Tara gave neither Will nor Xander time to reply. She left the crop bin with haste.
The soldiers stood dumbfounded looking at one another.
"Well, I suppose I won't be going into the main house no time soon," Xander chuckled, his wavy brown hair fell forward into his eyes as he picked up one of the boxes to move to the other bin. Will walked to the doorway in time to see Tara hike up her skirts and trot up the back steps, "me either."
"So, you gonna tell her?" Xander asked.
"Tell her what?" Will questioned as he moved out of the doorway to let his cousin through.
The dark haired boy stopped and put down his box, "That you're a confounded Yankee! What do you think I mean Willow? They're gonna find out sooner or later that you're a gal."
The redhead's eyes grew wide, "Shhhh, somebody might hear." She stuck her head out the door and looked both ways to make sure nobody was around then swooped back in, "The Navy never found out, what makes you think Miss Maclay will?"
"Look, the war's over Willow. You don't hafta cover it up any more." Xander reasoned as he put his hands on his cousin's shoulders.
Willow looked him in the eyes, "It's too late, they already think I'm a man," the redhead began.
"Boy." Xander corrected and popped Willow in the back of the head playfully.
The girl rolled her eyes, "The point is that if they find out that I'm a girl then they might think I can't pull my weight in the fields. Plus they'll think I'm a liar, then we'll get fired. Therefore, we make no money and we don't get home and you don't get to marry Anya and it'll all be my fault."
Willow inhaled deeply, "I just don't want Miss Maclay to think I'm bad person for posing as a man before she even knows why I joined the military."
Xander consolingly patted his cousin on the back, "Fine, we won't say anything then." He returned to cleaning out the bin and thought about the day he turned 18, the day he was drafted. When Willow woke him that particular morning, she had lopped off almost all of her hair. She proceeded to take some clothes from his closet and went with him to join. There wasn't much he could do, when that little redhead got something in her mind, she could be as stubborn as a mule. Furthermore, rebel numbers were dwindling fast and the recruiters didn't put much research into the volunteers as long as they were ready to fight. Xander vividly remembered Willow claiming she was doing it for the adventure, but she finally admitted to him in their last battle the real reason she signed up. It was to protect him.
Willow ruminated on her decision too as they cleaned out their new bedroom. She really didn't regard joining the military as much of a sacrifice. She had nothing but her southern aristocratic parents at home. Not that she didn't love them, she just wasn't about to let her best friend and cousin die in this silly war. Moreover Xander had Anya, and they were supposed to be married as soon as he returned from combat. Willow felt she had no other choice. Her cousin was special to her and he had always needed her to look after him.
So, for the past two years Willow Rosenberg disguised herself as a man in the Confederate Navy to make sure Xander returned safely home to marry Anya.
Tara heard the jingle of the dinner triangle from Donnie's old room upstairs signaling that breakfast was being served. She removed the patchwork quilt her mother had sewn from the four poster bed and carefully folded it up before moving to the window to watch the soldiers exit the barn. The boys had now shed their overcoats and had the sleeves rolled up on their white uniform shirts. Tara took one look at the wool trousers they wore and made a mental note to go through her father and brother's unused clothing. It was simply to hot for them to continue to wear those pants. As she looked down at the two approaching the house, she tried to visually size them. Xander was closely proportionate to Donnie, but she would definitely need to taper any of the garments to fit the more slender Will.
The blonde let her eyes rest on the redhead as he walked across the high uncut grass. There was something about him, something in those emerald green eyes that she wanted to get to know. Her gaze moved up his lean legs to his trim waist, then on to his slight shoulders. She had never been attracted to anyone before, she had never given a man a second thought, until now.
Of course, Tara had many men who had tried to court her, but she had no interest. Her best friend, Buffy Anne, told her that she was going to be an old maid if she kept turning down all the suitors that were trying to gain her attention. Tara wasn't quite as outgoing as her friend, and although Buffy Anne had tried to fix her up many times, the shy blonde would always refuse.
Now, Buffy Anne on the other hand had courted half of Butler County trying to get a proposal out of one Riley Finn. The good Sheriff Finn held fast to his old fashioned ways and had tamed Buffy Anne, somewhat. He was satisfied that he at least had talked her into dating only him.
Absorbed in counting the days until Buffy Anne returned from her cousins house in Atlanta, Tara was caught off guard when Will noticed her standing in the window. She locked eyes with the redhead. Will held the stare for as long as Tara allowed before stepping away to catch her breath. Although her heart raced as she stood clutching the quilt to her bosom, she did not regret the inappropriate stare. Tara quickly busied herself by putting the coverlet in the cedar chest at the foot of the bed, then stripping the sheets from the mattress, all the while trying to forget about the green eyed stranger she had employed.
It was going to be a long summer for Tara Maclay.