Memories are often like chains; one thought or image linking to another.
Tara sipped her tea and glanced at Willow over the brim of her cup. The redhead was leaning back into her chair as she scribbled onto her notepad. The former patient had agreed to the young doctor's promise to start slow and waited patiently as Willow made notes.
Over the brim, wet from the steam, Tara attempted to read the red-haired woman. She was willing to put aside her belief that help was never given without reason in hopes that Willow would prove her wrong.
The search would have to start in the beginning.
Willow wanted Tara to set the pace, which meant that other than a little prompting by the redhead, Tara was able to begin wherever she felt most comfortable. The doctor's methods may be viewed by her colleagues as unorthodox, but she wasn't concerned with other people's beliefs. She was there to help, which also meant that she would do it in whichever way she believed would be successful and easiest for her patient.
"How about we begin by you telling me about something, a place, whichever, where you felt the happiest," Willow began. She raised her head to look into Tara's eyes as she leaned back into her seat, pen poised over the legal pad. Starting slow meant words were chosen carefully; that thoughts of happiness and joy would need to be brought to the surface before the doctor could delve into the nameless shadows Tara hid within her eyes.
Tara cleared her throat and nodded, "Okay." She set her cup back onto the table before wiping her damp hands onto her pants, where she left them to rest.
Happiness, like most abstract feelings, was something Tara had desperately tried to cling to before her admission into Pines View. Small pieces of fragmented images floated behind her eyes as she shut them.
"Whatever you can think of," Willow's voice came in like a whisper as she saw Tara's forehead crease slightly while the blonde searched.
Her patient's breathing came quietly and calmly—meditative. "Logan's house," Tara finally murmured and opened her eyes with the image of a long face with chocolate brown eyes.
"Logan?" Willow asked and jotted the name down in her notebook. "Was he one of your friends?"
Tara nodded, "He was my only friend." Holding onto the clear picture, the blonde continued. "I used to feed him carrots," a corner of her mouth lifted, "but he liked to eat my hair."
Willow frowned until the image of what Tara was describing clicked in her brain. The doctor waited a moment before going on. "Logan's house was his stable?" She asked, smiling when Tara's nod confirmed her guess. "Let's pretend we're there, okay. Where it's safe and pleasant, and nobody can touch us." Willow set her notebook on her knees and leaned forward. "Can you picture it? What it looks like?"
The blonde's eyebrows creased, dipping toward the bridge of her nose as she envisioned the stable. "Yes," Tara breathed, finding the picture clear in her mind.
"How old were you? Can you remember how he looked?" Question after question left Willow's mouth until the doctor silenced herself, wanting to avoid coming off too forceful.
The blonde reached for her cup and took a sip before setting it back onto the coffee table. The tea soothed her throat as she spoke. "He was brown, I think. With spots of white," Tara answered with the only image she held clearly. "I was five o-or maybe six," she looked up as if seeking confirmation before her eyes lowered, unfocused.
"And my mom would always let me go see him before and after school," Tara went on, her expression faraway as she relived the memory.
Willow continued to listen as the young woman related her story, the doctor only stepping in to ask brief questions. During Tara's small description of her past, the redhead had learned that Logan was a neighbor's horse that had later been promised to the young blonde as a birthday present. Willow's smiles matched those of Tara's while the woman's narration continued on for the better part of twenty-minutes. The doctor jotted down words that stuck out more than others and had begun to write more when the single-sided conversation came to a sudden halt.
Tara's innocent retelling of a long-ago happiness had snagged on another thought and left the young woman silent.
After waiting a moment to see whether or not her patient would go on, Willow cleared her throat and spoke up. "It's okay if you want to stop now," she said, gently. Tara hesitated, tempted to seek refuge in her mind and push away what had stopped her from speaking. However, as Willow flipped the pages of her legal pad back, believing that the session was over, the blonde went on.
"My brother killed him."
Willow's hand stopped mid-motion as she heard both the words and the trace of coldness in Tara's voice. The two women sat quietly and Tara's features were etched with sadness and anger when the doctor's gaze sought the blonde's. Willow stumbled for words, "How? Why?" Her probing came without thought.
Somewhere in the back of her mind, Tara knew that she should stop, and that she should just let the memory fade back into the place where it had been hidden for so long, but she couldn't. That tattered edge of remembrance had already begun to unravel.
As if suddenly realizing that the subject was too delicate to approach so early in their talks, Willow forced aside her unexpected curiosity. Her professional side told her to drop the topic immediately for fear that verbalizing the details would send Tara into remission, while the other part wanted to know more.
Regardless of what the doctor thought, Tara chose to continue on her own before Willow could interrupt. The words left her mouth before they could be held back. Rather than interrupting, the red-haired doctor listened closely while her patient recounted the story of a rough young boy and his new pellet gun.
Willow closed the door to the spare room, looking back for a moment before walking down the hallway to her own bedroom. Sighing lightly, the doctor kicked off her shoes and sprawled herself out across her bed. In all honesty, she had been surprised of the easiness by which Tara had spoken to her. Especially since less than a day ago, she could hardly get the girl to talk. It wasn't that she didn't appreciate or wasn't thrilled by the fact that the blonde had opened up; it was only that she didn't expect so much in one session.
The story about Donald Maclay junior had been upsetting to say the least, but the way in which Tara told the story bothered Willow a little. She knew that Tara had a right to be angry, but while she had spoken, something more lingered in her voice. Turning onto her stomach, Willow closed her eyes against the brightness of the table lamp. She drifted to sleep, still trying to figure Tara out and knowing that as a doctor, nothing ever went according to plan.
"Father Maclay?" A low, hesitant voice broke through the darkness and echoed in the rear hall of the church. The young man who had spoken moved slowly down the dim corridor with his eyes fixed on the strip of light glowing at the end of the hallway.
The old building groaned, wood breathing a sigh when the door creaked open.
"What is it?" Donald asked. His dark silhouette framed within the doorway, sleeves rolled up to his elbows, the preacher's impatient gaze bore down on the young cleric.
"Tonight's sermon is ready for review." He inhaled the thick smell of the older man's breath as he handed over the booklet.
"Have you added last night's notes?" Mr. Maclay asked, flipping through the first couple of pages of the packet. His forehead creased once he had reached the last pages. The assistant nodded, muttering a low 'yes', and waited for the preacher to dismiss him.
With few words, Donald let the young man go before stepping back into his office and shutting the door. With a deep sigh, the reverend tossed the booklet onto the pile of papers and documents that covered his desk, and leaned back into his chair.
He had been expecting a phone call from an associate and glanced expectantly at the telephone when it rang. The shrill sound continued for a number of seconds before he answered. While he spoke and listened to the voice on the other end, the preacher began to search his desk; moving and flipping over sheets of paper to find what he was looking for.
Donald pushed a stack of articles to the side and when his fingers brushed the edge of a newspaper, the headline immediately grabbed his attention. Scanning the date and ignoring his friend's comments, his face paled as he read over the opening lines.