"Colson Shimai, you are just evil." Smith started in loudly as the girls began their walk over to the cafeteria.
"What did I do?" Colson whined in response.
"You fed me cookies after nine and now I have a zit." Smith retorted.
"Oh, that. It's not even noticeable." Colson didn't bother looking over at Sister Smith.
"If it's not noticeable, why didn't you look over, huh?" Smith was in full attack mode and Sister Kitchen dropped back to let them lead the way. She noticed that Maclay Shimai was lagging behind Willow and Conley. She nodded forward to Conley to go ahead with Willow and the others. Colson and Smith were still bickering ahead of them.
She changed her pace to allow Maclay to catch up and walk beside her. "You okay?" She asked quietly.
"Yeah." She was short but kind.
"I wanted to say thank you." Kitchen glanced over and quickly looked forward again while they strolled through the hall.
"For what?" Maclay thought she knew what about, but didn't want to jump to conclusions.
Kitchen dropped her voice a little to make sure Willow couldn't hear her. "For everything. I saw the way you approached Smith, I'm assuming you had a talk with her about Rosenberg Shimai," Kitchen slowed her speed a little and Maclay matched it. "And thank you for taking an extra effort with Rosenberg Shimai. I think you see the same things I do in her."
They had slowed to a crawl to ensure Conley and Rosenberg were far enough ahead that they wouldn't overhear the conversation.
Kitchen continued, "She is so new and eager to please. I don't think she had a lot of support from home either. Did you know she flew in by herself?" Kitchen looked over in time to see Maclay shake her head and duck her head. "And that water thing, I know she appreciated the attention."
Kitchen Shimai reached her arm out and touched Maclay to signal a brief pause. Then she grinned widely and motioned ahead to Willow and Conley who looked deep in conversation. 'And I think you can expect her to be very crafty and methodical in her plans for revenge." She saw Willow shuffle her books to her other hand. They resumed walking. Kitchen was beaming with glee.
"What's with the grin?" Tara asked, a little confused by tone of the conversation and sudden change in behavior.
"My part in this mission is complete." Kitchen shuffled her books too and continued walking at her normal pace.
Tara stood speechless. Willow had engineered the whole distraction. What is she up to?
The girls arrived in the cafeteria after a brief dash through the rain. It was really starting to come down. They all decided it was definitely hot cocoa and pancakes weather. They got their trays and found a place where they could all sit together. The Elders from Kitchen's district saw them and came over too.
"Ohaiyo!" [Good morning] They all said in unison.
"So what are you guys up to today?" Smith inquired.
Hamm responded for the group. "Pretty much same as you, I guess, except we're having Priesthood meeting at 10:00. What about you?"
Smith continued. "We have beauty school today."
Willow looked back and forth between Smith and Hamm to see if Smith was kidding. I didn't appear so. "What, we don't get scripture study with the Sisters at 10:00?" Willow pulled out her little white handbook and took out the schedule she had folded up and placed in the sleeve.
She re-read the schedule: 'Reflecting the proper image of a sister missionary'.
"What is this 'beauty and the beasts'?" Willow suddenly realized that Smith was not exaggerating the beauty school drop out implication. "The guys get to learn how to tie their ties and we get, what, how to keep our nylons up?"
"Oh, we already know how to do that. We get actual study time." Stevens remarked. It wasn't helping Willow's mood.
Elder Brooks chuckled at Rosenberg's distress. "You know, it probably won't be that bad, and if it is, you can complain to me about it. I have three sisters and they harass me a lot about my wrinkled pants."
"Oh, yeah, talking about wrinkly pants is so close to 'you're ugly now here's how we make you pretty'." Willow was incensed. "This is so unfair. Are we being punished for something?" Willow suddenly realized she was ranting. She slowly stirred her applesauce. "I mean, I know we could use advice and stuff about what to wear to reflect the proper image, but, but, okay, I know double standards annoy me and I'll just stop talking now."
Elder Brooks looked at her with in earnest. "You're right, it's not fair, it's not the same, but it's the way life is. You are judged differently than we are. We're white shirts and ties; you have to be perfect, and beautiful, and elegant." He smiled at her warmly. "You go right ahead and complain, just not to anyone who isn't wearing a badge right now."
Willow looked around and noticed everyone - Elders and Sisters - were all nodding in unison. "I get it: secret club against social inequalities. Check."
"We're here for each other." Stevens added. "And if we're not, consider this: at least sandals and togas are not the fashion trend at the moment. That could be ... ghastly."
"Oh yeah, I hate having dirt in my toes and dusty feet." Tara added. "And the dryness ... Dirt is not a natural exfoliant; I don't care what anyone says about mud."
"Oh! What if we were in toga wear and stationed in Chicago. There could be wind issues." Brooks added with a shudder. "Oh and how about riding in a toga? That would be downright nasty and potentially chilly."
"Okay perspective people. I see what you're saying. But just think for a moment. What exactly is the real difference between togas and dresses, sandals and pumps when you have to ride a bike in the snow in Japan like we gals will?" Willow added.
The Elders who had been nodding suddenly stopped and actually considered for a moment.
Brooks volunteered with a faux smile showing all his teeth, "colors?"
The group responded with various degrees of laughter, groans, moans, and one redhead clicked her tongue and sighed. The lightheartedness tapered off as the sisters began contemplating the statement. The elders scarfed up their meals and the sisters ate in comparable silence for the rest of the hour.
What good is beauty when you're uncomfortable, cold and covered up from head to toe in winter wear - which I still don't have. Willow said silently to herself. Speaking of a cold head ... Willow looked over at Tara who was at the other end of the table across from her. She was concentrating on her plate, poking at the strawberries she'd put on top of her half-eaten pancakes. She didn't notice Willow secretly "borrowing" the salt and peppershakers from the table. Willow looked down at her applesauce and glanced back at Tara who still seemed to be lost in thought playing with her strawberries. Willow made a decision. No retribution on a Sunday - but Monday would be fair game.
The Sisters and Elders headed over to the main hall after breakfast for Sacrament Meeting. After the opening hymn, prayer (which was in German by a seventh week Elder) and another hymn, the Elders from the front row passed the Sacrament trays around the room.
Hundreds of missionaries sat reverently waiting for the bread to come down their rows. Willow noticed that Tara didn't accept her offering and she just passed the plate. Maybe she has yeast issues, no, that can't be right. When the juice came down the row next and Tara passed it as well, she was alarmed. Why doesn't she feel worthy? Willow wondered. That's not something I would be able to ask her either - that's just not done. Maybe she'll talk to me about it.
The group listened intently to the messages presented by each of the speakers. Two hours later the meeting broke up and Willow had three pages of notes. As she got her things together, she saw Tara getting ready to go out with the other two sisters. She tentatively approached her.
"Hey," Willow took a quick breath, "I was wondering if you'd be interested in learning about my color system after our last class tonight. I have lots of notes to transcribe here, and I thought it might be a good opportunity since there were so many subjects today, but I don't want you to feel obligated, you don't have to, I mean only if you want to. Okay, I'll stop talking again." She took another breath. "Why do I do that?"
Tara looked up into the soft green eyes that were beseeching hers. "Why do you do what?"
"Oh, you know," her voice tensed a little raising the pitch slightly.
"Why do you want to spend time with me, why do you take notes and then transpose them, why do say what you want?" Tara looked intently at Willow as if studying her for the first time.
Willow stared back into Tara blue, which is what she'd inwardly called the color of Tara's eyes.
"Well I was saying why do I talk so much to say so little, but of course I want to spend time with you." Willow focused on Tara's first comment. "That's not even a question." Willow subconsciously held her breath.
Tara seemed torn for a moment while she considered her options. She finally answered simply and a little quieter, "Okay."
"Okay?" Willow repeated Tara's response with hope.
"Okay. But we have to stay focused." Tara warned.
"Okay." Willow duplicated the tone of Tara's initial acceptance.
"Okay?" Tara said to insure they had an agreement.
"Okay. We will stay focused and I will teach you the Rosenberg Shimai color coding system. There will be no ranting, no chocolate, and no distractions; it will be just you and me, my pens, and our scriptures. Is it a deal?"
Tara was relieved that Willow seemed to sense the source of her discomfort, "deal."
Willow got into her night out outfit in record time. She gathered her notes, her scriptures and on a whim grabbed her hymnbook. She lifted her books in the air to signal to Kitchen that she was heading out, and she walked out the door leaving it open. She traveled the short distance to the other sister's room and tentatively knocked.
Colson opened the door and saw the books in Willow's hands. "Maclay Shimai, your study buddy is here." Colson announced.
Willow waved down the hall at Kitchen. She saw the Sister was accepted at the other end and she closed the door. Colson, Conley, and Maclay Shimai were in various stages settling in for the night.
"Give me a sec, okay?" Tara motioned for Willow to sit on her bed while she went to the bathroom to change.
After she left the room, Conley and Colson sprung into action. "What do you need us to do?" Conley asked first. Colson also fully involved in the conspiracy nodded her acceptance in whatever Willow intended.
"Operation Wet Red Revenge has commenced. First, we need a signal. I don't want to do anything tonight and possibly wait until Tuesday depending on her mood today. She seemed a little down, so I want to make sure I don't make whatever it is that is bothering her any worse. But we have to set it up. All you guys have to do is...."
Tara was looking in the mirror silently talking to herself. What are you doing? You know you're not ready to face this thing. You know what happens when you try to spend time with her. You're putting yourself directly in the path of temptation. Some demons should stay in the closet. It's not as if you should talk to her about it. Clearly, she's ... well she has feelings, but maybe I'm misreading her intent. Maybe she's just extra close to people and feels things more strongly than other people feel. Oh man, I'm even starting to sound like her. Which isn't a bad thing I guess, but I need to maintain the upper hand here. What do I do?
She's waiting for me. I need to go out there. Hello, Miss State the Obvious. Duh ...
Ha! She could be my sidekick Miss Talks in Code, nah, Miss Babblethon - hah, like marathon she could probably do that. Miss Babblerina oh, no she can't dance I don't think and that sounds like ballerina. Miss Super Klutz, no, not Miss, Captain Klutz, Captain Distraction more likely, Captain Talks in Code and I can be General States the Obvious. Right now, I think her name should be Captain Contagious. I'm babbling now.
Tara brushed her teeth and rinsed off her face. She thought of the teacher explaining how to wash her face and laughed quietly. Poor Willow; she was mortified by all of that beauty stuff - she was right though. Togas, she rolled her eyes, man.
Tara ran down the hall toward the vending machine and made her purchase. She then went back to Willow's room and knocked. When Sister Kitchen opened the door, she handed her the item and the note she'd already written. Without a word, Kitchen took the item and nodded in understanding. Tara turned and headed back to her room.