(Day 5 - Monday, November 12, 1984)
Some days seem to last forever: when you're far away from home, its worse. There are moments, though, when time seems to stand still, the world falls away, and all that matters is the moment and you pray it will last forever.
Laundry turned out to be less eventful than Willow had hoped. Something was clearly up with Sister Smith. Although Kitchen Shimai had brought her hairbrush and Willow her trusty microphone-thumb for the proposed sing-a-long, there were way too many Elders in the laundry room by the time they got there for the girls to do any musical numbers. The other Sisters were nowhere to be found for any engaging chitchat, and it was nearly time for lunch; P-day would be officially over.
Willow was starting to feel very alone in Utah. She had not received anything from anyone, but she hardly expected to. She wasn't much for writing letters, although she had kind of hoped that Amy would have written by now. She tried not to get her hopes up as they made their way to the front of the MTC. As they walked, she reflected on some of the people she'd left behind so she could come and serve.
After a quick stop at the mailboxes, the girls headed back toward the cafeteria. Kitchen and Smith both had letters. They saw a few Elders from the other district and smiled casually. Willow noticed some of them had gotten things too. One doesn't pry about other people's news from home. At this point, I'd settle for a dramatic reading from Soap Opera Digest; that would be a welcome diversion even if they weren't real people...although Aunt Melody might disagree. She loves her soaps. That last thought put a pained smile on Willow's face.
She had a lot of fun with her Aunt Melody, and she often babysat her niece, Carol. They watched all the best stuff together, then after Carol went to bed, Willow settled in to watch her favorite show, M*A*S*H. The series had recently ended and she was sad that it wasn't on anymore, but at least she wasn't missing it. TV was just one thing a missionary gives up during their service.
Come on Willow; focus on something else - anything but family.
Okay great moments on M*A*S*H. Willow tried thinking about one of her favorite episodes, but everything reminded her of her current situation. She got lost in her thoughts. They read Corporal O'Reilly's letters over the loud speaker. All the soldiers loved hearing news from Radar's Aunt about his family and the happenings of the small town in Iowa. It was a reminder for them of the simple life and the things for which they were fighting.
Maybe they could do a branch reading of the more poignant letters - like show and tell - only not. I should have sent myself a letter so I wouldn't look so pathetic. Willow thought of Radar, his sweet little round face, circular glasses and his trademark ESP. She suddenly wished she had thought to bring her stuffed dog along with her too.
On the way down the hall near the cafeteria, Willow and the others heard singing. Willow and Kitchen poked their heads through one of the doors to a meeting area and saw a few missionaries around a piano. She recognized Elder Hamm, who was playing, his companion, and several others were singing songs from a church musical. Willow looked at her watch; they still had some time. Kitchen nodded toward some chairs at the back of the room. Willow understood and quietly went to sit and observe. Smith followed in behind.
When the group finished singing the theme song for this particular musical, "Saturday's Warrior," some of the elders she didn't recognize left. The now smaller group began singing another selection. Willow realized someone had actually brought all the sheet music with them. She thought this was a perfect item to bring since the show was about a missionary and their time of service, plus the songs were uplifting.
As they sang, Willow bent her head in reverence and let the words and feelings wash over her. She felt at peace, strong and happy all at once for the first time really since being at the Training Center. She loved music. It calmed her and made her feel safe. It gave her courage and hope.
Elder Hamm played the intro to the next song. She knew this one well. She'd seen the musical performed live right after she'd joined The Church and when she heard it the first time, it touched her deeply. Now, it felt more personal. She felt an ache in her soul. She hadn't realized there were others in the room sitting behind the piano until a single female voice started singing the melody.
Willow looked up and she saw it was Sister Conley. She was now standing near the piano. Her voice was rich and melodious. It was haunting. Willow looked on in awe.
Who am I, where am I going?
For the second verse, another voice joined with Conley. This voice Willow recognized immediately. Her heart pulsed and a flush of heat ran through her. She watched Tara join Conley at the piano.
How it hurts to be a no one
As Tara sang the second line, their eyes met. Willow struggled to hold back a tear that threatened to leak out onto her face. This was the most amazing moment of her life.
A third voice joined the others for the next stanza. They sang in the most beautiful three-part harmony Willow thought she'd ever heard.
Isn't there someone with a hand to spare? Doubts and fears keep comin' faster,
Doubts and fears keep comin' faster,
Willow let the tear fall. She felt a warm hand on hers and looked over to see Sister Kitchen was having the same reaction that she was. Willow squeezed her hand in appreciation and shared communion. They were comrades. Not comrades in arms ... comrades with books.
Willow smiled over at Sister Kitchen and wiped away the tear that had stalled on her face above her lip. Two more were threatening to run as well, so Willow blinked and wiped them away with her free hand. She took a deep breath jutting out her lower jaw.
Willow looked over at Sister Smith who seemed to be looking intently at her fingernail. Smith must have sensed Willow looking over at her; she gave her a cursory glance. She looked down and saw Kitchen and Willow's joined hands. She seemed puzzled for a moment then seemed to dismiss her thought. She returned her gaze to her fingernail for a moment before looking down at her boot.
Huh, I really don't get her.
"Ok that's it, we'd better get going," Stephen's Choro announced. "My stomach's growling and this little soldier needs a manly sized meal."
Willow shot out of her reverie. She wasn't hungry; the emotions of the moment seemed to take all her thoughts away - including the food ones. She joined the other sisters in their usual formation heading toward the dining hall.
P-day was officially over. It would be seven more days before they had another one. Ha! Willow distracted herself unexpectedly. Her thoughts of M*A*S*H and the Elder's comment had her on a mental roll. Next week, we definitely have to go to the mall - not shore leave, store leave. And in just a few days, the new recruits were coming in. I'll be an MTC veteran and earn my first missionary-style chevron, a blue dot.
The last thought almost escaped her throat with a sigh. Willow looked back to see the blonde trailing a few paces behind them. She gave Willow a shy smile and Willow blinked slowly taking in the beauty she was looking at.
Willow caught herself on a large mushy wall of flesh. She was embarrassed to have run right into Sister Smith, but grateful she didn't actually fall over. Kitchen Shimai shot her an amused look and Willow wondered if Kitchen realized where Willow had been looking before her collision.
Willow tucked her hair behind her ear and glanced around her. The shy look on the blonde was replaced by a half grin. Oh gosh, she saw and she knows.
Willow wanted to crawl under a rock and hide - preferably with camouflage and blackened face paint in the dark - but they had just arrived at the cafeteria. She still wasn't hungry and Smith was giving her some serious vibes now. She really didn't know what to think about it; but there wasn't' much she could do about it now.
There wasn't anywhere to sit together. The girls spotted two different tables next to each other. Willow held back behind the others in surveillance watching the players to see where they would go. She wanted to be in position to look at Tara if she sat facing in, or back to back if she took the inside spot. She noticed Tara lagged behind a little bit too. For Willow, everyone seemed to be in slow motion. Kitchen seemed to be the only one who didn't care where she ended up. She selected a seat at the further table facing in. Meanwhile, Smith doddled at the drink dispenser. Willow had her eyes on Conley. She was the key figure in her tactical plan. She guessed that Tara would sit next to her if given the choice. Conley had to make her move before Smith made her decision. But Colson was a variable too.
As Willow stood considering her options, she failed to notice Tara come from behind her.
"You know," Tara started quietly almost in Willow's ear. She was startled by Willow's sudden jolt and embarrassed for her friend when Willow nearly spilled her tray in surprise.
"Oh Gosh, I'm so sorry," Tara started again. "I didn't mean..." She stepped forward and turned to face her.
"No, its okay, I guess I'm just a little unnerved today." Willow countered quietly.
"Well you did just have a close encounter of the Smith kind." Tara smiled at Willow with so much affection Willow nearly swooned.
"That's true, but it's not like I made molds of her with my potatoes or built a giant size Smith in my dorm room out of a trashcan or something." Willow mirrored Tara's gaze.
Tara saw the look in Willow's eyes and subconsciously bit her bottom lip.
Willow took a deep breath and tried not to look at the sensuous lips. "Tara," the word came out almost as a whisper, "I'm sorry about before. I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable. And thank you for the gift. That was really sweet." Willow took another breath and did her best just to focus on the blue eyes in front of her. From the corner of her eye she saw that Smith had taken a seat facing Kitchen and Conley and Colson were also sitting across from one another, but Colson had taken the inside position. "I guess we should join the troops." Willow nodded toward their companions and started to walk toward the tables. Tara walked along side her matching her step for step
"So when did you learn how to do Kanji?" Willow started again.
"Oh, that. I had a little help." Tara responded looking at the seating options before her. She chose to walk down the center and Willow went with her. "So you ready to teach me more color coding after culture class and devotional tonight?" Willow could have sworn she saw a spark of anticipation in Tara's eyes, but she didn't want to jump the gun.
"Absolutely!" Willow bounced a little on her toes as they walked. "I love giving you private lessons." A seductive grin appeared on the redhead's face and the blush was back on Tara's. "See you around nine?" She gave her a playful bump with her shoulder.
Willow set her tray down and was about to swing her leg in to sit next to Sister Smith. She glanced over at the Sister's poofy blonde hair. "Oh and Sister Maclay," she emphasized her title, "make sure that you bring your notebook and your Scriptures and a pen, there could be diagrams this time." She said it loud enough to ensure Sister Smith had heard the request.
Tara recognized the change in Willow immediately and responded in a similarly respectful tone. "Okay, Sister Rosenberg, but you need to bring your sanbika too. You need to practice your hiragana." She sensed she'd had another conflict with Sister Smith. Why would she sit by her then? Tara settled in next to Sister Colson, and looked across to Sister Conley. She realized immediately what Willow had done.
Tara considered her own seat selection for a moment. She looked across to Sister Conley. She usually chose to sit next to her; it was part of their routine now. But when given the choice, she wanted to be near Willow. It was very confusing. She often felt drawn to the girl. Tara still looking over at Conley started thinking of Willow. She is so funny, and smart, and cute and ... oh! Don't Go There Tara.
Tara looked down at her lunch tray. Her breath caught when she took a really good look at her meal. She just sat there staring at the items. It looked like someone had dropped Christmas on her tray. Even the bacon bits in her spinach salad looked redder than they should. Oh! My! Gosh! Captain Contagious strikes again.