Return to Catching Sunflowers in Bloom Chapter Twenty-Three

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...)
Note: Thanks to Carleen for beta'ing.

"Mommy? Is this the place you grew up?"

"Yes honey." Tara said, turning around to look at her daughter.

This would be the first time in 16 years that Tara had been back to her family home. After the confrontation with her father the morning she left with Willow, she said goodbye to her old life and never regretted it. She had a wonderful life and a beautiful daughter.

She and Willow decided to adopt 8 years ago. Four years out of college they began to get restless to start a family. And after several failed attempts to conceive through insemination, Willow had brought up the topic of adoption and Tara had latched onto the idea. Something just felt right about offering their love and home to a child without either of those comforts. The use of magic to conceive had never been an option as they both knew the importance of respecting the natural order things and were well versed on the repercussions for miss use.

Shylee came into their lives as a wide-eyed 6-month-old baby girl with the deepest brown eyes either Willow or Tara had ever seen. It had been an open adoption and Willow and Tara had made every attempt to include Shylee's birth mother, Andrea , in any and all of Shylee's special occasions. Shylee and her birthmother had a special relationship but seemed to relate to each other more as sisters than anything else.

Andrea had been a teenager when she got pregnant with Shylee and had known right from the start that she wanted to give her baby daughter a life that she herself couldn't give to her. And after many months of waiting, Willow and Tara received a call from Andrea, after she had come across them on a list of waiting parents. Willow and Tara felt strongly about having an open adoption and as it turned out Andrea wanted that as well.

Willow and Tara were not the only two fond of the little girl. It hadn't taken long for Shylee's tranquil brown eyes to work her way into Tara's brother's heart as well.

Donny was a common topic of conversation in the Rosenberg-Maclay house and even though they didn't get to see each other as much as they would have liked, Donny was still an integral part of their family. He had grown especially close to Shylee, who adored her uncle and would spend the time she saw him clamped to his side like a tiny barnacle on the side of a boat.

Donny, who had been married and divorced twice before , was now on his third wife. Willow and Tara had taken up bets on how long the relationship was going to last. So far it was going strong and this newest wife, Kimberly, was really great with Donny's children.

Tara's older brother was the proud father of 3-year-old twin boys and though they were fraternal, they were more alike than most identical twins. When Jackson got hurt Max cried and when Max couldn't sleep at night neither could Jackson. Shylee had taken to them instantly and at the age of 5 had been like a little mother hen to them, following them around before they could even walk to make sure that they didn't crawl into any trouble. And it had been that way ever since.

Tara looked at the road in front of her as she drove the last 10 miles to their destination. They had received the news two days ago about her father's death. Tara was a little sad, but mostly she felt sorry for the man. He had died alone.

Donny didn't want anything to do with him and wouldn't be attending the funeral. She'd talked to him briefly on the phone after she'd received the news. Tara didn't harbor such bitterness toward her father so it hadn't been a hard decision to make...of course they would make the trip.

Willow held the black umbrella over Shylee's head in an attempt to keep the little girl in the shade. Shylee wasn't paying attention to Willow's ministrations though. The little girl looked pensive, her long brown hair hung loosely down her back. Willow had meant to braid it that morning but time had slipped by quickly, so she had never gotten around to it.

The summer sun seemed especially hot that day, and the air was filled with the smells of her past. The smell of cut grass and warm dirt reminded Willow of spending time with Tara in the back field of her house when they had been kids, and then again later as young adults…but that had been so long ago, and this wasn't really the time to reminisce.

Tara stared at the wooden coffin as it was lowered into the ground by men she had never seen before. They wore dark suits and oddly stripped ties, and Tara had the thought that it seemed strange to stand there, watching men she’d never known put her father in the ground16 years after the last time she had seen him.

She could remember what he looked like, standing stiffly on the gravel as she walked past him, his lips set firmly in a line that slashed across his face in a surly manor. That was the way he had looked the last time she'd seen him…she remembered that the clearest of all. Tara never understood her father and he had never taken the time to understand her. And for that alone, she was truly sorry.

Tara felt Shylee against her legs. The girl had leaned back so that her back rested up against Tara's hip. Tara silently placed her hand on the little girl's shoulder. She knew the eight year old had only a limited vision of death. And even though they had explained it to her as best they could Tara knew that Shylee didn't fully understand everything that had happened in the last few days. But she was a very sensitive child and Tara had no doubt that she had picked up on the melancholy undertones that flavored everything they'd done since they received the news about Tara's father.

Tara's eyes didn't leave the sight of her father's coffin until it was completely submerged into the gaping, brown, earth. The reverend's words washed over her, but she couldn't really decipher what it was being said. Everything seemed like a mixed up jumble of moments that didn't seem to line up quite right. Tara felt a hand on her shoulder, and knew instantly that it was Willow's delicate fingers offering support and comfort and something else that was indescribable yet firmly rooted in the bond between she and Willow. Even after all these years that connection was still as strong as ever it was. Stronger even, they had been through so much together…they were lovers and friends and parents.

It was odd that now, at the age of 35, Tara was officially an orphan. And if it wasn't for the love of her wonderful family she might have felt like one too. Tara lifted her eyes to see Cousin Beth watching her. Tara had seen the woman, when they had arrived at the cemetery that day, but due to the circumstances of the gathering, hadn't had a chance to talk. Tara held no grudges toward the woman and knew if the opportunity presented itself she'd whole-heartedly welcome Beth back into her heart. Tara wasn't going to push the issue though, because she was still a firm believer that the Goddess had a plan for everything and a person's journey was a person's journey and shouldn't be meddled with. So she'd wait and see what happened. Beth chose that moment to break the eye contact they shared as if the Goddess had reached down and placed a sign into Tara's lap telling her that now was not going to be the time for reconciliation.

They smiled small smiles and shook reverent hands with passing people who stopped to talk to them on the way from the cemetery. Most were strangers but Tara recognized a few men and women from her youth. Most of the people there were older; their gray hair marked the passing of time since Tara had last been home. Beth had stayed away, as Tara suspected she would. But that was fine.

Shylee was oddly quiet and introverted that whole day, she barely said two words the entire time and it wasn't until later that evening after all the people had gone, leaving behind casseroles in white containers and brownies in glass pans, that the little girl seemed to come out of her shell a little. They spent that night in front of the television watching old episodes of "Good Times." Each time JJ said something with that huge grin on his face they would crack up. Tara felt like a weight had been lifted off of her for the first time since arriving in Cullison and it felt good to be laughing with her family again.

Tara sat waiting for the realtor to arrive. It had been a long day and all she really wanted to do was go to bed with Willow and go to sleep, but there was the realtor to contend with before any sleeping was likely to happen.

She had talked to her brother in detail and they decided that it might be best if the house was sold. Donny told Tara that it was up to her, because he had washed his hands of that mess years ago and didn't want to revisit any old feeling's he might have left behind. He didn't want the money from the sale either and had nearly hung up on Tara when she'd insisted that he take part of it. As for Tara, she was full of mixed feelings. She knew it was for the best that she and Willow sell the house, but part of her wished they didn't have to. Her past was here…her memories. Tara rubbed her eyes. They burned with the strain of trying to see through the glaring hot sun. She needed to rest. Tara called to Willow, she was sure that her wife wouldn't mind standing watch while Tara went inside and took a little nap.

Willow found Tara standing at the window in what used to be her room. Tara was looking outside with her head bent against the cracked and peeling paint if the window frame. "Hey you. I was looking everywhere for you. The realtor's here, he wants to take a look around. He's fully equipped he even came with charts." Willow came into the room and crossed the room to stand by Tara. The blonde wasn't looking at her; her gaze was focused out the window at some point in the distance. Willow looked out, but could see nothing but the sea of Sunflowers. "What are you thinking..?" Willow asked knowingly, she waited for her wife to respond to the question. She knew there was something going around in Tara's head….or was it more accurate to say she knew something was going around in Tara's heart?

"Willow, what if we didn't sell. We have enough money that we can afford the property tax….and the house has been paid off for years. It was paid off long before we met even."

"Tax wouldn't be too bad I suspect."

"Suspect?" Tara turned quickly toward her lover, she could see the humor reflecting as flecks of light in the other woman's green eyes. She was up to something.

Willow smiled. "I looked it up while you were on the phone with Donny." Willow glanced out the window. "There really are a lot of memories here…" Her voice trailed off as she got lost amidst the swaying field of golden flowers. They haven't died...after all these years...Willow was thinking to herself when she heard Tara's voice speaking next to her.

"And not just having to do with us...they are of my mother too…" Tara set her jaw firm. "We can't sell this place Will. I can't sell this place. It's a part of's a part of us."

"I know." And Willow had known. She had known when Donny told them that he wanted nothing to do with the house. She had known even when they were calling realtors to come and look at the place. She had known all along up until now, when the real estate agent pulled up in the driveway. She watched him come thinking, We can't sell this place. And they couldn't.

"What should we do then? I can't see us living here full time Will."

"I seem to recall a very country Tara who was right at home on the farm."

"Yes well, I've been suburbanized. You corrupted me with your big city ways. Yes lover, it's all your fault really. I should blame you. And I do." Tara teased. She felt the corner of her lips turn up in a half-smile.

"I wouldn't hang me just yet, something tells me you can still 'farm around' with the best of 'em."

"That was me 16 years ago, I'm not the same person I was then Will….Do you still love me?"

"What do you think?"

"That, that was a stupid question."

"Not stupid, just silly."

"I know...but just being back here has been really surreal..." Tara paused, turning back to the window. "You know?" she continued. "I've kept seeing places and things and I feel connected but at the same time it's almost like all this…" Tara spread her hands out to indicate the room, house, fields, sky, and the less tangible death of her only living parent. "Never really happened to me."

"Maybe we could stay for the summer." Willow touched Tara's shoulder to comfort her lover. "Things have been really slow around the office so I don't think they'll miss me much. Plus, I have my trusty laptop, which I'll use to keep an eye on those hooligans ."

"Yes Will, because everyone knows how crazy and unpredictable you accountants can be if left to your own devices." Tara winked at Willow. She slipped her arm around the redhead's slim waist. "I wouldn't be opposed to spending the summer…it could be good for Shylee, she's never experienced what it is like to wake up to the sound of birds outside her bedroom window."

"Or a cozy barn loft…" Willow reminded Tara, smiling in reminiscence.

"Or a cozy barn loft…" Tara confirmed. "Sometimes I feel guilty that the only wakeup call she's ever known is the hum of cars as they wiz past on the street outside our house ." Tara paused, thinking…"I could start a temp veterinary practice out here…I'm sure there are plenty of people in need of that kind of assistance. You know I hear there's still only one clinic in Cullison." She said

"It's settled then?"

Tara nodded.

"I'll make a pot of coffee."

Willow took the for sale sign out of the yard the next day. They had let the realtor look around the previous day, because neither of them had the heart to tell the man that they were no longer planning to sell…he just looked to darned desperately hopeful in his derby hat and tweed jacket and he'd come from quite a distance to take a look at the place.

Shylee had been excited when Willow and Tara told her the news that they would be staying the summer. The little girl had a babble that could even give Willow a run for her money but Willow was able to follow most of it well enough to learn that Shylee had met one of the little neighbor girls up the road and was looking forward to becoming fast friends with the girl. Shylee had said the girl's name was Katie Nelson and that she had a dead grandpa too. Willow sent Shylee outside to play after a parting bit of advice about walking around town spouting the words "dead grandpa" especially in front of her mother. Willow knew Tara was still sensitive on the subject.

The next day Willow carved a sign that they nailed to the fence post. It read: In love and light all things can grow up golden.

That night, outside the overgrown bramble of sinewy brownish/green stalks no one noticed the fireflies that converged there. The tiny creatures watched the warm glowing lights that lit up the old farmhouse windows. They lingered there for a long time, until they felt the breeze begin and then they dispersed in all directions, scattering into the gathering wind.


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