Sunday, at last.
Tara met Anya at the train station.
"I know what you're trying to do, Anya. It isn't necessary," Tara bit back a chuckle when Anya showed up in a severe school marm outfit that would scare off anyone, regardless of whether they were naughty school girls or Hermione Granger wannabes.
"I don't think so. Listening to you two talk on the phone, I think I'll need to start saving up for the bridal registry," Anya said.
"I told you. It's not like that!" Tara protested.
Anya gave her an even look. "We'll see."
"Don't you dare give her the third degree. You'll give her a fright," Tara wagged her finger at her friend, a brief flash of warning passed over her eyes.
"My my, aren't you the protective one," Anya smirked.
Tara gave Anya an exasperated look and made her way down the stairs to street level.
They had arranged to meet by the Central Library entrance. Willow was already there when she and Anya walked up. Her face lit up when she saw Tara, and Tara couldn't help smiling broadly back.
"I'm sorry we're late," she said, then chuckled that once again they were apologizing to each other.
"No, no. I only got here a few minutes ago," Willow replied. "And you're apologizing again. Thought we agreed to stop."
Tara laughed. "I was just having that exact thought. Alright, I won't apologize. Shall we go?"
"Lead the way please." Willow mock-bowed and allowed Tara to step out first. Tara acknowledged with a small curtsey.
Anya tapped purposefully on Tara's shoulder.
"Oh! I really am sorry! Willow, this is my friend Anya," Tara realized that she had forgotten that Anya was there and smiled sheepishly at her friend.
Anya looked Willow up and down. "So you're Tara's savior. I heard so much about you. I'm here to see if you are as perfect as Tara thinks you are," Anya fell into step with Willow, boldly stuck her hand out and shook Willow's with a very firm grip.
Willow had the look of someone who wanted to disappear down a rabbit-hole so Tara tried to step in to rescue her. "Anya is joking of course, aren't you Ahn?" she stared very hard at Anya, to make sure that her message got across.
"I'm just curious to get to know Willow better. I don't bite. Much," Anya said off-handedly.
Willow stayed silent but her visible recoil at Anya's words betrayed her disquietude. Tara reached over and squeezed Willow's elbow gently for reassurance, she was glad to see a small smile from the redhead.
Tara had chosen a quiet family-style pub/restaurant, well known for their ribs and pies, for this outing. She also read that the pub served a "mountain-sized" sundae and she was hoping that they could share one after the meal. They settled into their booth and ordered their drinks from the friendly waitress.
"Haven't we met somewhere before?" Anya asked suddenly.
Willow flushed and tried to hide behind her menu. She had recognized Anya as the snobbish girl who ran into her at the train station two weeks ago. The night that she rescued Tara from the old drunk.
"Really?" Tara asked curiously.
Anya peered more carefully at Willow. "No, I don't think so. The world isn't that small. I'll have the pot roast," she shrugged.
"I guess I have that sort of face," Willow ventured.
"I think you're very distinctive, Willow," Tara said.
"Look how cute you two are," Anya commented.
"Not really ..." they both said at the same time. Anya nodded and smiled mysteriously at the embarrassed laughter.
The waitress came by again and took their order. Anya sat up straighter and despite Tara's pleading looks, cleared her throat and reached for a piece of bread. "So Willow, Tara tells me you surf."
Willow almost choked on the water that she was drinking. "Um ..." she managed to choke out.
"You don't look the type," Anya added.
"Anya," Tara warned.
Willow looked everywhere but at Anya and Tara. "Actually ..." she tried to say.
"So where do you surf?" Anya leaned in and asked further.
Willow was completely at a loss. "I-i-i," she stammered.
"Have you ever surfed the North Beach? I heard the waves there are awesome," Anya said.
"Um, oh yes. North Beach. Yes," Willow mumbled.
"When is the best time of the year to go? Don't people say October or November?" Anya was relentless.
"Anya! Willow hurt her knee and hasn't been surfing much. Give her a break," Tara interjected.
"I'm sorry to hear that. I bet you get injured a lot, with the surfing," Anya continued.
Despite Tara's best attempts, Anya managed to ask Willow a thousand and one questions during the meal. Tara tried to change the topic a few times, but to no avail. Willow refused dessert when they finished the meal.
They said their good-byes outside the restaurant. Anya announced that she and Tara had something important to discuss. Tara knew it was an attempt to get her to join in a post-meal analysis of Willow. She wasn't sure if she wanted to participate.
She started to follow Anya's lead, then turned back toward a clearly perplexed Willow.
"I'm sorry it couldn't have been a quieter evening," she said softly.
"No, it's fine. I enjoyed it, kind of," Willow said ruefully.
Tara echoed Willow's sad smile. "I'll make it up to you next time," she said. It was more a question than a statement. "Unless you --"
"Of course I want to," Willow said quietly.
"Till next time then," Tara allowed herself a little happiness and hope. With a small wave she turned around and rapidly caught up with Anya. A few steps later she turned back around and watched as Willow made her way down the other side of the road. She wasn't watching where she was walking and stumbled on the uneven surface of the pavement.
Tara smiled indulgently.
"She's boring." In a brightly lit coffee shop, Anya delivered her judgment.
Tara frowned. "You seemed to be having a good time. You were laughing a lot," she said.
"I was being polite," Anya said, reaching for the sugar for her coffee.
"What?" Tara scowled.
"All in all. I'd say she's not your type. You can do better."
"That's not fair. Earlier you were teasing me about bridal registries, now you're so dead set against her, like she did something to offend you personally."
"Let's see. Nice but lacks presence; not bad looking but forgettable. Klutzy and geeky. I wasn't impressed at all. She's a loser, Tara."
"If you asked me, you have nothing in common," Anya took a large sip of her cappuccino and continued her analysis of the evening.
"I keep telling you, it's not like that," Tara protested. Yet again.
"And I keep telling you, she's interested in you. Now I see it for myself, she's definitely interested in you," Anya nodded to herself.
"She's in love with you. If she hadn't figured that out yet, she's at least infatuated."
"Be honest with yourself, aren't you treating her like a pet?" Anya and Tara had finished coffee and were walking toward the train station. They were on the pedestrian bridge that spanned over the expressway.
"That's not fair to compare a person with an animal," Tara pointed out. She was getting a little annoyed that Anya seemed to have nothing good to say about Willow.
"You're using Willow to get over, you know, HER. Pets can't heal broken hearts," Anya said pointedly.
"Willow isn't --"
"Hanging out with her won't erase what happened with Sam," Anya stated. She leaned against the railings of the bridge and watched the traffic below them. "I blame myself."
"Hold on a minute. It's not your fault."
"I introduced you."
Tara looked down at the cars and trucks, a faraway look in her eyes. "I'm probably not suited for falling in love," she sighed.
Anya closed the distance between them so that they were shoulder to shoulder and put her arms around Tara in comfort. "You're being ridiculous. Hiding won't help, you need to move on and embrace the future."
"So you're saying ..."
"Just as long as it's not Willow. She's not the right one, Tara. Let's get on home, I'm tired."
And with that Anya dragged Tara off the bridge of sighs.
An hour later, after she had showered and changed into pajamas, Tara was still in a melancholy mood as she lay on her bed, idly tracing the patterns on her duvet with her fingers. She jumped when her cellphone rang, but the surprise turned into a smile when she saw the name on the caller display.
"Hi. I'm so glad you called." She hoped she didn't sound too needy, that was exactly how she felt at that moment.
"It's not too late? I want to make sure you got home safely," the pleasant voice at the other end said. Willow of course.
"Yes I did, thanks."
"I'll decide on the next restaurant then," Willow said, a little hesitantly. "That is, if it's okay and you still want to hang out."
Tara sensed Willow's nervousness coming off in waves. She thought back to Anya's take on Willow and her advice about moving on. You're wrong, Anya. There and then she decided to take the plunge. "Take me to the beach?" she asked.
She thought she heard a muffled thump and was about to ask if everything was okay. "Beach. Um, okay," Willow hesitated.
"You don't have to, if you don't want to," Tara backtracked.
"No. The beach is fine. Finey McFine," Willow still sounded far away. "Um Tara, can I ask you a question?"
"Talking like this is great but, if it's not a problem ... the thing is, cellphones can't always be used in elevators or when your boss is watching over you from his desk or inside tunnels, not that I go in tunnels a lot. What I mean is if you don't mind giving it to me, and you so do not have to, can I, can I have your email address? I'm on the computer all day at work and .... darn, I don't even know if you are allowed to give out your work email, or if you have a personal email. It's just, it'll be nice to correspond with someone who isn't asking stupid questions or making unreasonable demands," Willow blurted out.
Tara laughed at Willow's outpouring of words. "Yes I have email. My home PC doesn't work, so it'll have to be from work."
They exchanged addresses and Willow promised to send her an email in the morning to establish contact.
"Your home computer doesn't work? Have you asked someone to look at it?" Willow asked later, a little incredulously.
"Not really, it's a few years old. I've been meaning to buy a new one, I never got round to it," Tara said.
"I can help! Uh, that is, if you want me to?" Willow said hopefully.
"Well, we can go to the computer shop after we've been to the beach," Tara suggested.
"Good plan," Willow's smile was evident from even the other side of the conversation.
"This weekend? Oh no, I can't. It's my brother's restaurant's grand opening, I promised to help," Tara hoped Willow didn't think she was being so forward, but she somehow needed to have the reassurance.
"Next weekend?" Willow's hopeful tone was just as obvious.
"It's a dat-- um, I'll mark my diary." Tara wished the two weeks would pass quickly already.