vanilla on the outside of the envelope. Willow came in a variety of flavors, but this one was Tara's favorite.
The smell'O'thon didn't last long this time though as curiosity had already begun to get the better of her. "Come on girl," Tara called the dog as she started back down the driveway. She didn't want to open the package outside, she wanted to open it in private. She needed the intimacy of the barn.
There it was... Willow slowed the car to a snails pace as she eased her way down the gravel driveway. There was a lump in Willow's throat. She remembered being there as if it were yesterday, and all the feelings connected to the view around her flooded her system . Willow's stomach seemed to have abandoned the acid approach and was currently throwing itself into full tumble mode.
Willow parked the car. Getting out, she pressed the door closed lightly. She hoped Tara had opened the package. Her legs felt wobbly and threatened to go out from under her. This was it. This was the moment she'd been dreaming about for three years.
Tara opened the envelope. She caught the cassette tape, as it slid out of the envelope. Tara's fingers were shaking when she pushed the cassette into the tape deck on the old radio. After several seconds of silence the tape began to play. Tara couldn't breath as the sound of Willow's voice drifted from the speakers.
This isn't exactly a letter in the conventional sense of the word because I realized today as I sat down to write that I have more to say than written words could ever express.
Tara couldn't breathe as she listened to Willow's voice. It was a surreal moment in time standing there listening to a taped recording...
Willow approached the barn door. It was open. She braced her hand against the wood that framed the entrance. She could immediately hear the sound of her own voice playing inside. Willow squinted but it was too bright outside and her eyes were having a hard time adjusting to the dim light inside the barn. She stood there waiting for just the right moment...
Let me ask you... If you were to wake up in the morning to watch the sunrise... would it be hard for you to imagine me, standing there next to you? I guess what I'm trying to say is that every time I close my eyes I see you the way I saw you last. standing up against the side of your house in the bright sunshine. Every time I'm alone and everything's quiet... I hear the last thoughts I remember thinking as I was driven away from you that day, they echo in my mind over and over again until I can think of nothing else but that thought...
Willow's voice continued and Tara could feel her fingers gripping the edge of the wooden table. She waited breathlessly for Willow's next words.
And that thought was-
Tara jumped as the tape player clicked off. She blinked, staring at the radio and waiting motionless praying for Willow's voice to come back..
"I'm coming back to you."
Tara froze. She was afraid to turn around. For a long moment she stood there, facing the clay pot on the window's ledge. She was afraid that if she turned around and Willow wasn't standing there belonging so infinitely to that voice behind her she might actually fall to the ground and not be able to get back up.
"That's what I was thinking that day and everyday since... I'm coming back."
Tara's knees felt weak and she could no longer deny the identity of that voice as it's tune played across the dusky space between them; its beat settling inside the quickened thumping of her heart.
It had only been a few seconds but Tara felt as if she's been standing there for hours waiting for her legs to initiate movement. Tara heard footsteps a moment before she felt a the touch on her back. It was electrifying and Tara's muscles reacted immediately. That slight touch rested any further questions she might have had about the state of her sanity. Tara turned around and found herself looking into the soft green eyes of her Willow. "Willow..." Tara breathed out the breath that had been burning like liquid fire in her lungs. Tara's arms found their way around Willow's slim waist and she was pulling the red head into a hug. She couldn't believe it. She'd spent nights dreaming of this moment, dreaming of Willow and now here she was. Tara was holding her. Tara breathed deeply."Why why didn't you tell me?" Tara loosened her grip on the red head.
"I wanted to surprise you."