The girls met at the sink after their brief respite. Both of them had questions they wanted to ask of the other.
Willow wanted to hear Tara's song; she wanted to know about the socks. She loved her voice and could listen to her for hours. And there was the promised thumb-wrestling match. She wanted to see that crooked grin again too. She was a little afraid of being so close so fast, but everything just seemed so right when they were together. They were a great fit, like Big Bird and Barkley (although less giant and Muppet-like). Willow grinned while she washed her hands and looked in the mirror at the two of them side by side. A perfect match. She immediately felt guilty for the thought.
Tara wanted to know about Big Bird and Barkley, Willow's color-coding, and all the things that made Willow so unique. The girl intrigued her. But she also scared her. It would be so easy to fall in love with her and that would be so wrong. She was already feeling guilty. She had been taught her whole life that those feelings were wrong and she needed to avoid certain situations. She had considered not serving a mission, but when the Bishop had suggested she go, who was she to refuse the inspiration of a church leader. She looked up and caught Willow looking at them in the mirror. She smiled nervously and ducked her head hiding behind her hair. She could do this.
When Tara regained her resolve, she looked straight into the mirror again.
"So" Both girls started at the same time, and then laughed together nervously.
"You go," they both said in concert.
"Okay, I'll go" Willow jumped in rushing the break of their normal conversational cadence.
"I have a wish list and it seems too long to complete. I did promise you I'd explain a few things about my colors, Big Bird and B, and, there's a party down the hall that we should get back to. For all we know we're missing another Conley nose whistle performance or valuable practice naming items in the dorm room we know in Japanese. And although I'd rather check off a few of my items from my Tara wish list, I think we should get back or at least check in before they call out the companion police or something." Willow took a breath in anticipation of Tara's response.
"How do you do that?" Tara asked.
"What? Say so much without breathing? 'Cause I've been told I do that too much and one day I'll pass out. "
"No silly," say just what I'm thinking. No, can't say that. Tara shook her head and gathered her thoughts. "You just always say what you think. It's refreshing." That sounded ok.
"Oh that." Willow took a minute to consider her response. "I don't know, I don't really think I do that. I'm usually trying so hard to do the right things, say the right things, I just babble and stuff comes out. I think you're just the only one who really hears me." Willow's heart suddenly felt heavy and she bit her lip when she felt like tears might well in her eyes.
Tara felt the shift in Willow immediately. She took a risk in being a little more honest about her thoughts. "Well I was also thinking the same thing so let's get out of here and go over your list. It's probably big like mine. We'll find a way to get through it." Tara reached her right arm out, placed it over Willow's shoulder, and gently guided her to the hall.
They walked in silence to the couches where Tara had led them and she motioned for Willow to take her now usual spot.
"How do you do that?" It was Willow's turn to inquire.
"What, state the obvious and make a non plan? 'Cause I've been told I do that too much and one day I'll actually have to decide something." Tara smiled at Willow hoping her echo had lightened the mood for her.
"No silly" Two could play at that game, "You seem to know what I need when I don't."
"Magic" Tara's one word answer resounded with Willow. Just today, she had thought the same thing.
"You know, we're not supposed to believe in magic. Do you?" Willow almost regretted the question, but she needed to know.
Tara fixed her eyes on Willow, she knew what she wanted to say, but it would cross a line she was not ready to cross. The girl before her was so open and trusting she didn't want to lie. Tara took a deep breath. "We probably need to have a conversation and I'm not sure when we'll have the time."
"Huh." Willow simply said and left her mouth slightly ajar.
"Huh, what huh?" Tara was puzzled by the lack luster response.
"You do do that." Willow stuck her tongue between her teeth and smiled.
"I do do what?" Tara absentmindedly fixed her gaze on Willow's mouth.
"State the obvious and make a non plan." Willow beamed at Tara. Tara simply responded with a half smile for the second time that day.
Willow became a little more serious. "Thank you."
"Thank you for what?" Tara looked expectantly at Willow.
Willow raised her hand, gently placed her palm on Tara's face, and gently rubbed her thumb over the area just to the right of Tara's lips. "Thank you for letting me make you smile."
Tara moved her face against Willow's hand and closed her eyes. She allowed herself the luxury of Willow's touch for just a moment.
Willow closed her eyes as well feeling the warmth against the palm of her hand. She hadn't intended on doing that, it just seemed the right thing to do.
"We should probably check in with the others." Willow said as she forced herself to move her hand away. "There's a party down the hall and we're missing it... again."
Tara still not fully grounded after feeling Willow's touch simply nodded. She stood up and started to walk away, she suddenly turned back and faced Willow who was also walking the same direction in front of the couch. Willow nearly ran right into her.
"Willow?" It sounded like a question or maybe supplication. Willow realized the word was conveying more than just her name.
"Come here." Tara opened her arms in invitation.
Willow made the extra step and wrapped her arms around the taller girl. Their bodies melted together as they embraced. They seemed to be touching everywhere. This was no socialite greeting at the airport with air kisses. This was a real hug. Willow was already in heaven when she felt and heard the whisper in her ear.
"It's about time you two got back." Smith announced when the girls re-entered the room. "What were you doing, thumb wrestling?"
Willow was incensed. How dare she take that private conversation and poke fun. This time Willow jumped to her own defense in the only way she could think of, "Oh dang, we didn't get to do that. We were so busy robbing the liquor store we forgot." Willow shot a glance at Tara to see if she wanted to add anything.
Tara grinned and the excited look on her face was like that of a child who'd just learned to ride a bike. "Willow let me drive the get away car we borrowed." She looked back over at Willow before she continued. "We had to give up the booty when the police officer caught us doing donuts in the Temple parking lot."
"Yeah, he said he wouldn't book us after he saw the name badges we stole from the Sisters going to Spain." Willow concluded.
Tara over-exaggerated her affirming nod. Conley looked suspiciously at the girls, but said nothing.
"So" Willow dragged it out hoping that there would be no more questions from Smith or any of the others. "What did we miss?"
"Conley was about to sing for us." Colson volunteered.
"Really that's great," Tara moved quickly back to the floor where she had been sitting before. "I was hoping we'd get a sample of that."
"Oh, you missed the nose hymns earlier - she's vowed not to do that again so we don't all get hauled to the mission President's office and sent home for unmissionary like conduct" Smith shot the girls a sideways glance. "We don't want to be keeping anyone up past curfew with our ... 'disturbing' ... behavior." She placed the quote marks in the air with her fingers.
Oh, she is just evil and must be destroyed, Tara mused, but one mission at a time. Tara stole a quick looked over at Willow to see if she had caught the implication of Smith's taunt.
She was not surprised to see Willow looking puzzled and confused by the verbal attack. She could tell Willow was also hurt but was struggling not to let on. Okay that is just unacceptable.
"Smith Shimai, can I have a word with you?" Tara asked in earnest.
Smith looked startled by the suggesting, but decorum required she comply. "Sure."
Tara stood up and walked toward the door. Everyone looked at her with confusion with the exception of Willow. She was still struggling with making sense out of Tara's behavior. She opened the door and gestured for Smith to go out first.
Once outside in the hall, Tara motioned to her right toward the lounge area. As they were walking, she began. "I don't want to steal a lot of your time away from the others and our little get together in the room, but I wanted to explain something to you." They had reached the couches and Tara motioned for Smith to sit down.
When Smith had settled in, Tara sat facing her and placed her hands in her lap.
"I don't want to presume to tell you about how to treat any one else or ask you modify your behavior in any way other than to ask you to consider something. Tara took a quieting breath. "Every one of us is here because they've been called to be here. We are all unique and special. I sensed some hostility in there directed toward Rosenberg Shimai and me." Tara took another breath and called out the big guns. "I think you need to understand that some of us are sort of uncomfortable in certain situations and we also have different ways of finding spiritual fellowship and locating our inner strength and peace." Tara looked intently at Sister Smith to see if she was registering the rebuke and catching on to her meaning.
Tara reached out, placed on hand over Smith's hand, and looked directly into her eyes in supplication and with genuine sincerity. "Sister Rosenburg is a sensitive person and is going be a wonderful asset in the field, but she lacks a little confidence. You and I have that because of how we were raised. We've faced the crowds baring our testimonies; we lead group prayers and taught in Sunday school. We've had the support of our families and our Visiting Teachers, Home Teachers and Church leadership all our lives. We've looked to them for guidance and wisdom and they have led by example for us. We've held positions of responsibility, and from that, we've gained a lot of self-esteem.
"Sister Rosenberg has not had that. She is new to The Church and is excited to be sharing her story. We need to be careful to set a good example and not dampen that spirit inside of her. We don't have a lot of time here with her and each other. I'm concerned that some of the things that you say - although you may mean no ill intent - may hurt her and end up damaging that spirit. Do you understand what I'm saying?" Tara squeezed Smith's hand to signal a response was not necessarily required.
Tara looked into Smith's eyes and saw they were slightly glazed. "Say what you want to me in private, but be nice to Rosenberg, okay?" And take that as a threat if you want. Tara added privately. She had no idea what she would do if the Sister's behavior did not improve, but she didn't want to find out. Mission accomplished ... I hope.
"Now let's get back, get our Kumbayayas out, and go to bed. Maybe tomorrow we can convince Rosenberg she can sing in front of us so we can learn some church songs in Japanese. Okay?"
Tara stood to indicate their conversation was over. Smith got up without a word, which Tara hoped, was a sign of meekness, and they headed back to the room together.
When Sister Smith and Maclay re-entered the room, they were greeted with various looks of confusion, general inquiry and for one redhead, apprehension. Sister Kitchen looked from Maclay to Smith and back, and nodded in understanding to Sister Maclay. Smith glanced around the room from one sister to the other but avoided looking at Sister Rosenberg.
Willow noticed the change and looked over toward Tara. She called her out. For Me. When she was certain Smith would not observe her, she mouthed "Thank You" to Tara.
The others noticed the shift in the room as well, and Colson sprang into action. "Who's ready for another cookie?"
Without responding to Colson, everyone else quickly turned to Kitchen Shimai to see if another Muppet moment was coming.
Kitchen immediately noticed she was the center of their attention. "No, no, no, no more Muppets, no more laughing."
There was a chorus of 'Ohs" and several pouts and other forms of mock disappointment."
"My side still hurts; Conley sing much better." She hadn't even noticed the peculiar phrasing of her sentence, but a few who caught it started giggling but it tapered off after just a few moments.
There was a brief pause, and no one seemed to take the lead in moving the party forward.
Smith finally spoke up. She still seemed to be less animated than she had before her conversation with Tara. "Maybe it's time to go to bed. We do have a big day tomorrow - no language classes, but a lot of study none-the-less. And don't we have that sister's class tomorrow too?" She looked over at Kitchen and Conley for affirmation. "Plus I really need to put some stuff in my journal tonight and I'm pretty much cookied out. I'm hitting the lull before the sugar coma here. I don't want to wake up on your floor tomorrow morning because no one could carry me back to bed."
Tara spoke up: "Well I know I'm pretty beat. And if I have any more sugar now, I'll be awake all night. How about we meet here before breakfast tomorrow around 7:10 and head over together? That sound like a plan?" Tara stole a quick look at Willow and smiled knowing that she would recall their earlier conversation.
"That sounds like a fine plan." Willow quickly responded to prevent the other two from being able to mess with her next Tara time. Plus she wanted to ensure that Tara knew she caught the reference.
And, that was definitely not a non-plan. I think my Big Bird was trying to pull a fast one earlier - I don't think she's a non-planner - what was she talking about. Hmmm. I wonder if that has anything to do with the socks.
Everyone was getting up to leave, but Willow was lost in thought. As she walked past Tara to leave their room, she quietly whispered. "You know, that list keeps getting bigger."
Little did she know Tara was working on a scheme of her own.