After our embarrassing and ill timed interruption from Harris in the alcove, Willow and I spent a few awkward moments murmuring apologies to each other until I realized suddenly that I really wasn't sorry. Perhaps I was regretful that we had been kissing and groping each other in the hall. I was most definitely concerned about my job and any repercussions Willow would face from Anne. Oddly enough, I was not worried about my reputation. What reputation did I have left really? I came to this Institution with the past of a disgraced father, a dead mother and a paying job as a teacher's assistant of some sort. By all accounts I had nothing to salvage.
I emerged from my thoughts to hear Willow wrapping herself up in one giant incoherent rambling, staring down at her hands which were fidgeting wildly.
"...of course, when I said Harris was psychopathic I was completely serious. But she's not dangerous! At least not that we know of. Let's just say that she's never physically harmed anyone though I've wanted to ring her neck often enough. I cannot emphasize enough just how sorry I am about all this. I mean, here I am throwing myself at you in some kind of crazed sexual heat - because I'm pretty sure that's what that just was there - on your very first day when really I'm supposed to be showing you all the classrooms and what you are supposed to be doing here. I feel like such a lout. I really hope you will still allow me to be your friend and-"
"I'm not sorry!" I blurted out.
As I had listened to her adorable babbling, the thought and conviction came to me suddenly. I really and truly was not sorry. I didn't know what I was feeling, but apology or regret was not one of them. Willow's head snapped up and she stared intently at me.
"You're not sorry? For what just happened?"
"No, I'm not" I shook my head and smiled at her.
Willow scrunched her face up in confusion, tilting her head to the side.
"But Tara, we just kissed and... well, did other things. You're supposed to be sorry and run away and never speak to me again."
My heart welled up with love and sorrow for her then. The venerability on her face touched my heart deeply. Had she been hurt before by some other woman? I was angry for her; then suddenly jealous. I laughed slightly at the kaleidoscope of emotion that she set off in me. I moved closely to her, reaching up to stroke her cheek lightly.
"I'm standing right here Willow. I'm not running from you. I can't promise you that I wont be scared by what happened between us, or what could happen again, but I won't stop talking to you. I find you simply addictive."
She smiled brilliantly then and I couldn't resist kissing her lightly, her sweet lips parting in surprise under mine. I reveled in her softness briefly, pouring the feelings of love and tenderness that I was feeling into our short kiss. When we parted, we stayed but a breath apart, our eyes roaming each others faces. Where Willow's eyes touched my skin I felt warm and chilled at the same time; gooseflesh springing up on my neck as a blush rose again to my cheeks.
"Yes,Willow?" I responded, my hand still caressing her cheek; keeping a connection between us.
"I need to ask you a question. It may seem odd and difficult to answer. Well, probably not difficult for you because you seem to know your own mind so well. I mean, you are just so smart and self assured and poised... you seem to have an answer for everything and know just what to say at any time. I suppose it's because you have had to take care of yourself for so-"
I cut her off again, this time with a light kiss, followed by two more sensuous brushes of my lips on her jawline.
"I don't know what I did to deserve such admiration from you Willow, but it's very flattering. Why don't you just ask your question and I will do my best to answer it?"
I smiled at her befuddled expression. My kisses seemed very effective in both confusing her and ending her babble. She nodded slightly, staring at my lips, then my eyes. She looked deeply into them. She looked so deep that it took much self restraint to not look away. Her stare was so raw I could swear I was seeing right into her soul.
"Tara, I want to be yours. That is, will you be mine? Will you be my sweetheart?"
The hopeful, needy expression on her face made my heart ache, while at the same time it soared. Hearing her say those things made me tingle all over. I felt so light, as if my heart swelling up in my chest was lifting me clear off the floor.
"Willow, I would love to be your sweetheart."
She threw herself at me suddenly, hugging me with a tremendous amount of strength. I returned it without hesitation and sunk into her embrace.
"We have to be discrete Willow," I spoke into her ear, "Especially with your family and friends".
"I know Tara, I know. We can be though. We can be secret sweethearts." She sighed and held me tighter, stroking my hair and neck. "But what about Harris? We can't let her tell anyone, especially Anne!"
"I'll speak to Harris. I'll see if I can reason with her." I hoped against hope that this would be possible.
Willow laughed pulling away from me to look into my eyes.
"Be prepared with bribes darling. Harris won't give anything for free."
I grinned, as if a love stuck school girl, "Say that again Willow."
"What?" she smiled.
"Darling." I smiled back at her shyly.
Willow pulled me toward her again, wrapping me in another close embrace.
"Darling, darling, darling" she crooned into my ear.
I sighed in contentment. I was standing in the telegraph alcove. I was holding my sweetheart. I was holding my heart.