"So, you didn't have work?"
"I can explain."
Tara took the few remaining steps that closed the distance between her and Willow. Each step felt like she had heavy ankle manacles pulling her in the opposite direction. She took out the blue envelope that she had been clutching in her hand. "What's in this envelope? Something work related?'
"No, it's our tickets for the convention."
"You lied to me."
"I, I don't know what to say."
"What do you expect me to say?"
"I'm really sorry."
Tara looked around her and tried to take in the stall display, the banners for the con and the attire of the people milling around the area. "What's all this?"
"It's a comic convention, the most important one in the year."
"Is it important to you?"
"It's very-- but you're important too! I mean ..."
"You could have told me."
"I didn't think you'd understand."
"You didn't even try! And you decide that telling me you have to work is better than the truth?"
"It was a difficult choice."
"Why did you even put yourself into a situation where you had to choose? We could have talked about it and figured something out."
Tara looked at Willow and could only see pain and hurt. Her chest suddenly felt very tight, she was overcome with the familiar feeling of needing to escape.
"I'm a fool. I thought you were different from the others. I, I don't think we should see each other anymore, Willow." And with that she walked away, tears in her eyes and her entire body shivering. It was as much as she could do to keep herself together.
"Tara ..." Willow pleaded.
Tara turned back and they looked at each other. Hurt and sadness were all that was left in her eyes. She blinked slowly, and walked away from Willow again. She didn't look back.
"You're a fucking idiot, Willow," Faith hissed through gritted teeth. The other people at the internet café glared at her but looked away when she defiantly stare back.
"Why do people lie all the time?" Tara emptied half her glass with one gulp and reached to pour more out of the wine bottle. She frowned as she was only able to shake a few stray droplets out.
"Aren't you drinking a little too much?" Donnie placed his hand on hers to stop her from opening a fresh bottle.
"It's okay, I'm fine," Tara insisted.
"Really?" he raised his eyebrow quizzically. "Don't you think you're being too hard on her?"
"Lies. I can't forgive lies," Tara declared. She slid slowly down Donnie's couch, resting her head on the cushion, and was out like a wink.
Donnie knelt down next to his sister and straightened a loose strand of hair lovingly. He pull her feet up to the couch, took her shoes off and carefully covered her with a blanket.
"Rosenberg, if you don't come here within five seconds, you're fired!" Willow's boss shouted at her from his office.
"Leave her alone. What do you want?" Faith. It was Faith who came to Willow's rescue.
Willow stared blankly at her screen. She hadn't heard a single word of that exchange.
"She's playing with you, Tara," Anya said angrily.
"I can't help thinking that I reacted too strongly. It was only one small lie. It's not like she's been in prison or has three kids or anything," Tara sighed.
"Small lies lead to bigger lies. I told you she's not the one, she's a complete --"
"Anya, stop it."
"You stop it. You're going soft on her. Either forgive her and run back into her arms or if you're going to cut the chord, do it properly. You'll get hurt even more if you do things halfway."
Tara sighed again.
"Anyway, did you enjoy the musical on Saturday?" she tried to change the subject.
"Musical? I thought you gave the tickets to Cordy," Anya frowned.
"No, I gave them to Donnie. I'm not sure, he didn't mention anything. May be he gave them to someone else," Tara was puzzled.
You will always run into the last person you want to see.
Faith had to physically haul Willow out of her chair at 6pm. Willow had gotten nothing done all day. Faith wondered if it was karma coming back at her for all the times that Willow covered for her.
"I'll work a million times harder tomorrow," Willow had the sense to say.
"A million times of nothing is still nothing," Faith growled.
"Sorry," Willow muttered.
"Forget it. I don't know why I'm doing this. I'm turning soft in my old age," Faith complained.
They followed the throng of office workers leaving the building and walked toward the train station.
"Faith!" Faith turned toward the source of the voice and broke out in a grin.
"Donnie, hi!" Faith greeted Donnie enthusiastically. Overly enthusiastically, if anyone noticed. Willow didn't. She was busy trying to burrow into a hole; Donnie was with Tara.
"What a coincidence," Donnie gave Faith a hug. Tara was just behind him and her face fell when she spotted Willow. It took all her effort not to turn around and walk away there and then.
"Isn't it?" Faith grinned.
"We're just going for dinner. Want to join?" Donnie smiled back at Faith.
"Donnie ..." Tara hesitated.
"You don't mind?" Faith asked.
"Of course not, it'll be my treat," Donnie said.
Meanwhile, Willow was inching away. "Um, why don't you guys go on ahead? I should head home," she made an excuse and started to walk off.
Faith's arm snaked out and grabbed hold of her elbow, not letting her move. "You're COMING too," she whispered fiercely in Willow's ear.
They made their way to a Vietnamese restaurant nearby. Faith and Donnie sat opposite each other and carried on a lively conversation. Willow and Tara, on the other hand, were shrouded in awkward silence.
They ordered an appetizer assortment to share. Tara reached for a piece of beef roll at the same time as Willow and their forks clashed.
"Sorry, please," Tara jerked her fork away and she indicated that Willow should take the piece of food.
"No, please. You were there first," Willow put her fork down on the table and refused.
"It's yours," Tara said.
"Really, I don't want it," Willow replied.
Neither reached for the item again. At the end it was Faith who took the last piece.
Their main course arrived shortly and at least two people were focusing on their plate too much.
"It's Tara's birthday soon," Donnie looked around at the silent table and announced.
Willow looked up in interest.
"Donnie!" Tara protested.
"When is it?" Faith asked.
"In two weeks' time, 16th," Donnie continued, ignoring Tara's glare. "I'm throwing a party for her at the restaurant, you should come."
Faith beamed. "Sure!" she replied.
"What about you, Willow?" Donnie turned to Willow.
Willow looked mortified. "Um, I ..." she stammered.
"Donnie, please. Don't make a big deal out of it," Tara almost wanted to clamp her hands over his mouth.
"Okay, okay," he raised his hands in mock defeat. "Talking about the restaurant, I need to go back. I left Wesley in charge, he's probably praying to his grandmother for my return." He excused himself. "Nice seeing you again, Faith. And you too, Willow."
"Oh, I remembered! I have to be someplace too. Later, dudes," Faith pushed her chair back, gathered her bag and was running after Donnie before either Willow or Tara had the chance to react.
They wouldn't meet each other's eyes at all. Willow was wringing her hands and Tara had to sit on hers to prevent them from shaking.
"Tara, let me apologize," Willow took a very deep breath and tried to address Tara. But she couldn't make eye contact, instead she focused on the tablecloth patterns.
Tara reached for a glass of water and took a slow drink before replying. "It doesn't matter anymore. I don't plan on seeing you again, Willow."
"Do you hate me so much?" Willow sobbed, feeling a huge lump in her throat.
"I don't hate you. I just ... I just can't."
"Did it mean anything? The time we spent together, Tara. It meant something?"
Again Tara took her time before answering. "It meant a lot. Too much. Which is why I can't ..." her voice fading to a whisper.