(Day 7 - Wednesday, November 14, 1984)
Willow and Tara returned from their beverage mission with their selected drinks. It was a few minutes before ten and they knew the day was winding down. They stood at the top of the stairs just a few paces from Tara's door.
"We made it." Willow announced proudly.
Tara turned to look at her. She was a little bit puzzled by the remark and wasn't sure how to answer. She didn't want to deflate whatever had Willow so happy. Instead, she simply smiled, hoping that would elicit more information.
Willow saw the look on Tara's face and realized, again, how much she cherished spending time with her. They were so in sync, so right together, and Tara always seemed to know the perfect thing to say or do to make her feel better. Sometimes, it was just a look. A warm smile replaced the excited grin she had on moments before.
Tara blushed but didn't look away. "So you gonna go get the mushroom trail off your," she paused for effect, "you know?" Tara concentrated on looking at Willow in the eyes.
Willow tried not to melt under the intense gaze; she had to be strong for Tara. She glanced down at the flannel shirt she'd chosen to sleep in, "Yeah I guess I should." She started picking at imaginary lint on the colorful cotton shirt. She reflected for a moment on the irony of her flannel.
Tara looks so beautiful and elegant in her nightclothes. Here I am in the stereotypical, gay girl outfit - truck drivery flannel. Oh well, at least its warm and not sexy or anything, 'cause that would be bad, totally bad. Not that I think I'm all sexy or anything; 'cause, hey, red hair is not sexy-that's more girl next door. Cute...maybe a little, but only on a really, really, good day. I don't get that, why does she even like me. She is so beautiful; she could have anyone. Who am I kidding? Willow furrowed her brow and started to pout.
"You okay?" Tara interrupted Willow before her self-depreciation could begin. She guessed that rapid changes in Willow's demeanor might indicate some sort of internal struggle.
"Yeah, I guess, it has just really been a long day. Plus...pizza party, oh, I mean companion inventory with food chaser. We really didn't get into much more than what we need to get done on p-day next week. I know we're supposed to read the white handbook together, but I just didn't want anymore rules, ya know?" Willow took a breath. "And I have a mushroom, your mushroom, hanging out in my, well it's safe for now, and I should get it out of there," Willow sighed and trailed off. "but it's just so hard to go." Willow looked up a Tara. She cursed herself for her ever-present babble. Tara was just smiling at her.
"Why don't you stop me?" Willow tilted her head a little with the question. She didn't understand how Tara could be so patient while she rambled on and on.
Tara, still smiling, simply answered, "Why would I?" A silent snort of a chuckle escaped.
"Well it can't be very fun for you listening to me prattle on and on about nothing really." Willow hung her head a little,
"Who say's it's nothing?" Tara lowered her voice, "I think it's charming." A half smile emerged slowly across Tara's face.
A quiet little bark of laughter erupted from the redhead. "Charming, right," She rolled her eyes; Willow could not accept the compliment. She looked up to just in time to catch the twinkle in the gentle girl's eye.
Tara's voice dropped, "Well I do." Tara looked at Willow, searching back and forth from one green eye to the other with a beseeching look, "Don't stop."
Willow swallowed hard. "Tara," Willow tried to gather her thoughts, she didn't want to babble her way through what she thought she needed to say. She started again in a whisper, "Tara, do we need to, no that's not right, what do we, no that's not right either. I don't know. I can't make sense of this?" She waived between the two of them mirroring what Tara had done earlier by the vending machine. "I want to do the right thing for you and for me too I guess." She took a short breath, "We made rules," She trailed off almost defeated.
"We did make rules." Tara began, "but rules," she took a long moment, "rules, like ours, they have to be from the heart." She took a quick breath and whispered, "And right now, my heart just wants you."
They could have heard a pin drop on the carpet at that moment. Willow's mind was reeling; Tara felt relief.
Tara continued, "I don't know what to do about that, what that means for us, what that means for the future." She considered carefully how much she should reveal to Willow and decided she needed to be honest, "I've never felt this way about anyone. I don't know anything anymore. Are you a test or an answer? She looked up hopefully to Willow. "Are you real?"
Willow's mouth went dry; she took a sip of her soda while she tried to catch her breath. Willow looked around to see if they were still alone. "Oh, I'm real, I'm really real." Willow reached out with her free hand and grabbed a few of Tara's fingers. She entangled them in her own.
As she took a step forward, she lifted their hands so they were between them. She matched the movement Tara had made earlier that morning. She pulled Tara's hand up between them, carefully laid it over her heart and covered it with her own.
Willow closed her eyes and thought back to the moment when Tara had chased her lips and pulled her in to a warm embrace. As the memory took over, Willow was lost to the sensations. Tara felt Willow's breath hitch and her heart skip a beat. "This is real." Willow laughed a little, "It's just not timely."
Tara furrowed her brow not understanding the unexpected laugh. The only thing Willow said explained it all, "mushroom."
"Ew, sticky tomato-y trail o' fungus," Tara whined for Willow.
"Yeah," Willow chuckled again, "I can't believe you did that."
Tara smiled and stepped closer to Willow her hand still resting between them. She leaned in to whisper in her ear. Her voice was sultry and inviting, "Oh, but it was so worth it." She was rewarded with another involuntary gasp and heart flutter. "I'd better go."
Willow couldn't speak. She just nodded and watched Tara turn and walk to her room. When Tara disappeared behind the closed door, Willow went down the hall to the bathroom to extract the wet vegetable lodged in her clothing. After looking at herself in the mirror for only a moment, she shook her head. It was going to be a long night. She headed to her own room to get some sleep.
A few hours later Willow woke up. She turned over several times, and couldn't get back to sleep. She looked at the clock. It was far too early to get up to prepare for the day so she considered her options. She'd been neglecting her journal, her vocabulary, and her scripture study. Can't really flip a coin when you have three options.
Her companions were breathing gently in their bunks and she didn't want to disturb them. There was a just little light from under the door to see the floor. She quietly got out of her bunk. Even in the dark of the early morning hours, she knew where her things were on her desk, so she grabbed her notebook, scriptures, journal, and her pencils and went out into the hall. She wished she'd grabbed her apple, but there really wasn't enough light for her to pat down the desk in search of the fruit.
She took her usual spot on the couch in the lounge and settled in for some reading and solitude. It was so nice just to be alone and sitting in the quiet. The twenty-four-seven companionship was hard. There was just no escaping the constant audience of missionary life. Even shower-time was not relaxing since there was always somewhere to go, a schedule to keep.
Willow began to consider her situation. More young adults would arrive today to take their place in among the nervous missionaries drafted into service. Stateside missionaries would start counting down their three weeks, foreign speaking missionaries would begin their challenges of learning new languages. It was an assembly line really.
There was a certain prestige associated with serving outside the states. Although missionaries sent to Canada, they were an enigma. They were on the fence in the missionary pecking order. If you learned a language and had to go outside the country, somehow you were viewed differently that the others. Willow was fortunate to have been called to Japan. There would be additional opportunities available to her when she returned. However, right now, none of that mattered.
Willow opened up her journal to the last entry and saw the lyrics she had jotted down. The melody immediately popped into her mind. This was not a simple poem where the tune disappeared into an evasive memory. Her ode to Tara was actually a song. The thought brought a smile to her face. She thumbed through her other books and found a familiar paper. She opened it up and studied it. She thought back to what had happened just that day. They were not doing so well and it had only been one day.
It wasn't a perfect drawing, it wasn't supposed to be. It was symbolic of commitments she'd made to Tara. She started to criticize her work. The house was too small, the tree could have been bigger, but it was supposed to represent things, not actually be any good. She kept seeing things she could add, but the drawing was supposed to be simple. Focus on the mission; don't cross the lines, go to bed on time and no dark corners. Four simple little rules that would ensure they were successful in getting through this time together. The mission is what matters. You just have to be strong. Self talk so not the answer.
She leaned her head back on the couch, still holding the drawing. She did feel tired, but she didn't think she would be able to sleep. She reflected on the events of the week. It was the very first day when she saw her. It couldn't have been too long after she walked into the door. Since that time, she'd had several de ja vu moments. What did that mean? She thought to herself.
Tara. Every time she said her name, even thought her name it was like a whisper of hope. "Tara," she said quietly. It was like a mantra - soothing in simplicity, "Tara."
"Willow?" Willow could have sworn she heard her name. She was embarrassed she had spoken aloud. She leaned her head further into the couch. Fatigue was starting to take her. It was late and she should go back to bed now that she felt tired again. She was just afraid that the moment she got up, she'd be wide awake again.
"Willow," She heard the voice again in her head.
"I'm here," she whispered and closed her eyes to fall asleep. Her head lolled to the side. And she thought of the beautiful blonde and allowed a smile to settle on her face.
"You should go to bed."
"No." She said aloud before she realized that she was having a conversation with a voice in her head.
"You just want me to rub your neck again." Tara was at the couch. Willow turned toward the voice, her eyes mere slits as she struggled to open them to see if her vision was real or a dream. Tara looked at the girl. Her books were open and clearly, she had been up studying. Her eyes caught the color in the corner of her eye: Willow's picture. She was still holding it.
Tara knelt near the couch next to the girl who was clearly loosing the battle against sleep. In her position there settled on the floor, she felt strongly compelled to pray. This little waif of a girl had captured her heart in just a few days. Almost from the moment she saw her, Tara knew there was something cosmic about their connection. She just didn't know what that meant.
She had struggled so hard to put her feelings behind her, but the more she tried, the harder it seemed. She couldn't believe the intensity of the feelings and the need for intimacy with this girl. She had never ever had thoughts about these things before. She had never been remotely interested in even kissing anyone, let alone... She stopped her thought process. "Lock your heart," that was what they said in orientation. She did not understand how that was possible when you were supposed to be on a mission guided by love and light. Willow made those qualities in her stronger.
She whispered a silent request for strength of will. She needed to resist the temptation, but she didn't want to hurt the girl. She would not deny her. She couldn't disavow her feelings for Willow, that would be wrong. Willow deserved to know how much Tara cared about her. Even if it had been only a few days, knowing Willow was the most rewarding experience of her life, which was one thing Tara knew for sure.
As she knelt at the couch, her mind reflected over the events of the past few days. God, I think I love her. It wasn't a prayer, it was a realization. She suddenly had an overwhelming feeling of power come to her. She didn't understand it, but she knew it. That was the feeling you got when something was right. She also knew what she had to do next.
Tara rose from her place and quietly slipped down the hall, she returned a few moments later with some paper in her hand. She carefully removed the drawing from Willow's hand and began to write. After awhile she was finished. She neatly folded Willow's drawing and put it back in her scriptures. She put the folded papers she'd brought back with her and placed them inside as well.
Tara stood over the girl sleeping on the couch. A feeling of warmth washed over her. She leaned over and kissed her forehead. She breathed deeply just enjoying Willow's smell, "Sweet dreams, Willow," she finally whispered.
"...Night Tara," Willow muttered in her sleep, and she mumbled something inaudibly which Tara thought might have been, "you too."
(Day 8 - Thursday, November 15, 1984)
It was well after midnight when Willow woke up from her couch nap. She was cold and realized she needed to go back to bed. She looked around at the items in front of her and realized things were out of place. She tried to think back to what she had been doing before she drifted off to sleep. She looked down at her hands and started to panic when she saw they were empty. Her books were closed as well and her pencils were not lined up in the rainbow pattern she usually obsessed over.
She inhaled trying to regain her composure while she considered that someone had violated her personal space. But something seemed familiar. A lingering feeling, a scent. Tara! She yelled so loud in her head it almost hurt. She laughed at herself for her internal outburst, and then curiosity began to take over. Tara had been there and touched her things. She flashed back to Tara's mushroom and laughed think how she'd wished Tara could have assisted her in the clean up. That was so unlike her even thinking such things. She tried to dismiss it.
Most likely Tara had come along, seen her asleep and just straightened up for her. She hoped it was Tara; otherwise, she was loosing her mind thinking she smelled her in the area. She quickly fanned through her books to make sure no one else had come by and taken the rules picture - although, they were in code. No one would realize what they meant if they had.
She saw a paper, but it looked like it had something on it. She unfolded her drawing and was surprised. It looked like someone else had been busy.
Willow stared at the drawing for a moment trying to figure out what it was. It was cute. And Tara made it and signed it. She contemplated the images for a moment and suddenly the fog of sleep lifted. Sheep on an island, oh, I know this one! Isle of ewe. Wow, she said, 'I love you.'