Day 9 -Friday, November 16, 1984)
Beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep, beep....
Sister Kitchen turned off Willow's alarm. "She's out." She said calmly to Smith.
Sister Smith shot out of bed. She gave Kitchen a look and said in alarm, "She didn't come back last night?"
Kitchen laughed quietly, "No, she's here, she's just out. Look at this."
Sister Smith got out from her bunk and came over to see what Kitchen was talking about. The only thing that looked natural about Willow's position on the bed was that her head was near her pillow. Her legs were askew. It looked as if she had run and jumped head first onto the bed and let everything fall where it may. Her left leg was bent at the knee and her foot was up in the air, leaning against the wall. One arm was dangling over the side of the bed, but her elbow was not near enough to the edge of the bed so it stuck straight out. Her other arm was straight up over her head as though she was trying to pick an apple out of a tree. Her head was resting in the crook of her outstretched arm. Her limp wrist was the only indication that she'd not turned into a plastic manikin or a tortured Barbie doll in the night.
Sister Smith covered her mouth. She thought this was likely the funniest thing she had ever seen. She turned to Kitchen and made a quick and familiar finger movement and Kitchen nodded. Smith held up 2 fingers and Kitchen nodded again. A quick motion with her thumb toward the door and Kitchen immediately sucked in her lips. Her nod became more boisterous as she watched Smith begin her preparations. She handed a camera to Kitchen and quietly opened the door.
After she exited their dorm she raced out down the hall. She hadn't run so fast since she was in high school, but this was the opportunity of a life time. She gently tapped on the door when she arrived at the other end of the hall. When Colson opened the door, Smith was out of breath. "You" (breathe) "hafta come" (breathe) "and see" and managed to point to her own camera before she turned to run back the way she'd come.
Sister Conley saw the tail end of Smith as she ran toward her room. Conley and Colson looked quickly at each other, their eyes widening in understanding. Colson bolted back toward the desk, grabbed her camera and was just a few steps behind Conley who'd gone on out ahead. Conley made a quick detour as Colson ran by. Conley returned to the race shortly dragging a very confused Sister by the arm behind her.
Smith had left the door open and was changing settings on her camera to allow for the reduced lighting. Sister Kitchen appeared ready to take her shot as well. When the other three entered the room, they weren't sure what they would find, and only two of them knew it was simply too good to miss. Colson was preparing her camera as well and hadn't looked toward the intended target until the other two entered the room. Kitchen and Smith welcomed their sister friends with smiles and turned to face Willow. When the latest arrivals approached Willow asleep on the bed, two of them stifled their giggles. The third simply grinned.
A gentle purr accentuated the image of red fiery hair strewn everywhere and the impossibly uncomfortable position of the rest of her. Tara shook her head in wonder. Willow certainly was an enigma. Tara raised her hand and placed it over her heart without thinking. It looked like Willow had been too warm in the night and the blanket, bed spread and sheet were also tangled around her body and the contorted appendages.
Conley motioned with her hand and silently counted out with her first...then second...then third fingers. Three clicks and the proof was out there - hiding on the undeveloped film. Willow didn't even move. Smith made a motion toward the door with her head and pretended to turn on an invisible light switch. Tara moved over to turn on the light. She felt a little guilty for her part in the event, but there was the peppered letter and the toothpaste tube of perpetual salt, and well, she was still finding toilet paper stuffed in the pockets of her clothes.
Tara turned on the light and three more photographs were taken. Willow barely stirred. Tara made a silent note that no matter what, they really needed to get to bed earlier than they had been.
Kitchen said in a semi quiet voice, "Who wants to?" She moved her thumb in Willow's direction.
"No way, the last time she nearly knocked us both over." Smith retorted.
"Well we can't leave her here all day, she needs to get up. We have to get going." Kitchen responded kindly. Smith, who was still trying to figure Tara and Willow out, was studying Tara.
"You guys want to go to gym?" Tara was starting to see what needed to be done. They couldn't go without Willow, or Willow would need a "sitter." Tara laughed inside when she considered the thought. "Well I'm due for some journal time, I could stay while you go."
Smith rolled her eyes, smirked and nodded. Kitchen was much nicer about it. "Yeah, I kind of need the gym to keep me functioning."
"I was almost ready anyway." Tara continued. "Would that work for you?" Tara didn't even notice the disdain on Smith's face when she volunteered to stay behind.
Smith tried to read Tara; she was a little suspicious of her motives, but nothing seemed inappropriate with the gesture. Maclay was just a nice wholesome girl and she was sincerely trying to solve their dilemma. Smith looked toward Kitchen for approval, but she had already moved to get her shoes on. She was practically out the door already. "Okay then." Smith conceded.
"I'll be right back, just give me a sec." Tara was out of their dorm and nearly a quarter way down the hall when she heard the quiet "okay" from Sister Smith. Conley and Colson were not far behind her.
When Tara returned with her journal and scriptures, the other two were ready to head out. They tallied a little while Tara settled in at Willow's desk to write. Smith took one last look as Tara opened her books to start reading; Smith wondered if she really could be wrong, but something was nagging at her. "Thanks." Smith said quietly to Tara as she closed the door behind her.
"You're welcome." Tara responded to the nearly empty room. Tara looked up at the sleeping girl on the bunk. My pleasure. She added in her mind as a gentle smile appeared on her face.
Tara turned her concentration to the book in front of her. She stared at the blank page. She let her mind drift back to Willow and their adventure from the night before. Tara reached up and touched her mark. It was still a little softer than the rest of the skin in that area. Tara let her fingers slowly move across the area and she closed her eyes. She imaged Willow touching her. Just a gentle caress. She remembered Willow's touch. It never felt the same when it was her own hand. She lightly touched her neck and chin, then shook her head. Stop it! Concentrate. Journal here. She rested her elbow on the desk and dropped her jaw and cheek onto her fist.
The blank page seemed to be mocking her. Tara rubbed her forehead.
She couldn't seem to find a place to begin. She absentmindedly thumbed back through the pages as she reflected upon the last few weeks.
Tara's Sunday school class had given her the new mission journal. When Tara entered the room that last day, she had been beaten there by all the students. Tara being the last one to arrive; that never happened. They had been planning a send off for her. Macy, one of the little students, had been so cute when she handed it to her. Her brown eyes sparkled with excitement as she presented the gift. The kids let her be the one to give it to Tara since she had organized them. There was a card which had been signed by each one. The wrapping was clearly done by a child; it was covered in tape. After she opened the gift and read the card she started her last teaching session.
She made everyone get up from their usual seats and mixed them up making them sit by different people than they normally did. Macy didn't get to sit near Holly, she sat next to Justin instead. Holly, who was generally the more popular of the group, took a seat by Tommy who was always quiet and reserved. Tara joined them in the circle instead of sitting on the free standing table as she typically did when she led the lesson.
The lesson plan had been open, so it seemed appropriate that she lead their final class this way. She explained that while she was away, she would be doing very important work for The Church. The kids were sad. At first they didn't understand why she was having them all move around, but then she started talking about what it was like to serve a mission.
"When you are called to serve, you don't know where your going. You don't know who you will be paired with, but there are reasons for everything. You just have to find what it is. You find what you have in common and build on that." She had the kids talk with each other until each one had found something in common with someone they didn't normally spend time with.
In the final few minutes of the class Tara had the new teacher come in. She introduced Carrie to the group. The kids seemed to warm up to her immediately. Tara explained that they all had something in common with Sister Carrie; they just had to figure out what that was. Holly had said something about Carrie not knowing them either. Macy's words were still fresh in Tara's mind. "Sister Tara, I know what you have in common with Sister Carrie...." After a pause she said sweetly, "us."
As Tara was gathering her things, Tommy had returned to the room. He walked up slowly and enveloped her in a huge hug. He was not inclined to say too much in class, less likely to say anything outside of class sessions, and to have him hugging her was unheard of. His final parting words were simple and direct, "be happy." The memory was bittersweet.
She felt a moment of conflict. It had become normal now to have these swings in emotion and conflicted thoughts. She'd always been taught to be an example, to be strong so others following behind her would have a clear path. Those kids were depending on her to lead the way. That little boy, that sweet little boy had provoked such a response of pride and hope. She remembered what it was like to be shy and unsure. When she was younger she stuttered and felt like she just wanted to be invisible, but she had been forced to lead the way.
Tara glanced back down at the annoying journal and opened up to the blank page again. She had only nine days-worth of entries since she arrived and she really didn't know what to say. Start simple.
The past few days had been wonderful, with the exception of the not-so-good Shepherd interview. Tara took a small breath and looked up at the sleeping redhead. With her left hand she ran her fingers through her hair and stretched her neck. She closed her eyes.
Willow amused her. That monopoly thing, that was really a great idea. That Willow had spent so much time thinking out the aspects of the game was just precious. And it felt like something that they could do together that was just theirs. They could name the places they would land on, set the cards and figure out the money and prices of the properties. It was a project, sure, but it was a process that would lead to lasting memories. Tara smiled again when she conjured the image of Willow's face when she said, "Hickville." That was priceless. Tara chuckled. The cheapest property on the block was priceless. She snickered again quietly.
Tara wanted to let the moment sweep her away. She wanted so much to disappear in that quiet place in her mind where she was safe from rebuke, free of the suspicious looks from Smith, and the unasked questions from Sister Conley. Free from the pressures of unrealistic ideals. The Church...well not really The Church, that was an intangible. No, it was the people - and the responsibility for others. If she could just fall into Willow, all of that would fade away.
Without thinking she reached up and touched her lips. They seemed much more sensitive since Willow. Everything seemed more...intense... since Willow. It was as though she'd been living in shadows and now Willow had brought her into the light.
"Be Happy" Tara heard the words in her head and saw the tiny boy looking at her with such sincerity. Tara rubbed her forehead again. Her brain was spinning. The Church had given her a formula for being happy, and she'd been living that life waiting for something...but she had not really been happy until she met Willow. President Shepherd had said she was not going to be happy if she continued in this path. How did he know? She knew it wouldn't be realistic to think that being with Willow would be all roses and tulips, but when they were together it was like nothing else mattered.
As she pondered what she thought would be the reaction of her family and friends, she sighed. Being gay is hard. Tara's thoughts stopped flitting and all she could focus on was that one idea. Being gay. What on earth does that mean?
Tara returned to the page.
Tara put her pen down and scratched her head. She re-read her last paragraph. Golly, Willow babble sure is contagious. She looked back at the girl sleeping on the upper bunk. She could have easily stared at Willow for hours, but that wouldn't be helpful. Willow was the best resource for these sort of questions. Plus, she probably would want to get up and get ready to go out and face the day.
Tara stood and went over to the bunk. She reached out with her left hand and touched the fiery mane. "So soft," Tara didn't even realize she'd whispered the words out loud. She balanced on the lower bunk so she could see Willow better.
There was a tiny movement on the freckled face. At the corner of slightly parted, thin lips a hint of a smile gradually appeared. Willow moved the arm that had stretched out beyond the bed. She pulled it back and tucked her hand under her chin as she continued to sleep. Tara could have sworn she saw Willow flex some muscles in her legs and above, but she remained in place. Tara found the whole thing endearing.
Tara ran the back of her index finger along Willow's jaw line, "Adorable." She spoke softly with a muted tone.
This time there was more movement. The contorted leg fell back to the bed and the arm that was tucked under Willow's head jerked and in a quick flop Willow landed on her back. Her left arm now rested above her head, bent at the elbow. The hand that had been under her chin flopped to a rest over her breast with her fingers curled. In a final move, she tucked her left hand under her head as a new pillow and she lay still sound asleep facing Tara.
Tara looked at Willow's new position. She is just too cute. Tara reached out one more time. She spoke quietly so not to startle her, "Willow." With her left hand she stroked Willow's face and trailed her fingers down her neck.
Willow stirred slightly at the contact. She reached for the hand that was touching her and placed it flat against her chest. "Mmmm." She turned a bit so she was more on her side. The pressure from her arm against her side and gravitational shifts reduced the safe area where Tara's hand rested and suddenly she found herself - well her hand - nestled snuggly between Willow's two mounds as they rose and fell in her restful sleep.
Tara looked down at her trapped hand. How am I gonna explain that? She looked over at the clock. She still had plenty of time before the girls would return, but still, anything could happen. They could walk in if class let out early. She had to be careful. "Willow, okay you can't handnap." She said in soothing voice. "That's just cheating."
When Tara spoke out loud, Willow's breath hitched. Willow momentarily released Tara's hand and moved her palm down her arm. Before Tara could move it out of the way, Willow returned her hand to grip Tara's hand more tightly; she cuddled closer. The result of the action reduced the safe gap even further and the captured hand was no longer resting on any flat area. Tara felt Willow's heart beat. Or it might have been her own, she wasn't sure, but she was trying very hard not to move. Her eyes grew large. I have to wake up Willow before things get out of hand -- or into it. Oh gosh; this is so wrong!
"Willow." Tara watched for any trace of consciousness. "Willow." She repeated this time with a little more volume. "Wake up sweetie. I need my hand back."
Willow took a deep breath, she appeared to finally be coming out of a restful sleep. Tara felt Willow's grip tighten and release slightly again. Willow rolled her head in the direction of her hand and her eyes barely opened. And her head rolled back to it's former position. Willow's face slowly started coming back to life. First, a tiny smile appeared, then a little yawn and then her brows lifted as if the movement was intended to open her eyes. Her face started to relax again but she forced her eyes to open. Tara knew that she was not clearly visible through the tiny slits Willow had opened for her. Willow took a slow breath through her nose. Her thumb and fingers slowly moved across Tara's knuckles and skin. After a few moments, Willow re-gripped the hostage and lay on her back taking Tara's hand with her.
"You needed something back?" Her voice was husky from non-use.
Tara couldn't believe she was still touching Willow. She looked at the offending hand. She realized she hadn't really tried that hard to free herself from the tender embrace. "Oh, um, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to, and you were sleeping, and caught hold and then turned over and it was stuck and I didn't want to wake you and..."
Tara's babble was interrupted when Willow lifted both their hands to her lips and tenderly kissed Tara's palm. But she didn't stop. She pulled Tara's arm toward her and kissed her again and again trailing kisses along her inner arm toward her elbow. Tara was loosing balance. She was barely perched on the lower bunk. Willow moved closer to the edge of the bed. Willow continued breathing through her nose as she smelled Tara and kissed the soft skin along her arm.
Tara grabbed the edge of the bed with her right hand. And Willow changed direction again kissing down Tara's arm. She lifted herself up and perched on her other arm. As she continued her journey she slowly moved closer to Tara. Tara watched as Willow applied her lips to the sensitive skin not noticing how Willow was repositioning herself.
Willow stopped for a moment, "I said, did you need something?" She turned Tara's hand and replaced it on her chest where it had been earlier covering it again. Tara's mouth had dropped open in disbelief and excitement. Willow leaned forward to Tara's ear and whispered. "I know you want to." And with that, Willow latched her mouth around Tara's earlobe. She removed her hand from Tara's and threaded her fingers through Tara's hair as she continued with the sensual kiss. Her breathing was labored and with every intake her chest thrust forward into Tara's hand.
Willow removed her hand from Tara's hair and carefully reached her fingers past the button on Tara's shirt to touch the area she'd marked the night before. As she traced a circle around the light colored bruise, she pulled away and looked deeply into Tara's eyes as if asking the unspoken question. She flattened her own hand and felt the skin at Tara's collar bone and caressed her shoulder. She closed her eyes feeling the touch. "So Soft." Willow repeated the words Tara had spoken earlier. She once again flattened her hand and traveled toward the mark, this time she felt the gentle rise just starting with her pinky finger. She held still.
"Yesssss," Tara's voice was a whisper. She did have something she needed. Tara held her hand still where it was on top of Willow's pajamas. Willow pulled away a little and looked with longing into Tara's eyes.
"Should I get out of bed?"
"Well actually I should get down from here, because, well I'm feeling a bit faint at the moment and that can't be good." Tara took a slow breath, "And much as I'd like to, I think it would be better if you got up and helped me with my question."
"Oooh, questions?" Willow was intrigued. "You have questions?"
"Well," Tara chuckled a little bit, "Actually, I had questions, but at the moment, they seem to have fallen out of my head."
"Did they take a trip south for the winter?" Willow was feeling a bit playful.
Tara looked at where her hand was nestled. "No, not south, cause that would be dangerous this time of year."
"Oh yea, there's dangerous mountain terrain south of here." Willow looked down at Tara's hand. She hadn't moved one inch. "Plus it's always better to go in pairs. You should have a guide."
Tara looked back up. It was getting harder to resist. And she wasn't sure how much Willow could take, but clearly she was feeling playful.
"Oh, I haven't been here before, but I'm sure I can find my way. I was a girl scout." Tara lifted her hand and pressed a finger in the center just below Willow's neck. She started running a trail with her finger straight down between Willow's ribs. "There are techniques you know, to hiking and trailblazing. It's about remembering where you've been so you can get back again." Tara changed to her middle finger repositioned it again and ran the same path with the next digit.
This time she traveled a bit lower to the end of Willow's ribcage. "And when you find a place to rest that is safe, you set up camp." With that last comment, Tara flattened her palm against Willow's stomach and began to move it around to her back pulling her over into an embrace. She moved in and placed a soft kiss on Willow's lips.
Willow smiled at the sweet kiss, "And always take snacks on your campout?"
Tara grinned, "Always."