Willow could not control herself. She was physically sick and was shaking all over. She could not breathe, a shudder traveled up her spine and exploded just below her neck.
She felt blackness closing in, she was a heartbeat away from allowing it to flood over her.
She staggered out of the gallery in a daze, the stunned and concerned owner following right behind her. She grabbed the nearest inanimate object, a lamp post, and held on for dear life. Nausea overcame her again and she felt bile rising up from her stomach. She tried to be sick but nothing was left, she had emptied the contents of her stomach several times over already.
Fragments of the newspaper cutting the gallery owner showed her echoed through her mind.
"... senseless drive-by shooting just outside the bank, a few doors from the Espresso Pump ..."
"... through the heart, it was instantaneous ..."
"... perpetrators were never caught, though the police was looking for a white van with a spaceship design seen in the vicinity in connection with both the shooting and the bank robbery ..."
It hit her like a speeding bullet. Or a thousand ton freight train going at full speed.
She was on her way to see younger me. The white van, the robbery, shit! The nerds! The nerds shot Tara! Oh god, oh god, oh god!
She felt the blackness at the edge of her sanity again.
Then a sudden slap of realization.
I've got to stop her. The mailbox.
She ran and ran and ran, faster than she had ever run, faster than when she was chased by the deadliest demons. She would have flown if she knew how to fly. But still she was not fast enough.
She jumped in front of the nearest taxi and opened the door with such forcefulness it might have broken off its hinges. Almost out of breath she gave the address to the driver, who took one look at the desperate and petrified looking young woman and decided to shut his mouth and drive fast.
She managed to find a pen and a scrap of paper in her pocket, a receipt from the Magic Shop, she could not remember what. Her fingers were trembling so violently she was having difficulties writing. The words were all over the place, like the mad scramblings of a toddler just learning how to write, but just about legible.
She held onto the note with dear life, as if her entire life depended on it. And yes, her entire life did depend on it.
She's the most important person in my life.
The journey was the longest she had to endure all her life, even though it was no more than 10 minutes. She felt the seconds slipping away, and glared at the driver impatiently through the rearview mirror, even though he seemed to be breaking every traffic law already.
She jumped out of the cab even before it had stopped fully, hastily handing over a twenty to the driver and not bothering about the change. It was not the time to worry about things like that.
She tripped and scraped the bottom of her palms on the concrete pathway when she reached out her hands to steady herself. She thought her jeans may have been ripped too. But there was no time to clean the grime off, no time to tend to the broken skin, no time to wipe the blood off. Pain was not an option.
In her mind was one single task. Get to the mailbox, open the mailbox, put the note inside.
Her hands were shaking so much she had trouble with the catch, she angrily shook the box for being so unyielding, before finally negotiating the catch and got the door open. She struggled also to deposit the thin strip of paper, instantly regretting that she did not have a larger piece of paper, or an envelope or just something to make sure it did not get lost. In a moment of clarity, she put the pen on top of the paper to hold it down, wishing with all she had that it was sufficient.
She closed the catch of the mailbox and collapsed on the ground, totally drained and lacking in energy to even move. She knew she should be praying to God, the goddess and any other deity who was listening, to please get the note to Tara before she leaves for her appointment. To please please please not let Tara die. That she would never forgive herself ever, for causing Tara to die. But she was too exhausted to muster even a single word. It was all she could do to continue breathing and not pass out.
She did not notice the sky becoming suddenly pitch black or the mailbox becoming superheated as she sat limply on the ground. Or how in the next second it was back to normal again.
How she got home, she could not remember. She had no idea what time it was, how long she had remained in her fetal position on the couch. She did not even have the presence of mind to take off her coat and shoes.
How could she be so stupid. So selfish. Why did they have to take her away, so sweet and funny and wise and oh my god I'm going to be sick again.
She did not have the energy to go to the bathroom, but it did not matter, she had nothing left inside her and all that came out were dry heaves and wheezes.
She knew tears were not too far away but also knew that once the floodgate opened she would have a hard job stopping it. But right now, tears eluded her, feelings were jumbled up, all she felt was numb and dead inside.
She curled up further into the couch, as if wanting to retreat into a cocoon, away from the realities of the outside world. She did not hear the insistent buzzing of her buzzer, or the chiming of her doorbell.
In the hazy fog of her mind, she felt, rather than heard, her front door slowing opening, followed by a hesitant soft voice.
Shit! I forgot to close the door.
She leapt up suddenly from her crunched up position on the couch and almost fell over because of the speed of her action and the dizziness that followed. Her defenses all of a sudden rearing up and ready to attack whomever the intruder was, in her haste she had forgotten that it could not have been a vampire.
"Sorry, I tried the bell, and the door was open," the voice explained nervously.
Very slowly the figure came into focus through the fog and in the semi-darkness. She knew she was going to black out again as she tried to reach out behind her to find something to steady herself.
Even under the dim fluorescent lighting coming from the corridor she could see the radiance and splendor of the newcomer. If there was any hint of thought left in her conscious mind, she would deduce that she was seeing a ghost. As it was, she stood there, stupidly gawking at the figure standing awkwardly just inside her front door.
For a long moment, 20 seconds, a minute, they regarded each other with the shyness of a first real life encounter.
One of them had to say something. "Willow?"