"Where have you been?" Donald Jr. sneered at his cousin. His attention barely left the television set as Ricky shut the door.
"The machine was broken so I had to go to the store across the street," the younger man set his purchases on the table beside his cousin and knew not to expect a ‘thank you' when he dropped the leftover change next to the beverages. Donnie erupted with laughter, uncaring of Ricky's explanation as he opened a soda and continued snickering at the television screen.
While the older Maclay's attention drifted further into the television program, Ricky disappeared in the small bathroom, resisting the urge to slam the door shut. The younger boy fixed his gaze on his reflection.
He had been a fool not to call his uncle. Ricky knew that Donald Maclay would not have been happy to receive the call, but he was surer that Donnie would have been even more furious to know the call had been made. Deciding that the latter was the worst of his problems, considering he was always within an arms length, Ricky chose to stick it out. They would find Tara and then he would go home, possibly find his own place, and get on with his life.
Ricky splashed a handful of water onto his face. He looked up at his reflection one last time and then exited the bathroom.
"I'm going for a walk," he announced, zipping his jacket as he headed for the door.
Donnie clicked off the television and warily regarded his cousin. "What's wrong with you?" He asked, noting the slump of the younger man's shoulders.
"Nothing, I'm just getting some air," Ricky stepped through the doorway and closed it behind himself. Donnie stared at the closed door for a moment before shrugging off what he was thinking and switching on the television.
The program, however, barely held his attention as the young man's eyes continuously drifted toward the window. With a disgruntled sigh, Donnie left his spot, moving to pull the dusty curtains back from the glass. A feeling of irritation crawled on the back of his neck as he watched Ricky smoking a cigarette and leaning against the side of the broken soda machine.
Why had he brought him? The younger Maclay had always been bothersome and a pain to have around, but he had asked him to come along regardless. Donnie knew that he could have made the trip and returned Tara by himself, which caused another prickling of irritation.
Why, after so many years, did his father want Tara to come home? She had been perfectly fine where she was and he sure as hell didn't need her around messing up everything for him. He never understood women, or was it that he never cared to? Pushing away from the window, the young man flopped back onto the bed, pushing back the part of him that hoped he would never find his sister.
"What are you afraid of?"
Slowly and beautifully, Tara's eyes rose, the flash of truth and fear within them was unmistakable to Willow.
"There is something, isn't there? Some reason why you won't talk to me," the redhead dipped her head, attempting to follow Tara's downcast gaze. "I'm going to be honest with you, Tara," pausing, Willow looked past the blonde to a bird that had settled on a low hanging branch.
Was freedom enough?
The bird shook its feathers, bringing them in tightly in search of warmth. Small beads appeared to carefully watch, perched on the trembling tree limb.
The doctor's gaze relaxed back onto Tara and her previous thoughts and words became a fading memory. Willow moved to gently raise the blonde's chin, but her hand quickly fell away, "I promise I'll do my best to help you, but it has to go both ways."
"Will you tell me what happened? What you're afraid of?" She asked. Tara had yet to speak, her eyes remaining downcast.
"Angels whisper so the Devil won't hear them." The blonde's head shot up, abruptly. "Do you remember when you said that to me?" Willow asked, seeing the response she had received.
Eyes wide and hesitant, Tara continued staring at the red-haired woman. Yes, she remembered. In that moment, she remembered more than words as an image pushed forth and onto the surface, having been suppressed for far too long.
"Is that what you're afraid of, Tara?" The doctor's question seemed ridiculous even to Willow's ears. Whatever meaning the words held, she was not yet sure but hoped to find out soon.
Words stumbled on the blonde's tongue, but none had been given a voice. Willow noted Tara's blank expression and from the lack of clarity, the redhead was certain she had triggered something.
"I'm stuck." The little girl struggled, attempting to free her shirt from the broken nail jutting from the wooden fence.
"We have to hurry," a hand reached out, releasing the fabric with a firm tug. The two figures squeezed through the small opening between the fence and the brick siding of the house and hurried across the damp grass.
"My feet hurt," the girl said. A deep frown creased her face, "Why are we running, Mama?"
"Shhh, Angels whisper so the Devil won't hear them." Strong fingers gripped the girl's hand, tenderly. "Just a little further, I promise," the words were breathed calmly to cover the tremble of the woman's voice.
The dark outline of the car served as a beacon for the older woman as she pushed her legs a little harder. So close...
The child began to cry, softly.
The porch light turned on, illuminating the front yard and stopping mother and child inches from the concrete of the driveway.
Willow watched as a chill ran through Tara's frame. The blonde blinked, shaking herself from the vividness of her memory.
"Let's get back inside." The coldness had grown bitter and had begun to seep through layers of clothing. Willow stepped closer as they walked, seeking to lend her warmth to the other woman who shivered just a little.
The walk was short as both women's thoughts drifted. Tara's gaze rested briefly, tentatively, on the side profile of the redhead's face. Her heart pounded as fear and confusion beat against her chest. When she spoke, it took her nearly everything she had to go on.
"Why do you want to h-help me?" Foreign to her own ears, the blonde struggled to keep her eyes on Willow's face even as every part of her wanted to lower them. She had spent so many years in silence that actual language felt strange, awkward.
The doctor was silent as she turned the odd question around in her head. Helping was what she had always done and it had never been a matter of why. Willow was at a loss. Did there have to be a reason?
Tara lowered her eyes. Should she have asked? Did it really matter why the red-haired woman wanted to help her? Her father had always told her that nothing was given freely... there was always a motive. And yet her father had been wrong so many times. Why should this time be any different?
They kept walking until they had reached the steps of Willow's house. The redhead hadn't answered yet and, frankly, she wasn't sure of what to say. Unanswered questions hung between them as they entered the foyer.
Robin muted the television when the front door closed and the two women came into view. She had been in enough courtrooms to know discomfort, but the silence was unnerving. Her suggestion of tea was welcomed by both women and she disappeared into the kitchen.
Tara took the seat she was offered and sunk into the cushion of the sofa. Could she learn to live again outside the locked memories?