Return to Latter Days/Lonely Nights Chapter Thirty

Latter Days/Lonely Nights

Author: Willownut
Disclaimer: Blah, blah, blah. Many characters are Joss Whedon's. Yada, yada, yada. No harm intended with the use of these revered characters. Peas and carrots, peas and carrots.
Italics are thoughts. For those who could excommunicate me or send me unwanted literature, I wish you no ill will. My thanks to LVK for the use of her song lyrics, you have my deep respect, and I would have asked first if I knew where you were.

(Day 8 -Thursday, November 15, 1984)

Tara woke up that morning with a smile on her face. She felt light and free, like a huge burden had been lifted. She decided against going to the gym; she wanted some quality journal time. She picked up a few wayward peppers and olives she found on the carpet which were left over from the pizza fling the night before and giggled when she reflected on the Smith-sized veggie-bit collage.

She was content. Tara knew that they probably would not see the other three during breakfast. She wasn't going to gym class, so that would put her ahead of their schedule. Going to gym always slowed Smith down. She laughed silently again. Willow looked so cute flipping toppings at her companion. The events of the night before were still fresh in her mind.

She headed down the hall with her bathroom kit in hand. She rinsed her face and brushed her teeth. The salty taste in the toothpaste reminded Tara of the redhead's revenge for her coldwater caper a few days before. It seemed like a mild response for her prank, but she was grateful that the "punishment" had been light - although, a bit long lasting. The salted peppermint flavor in her mouth was not that bad, so more than anything it made her laugh. It could have been a lot worse. And the little note about being "the salt of the earth" and the reference in red. It was very cute and so totally Willow.

Tara spit. She was floating through her morning routine. She continued with her thoughts. That letter from Donny had really put things into perspective for her. It was straightforward really.

She remembered hearing somewhere once that the meaning of life is simple; find some "thing" that makes you happy and cling to that (or was it "forty-two?" I'm sure Willow will know what that's from). She knew it was more complicated than that, of course, a person couldn't just do one thing all the time, there were chores at home, work, relationships that needed nurturing, issues to resolve and so forth. Distractions were inevitable. Like Willow... Tara had been taught that finding happiness was something found by following all The Church teachings.

The Church itself, as an idea, was an abstract construct; but it was also substantive. It was an organization. It used activities, callings, and church functions to help members develop skills and strengthen relationships. It nurtured familial bonds and social alliances. Being Mormon was to be included in a large fellowship of believers. She enjoyed the feeling of belonging, and she felt the ideals for family togetherness had really helped at home. She wondered what things would have been like for her and her family if it had not been for church ideology.

As far as gratification, it offered at least one "thing" for most people. Tara liked the kids; they brought her joy. Their innocence was refreshing. Her responsibilities with them had given her a lot of confidence. They cared about her. That kind of love and respect was just what she needed once a week to keep her going.

The Church provided structure and routine. As a missionary, that structure and routine was intensified exponentially. Every hour had been accounted for in her day. Her only time to herself was right now, when she was all alone with her thoughts.

Several sisters had trickled in and were beginning their morning routines as well. Tara looked around at the growing number. I wonder if we can get 42 of them in here. Okay that would have only been funny to Willow.

When she was with Willow, Tara felt like she could be herself. She could say what was on her mind. She could make statements today and change her mind tomorrow. There's a freedom in that she thought. I wish Willow were here. Tara looked into the mirror. Is it an exfoliant type of day? Tara moved a little closer to the mirror and felt her skin with her fingers.

"Are you looking for an imaginary pimple?"

Tara was startled. She turned to see Kitchen Shimia looking at her expectantly. "No, just wondering if it was time to exfoliate." She laughed quietly. "Its just so dry here; how do you deal with it?"

"Oh, well, the red rock makes an extraordinary mud mask," Kitchen started to explain, "oh, who am I kidding? You and Rosenberg are the funny ones. I've got nothing."

Tara blushed, "I'm not funny, Rosenberg yeah, she's spunky and quick witted."

"Oh, but you are right there with her. I can't keep up half the time." Kitchen got out her toothbrush. "Oh and, how's the minty freshness?" Kitchen motioned with her head toward Tara's kit as she started brushing her teeth.

Tara turned a few shades redder. She hadn't exactly figured out who was in on the caper and how Willow had gotten a hold of her toothpaste. "Well it's long lasting goodness." Tara gave a fake smile that signaled more her amusement at the prank than anything.

Kitchen saw the look and recognized it immediately. In a few moments, she started again, "Yeah I never would have thought of that." As she finished brushing her teeth, she seemed to be considering something and struggling whether or not to say anything to Tara.

Tara turned back to the mirror but continued to look at Sister Kitchen, "What?"

"Well you know that cold water in the shower thing was pretty big." Kitchen looked back at Tara through the mirror. "I was just thinking that a little salt was a small price to pay." She looked down at her kit and put her items back in and turned to go. "I'd watch your back."

Tara stared after her. Okay, what are they up to now?

Kitchen came back out of the bathroom and caught Willow heading back. She gave her a quick smile and went back into the room. Willow turned and walked in. She saw Tara staring toward the door with a vacant look on her face.

She quickly looked around to check for sets of sister eyeballs; she didn't want to think who might be watching their every move. They were not alone so she'd have to be careful. She gave Tara a quick hello nod and smile. "Ohaiyo!" [Good morning] she said cheerfully. "O genki desu ka?" [Are you well?] She walked toward the sink where Tara still stood.

Tara thought for a few moments and replied, "Ohaiyo gozai masu. Hai, genki desu." [Good morning (more formal), yes, I'm well] Patterning Willow seems the best way to go when my mind is a total blank.

Willow tried another tactic. "Honto ni? Daijobu desu ka?" [Really? Are you ok?]

Tara looked at her kit. Kitchen had unnerved her a little bit. What were they planning? Seeing the redhead, she hadn't expected that bonus. "Sa! Shio ga ari masu." [I have salt] Tara picked up her toothpaste to remind Willow.

"Hai, so desu" [yes, true] Willow was running out of words she could say in rapid succession. She looked at her feet. "nihongo o hanasu koto dai suki desu." [I don't like speaking Japanese] She looked around and said slowly, "demo, minasan ga nihongo o dekimasen." [but, everyone doesn't do Japanese] She winked at Tara, "Wakari masu ka?" [(You) understand?]

Tara saw the gesture and slowly repeated in her mind what Willow had said to her. When she realized what Willow had said a moment of perfect clarity hit her. A huge grin emerged on her face, "Hai, wakari masu, ne." [Yes, (I) understand] Tara winked back and laughed, "Anata ni mucho benkyo ii desu, chica." [much (Spanish) study with you is good, girl (Spanish)]

Willow laughed aloud, "Ja-spanglish?"

"Shhh! Minasan ga wakari masen." Tara thought for a moment, "Bigu Burudu wa Barukurei ni hanashi koto o hoshi desu." [Big bird wants to talk to Barkley] She took a breath, "Bigu Burudu wa Barukurei ni honto ni suki desu, ii desu ka?" Big Bird really likes Barkley, is that good?]

Willow felt like too many words had been thrown at her. She recognized a few, but the sentence made no sense with all the missing definitions. "Nani hoshi?" [What want?]

"Barukurei ni hanashi," [Talk to Barkley] Tara repeated slowly.

Willow tilted her head, Barukurei, nan desu ka?" [What is barukurei?]

Tara leaned over to whisper in Willow's ear, she closed her eyes when she entered her personal space. "Barkley." Tara waited a beat. "I want to talk to Barkley." She then repeated the last sentence for Willow as she backed away. "Bigu Burudu wa Barukurei o honto ni suki desu."

Willow licked her lips and then bit the bottom one. Even in another language she's...don't think it. Oh, who am I kidding? I already thought it. Yum!

Willow's thoughts gave her away. The raw emotion and need on her face was almost too much for Tara who stood looking at the girl. "I'd better go." Tara's resolve was breaking and her voice cracked.

"Yeah," Willow's inflection showed similar strain. Willow watched as Tara left. Once she'd turned the corner, Willow headed back to her own room as well.

"It should get there today, right?" Kitchens questioned Willow.

"Yeah, I think so," she gathered up her notebooks. "Might not though, just never know."

"But you want to go and spy, right?" Smith Shimai inquired. "'Cause, this should be good, although I haven't figured out what to do with you yet..." Smith Shimai looked at Willow. She was trying to convey her annoyance, but it wasn't working. The food fight had been a good stress reliever and clearly, Rosenberg and Maclay meant no malice. Until then, she hadn't fully appreciated the planning that the redhead had done to get even with Maclay.

"She doesn't always open them right away. But we can go." Willow stood up to leave. "If we see them, we just need to make sure and leave a little space so she doesn't think we're watching." She felt bad for her part in the next phase of her get even with Tara plot, but she knew Tara would take it stride.

Smith and Kitchen quickly gathered their things and they exited the classroom together.

"Well I did my thing," Kitchen beamed proudly. She'd never been part of any plot or scheme before and it was kind of fun. "Plus the name is catchy, Operation Wet Red Revenge. It's classic."

The girls headed out toward the cafeteria. Brand new green bean missionaries were arriving which meant that lunch would be more crowded than their leisurely breakfast that morning. Smith was the first to spot the other three, and they quickly fell in line behind them. When the others turned the corner, Smith raced to the wall and peered around it. Willow was secretly amused at the display. This was good for them to all come together this way.

Once in position, the three all peeked around the wall; Kitchen went high, Smith in the middle and Willow below. Conley and Colson walked ahead, and appeared to be talking amongst themselves while Tara opened the small door and took out a letter. She ripped the smaller end and tried to pull out the note within. It seemed stuck so she blew at the paper.

Tara knew immediately that she'd made a colossal blunder. In a split second she thought, Never ever underestimate Willow. Her eyes began to water profusely and her nose tingled. She was helpless to stop it. The sneeze erupted with such force another volley of pepper blew out of the envelope from the blast of air that exploded from Tara.

"There she blows!" Smith yelled.

Tara turned toward the noise just as another sneeze over took her. And another. After her fifth sneeze, the three sisters had made it over to add comfort to the struggling blonde.

Willow smiled as she handed tissues to Tara. She put on her best toothy grin and said nothing. Tara sneezed again as she looked at the adorable redhead. She held up her hand, but was unable to say anything as another sneeze threatened. "We can" sneeze, "go eat," Tara managed to get out. "Bud I'm mayging sure you geb rib of thoth," several quick breaths, "shaygers," sneeze.

Conley and Colson erupted in a fit of laughter. Kitchen and Smith realized that the damage already had been done. And Willow simply smiled. "Okay," she volunteered. She's so gonna hate me.

The girls headed over toward the cafeteria after everyone checked their mailboxes. Willow wasn't surprised hers was empty, and she decided to stop looking. She would check it on p-day instead. That way there was only one day of disappointment a week instead of six. The sisters started out in rows of three, but eventually they ended up in their normal pairings.

Tara walked quietly beside Willow, "Eigo de hanashi mo ii desu ka? [May I speak English?]

Willow replied quickly, "Hai dozo o nagai shimasu." [Yes, go ahead please]

Tara lowered her voice and slowed down a little to allow the others some space ahead. "I-I can't believe you did that."

"Oh, I did that days ago, before, you know." Willow was unable to convey her reference point without potentially alerting the others.

"No, I didn't mean it like that, not that you did it, that you found a way to do that." Tara tried to clear her head by shaking it a little. "How did you know? How did you do that." They had arrived at the cafeteria and were making their way through the line.

"Oh," Willow started to reply about technique and then realized exactly what Tara was asking. "OH, well, um, okay, I've been watching you." She took a little breath, "For days."

Tara raised an eyebrow in reply.

"I saw the way one of your letters was opened; it was on your desk." She continued, "When you don't raise a flap, then there's only a couple ways to get it out. If the paper is folded just right, it will mold against the form of the inside, plus a little tape never hurt." Tara didn't seem mad at all. "But once the letter was sent, there was no way to get it back. Event in motion, you know."

"Uh huh," Tara anticipated babble, but really didn't get it, "And my shoes this morning? When were you in my room?"

"Well, um that was actually this morning, when Kitchen Shimai was distracting you." Willow knew she was busted, but it still felt okay. There were no long-term effects, except for the salty toothpaste.

"Well you know this isn't over, right?" Tara prodded. They were now almost through the food line.

Willow was a little apprehensive, but the pranks were working out in their favor, it was better than companion-inventory with Smith. She simply nodded.

As they were walking over to find a table, Tara started again. "And I wanted to ask you a question." Tara seemed hesitant, but Willow coaxed her with her eyes. She continued, "I was thinking about the meaning of life this morning before you came into the bathroom."

Willow broke into her best English accent, "It is a tiny little wafer, sir."

Tara laughed and quirked an eyebrow, "well...," She held out the word. "No... I haven't heard that one before.

They had arrived and took a seat seating across from each other. They didn't even notice they hadn't paid attention to their companions. Willow's simple reply was met with another crooked smile, "Oh, pity."

"You will tell me about that in a minute." Tara responded and then she continued. "I couldn't think why I knew this but I thought the answer was 42."

Willow gave a quick burst of laughter. "Yes, but what's the question?"

Tara looked at her, "I told you; what's the meaning of life? I thought maybe it had something to do with the 'Mikey, he likes it' guy from Life cereal commercial."

Willow saw where she was going. "No, not the Life cereal commercial," She gave a patented Willow smile. "The answer and the question can never both be known at the same time. If they were both known it would destroy the universe and something even more bizarre would be created."

Tara gave a funny little rabbit face showing her front teeth and furrowed her brow, "What?"

"It's from the Hitchhiker's Guide, you know," Willow nodded, "The meaning of Life is 42, but we can't know the question or the world as we know it would be destroyed. And that would be of the bad." Willow concluded her lecture. "And now, we must continue in Nihongo, or we will not be able to speak..." She looked around, "in front of everyone." She gave a little wink and a smile. "We have mucho studying to do. Tonight?"

"Hai," was all Tara needed to say. It was a date.

Continue to Latter Days/Lonely Nights Chapter Thirty-Two

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