Beep, beep, beep, beep~!
Willow's hand swung with wild abandon toward the offending clock. Her palm crashed on snooze for the third time. She'd woken up once already with Sister Kitchen looking at her expectantly. Apparently, she was talking about raspberry hats and a cabbage patch or something. Kitchen had a funny look on her face so she didn't want to ask. That was around three-thirty or so, and it was five-twenty eight now. It was definitely time to get out of bed, but Willow's brain wasn't quite there yet.
Okay Willow, get up you have a date with the day. Get up, get up, get up.
One leg tentatively poked out from under the covers. Oooh, cold.
She wanted so badly to pull that leg back in, but the cold was helping her to wake up. As her mind began to swim back to consciousness, she gradually started to remember where she was. I'm on my mission. I'm in the MTC, I have a bazillion words to learn in Japanese. The alarm just went off we're going to the Gym - oh, Gym. With. Maclay. Shimai!
Her other leg shot straight out of bed and suddenly she was sitting up. It was a little too fast though. She felt a bit woozy for moment as her head spun a few times; she slammed her eyes shut and black with white dots appeared in front her of eyelids. I have to stop doing that. One of these days, I'm going to pass out.
She grabbed her bathroom kit, a change of clothes and headed out.
After a quick shower, she was dressed and ready to go with Kitchen and Smith Shimai to grab Maclay and head on over to gym class. Kitchen Shimai was ready and waiting patiently on her bed. Smith was barely dressed and her hair looked like there was a rat living in it. Willow felt suddenly tense. She couldn't be late; that would be just...unacceptable.
She willed Smith to move faster, to pick up her brush, and chase the rats away, but to no avail. If they left now, they would be on time. Tick tock, tick tock; tick frikken tock. Hurry up already.
Time just doesn't move quickly enough when you're waiting. Where's the infamous Willow babble when I need it to distract me, huh?
Okay, I'm picking a distraction topic: on keeping appointments. Go.
I'm being impatient. I'm an impatient person. Being late is disrespectful to those you are meeting. Even though gym is not like mandatory, it is a specific time and place and a person should do their best to honor their commitments - even if it is voluntary. Ok, that could be considered a bit quirky.
I wonder if Maclay would think that I'm quirky for wanting to be on time. Actually, I don't care about gym at all. Remember, I was all with the cold and the comfortable bed this morning and that alarm - so annoying. Maclay is waiting for us and it's just rude to keep her waiting. I'm sure she's all dressed and waiting right now. She can't go by herself; she has to go with us. It's just not right to keep her waiting.
I don't want her to think I am a rude person. I'm an "on time" person who cares about her schedule and respects her time.
I wonder what she'll wear to gym. Oh, I'm so not going there. I've just got on sweats and my tennis shoes - that's pretty much what I wore to their room last night, so that's probably what she'll wear too. Okay, why am I thinking about what she's going to wear? That's just goofy.
Okay, Smith progress thus far, still rat head and counting. Back to distraction babble.
I wonder what Maclay meant last night. Willow's mind suddenly stopped. No thoughts filled her head. There was no babble. There was just silence in her mind.
And she waited.
Nothing came. There was no babble, no thoughts, absolutely nothing.
Smith was finally ready. Willow felt like a vacuum had sucked out the contents of her mind. That had never happened before, ever.
The sisters headed down the hall to collect Maclay Shimai, when they arrived she was ready and waiting for them. Each received a hug and a hello and they were on their way, late for their first gym class.
When they entered the gym, Willow started to panic. All of the sisters had lined up in rows and were following the instructor's movements to the beat of the song - some fast-paced church approved instrumental stuff she didn't recognize. There was no Olivia Newton John or Kenny Loggins to rock to at the MTC. Everything had to be wholesome.
Ok I can do this it's just choreographed movements - hands up, hands out, steps forward, and kick and back. Switch. Too bad it's just all at the same time. They all look like a bunch of cheerleaders at tryouts. How do they do that? And how can they be so close together. I so suck at this. It could be worse I guess. I could have to sing.
The three headed into the back and started getting coordinated with the rest of the class. Maclay and Kitchen were to Willow's right, and Smith was to her left.
"Right knee up and down, up and down; step back, together and back, together, hop-turn. And lunge and back and lunge and back. Don't forget your arms ladies, get them up and back really reach ladies lets go. Work your hips ladies, reach across, across - feel those abs. Again! Make it count. You gotta feel it. Good. Get those legs going, up and back. That's it!" the instructor chanted. "Left up and down, up and down, kick back, together, and again. Keep it going."
Willow was a half beat behind, almost keeping up. She kept messing up which leg to start with. If she could just get ahead a bit, then she could synchronize with the class. Unfortunately, they'd turned completely around so the instructor was behind her.
Oh great I can't see. Knee up, oh, back together, and hips and reach side and side....
Smith Shimai stood glaring at Willow, the tears welling in her eyes as the sting and surprise turned into throbbing pain.
Oh God! Oh no!
"I'm so sorry! Are you ok?" Willow wanted to crawl under the floorboards and die. Not only had she smacked a Sister, she'd smacked Smith.
As she tried to get back out of the way, she stumbled on something else. There was another groan from behind her. She turned to see Kitchen grimacing in pain as well. She was completely mortified. There was a trickle of blood forming just under Smith's nose and Kitchen was now toe stomped as well. This just couldn't get any worse.
Maclay Shimai sprang into action. She started to run toward the door, turned suddenly, raced back and grabbed Willow by the wrist. "Come with me." She commanded. Willow numbly obliged and followed Maclay out of the gym and quickly down the hall. Coming out of her guilt induced stupor Willow realized she was moving at a fast pace down the halls at the MTC. We're on some type of mission, or perhaps Maclay is helping me escape. One could only hope.
Still without another word, Maclay suddenly turned and Willow knew she was not being saved from her earlier personal mortification. She released Willow's wrist to open the bathroom door and they entered. She turned on the cold-water tap and started pulling out paper towels from the wall dispenser. Willow quickly caught on and followed suit. When they had a healthy supply, Maclay took a small handful and wet the towels. Once satisfied with her makeshift first aid materials, she turned toward the door, again without a word, and Willow followed behind.
When they got back to the gym, Smith was sitting on the floor with her head tilted back. Willow stayed back and watched as Maclay calmly approached Smith. She tenderly placed some of the cold wet cloths under her nose, looked into her eyes with compassion, and smiled. Smith returned her gaze in appreciation of the gesture.
I kinda wish Smith had punched me. Willow thought and instantly felt ashamed.
How can I be thinking about that at a time like this? I've just punched my companion, smooshed my other companion's toe and here I sit ruining gym class for 50 other sister missionaries. Not only will all these gals think I'm a total spaz, including that beautiful blonde over there, I can't even keep focused on my companion's needs. I should have been the one to help her. I mean I did the damage. I've only been a missionary for two days and I've already let down my companion in a big ole huge way. And Maclay, she‘s just so amazing, look at her.
Someone's talking to me.
"Sister Rosenberg." The voice repeated a little louder. "Are you ok?"
Who dares interrupt my self-loathing? Willow looked up into the face of Kitchen Shimai. She seemed to have recovered from her earlier injury.
Sister Kitchen affectionately placed her palm on Willow's forearm and seemed to be searching her eyes for an answer. She saw only love and kindness there. Willow was moved beyond words.
She nodded and felt tears starting to pool in her eyes. How can she be so nice to me? If she only knew, I'm not worthy of this.
The rest of gym class Willow pedaled alone on a stationary bike. Pity she hadn't seen it before the great companion punching and sister toe stomp incident of 1984. The only drawback was being alone with her thoughts.
Internal Willow babble and guilt were a bad combination. She tried to concentrate on the positive, refocus on the reasons she was here. Her mind drifted to Amy and those she'd left behind. She decided thinking about home was not the distraction to get her out of her funk.
Music, that was good happy and upbeat. She tried to put the sounds in her heart and think of the meaning behind the words of her favorite hymns. The classical music and aerobic mayhem around her thwarted that effort. She couldn't concentrate on anything. She gave up on redirecting her mind and started to look around. Peddle. Peddle.
She looked over at Smith, Kitchen, and Maclay Shimai. They looked tired but happy. Just a hint of sweat was gleaming on Maclay's brow. They seemed intent on what they were doing. Maclay had the routine down. Willow stopped pedaling and leaned forward on the bike to better observe.
She's really quite lovely. And graceful.
Maclay's breathing was shallow her mouth slightly open. Her hair was back off her face in a ponytail and Willow could see clearly the lines of her face, the curve of her nose and cheeks and contours of her chin and neck. As Willow was studying the girl, Maclay suddenly looked directly at her.
Willow blushed and looked down, but not away from the sparkling blue eyes. Maclay still in stride looked at Willow with such intensity that Willow felt a flush of heat pass through her.
Willow realized her greatest challenge was looking right at her. It wasn't just about the power of their connection; there was something else, something beyond words. Willow wanted more.
This was it: The Test. Could Willow refrain if Maclay wanted her too?
After a quick shower and change, the girls went about their day. She went to language study and tried to focus on the teacher. He was cute. All the aversion techniques she'd learned included redirecting passions that bubbled deep within. All the guys in their group seemed really nice - except the annoying one, Hamm. She thought she saw him picking his nose once, but the evidence was inconclusive.
Hamm especially seemed to take to the language naturally. He said he'd done theatre in high school so it was easy for him to memorize scripts. To him that's all it was, it was just a bunch of words in order. Nevertheless, Willow wanted the words to mean something.
She tried to focus throughout the day, but her earlier epiphany had left her shaken. Even the normal babble in her head seemed quieter. That was just...disturbing. It was almost time for bed and her brain just kept rehashing the horribleness that was her day today. She needed a distraction.
At 9:30, there was a soft knock at the door. Willow looked up from her desk where she'd been studying. Her companions were already in bed. They were exhausted and had been sporting droopy eyelids near the end of their earlier class. Smith Shimai appeared to be already asleep. Willow quietly opened the door.
Maclay stood in the doorway with books in hand.
Maclay flashed a quick smile and held up her books. Ooh, my study buddy - cool. It's like our second study date, cool. Wait, did I just think that. No, that's sooo not right.
Willow silently concurred, went to grab her books and a few pens before she quietly headed out. As a perfect end to her day, she tripped on the chair at the desk and stumbled across the room. She rolled her eyes, gathered up the pens she'd dropped in an effort to keep her self up right, and she meekly walked out the door closing it behind her.
The two walked in silence to the lounge area where Willow sat down with a muffled thud.
Maclay sat down beside her, set her books down, and turned her hips on the couch to face Willow. After setting her books down on the couch beside her, Willow threw her feet onto the table, leaned way back resting her head against the back cushion.
After observing her in silence for a few moments, Maclay spoke softly, "Rough day, huh?"
"You have no idea." Willow started in retelling the events of her day, "So after the gym fiasco, thank you for helping by the way, it just kept getting better.
"Hamm Choro is like the master memorizer and I was feeling all stupid. I kept goofing up stuff in class and about all I know I can really say is "I" and "thank you." I mix my chi and ra, mo & ho and it's embarrassing. My sentences sound like word soup, all with the English and Japanese all sloshing around together, but not in a good Campbell's wholesome goodness sort of way, you know. I mean I'm supposed to be study girl, why can't I get this?" Hamm Chorro is just not that smart, is he?"
Maclay continued looking at her intensely listening to every word.
"And I was feeling a little disconnected and homesicky, then Kitchen get a letter from home - and what - she's been here like five minutes and has gotten a box and a letter."
Willow could feel the intensity and loving energy that seemed to radiate from Maclay. She wasn't babbling though; this was something else... possibly a rant or maybe a dump. It didn't matter. She could tell Maclay was really hearing her.
"Then at lunch, I spilled my milk everywhere. I'm such a klutz. I think Smith Shimai hates me. You know where most of it ran, right, I don't even have to say it.
"We're getting set apart tomorrow and I can't even seem to find a good happy place mentally. You'd think being here it would be easier somehow. At dinner, there was cheesecake but Elder Brooks took the last one." She rolled her eyes and took a breath to catch up for her next wave; the rehash was not quite over.
"So I guess I'm not too familiar with the cold weather problems of Utah, I mean, who knew that when dew in Provo is cold it becomes ice? I'm on my way back from class tonight; I slipped and fell right on my rump." She gazed up at the ceiling for a moment and then looked back at her confidant.
Her unload on Maclay had been cathartic. She'd felt alone all day and yet here she was sitting with a kind, compassionate person who was giving her one hundred percent of her support and encouragement to ramble along. She's such a find this girl. Look at her, she's so beautiful and sweet and attentive. Just like today when she helped Smith. I can tell she'd probably stop for a stray dog or cat, put her life on hold to help someone out. She'd go out of her way to make you feel good.
"That's it. That's enough." She interrupted Willow's internal Maclay-centered babble. "Let's get chocolate."
"Chocolate makes all things better." Maclay was smiling and nodding in confirmation.
Huh? I thought you would suggest a prayer, reading some meaningful passages, or give me either an inspirational speech or harsh talking to for not counting my blessings or something."
"Well, I could do that, but that's not what you want." She responded with confidence.
"How do you know what I want?" The words came out a little harsher than Willow intended, but it had been a long and frustrating day and how could anyone really know what was on her mind right now.
Maclay's voice was strong, sure, and actually seemed to drop in tone a little. "I know what you want."
Willow, on the other hand, seemed to be going into panic mode. Her vocal cords tensed with every word. "How can you know what I want when I don't even know what I want?"
"You do, you just won't admit it. You want chocolate." Maclay was nodding her head again as if to convince Willow.
"No, I don't." Willow responded flatly.
"Okay, you don't want chocolate," She cocked her head and look amused, "You need chocolate."
"What are you stuck? Do you have stock in a chocolate company or something? Chocolate can't fix this day; it can't take away the humiliation of bopping Miss Foo Foo in the nose, and crying over my spilled milk and losing my focus in language class."
"No, it can't." Maclay was still smiling at her. "But it beats the alternative."
"Oh, you are just hopeless." Willow was starting to loosen up a bit. She giggled and rolled her eyes.
"Well actually, I'm more hopeful." Maclay trailed off.
"About what?" Willow suddenly realized that maybe Maclay wasn't really talking about chocolate.
"Well I was hoping we could go to the vending machines to get you what you want." Maclay was looking at her expectantly.
"Because chocolate is what I want?"
"Because," Maclay took a cleansing breath, "we need to get up off the couch to get to the vending machines."
Willow was stunned. In that moment she realized she did know exactly what she wanted, moreover she had a good idea that Maclay really knew what she wanted; and Maclay wanted it too.
A tear began to form in Willow's eye. As she looked in to the ocean of blue before her, she felt the tiny muscles in her chin start to spasm and quiver as she fought to hold back the tide within.
Maclay sensed her distress, reached out her hand to touch her face. With the pad of her thumb, she caught the single tear that had started a slow cascade down Willow's cheek.
"Oh Sweetie, it's okay; we can do this." She cupped her hand around Willow's cheek. Now, how about we get some of that chocolate?" Before we do something we both might regret Willow added for Maclay instinctively knowing that's what the girl meant.
Just 58 more days.