It didn't look as glitz-ridden in the harsh light of day as Willow walked up to the entrance and tried the door.
She walked round to the back and found the staff entrance.
"Can I help you?" a fierce looking, heavily made-up Mamasan barked at her.
"I'm looking for Tara," she said, uncertainty rolling off her in waves.
"Who's looking?" the woman questioned.
"Er, Willow. Willow Rosenberg. We went to high school together and I was here last night ..." she tried to explain.
"She goes by Tiesha here," the woman said dismissively.
"Oh, Tiesha, okay. Very, um, exotic," Willow stammered.
"Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays."
"That's when she comes in. Today's Tuesday."
Willow didn't know whether to be disappointed, afraid or elated. She tried hard to comprehend the unexpectedness of finding Tara in New York. Yet a cold shiver ran down her spine as she realized she worked here, at this club. A high class, trendy place-to-be-seen-in, but a club nonetheless. And as a ... she didn't have words for what Tara had become.
"How's business? I mean, this club, it does good business, right?" she blurted out before she even thought about it.
The woman was taken aback at first, but then remembered the redhead from the party the previous night. Bankers, their staple. "Very good, the economy is picking up and we had a mention in Wallpaper last month. You should ask Tiesha, girls can make this much," she held up her hand. "A night. Cash in hand too."
"What about the gangs or mafia, do they control the girls?" Willow whispered conspirationally.
The woman laughed heartily. "Young lady, you watch too much TV. I'll tell Tiesha you swung by." She was still laughing when she turned and went back inside, wondering what this visitor was on, she looked too nervous and polite, and her clothing, though on the conservative side, showed she was definitely not from the wrong side of the tracks.
Willow strolled along the nearby streets, noting the other clubs and bars proliferating the area. She walked past a large shop window and jerked to a halt as she spied her own reflection, she hadn't noticed the tears streaming down from her eyes.
She felt tired. So tired. And needing home comforts. She called Sandy from her cellphone and made her way home.
It was late, Willow stifled a yawn as she glanced at her watch. Technically it was early, because it almost 3am, when decent folks should be tucked away in bed, asleep.
It was a cold New York night too. She dug her hands deeper in her coat and lowered her head so it was buried behind her thick scarf. Definitely not weather a Californian native would get used to. Ever.
But she had good reason.
And watching the reason walk out of the staff entrance, blonde hair unmistakable amongst the small group, smiling and chatting, that was enough to banish any thoughts of sleep. She watched as the figure waved good-bye to her friends and walked swiftly down the street.
Her legs had a life of their own, soon she found herself across the street and catching up.
They were side by side now, surely she would have sensed Willow's approach.
"Tara," she panted as she tried to catch her breath.
Tara stopped in her tracks. "What are you doing here?" she asked instinctively.
"Waiting for you."
"I haven't seen you in six years, Tara. You were there, then one day you were gone, disappeared without even a good-bye. So forgive me if I waited for you all night cos I'd really like an explanation now. And yeah, my butt's freezing and I can't feel my toes, thanks for asking," Willow snapped.
"I'm sorry, you caught me by surprise. Look, it's late and we're both tired, can this wait another day?" Tara sighed.
"I'm not falling for that trick again," Willow said with resolve.
They walked on in silence, pass the now seedy looking bars, the all night launderettes and the homeless sleeping in shop entrances.
"Willow, please," Tara pleaded.
"At least tell me where you live? And why you're walking away so quickly," Willow asked pointedly.
"No, I don't live around here, I just need to go to the store," Tara said as they reached the 24 hour grocery store. She nodded to the Korean proprietor and grabbed a basket. With expert ease she cruised the aisles gathering milk, cereal, bread and other essentials.
Willow followed silently, not quite sure how to get Tara to open up, to talk to her.
"You do this a lot? Do your grocery shopping at an ungodly hour?" When in doubt try a bit of levity.
Tara smiled and allowed herself to miss Willow. "Not out of choice, more a necessity," she said truthfully.
Just as they reached the vegetable section she slipped on a wet patch on the floor and felt herself lose her footing. But Willow's arms quickly steadied her.
"You okay?" the redhead asked.
Tara nodded and glanced down at her arm. They were still touching, a comforting, almost forgotten, touch. Then Willow let go, but not before their hands and fingers brushed, very briefly. And all the pent-up unresolved emotions stirred from their deep slumber.
After Tara paid, they stood awkwardly at the sidewalk, neither knowing what to do next.
"I'm getting a cab home, do you want one?" Tara asked softly.
"I don't want to leave you, I have so many questions," Willow whispered. If I let you out of my sight you'll disappear again.
Tara made a decision, flagged down a taxi and motioned for Willow to go in first. Willow was reluctant at first, until she realized Tara was climbing in too.
They got out at a brownstone in Greenwich, Willow whistled under her breath at the location of the obviously luxurious building.
"I'm going to put these away first, okay?" Tara took her groceries into the kitchen, leaving Willow to explore.
The apartment was on the second floor, spacious and full of earthy tones. A far cry from the Tiesha who was a club hostess. But there was something missing, as if the place was over-designed to exude an image of dark wood, blazing fireplaces and general heathenness.
She looked for something with Tara's signature in the apartment, something personal, but these were sparse. A cluster of photo frames, throws on the couch, that was about it. She felt like she'd stepped into a magazine spread, pleasing on the eye, but ultimately sterile.
She wondered where the real Tara had hid herself, but didn't have time to ponder further as the same Tara returned from the kitchen, with 2 glasses of water.
"So," Tara started.
Willow let out a giant yawn.
"Sorry," she apologized.
The silence reverberated around the empty walls and descended onto them like a blanket.
"You wanted to talk to me about something," Tara prompted.
Willow breathed deeply in. "I had a big speech all planned, there wasn't anything else to do while standing outside the club. But now I realize it's all about me, and all I want to know is all about you," she said.
"If you're looking to fill in the blanks of the last few years, I don't want to go there. The past is the past, it's not worth reliving," Tara said.
Willow stifled another yawn.
"And again with the sorries. I work sometimes all night too, so I shouldn't be feeling this tired," she said with a thin smile.
"It's the dead of night, can we talk tomorrow? Over lunch?" Tara proposed. "Let me call you a cab to get home."
"I'm not going to let you out of my sight till I get some answers," Willow said firmly.
"You know where I live, where I work, I'm not going anywhere," Tara said.
"I said this already, I'm not falling for that again," Willow said quietly.
"I promise. I won't run away this time," Tara reassured.
"I don't trust you, I don't believe you. You know I'm not being unreasonable."
Tara stood up. "We're getting nowhere in this conversation. If you distrust me so much, stay here tonight, you can use the guest room, it's all set up. I'll book a table at Dozo for lunch tomorrow, you can yell at me all you want then," she announced.
There was nothing much else Willow could say about that. "Okay," she agreed. "Wait, it's what, 4 o'clock in the morning, and you're sure you can get a table at Dozo for tomorrow? Lunch?"
"Yes. Don't worry about it." With that Tara turned on the lights of the guest room to let Willow in, then without another word she went to her own room and shut the door behind her.
Willow heard the faint click of the lock, then, with a sigh, set about exploring what Tara's guest room offered.