Return to Catching Sunflowers in Bloom Chapter Twenty-Two

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...)

The rest of the summer had passed by quickly, neither girl was worrying too much about doing any more work on the farm as they had somehow managed to lose their enthusiasm for manual labor. So instead they spent the long, hot days soaking in the nearby stream or going for long drives into the deep country side, taking in the sight of birds flocking from one field to the next or the cows grazing lazily in the pastures

Willow remembered a time when the sight of a lonely cow had made her angry. -- Angry with her father for driving her on that stupid trip and angry at with herself for not caring to spend time with the man. But that had been a long time ago and now Willow couldn't have been more grateful to the man for caring enough to force her to go with him that fateful summer day.

Kerri, who had spent the first few weeks after Donny left moping around, even seemed to be back to her old, rambunctious self and had been spending most of her time with the two of them. They tried to take Miss Kitty Fantastico with them on a couple of excursions but neither time had ended well and they had to come to the conclusion that the kitten was happier at home napping in a bit of sun

Even though there was a lightness to their days, Willow could sense a quiet sadness within Tara in the weeks after her brother's departure. Willow knew that Tara and Donny had grown close over the last few years and Tara was going to miss him.

They had seen Donny off with two suitcases and a one-way ticket out of Cullison. They had watched his bus pull away from the station. It was headed to Houston, Texas where Donny said he would stay with relatives until he could get a job and a place of his own. Tara said later on that night as they drove back to the farm that Donny told her he would write to them, but not to worry if they didn't receive a letter right away because he didn't know yet if he was any good at correspondence. Then she told Willow that she had given Willow's parents address to Donny and hoped that that had been okay. It was.

Many things transpired in the days before Tara and Willow were to leave for California. The major happening being that Tara's father came back to the farm.

"Dad?" Tara had come around the side of the house intending to collect the blackberry-picking bucket she had left out there the other day and was unprepared to see her father standing there on the back porch.

The man's arms were folded and small lines at the corners of each eye creased together as he squinted through the bright sunlight to peer out at the mass of golden-toped sunflowers swaying and rippling in the summer air.

Her father's lips were set firm in a grim line as he stared out absently at the awakened sunflower field. But he said nothing to her. Tara thought that he hadn't heard her speaking to him and was about to repeat herself when she heard her father's gruff voice.

"You do this?" He spoke blankly, his voice gruff and stony. He didn't look at her, or acknowledge her presence with anything other than those briefly spoken words. Tara couldn't really read between the lines of his words. She wasn't sure if he was angry because he suspected she had used magic or if was asking her if...But he was speaking again, and had not waited for a response from Tara.

"I suppose Donny told you about the situation?"

When Tara didn't answer the man spoke again.

"I never meant for any of this to happen."

"I know...." The truth was, that Tara didn't know what her father had intended or not intended to happen, but she felt the need to tell him what she felt he needed to hear.

"I loved your mother. I did."

"I know..." Tara said again. It seemed like the only thing she could say. Tara didn't know what to do. Physical closeness had never been a part of their dynamic so a hand to the shoulder was out of the question, and she didn't trust herself to speak without stammering in front of the man.

"You're the only one I have left Tara. I know I've been hard on you...I just never knew what it took to raise a girl...I guess I still don't."

Soon after that, Tara made the decision to stay with her dad for a while longer, to make sure that he was taken care of. They decided that Willow would go back to California alone and Tara would follow when the time was right.

Tara sat down on the bed. She didn't know what to say to Willow as the redhead gently pulled clothes from the drawer and placed them neatly in her duffle bag. She didn't think she could look Willow in the eyes and not cry.

When she told Willow that she couldn't go with her just yet, Willow had taken it fairly well. There had been tears and hugs. A general melancholy had settled across them, flavoring everything they said and did for the next couple of days; but that had lifted and they had been just getting back to some semblance of normal when the time had come for Willow to pack up her things in preparation to leave.

They spent nights holding each other listening to the owls hoot out calls to far away lovers as they sat on their tree branch homes. And to the sound of crickets strumming beautiful melodies with their goddess-given instruments. On occasion fireflies would converge just outside their window and entertain them with intricate formations, their glowing bodies bleeping in and out of existence with the light breeze that blew blessedly through the open window. This night was a little different however ; it was going to be their last because Willow was heading back to California in the Morning.

"Willow.....I..." Tara wanted to say something as Willow folded yet another shirt. They seemed to be using silence as a sort of buffer against any type of emotion that might make the reality of their situation come to life. Willow stopped Tara with a kiss on the lips -and a small smile before she went back to folding clothes and placing them in the bag. Tara bit her bottom lip, examining her not-so-neatly trimmed nails. She knew Willow didn't want to talk about what would happen in the morning, but Tara needed to...there were things she wanted to tell Willow that she didn't want to leave until their last moment together.

"Why do flies always know just where to buzz you to be the most annoying?" Willow swatted at one such beast as she spoke, stopping it momentarily, but not long enough to breathe a sigh of relief. Willow regarded Tara out of the corner of her eye. She could tell that Tara wanted to talk, but Willow didn't think she could do that without crying. It was hard enough to keep it together while trying to pack up her belongings.

The night passed by quickly. Neither girl could bring herself to close her eyes so neither of them had gotten very much sleep. And even though they had prayed silently throughout the night that all their problems would somehow have magically disappeared upon waking, dawn still came, finding them in the same boat as the night before, still wishing things could have been different.

"Don't cry okay...." Willow held Tara in her arms, the woman lightly sniffling against her shoulder. Willow caressed Tara's long blonde hair until her fingers became tangled and she could no longer move them. Tara's face, wet with tears was pressed against the skin of Willow's neck. They held each other so tightly that it was a wonder that either girl was breathing. Willow leaned back against the long wooden bench taking Tara with her. Willow's back butting up against its hard surface. She felt like her life was coming to an end, that even though her body would go forward and continue functioning, her heart might not. How could she leave Tara there, how could she get into her car and drive away? All these questions pounded heavily in Willow's mind as she fought to keep her hold on Tara's soft body flexible.

Tara took a deep breath, breathing in and out steadily. Why hadn't she just told her father of her plans to leave? It would have been so easy to come out and say it. But she hadn't. Tara had sensed something in her father's presence that sealed her lips on the subject. Had it been need? Tara squeezed her eyes tightly shut and bit her tongue from cursing the man for having returned at all. Tara didn't want to stay, but did she have the courage to leave with Willow when the time came? Tara didn't know. She had never gone against her father's wishes before and it seemed as though even as an adult she still felt the need to follow instruction.

Willow pulled back slightly, until their foreheads touched. Each girl focused on the other's nose while they tried to get their breathing under control. Willow could hardly see through the unshed tears that pooled in her eyes. She kissed Tara's cheek lightly, before wrapping her arms around the blonde again and pressing her face into Tara's silky blonde hair. "I love you so much Tara." Willow said, her eyes now shut as she whispered into Tara's ear.

"Darling...." Tara said, a shiver going through her body as the sensations of Willow's breathily spoken words skirted across the delicate skin of her ear.

Willow reverently closed the door to the trunk, her modest duffle bag stuffed inside. She looked back toward the barn and made her eyes focus on its tall form. Behind it's massive wooden door, she knew her lover lay across the bed they had shared. She wondered if Tara was still crying. She thought about returning and putting her arms around Tara one last time, but couldn't bring herself to do so. Willow knew in her heart that if she went back, even for a moment, she wouldn't leave. And she had to leave right? She had to fulfill her promise and attend college like she said that she would....

Tara fell down across the bed. Tears running down her cheeks, like little rivers. She could feel the bedspread that still smelled of Willow as her tears grew wet against her face. What was she doing? Why was she sacrificing her own happiness for a man that never even showed the slightest care or concern for her needs? Why should she let her father guilt her into remaining there? If he chose to stay that was his business, but Tara wouldn't. Determined, Tara got up off the bed, her pity-party came to an end as she set foot on the ladder. She would tell her father exactly how she felt and that she intended to leave for California the following morning.

Tara heard the sounds of thunder rumble low, she paused counting the seconds until the flash of lightening was seen from the barn window. The lightening was followed by the sound of rain as it splashed onto the window, the slapping sound of water against glass making a harsh echo in the still night air. Kerri was barking somewhere outside, but Tara knew that the dog had enough sense to come in out of the approaching storm, so she wasn't too worried for the animal's safety. Miss Kitty, who had been laying curled up in a tight ball of fur, pricked her ears up at the noisy interruption of her peaceful slumber, her eyes squinted in the dim light of sunrise.

Tara felt the wood splinter beneath her brown lace-up boots as she once again began her descent down the stairs. Tara heard the loft creak uneasily as she descended the final rungs. Her heart was beating fast, but she felt oddly at peace, having made up her mind that this was the right course of action. She loved Willow too much to be separated from her again. And that was that.

Tara felt her hand on the cool wood of the barn door, it was opened just a crack but that was enough to let the rainy mist seep in around the edge of the door. Tara felt the cool moisture on the back of her hand as she pushed the door open the rest of the way.

Tara would have liked to have been able to say that she was surprised when she opened the door and found Willow standing in the rain, soaked to the skin and waiting for Tara on the other side. She wasn't surprised. The emotion Tara felt at the sight of Willow far surpassed any amount of surprise she could have ever felt. They came together, their bodies crushing in a frantic attempt to become one.

"I couldn't leave you again, Tara." Willow wrapped her arms tightly around Tara's waist, practically lifting the girl up and off her feet. They kissed passionately and then reverently.

"Come on...." Tara said, shaking Willow from the sound sleep she'd been in. Willow rubbed her eyes and her mouth hung sleepily in a downward pout.

"Go where Tare...? It's too early for more chores....kay?" Willow said sleepily. She smiled dreamily as she tried to put her head back onto the pillow but Tara was already pulling her to her feet.

"No chores Will. We need to get out of here."

"What?" Willow was fully awake now and very confused.

"I told him I'm leaving with you today."

"You did what? When? How? Why? Where was I?"

"I told him I'm leaving. This morning. I did it because it was the best thing to do. I realized that I can't keep living my life for other people. I have to do what makes me happy. You were sleeping."

"Oh....." Willow's words trailed off. And then her morning-muffled brain snapped to attention. "OH!" She said excitedly. "Are you sure?" Willow took Tara's hands, holding her lover's delicate fingers in the space between their bodies.

Tara nodded, feeling confident in her decision. She traced her finger along Willow's lightly freckled cheek and smiled.

Willow nearly melted at the sight of Tara's crooked grin. They stared into each other's eyes for a very long moment before Willow took in a cleansing breath and squeezed Tara's hand in hers before letting go.

Willow dressed quickly while Tara threw clothes into a worn suitcase. She opened her drawer and pulled out the box containing all the letters Willow had written her during their separation. It was a sobering moment and Tara felt that a moment of silence was necessary as she placed the box lovingly in the suitcase. Tara took one more glace around the loft. She was ready to do this; she knew this to be true.

Willow scooped up the Miss Kitty and placed her in the back seat of the car. They'd buy her the most luxurious cat carrier on the way. "You're going to be spoiled rotten." Willow spoke to the cat as if she were speaking to a small child. Miss Kitty just looked up at her and curled up on the seat, her paws tucked underneath her body the kitten closed her eyes.

Kerri was close by coming up behind Willow's legs, the dog rubbed against her with his head. Willow motioned for the dog to jump in.

Tara came out of the barn caring her suitcase in one hand and the potted plant that she had planted the day Willow came back to her tucked into the crook of her arm. Tara's hair was tied up in a low hanging pony-tail that allowed her blonde hair to stream down her back. She put on earrings that morning, which was something she rarely did. Autumn was approaching and the morning was still cool so she had thrown on a pair of jeans and a long sleeved shirt. It was baby blue and hugged her just right. Tara could feel the skin of her stomach peeking just below the material and it made her feel sexy. And she wanted to feel sexy, this day was the start of a brand, new life for her and she wanted to start it off right.

Tara watched Willow as the redhead leaned up against the car. Her arms were folded and she wore a pair of sunglasses and a grey, zip-up sweater over top the red tank top she had put on this morning. The sweater was unzipped and Tara could see the red shirt underneath. Willow's small breasts rested gracefully under the cotton of Willow's shirt and Tara could just make out the outline of a nipple as it pressed against the barrier. Tara was so lost in the moment that she didn't hear the front door of the farmhouse open or the boots stomping down the stairs until it was too late. Willow stopped smiling and that had been Tara's first clue that there was something wrong. Tara looked to her left just in time to see her father stalking toward her. His eyes were hard and angry and Tara began to back away. She didn't know what he was going to do. Willow was beside her in an instant, so quick in fact that Tara barely had time to register Willow's movement at all.

Willow's heart raced as she slid her body in between Tara's father and her lover. She didn't know what she was going to have to do...but she knew she would do it if it meant protecting Tara. There was no way that she was going to let anyone hurt her. Willow tensed as the man halted in his tracks.

"Excuse me young lady, I don't know just who you think you are, but I'm going to talk to my daughter."

Tara watched her father speak through gritted teeth, he hadn't shaved that morning and the stubble on his chin could be clearly seen from where Tara stood. She knew she would have to let him say his piece if she was ever going to be free of him. "It's o-okay Will..." Tara put her hand reassuringly on the back of Willow's arm.

Willow looked at Tara's hand on her arm and knew that she would have to let Tara handle this. Willow walked back toward the car, but she kept a careful eye on the situation.

"I'm leaving dad...I'm sorry if you don't agree with that." Tara spoke softly. Her voice trembled but there was strength there.

"Don't do this Tara."

Her father's tone was warning and malicious, but Tara didn't back down. She knew there was nothing more she could say to her father that would ever make things okay with him and she had the wisdom not to try. Tara turned, and started toward the car, her suitcase feeling heavy in her hand. She focused on Willow, watching her lover's green eyes as she walked steadily closer. She didn't know what her father was going to do but Tara let all that go; her only purpose now was to make it to the car. Tara didn't pause when she heard the hard tones of her father's voice behind her.

"If you leave now, don't you ever set foot on this property again."

Tara felt tears in the back of her eyes at her father's words, but she didn't stop moving. Tara didn't look back as she climbed into the passenger seat of Willow's car. She couldn't look back, because she knew that if she did, she would have seen her father standing there in anger, his presence marring the good memories of the farmhouse she so desperately wanted to hang onto.

They traveled west, Tara's head on Willow's shoulder as lazy rock tunes flowed from the radio. Tara was reminded of her brother and the way he always wore shirts supporting his favorite rock groups. She smiled at the thought. They drove down the interstate singing along with the Rolling Stones to the tune of "Wild Horses" -- and regretting nothing. With every mile traveled the past was slipping away from Tara, but she welcomed it with the knowledge that the future could be so much sweeter than the past.

Continue to Catching Sunflowers in Bloom Epilogue

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