It was now five minutes to four, and Willow was making her way up to Tara's house, after being let into the apartment block. When she got to the door she found that it was already slightly ajar, with the sound of voices coming from inside. Willow gently knocked on the door, not knowing if it was ok to just walk in, but it seemed that the voices inside drowned out her voice. Willow decided to open the door a little wide, and popped her head in the door. She saw a bunch of kids sitting on the floor of Tara's living room in a circle, all with books open in their laps.
Sean saw Willow pop her head in the door,and said loudly "Willow! Come on in!" Turning to the rest of the kids, he said "See! She does have red hair!" The other kids looked at her and nodded their heads.
Willow walked in the door as he spoke, slightly embarassed that all the kids were looking at her. As she stood their, not knowing what to do, a boy spoke to her. "Aren't you the girl who came to our neighbourhood with Tara last night?"
On taking a closer look, Willow recognized the boy as Mike, the kid who'd spoken to Tara when she and Willow had gone to Sean's neighbourhood the previous night. Willow simply nodded her head and smiled at Mike, still not knowing what to do. She asked, "Where's Tara?"
"She's in the bathroom" a small girl with long dark brown hair said. "She should be out in a minute."
Sure enough a few moments later Tara emerged from her bedroom, and upon seeing Willow smiled at the redhead.
"Hey, you made it" she said with a smile. "Why're you still standing?" She turned to the kids and said "Hey, did you guys not ask Willow to sit down?" Upon looking at the sheepish looks on the kids' faces, she frowned gently at them and said "Shame on you'll!" Turning back to Willow, Tara said, "Willow, please, sit down and make yourself comfortable" before she herself sat down on the floor, in the midst of the kids.
Willow sat down on the sofa, just outside the circle that the children had formed, and, still not knowing what to do, watched Tara. The blonde again spoke up in a teasing tone, "Ok, I think you've all either forgotten your manners or gone brain dead! Knowing you'll, I'd say its the latter". This statement was welcomed with some indignant "heys" from the kids, before Tara said "Would you'll please be kind enough to introduce yourselves to Willow?"
Sean said "Well, I've already met Willow, so I don't have to." Willow nodded her head, and Mike said "Hi, I'm Mike"
The girl who'd told Willow that Tara was in the bathroom introduced herself as Claire, and the remaining four children were Sid, Thomas, Annie and Melody.
As soon as the kids had introduced themselves, Willow smiled at them all and said "Hi, I'm Willow". There was silence for a minute, with everyone just looking at the new comer, until Sean said, "Um, Willow, can I touch your hair again? It's so cool!"
Willow grinned and merely nodded her head, and the next thing she knew, everyone was up around her, touching her hair. The kids all huddled around here, some trying to see if the color was painted on, and peeking through a gap between the kids surrounding her, Willow caught a glimpse of Tara still sitting on the floor, smiling at the scene before her.
A few minutes later, all the kids were convinced that it was in fact Willow's real hair, and they sat down in their places again. Tara spoke up, "Alright, now that we've confirmed that Willow is a real redhead, can we please get to some school work???" Some of the kids groaned, but opened their books anyway. "Um Willow, you sure you wanna help?" Tara asked, wanting to confirm once more that Willow didn't mind helping with the kids. When Willow nodded, Tara smiled and said "Alright then. Um, I'm really bad, and I mean REALLY BAD at math, and Sid and Melody have some percentage sums to do. Think you could help?"
Willow grinned and said "Ooh math! Let me at it!" and sat down on the floor, still outside the circle, between Sid and Melody, who were sitting side by side. She took one of their books, going through the sums, and looking at the two children said "Oh this is a piece of cake! I'll have you'll doing these in your sleep in no time!"
Tara watched the interaction between the redhead and the kids, and thought to herself "She's sweet" before looking into Mike's physics book.
The rest of the hour was spent teaching the kids, with the only change being Tara getting up at one point to get two big plates full of Oreo and Chocolate Chip cookies and place them between the kids. She and Willow also helped themselves to the cookies as they taught. By the end of it, Melody and Sid were solving percentage sums with ease.
"I'm impressed" Tara said, looking at the two solving sums. "You're good Willow" she said, making Willow smile. At 5:30 Tara told the kids to wrap it all up, and said "Ok, now, who wants to swim and who wants to watch TV?"
It turned out that Mike and Sean were the only two that wanted to swim, so Tara told them to go down to the pool and have a good swim for 20 minutes, and then come up, while the rest of the kids sat before the TV, some on the couch, and some choosing to stay on the floor. "What do you guys wanna watch?" Tara asked, and in the end the kids decided to watch Pokemon on cartoon network. Tara put it on, and looked at Willow, who was standing in the kitchen area, drinking water.
"I'm going out onto the balcony for a smoke...you coming?"
Willow nodded, and followed Tara out to the balcony. Once there, Tara removed a cigarette from the packet of Benson Lights she was holding. Willow watched as the blonde took out a silver lighter from her pocket, quickly moved it against her jeans, lighting it up, and then lit her cigarette.
"Wow!" Willow said, really impressed at that. "How did you do that????"
Tara smiled, "That's something you can only do with Zippo Lighters. See, you move the lighter against your jeans, so that the lid comes off, and immediately after it lights because of the movement, and well, yeah then you light your cigarette. You shouldn't try it in anything but jeans though" she said, taking a drag of her cigarette.
Willow nodded, and they stood like that in silence a few moments, still not knowing each other well enough to just start up a conversation. Then Tara said "You're good with kids you know?" Willow blushed at the compliment, and Tara said "I can tell that they like you".
"They're really great kids" Willow said. "How did you find them?"
"Well... Sean's mom works at the laundry that I send my clothes to. So once I was there, and she was talking about how Sean was having problems with some english work at school with this other lady, and well, I offered to help. So I started going to the laundry every week to help him, and slowly he started bringing someof his friends that had problems too, and we all decided to move it to my place and work on stuff they thought was hard three days a week." Tara said.
"Hmm...how long you guys been doing this?" Willow asked, curious.
"About a year now" Tara said.
"And Sundays you'll go out?" Willow questioned.
"Yeah. Usually we hit the movie theatre, or go skating, or to the amusement park...you know, something fun" Tara replied.
"Its really nice what you're doing you know Tara?" Willow said, her voice sincere.
"You know, its really not that big a deal" Tara said casually. "I mean, anyone in my place with free time should be doing it, that's what I think at least. These are really good kids, and well, unfortuantely they don't have the kind of opportunities that we do. I like that I can at least help with something, you know?"
Willow nodded and said "Well, I agree that everyone with time on their hands should do it, but tell me, how many do?" Tara just shrugged, and Willow added "See, my point exactly. It's nice of you to actually be making the effort, thats what I'm saying".
"Well its not that bad you know? So really I'm not making any effort. And to be honest, it's nice to have the kids around..." Tara drifted off.
Willow didn't say anything, and waited as Tara finished her cigarette, before the two girls headed back in. Sean and Mike entered the living room, fresh from a swim, and Tara said "Ok guys, time to go home. You're Mom's expect you for dinner. Up up up!"
As the children were getting up, Willow quietly asked Tara, "What about Sean?"
"He's staying with me tonight" Tara said. "his family's found a place to stay till the house is back in shape, but its not set up yet. So I offered to keep him as long as they needed, and they said it would only be for a night."
"How do the kids go back?" Willow asked.
"They catch the bus right outside my house. They come here straight after school by the school bus, and then head home on the 6:05 bus. Excuse me a minute" Tara said, walking into the room. Coming out, she handed al the kids some change, and told Mike "Make sure everyone gets home, and call me when you walk in your house, so I know everyones safe ok?"
Mike nodded, and Tara said "Good. Wait, lemme get my shoes on and I'll drop you'll to the bus stop".
She walked back into the bedroom, and came out a few seconds later in a pair of sneakers. She looked at Willow, "You coming down too?" Willow nodded her head and followed Tara and the kids downstairs.
They waited for the bus, which came right on time. Before the bus stopped, Melody turned to Willow and said "Willow, will you come on Friday?" The other kids waited and watched for Willow's answer.
"You bet I will" Willow smiled.
"Yay!" Melody said, and as the doors opened, she climbed in and along with the rest of the kids, waved at Willow, Tara and Sean, who watched the bus till it was out of sight.
Willow then turned to Tara and said "Well I should get going too then..."
"Aren't you staying the night with the team?" Tara asked, and Willow said "Yeah, but I have to go get my stuff at the dorm.."
"How silly!" Tara said, smiling slightly. "I told you the kids would be here till 6, and the girls are coming here at 7. You should have just gotten your stuff!"
Willow looked down and said sheepishly "Well I wasn't sure if that would be ok..."
"How silly!" Tara exclaimed again. "C'mon, Sean and me will take you to your dorm, and then you can come back with us." Sean, who was watching the scene, nodded his agreement.
"But... you don't have to!" Willow said, not wanting to make Tara go out of her way for her.
"I insist" Tara said, picking up her car keys and walking out the door, followed by Sean.
Willow had no other option but to follow the two.