Return to Catching Sunflowers in Bloom Chapter Seventeen

Catching Sunflowers in Bloom

Author: MissKittys Ball O Yarn
Rating: NC-17
Feedback: Please leave feedback on the Catching Sunflowers in Bloom thread on the Kitten Board.
Disclaimer: We all know the drill... but I guess it must be said. I don't own anything even remotely related to Willow and Tara nor do I plan to get anything that resembles monetary gain for such creative musing. The great and powerful Joss owns all and I am not but an unimportant bug to be crushed (now that that's been said...)

Willow lay outside the covers in nothing but a tee-shirt. On the front of the material was a faded picture of Mr Bubble. His laughing mouth and bubble-filled hands seemed to mock the atmosphere of quiet reflection that had been surrounding her since Tara had drifted off to sleep, leaving her alone with her thoughts.

The night was dry. Not hot but not cool either, it was just the right temperature to be bearable in an unbearable way. Willow longed for a breeze of some kind to come and stir the air a little. The night was also relatively quiet. Only the sound of crickets playing tunes disturbed the silently dry air.

She hadn't been able to sleep tonight. There were so many thoughts playing hop scotch through her mind. Or maybe it was just the potato soup she'd had for dinner that caused sleep to stay on the verge of attainable. Though it would have been easy to say 'yes, soup was definitely the culprit' Willow knew better.

Willow turned her face to the right. She could see Tara's form bathed in moonlight. Like herself, the blonde had gone to sleep in nothing but a tee-shirt. Willow felt the urge to smooth her hand up the back of Tara's thigh and watch it disappear beneath the white cotton shirt her lover wore. Willow extended her hand intending to do just that, but pulled back the moment before it made contact with Tara's skin.

Even though Willow's fingers itched to touch Tara, she wouldn't disturb her sleeping beauty. Willow's eyes trailed a path down Tara's body instead. It was so hard to fathom the amount of love that could fit inside her body for this woman. It almost seemed sometimes, that if one more ounce of love were to slip inside her, that she'd burst open like a pinata at a little kids birthday party. But with the soft thoughts of love came the clinging tendrils of sadness.

Willow didn't want to think about this time with Tara coming to an would eventually have to though...summer couldn't last forever. Willow loved the season but despised it at the same time. This was the only way she knew Tara, with the sun in her blonde hair, her cheeks tinged pink from hours outdoors and the smooth bronze of her shoulders; a gift from the same sun that had tinged her cheeks. But this didn't seem like enough anymore. Willow wanted to know other seasons with Tara... Winter seasons, spring seasons and fall seasons.

She felt a heaviness invade her stomach. Tears sprang to her eyes. They stung the back of her eyes, before sliding almost unnoticed down her cheeks. Willow didn't make a sound as she cried for the summer season that would soon be lost.

She didn't know how she would go from day to day without Tara right next to her. Willow had grown accustomed to the blonde's presence. She'd grown accustomed to the sight of Tara, the touch of her body at night... to go back to how it had been when they were apart seemed so unbearable to Willow. How could they do that again? Last time, they had been kids, they had been children pulled away from each-other without any say in the matter. But now... now they were adults and there would be plenty of say this time around.

Willow didn't know what to do. Part of her was pulled between the need to fulfill her parents expectations for her and her own need to never leave this woman next to her....

The expectations that had been set for her at birth had been pounded into her since the time she could walk. "Go to college Willow. The best college. Get good grades. Test scores test scores test scores. Her parents had driven that message so far into her that it had become what she herself wanted. it had become impossible to distinguish the 'real Willow' from her parent's version of her. But then... Willow looked at Tara again through the tears dipping from her eyes... but then there was Tara. Beautiful wonderful sweet Tara... the woman she loved more than anything. She could feel her own wants and needs rising to the surface like the bubbles in the bottom of a pan of water just before it boils.

Willow rolled onto her side, facing away from Tara. She didn't want the blonde to feel her tears or to see the shake of her shoulders as she let loose with the fears that threatened to over take her.

Tara knew she was dreaming as she climbed the staircase in her father's house. She instantly recognized this as a reenactment of the night her mother passed away. This was a dream that she'd had often.

As she neared the landing, the hallway before her seemed to stretch out impossibly to a slightly disproportionate length. Tara placed her left hand against the cool surface of the wall as her feet began to walk the length of the hall. It was always the same.

Tara stood in the center of her father's bedroom. Everything was in its usual place. The bed against the wall next to her, the dresser, bare on top except for an old hairbrush and a dusty bottle of cologne that rested in a glass bottle shaped like an old-fashioned car from the early 1900's. For some reason she seemed to think that it had been her grandfathers, one of those things passed down from generation to generation like a portrait of Jesus.

Her mother used to sleep here... but now she... now she didn't. she hadn't in a long time. It was strange how something could happen a long time ago and the wounds still feel fresh or how something could happen a short time ago and feel like an eternity in the past. Time was funny in that respect.

Tara felt the air begin to shift, and suddenly everything was different. Her mothers presence seemed to fill the room. A series of flashes began in the back of her eyes as she turned her body to face the previously empty bed. She turned to find the bed no longer empty. Her mother's frail body rested there now as if it had been there the whole time. Tara felt the need to go to her bedside and play her role in the events of that night. The same as she did each and every time she had this dream.

She could feel the cold of the wood beneath her feet so she looked down at her toes as they stood in contrast against the darkened wood. Somehow her feet began to move then, as they always did. They carried her to her mothers bedside. She could see her mother looking at her...regarding her as if she was a child. Tara swallowed the lump in her throat as she suddenly felt like that child in the stream of her mama's gaze.

"Tara sweetie... Don't be afraid. It's my time to go."

Tara felt tears well up in her throat causing it to tighten to the point of keeping the words she wanted to say from escaping inside anything but a croak of emotion. "Mama" Was the only sound Tara could manage. She took the older woman's hand in her own and rubbed her cheek against the weathered skin of her mother's hand.

Tara felt desperate. She felt like if she just closed her eyes she could hold onto her mother's life and keep it from seeping away like sand through a sieve. Tara saw the flutter of her mother's lashes and knew the end was just around the bend.

"l'll love you always Tara... be strong, take care of things and always remember to follow your heart."

And then she was gone. Tara put her head down next to her mother's arm as it rested on the bed. She cried so hard that she wasn't sure she would ever be able to stop. She wanted to scream and to shake her mother; to wake her up and make her come back. It wasn't fair. It wasn't fair that her mother should go and leave her all alone.

Tara jerked awake with a start. For a moment she didn't know where she was and then it registered. She felt Willow's presence next to her as solid as stone.

Tara's body was covered in perspiration. She leaned her cheek against the pillow so that she could look at Willow. She could see the steady rise and fall of her lover's body and she know that Willow was asleep. Tara longed to wake her and slip into the comforting arms she knew would surround her. But she didn't. Part of her didn't want Willow to know that she still had dreams of her mothers death...she didn't want Willow to know that she often relived that night over and over again like a record stuck on repeat.

Donny turned in his bed. The dream he'd just had still echoing in his thoughts like a loud word shouted inside a large cavern. He brought his hand up to rub at the stubble growing on his chin. His mother's last words to him sat in his chest like a ton of iron. 'You were such a good child Donny... I know you can be that again. Be the man I know you can be and keep your sister safe.'

Donny closed his eyes at the remembered words. I'm trying mama, his mind whispered of its on volition. He felt instantly foolish. Why was he speaking into the night like a child? He was a grown man after-all. and grown men didn't call out to their mothers in the middle of the night.

He was doing the best he could. So, If he was doing the things that he should do, why did his mother's death envelope him on more occasions than he could count?

Maybe it was because he'd stayed in the house after his mother's death, unlike his sister.

Tara had been smarter than he, she'd moved to the barn. She'd always been smarter than he had. Maybe he should have left a long time ago... moved out and away... to another state maybe. But no, he couldn't do that. What would Tara do if he ever left? He couldn't leave his sister to fend her herself. He wouldn't do that. Besides he'd made a promise to their mother on her death bed that he would keep Tara safe. And that's what he had to do.

Tara leaned against one of the few remaining fence posts. She couldn't help but smile as she watched her brother and her lover working together. Willow's face looked so pink in the mid-morning sun.

When Willow had said earlier this morning that she wanted to feel more useful, Tara had no idea that the redhead would take it to such an extreme.

Tara had planned on giving willow a moderately easy task such as planting tulips or clearing the weeds from the garden, but Willow had been so gung-ho about the whole situation, that she had taken up the task of digging-up and replanting fence posts with Donny. Tara had started out with them, trying to help, but it had become apparent in only a few short minutes that she was in the way more than she was helping, so she'd retired and resigned herself to the sidelines to watch.

Tara smiled when Willow bent down to pick a post up off the ground. She was getting a good view of her lover's backside, which made her think that maybe sitting on the sidelines wasn't such a bad thing after all. Tara considered the alternatives... which included sweating and hard labor and not the wonderful views she was getting right now. Tara tried to keep the unseemly grin from her face... It wouldn't be proper to oogle her lover so obviously for all the world to see... and by the world, she meant Donny.

She cleared her throat in an attempt to keep the forming chuckle at bay. "I could help you with those you know" Tara called out but neither Donny nor Willow looked up from their work. Tara lifted her fingernail to her teeth and gingerly bit down as she pondered her situation. It was obvious that neither of them were going to let her help today. Maybe she'd go into the house and get them something cold to drink. Tara remembered seeing a container of Iced tea in the fridge at breakfast this morning. Tara pushed herself up off the fence post with the intent of slipping away unnoticed.

Tara smiled at her success as she headed directly toward the house at a diagonal angle. Once there, she pushed open the screen door and stepped inside. Tara leaned against the floral papered kitchen wall for a moment, as she waited for her eyes to adjust to the difference in lighting.

After a few moments her eyes began to adjust and she was able to walk across the kitchen floor without feeling dizzy. Tara pulled the fridge door open and spotted the glass pitchure of tea right away. It looked delightful.

The sunlight streaming in from the kitchen window caused the amber liquid to shine. Small specs of light danced across the surface of the counter as Tara set the glass container down. Tara reached above her and taking two glasses from the cabinet she set them next to the container on the counter.

Tara had fully intended to pour the tea then, but something flicked in her mind and she found herself lost in the memory of being a child and standing in the kitchen with her mother as the light from outside poured rays of sun through the window, in the same way it was doing now.

Tara remembered watching her mother stir tea leaves into heated water as she would add just the right amount of sugar to make the naturally bitter brew into a nice sweet drink.

It was such a warm memory and Tara couldn't help a smile as she closed her eyes she wanted to shut out all the unimportant sensory information from the stimulus of the kitchen. She wanted to allow her mind full access to these memories.

Tara was in a completely peaceful mood as she leaned against the old tree that grew behind the house. Willow's head was cushioned on her lap and Tara Idly ran her fingers through the silky, red strands of her lover's hair.

The sad feelings left by the dream had finally begun to lift away from her mind and Tara could finally look back on the dream and feel the love her mother had had for her instead of the sorrow Tara had felt at her passing. Tara's eyes lifted until her vision caught sight of the sunflower field.It was no longer the lush landscape it was the Summer she and Willow had spent most of their time searching for each-other amid the foliage.

Tara remembered the way it felt to be lost inside the denseness of the sunflower field waiting for Willow to find her. She felt a tinge in her heart at the pitiful sight of what once was a magnificent golden blanket of sun, bees and birds.

The sunflowers were mostly dead now. And despite plenty of volunteers that had sprouted this summer, they just hadn't been able to sustain a full bloom. The few flowers that were not brown and dead looked as if they might die any day now.

Tara smiled a faint smile. She could almost feel the thick heads of the blooms resting heavy against her face and shoulders, even though most had grown clear up above the top of her head.

Tara twisted a strand of Willow's hair through her fingers. Feeling its soft texture seemed to ground her and keep her from getting completely lost in the thoughts of the sunflowers.

Actually if she thought about it, they hadn't bloomed right since her mother's death. And no matter what Tara had done made them any difference. It was almost as if the magic that Odessa had conjured had been feeding them... nourishing them.

Tara remembered her mother's monthly trips to the clearing in the center of the field. Her father had never known this. But that had been their sacred spot. It was where they communed with the Goddess and practiced the magic that was forbade of them by Tara's father.

For awhile it was the magic that had been the only thing keeping her mother alive as the cancer had worsened in her mother's body. In the end though, Tara's mother had given up the field and so had Tara, in a way.

Tara didn't really know what she felt about that. Maybe there was a part of her that was angry with her mother for leaving... maybe that's why she dreamed. Was she trying to fight just a little harder each time in order to produce a different outcome? I didn't seem to matter... it always ended the same.

Tara missed the woman so much. Odessa had always been her safety and then, one day, she was just gone.

Odessa would have known what to do with the Sunflowers, she'd known what to do about everything. "Let them be child, these things have a way of taking care of themselves" Tara could almost hear her mother's words of advice in her head. She knew that's what her mother would have said, had she been here to say it.

So that was what Tara had done. When she hadn't been able to help the flowers, she'd left them alone and each year they had worsened. Even the birds had done their part, dropping seeds here and there in their hungry pecking... the sunflowers just wouldn't save themselves.

Tara looked out once again at the deadness. Now that the ceremonies no longer took place, the sunflowers were just fragmented shells of what they had once been.

Tara cast her eyes away from the vision of death before her. There was only so much death one soul could take. She picked at a flower next to the hand that rested on the grass. Tara twirled the daisy between her fingers, spinning it to the tip, before reversing the action and sending the delicate flower in the opposite direction. The tiny white petals vibrated with the movements.

She hadn't meant it to be, but concentrating on the flower was taking her into a familiar focused mediation. The air around her seemed to shimmer golden as it radiated life and warmth. This light seemed to cover everything thing in view. Tara looked back out at the dead sunflowers, the color seemed to be superimposed over them as well. They swayed in a breeze that wasn't there. They shimmered and sparkled as the golden haze enveloped them. It was a beautifully eerie sight, almost as if the flowers themselves were explaining their plight. Begging for the help Tara knew she couldn't give. They seemed to thirst, not for water, but for life... for the magic that once nourished them.

Then all at once the vision disappeared as quickly as it had come. Tara's mother had always said that she had a touch of the gift. But she'd never really thought about what that meant. Her mother had told her once that it was the ability to see the true matter of a situation. Tara didn't think she wanted to see the true matter of the sunflowers though, because it left her with a sense of responsibility for them.

Willow's eyes were closed as she enjoyed the coziness of the afternoon, ever now and then a speck of pollen floating off some nearby or distant source would accost her nose, making it itch, but aside from that the day was as still and warm as cotton baking in the sun.

She'd long since put down the book she'd been reading. Abandoning it for the more pleasurable prospect of closing her eyes and giving into the nap that had been threatening ever since she and Tara had come out this afternoon.

Her body ached from putting up the fence this morning. It had been hard work and Willow was glad that she and Donny had finished for the day. The sun was too hot to have continued anyway and this was a lot more pleasant. Willow breathed in heavily as she felt her body relax into the firmness of Tara's thigh. A Bee buzzed past her face, but she kept still until it continued on its way.

Willow felt a sudden change in atmosphere, nothing big, nothing the average person would pick up on, but because she was astute in the delicate art of picking up on such things, she felt it. Kind of like a signature at the bottom of a will. There but almost not there at the same time.

Willow didn't open her eyes, instead she tried to tune into the source of the fluctuation. But the only thing she could feel was the beating of Tara's heart. Had they shifted together? Did Tara feel the quickening of the air around them ? Or was it just her? Willow felt her own heart begin to beat in time to Tara's... it was as if they were merging...joining together the aspects of themselves that were drawn into each-other. Kind of a calling. And then it was gone, the world was just as it had been before.

Willow opened her eyes. She didn't move her head from Tara's lap though, instead she felt the blonde put the warm palm of her hand across Willow's forehead as if to say 'everything's alright, it was just a thing that happened'

They wouldn't talk about it, she knew, because they had both said everything that was needed to be said, without even a word being spoken.

Continue to Catching Sunflowers in Bloom Chapter Nineteen

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