Return to Latter Days/Lonely Nights Chapter Forty-Five

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.

(Day 10 - Saturday, November 17, 1984)

Gym class couldn't end soon enough for Willow. She wanted a chance to speak to Tara on the way back to the dorms or at least during breakfast. That hadn't worked out. Then they ended up missing each other the rest of the day. She thought Tara might be avoiding her. Willow hoped that after the last class she'd finally have an opportunity to talk to her. She felt apprehensive as she headed down the hall. Her books weighed heavy in her hands and she anxiously shifted them from one to the other several times. She stood at Tara's door for what seemed like several minutes to gain her composure. Finally, she knocked gently.

Willow stood alone in the hall, cradling her books with both hands while she waited for the reply. In a few moments, the door opened slowly.

Willow had expected Tara to answer. Instead, it was Colson Shimai. She was already dressed for bed. She greeted her with a smile and spoke quietly. "She's not here. She said something about taking a quick shower and going straight to bed."

Willow tried not to let her disappointment show. "Oh, okay," she didn't really have much else to say. She took a breath. "Tell her I came by then," she said mutedly. Then she nodded, turned, and walked back to her own dorm room in silence, deflated.

A whirlwind of activity raced through her mind as Willow considered the implications of this development. She knew that a nighttime shower was not Tara's usual routine. She suspected her fears might be correct: Tara was avoiding her.

Kitchen was by herself when Willow returned. "No study buddy tonight?"

"No, I think I upset her." Willow said softly. She was still trying to maintain her composure.

"Why? What happened?" As always, Kitchen was kind and sincere.

"I told her about my dream," Willow answered meekly. She looked over her shoulder for Smith and then closed the door gently. "I had a nightmare and there were outfits, and I think she was offended by what I had her wearing."

Kitchen looked on sympathetically. She nodded for her to go on.

"Well, we all had outfits," Willow continued cautiously. "I had on "Daisy Duke" shorts, you were a roller derby queen and Smith Shimai, please don't tell her, but she had on a swim ring...a frog swim ring. She said it went with her outfit." Willow shrugged.

"Uh huh." Kitchen Shimai paused, "Any others?"

"Colson had Mickey Mouse hands and bright clothes like clown wear and Conley was in a duck suit."

"I see." Kitchen furrowed her brow in thought, "So you had a duck, a frog, you in your Daisy Duke gear, and a famous mouse/clown combo and me the roller derby girl."

"Uh huh." Willow was hopeful that Kitchen Shimai could make some sense of it. "It sounds like a scary version of Disney on Ice, doesn't it." Willow hung her head.

"I don't think so, maybe a Saturday morning cartoon special or something." She smiled and then Kitchen thought for a moment, "And Maclay Shimai was what, a fish?"

"Sort of, she had on a wetsuit and flippers." Willow was stunned at Kitchen's apparent perception.

"Heh. It sounds like we were a motley crew. What were we doing?" Kitchen Shimai seemed interested.

"We were running away from a tidal wave."

"Okay, so half of us were dressed appropriately for water at least." Kitchen Shimai grinned.

Willow forced a smile. "That's what I told her." Willow added, "And you were making great headway with your skates. And Colson Shimai was directing people with her big hands."

"So do you have these kinds of dreams often?" Kitchen inquired.

"Ice Capades? No." Willow said quickly.

"No, not that" Kitchen smiled genuinely, "tidal wave dreams?"

"Sometimes, why?" Willow was grateful Kitchen Shimai was taking time to talk with her. And she was starting to feel a little better.

"Well, natural disaster dreams can mean any number of things." Kitchen explained. "You could be feeling ill-equipped to face something that you perceive is looming that you can't control."

Willow remained silent. She didn't want to give away what she was thinking. Tara and her relationship was a serious issue that had to be resolved. The Church's position on it was clear and their missions were both in jeopardy if they didn't get it under control. Being caught would be a disaster.

"You know, learning Japanese, and serving a mission in a foreign country, those are really big scary things." Willow realized Kitchen Shimai was still talking. "And time is going so quickly here. It's no wonder you're having dreams like that."

Willow digested what Kitchen Shimai had said, "Yeah, I guess."

Willow considered for a moment before asking the next question. "If you can answer this before Smith Shimai comes back..." She trailed off.

Kitchen replied, "I get it, mums the word if she comes in. What?"

"Do you ever, just to work on things that frustrate you, daydream anything bad about people?"

Kitchen let out a little chuckle, "Oh, you mean like, visualizing Elder Hamm actually getting his finger to loop through the one nostril and around and out the other?"

"Yeah," Willow let out a little giggle, "Like that."

"Or envision him with a large snotty piggy snout."

"Or that." Elder 'Hamm' with a pig nose, good one.

"Or put a little piggy tail on him." Kitchen Shimai was divulging a lot.

"Yes. That's it, definitely on the right track with that one." Willow relaxed a little.

Kitchen laughed and replied with a colossal amount of sappy sarcasm, "No. Never!"

Willow laughed too. "Okay then."

After a few minutes of stillness, Willow further commented, "Kitchen Shimai, I don't daydream about you."

"It would be okay if you did." Kitchen said graciously. "We all have things about us that may be annoying to others. The trick is just remembering to value the person for who they are and what they represent."

"So do you think daydreams are like nightmares - representative of things?" Willow asked knowing they were running out of time.

"I'm going to go out on a limb and say, maybe." Kitchen Shimai smiled warmly. "I bet it's not the daydream itself that is significant, but that you need them in the first place. Most things like that are just indications that something is unsettling."

"Like Hamm's third knuckle nose picking in class?" Willow looked thoughtful.

"Yeah." Kitchen appreciated Willow's knuckle exaggeration and replied. "I'm gonna barf if he eats it instead of adding it to his collection under the desk."

"Ewww!" Now Willow felt a lot better.

After a moment, Kitchen added. "Don't spend too much time on the daydream itself, but figure out why you need it and if there is anything you can do to resolve what's causing you to need the outlet in the first place."

Willow considered her wisdom and thanked Kitchen Shimai. She grabbed her journal and headed to her bunk.

Tara returned from her shower and found Conley and Colson both reading in their bunks quietly. She grabbed her own scriptures and journal and lay down on her bed. She fanned the pages of her Book of Mormon in hopes that something would jump out at her. A pink paper interrupted the flow. She left the book open to the pages it had been placed between, and looked at the memo slip. It had just been a few days since her visit with the mission president. She turned the slip over and stared at her sketch.

Sometimes when her feelings eluded her, she could capture her feelings better in her attempts at art. (In addition, it was a nice way to pass the time without disturbing anyone else.) This drawing was no exception. The doodle she'd made of her and Willow was not her best. She'd sketched it hurriedly and under the watchful eyes of her two companions. It did symbolize something significant for her. In many respects, just the fact that it was drawn in such haste had meaning to her. She had wanted to finish it and give it to Willow. Now she wasn't so sure that would be a good idea.

Everything was just going way too fast. She'd only known Willow for ten days and already she was headed down a slippery slope that could destroy her mission, alienate her family and friends, and potentially lead to excommunication. She had another meeting with the mission president in a few days. She was nervous. What am I supposed to say? That because of what he said, we continued our physical relationship. Oh right, I'm sure he'd really like it that I'm blaming him for my actions. Or did I just react to his words with anger, belligerence, and defiance.

She had tried redefining their relationship with practical jokes. That had been a near disaster when saw nearly naked Willow. She'd not anticipated the effect that would have. Moreover, she was still paying for Willow's retribution. She couldn't remember the last time she found an outfit that didn't have wadded toilet paper in a pocket. The salty taste in the toothpaste was going to last a long, long time. The pepper letter was classic though. She wondered for a moment if Willow had any other tricks brewing that she should be worried about.

They had tried to set rules. Willow made the cute picture. That hadn't worked well at all. It just made her want to be closer to Willow. It was like being on a diet and then seeing a plate of chocolate cheesecake or something. The temptation of the forbidden was hard. Willow's lips, her skin, her touch was just too inviting.

Their other activities, studying, singing, and the monopoly project, all those things just lead to more alone time. Getting to know the girl was the most joyous experience. She was quirky and smart and funny, and kind. Tara loved the way her mind worked and she was so eager to learn. That was inspirational. In those settings more than any other, she could see how Willow felt about her. She showed her just how much she loved and respected her as a person.

Tara knew she probably had overreacted about Willow's dream. After her contemplations earlier and inner doubts, she was sensitive to Willow's perceptions of her. She was starting to hide from the others too. She'd felt she mislead Kitchen and Smith Shimai that morning about her dream as well. She hadn't wanted to run the risk of explaining the one she really had, so she picked an innocuous dream she recalled one of her friends telling her about prior to her mission. Even months later, she could still remember her friend's face as she asked the question. I turned Shakespeare into a couch potato. What did you do this morning? She still thought that was funny.

After a few moments, she decided to return to contemplating her earlier topic. Things are not always what they appear.

She looked over at her two companions. Colson appeared to be sleeping on her scriptures. Cute. Conley was awake and looking back at her. She used her head to redirect Conley's gaze to Colson. Conley let out an inaudible laugh. After a moment, she looked more seriously and mouthed, "You okay?"

Tara shrugged.

Conley waved her fingers between them and then pointed to the door. She raised her eyebrows to indicate it was an invitation.

Moments later, they were outside in the hall with the door closed carefully behind them.

"I hope she doesn't drool on the pages." Conley let out a giggle.

Tara was amused. She appreciated Conley Shimai for lightening her mood. She was always delighted when she saw this side of the sister. They started walking toward the lounge area. "Can we just do loops? I don't feel like sitting,"

"Sure," Conley remained hushed as they walked. After they passed the other sister's room, Conley finally spoke. "Sometimes it's good to just be quiet. A walk around this place at night is pretty pleasant I suspect."

"Yeah," Tara definitely agreed with the statement.

"You can just feel it; you know," Conley paused and then continued, "all the peacefulness."

"Yeah," Tara started thinking she was repeating herself.

Conley was speaking slowly (for her) and softly, "It's really hard to get used to."

Tara felt as though she lacked all her general social skills tonight. She decided to mix up her response repertoire, "Uh huh."

Soon the girls started their second loop.

"They say this is the most spiritual place to be except for the temple," Conley continued.

"True." Tara decided to break her monosyllabic replies. "I used to go for walks around the temple grounds at night back home. It felt like this too - especially around the holidays when all the lights were out."

"Oh, that sounds nice." Conley reflected for a moment, "We should go this week: first session."


"The temple wasn't what I expected." Conley continued after they passed the lounge area again.

"Heh," Tara smiled, "No, it sure wasn't."

"Neither is this place." Conley looked over to gauge Tara's response, "Or the people." Conley assumed that Maclay's current mood might have something to do with Rosenberg Shimai.

As they walked passed Willow's door, Tara sighed and mumbled to herself, "Things aren't always as they appear."


Tara looked over at Conley, "Oh, it's just something I've been thinking about. Things aren't always as they appear."

"You mean Rosenberg Shimai?" Conley inquired.

"No," Tara looked down and slowed her steps, "Me."

Conley considered Tara's statement for a moment before she responded. She touched Tara's arm to ensure she was connecting with her. "Do you feel like you're not showing your true self?"

Tara wrapped her arms around herself protectively, "Not exactly." She shivered a little when they passed the empty room Tara and Willow had visited previously.

Conley waited patiently as they walked slower still.

"I feel like when I put on my badge, that I'm being dishonest somehow. I'm not this perfect person. I don't think wholesome thoughts all the time. I'm not always on track on the inside." Tara took a calming breath. "I struggle everyday."

"So?" Conley replied quickly.

Tara was startled by the retort. "So, we're supposed to ..."

Conley cut her off, "I mean, 'so' as in who is, who does, who doesn't?"

Tara considered the implications of Conley's statement.

"Everyone else just seems like they are so together." Tara repositioned her arms.

"And you think you aren't?" Tara thought Conley sure was asking a lot of questions.

Tara was guarded; she didn't know how to respond. She didn't want to reveal too much. She even considered changing the subject. After passing several more doors she finally began, "It's something Wil ... Rosenberg Shimai said the other day." Tara wanted to smack herself for her near slip using Willow's first name. "She said we don't have the opportunity to work through our own things here and that everything is about how we're supposed to think and feel things, but that we don't actually learn how to do that. I told her we get that by doing the work itself. She made the most interesting analogy. She said we are cake. We may look like a perfect cake on the outside if we have a good icing job covering up the holes, but the icing is not the cake."

Conley reflected on the idea for a moment. "I think both are important. And so is the process of making the cake."

Tara took a breath. "Okay... How?"

Both the cake and the icing are made up of a whole bunch of ingredients and then put together through a process, right?"

Tara nodded, "Go on."

"If you have bad ingredients or bake the batter at the wrong temperature that can affect your cake." Conley had slowed to a snail's pace. "You might accidentally stick your finger in the cake and leave a hole. In that respect, she's right. That can be covered up." Conley took a breath. "If you miss an ingredient and there isn't enough stability for the icing, you can't even get the icing on. You can't cover up some things." Conley turned to face Tara, "But let's assume that you have made the cake right, but when you put the icing on, the cake was too hot. The icing doesn't set right. That cake might look funny, but it could be the best cake under the icing and people could judge that cake without even giving it a chance."

"I think she said that the icing defines and protects the cake, it's not the actual cake." Tara tried to explain Willow's thinking.

Conley countered, "I think it's both if that's the presentation."

"Huh?" Tara suddenly felt very glad to have Conley as a companion.

"If you ask for a piece of cake, do you expect to have it served without icing?" Conley inquired.

"Well, no." Tara pursed her lips as she thought through the question. "Usually, you see the cake before you ask for a piece, so you get a piece of what you're looking at, but I don't think Rosenberg was thinking she'd be all cut up when she made the analogy." Tara laughed a little.

"I'm sure she didn't." Conley joined Tara in a chuckle before she continued. "If you're just looking at the cake, the icing can cover incidental blemishes, taste, and the texture of the cake, but it can't add structure that isn't there." They resumed a normal speed walking through the halls. "The important thing to remember is that you can't show off the stability of the cake without also having a good icing job to compliment it."

"So presentation is as important as substance?" Tara rephrased to clarify. She started thinking about how much Willow hated the Sister's class they were going to have to take again tomorrow.

"For us, yes," Conley concluded.

"I think, well I'm not sure what I think really, but I think that Rosenberg was saying wearing a badge doesn't make you a good missionary, just like wearing garments doesn't necessarily mean you are worthy of them." Tara hoped she had accurately reflected what Willow was explaining.

"That's the other part; the stability of the cake is reflected through the icing." Then Conley remarked, "It's up to us to discern if those around us are all icing and no substance, and visa versa."

Tara could almost hear Willow's voice and their laughter in her head during one of their long talks, 'Wolf in sheep's clothing - beware of canines in woolens. Whaaat? Do we look for big eyes, big ears, or big pointy teeth if we see people in knitwear'? I suppose the big long bushy tail would be the dead give away but come on what do we do, say excuse me Miss May B. Sheep, could you turn around for a second, I wanna see if you have a tail. Tara shook off the memory.

Tara relaxed a little, "But how do we do that without judging other people?"

Conley let out a laugh, "I think you know the answer to that one Shimai."

"Look for fruit cakes?" Tara hoped Conley would catch her reference. She knew Willow would. She heard a little giggle from Conley.

They were near their door again, "Want to make another loop?" Conley inquired tenderly.

Tara suddenly felt very tired, "No, I think it's time for a good sleep."

A little while later, Conley Shimai saw Kitchen Shimai on her way toward the bathroom area. "Konban wa." [Good evening.]

Kitchen Shimai returned her greeting.

"It's a busy night." Conley said offhandedly thinking about her conversation with Maclay Shimai.

"Yup, it usually is around here." Kitchen was in full agreement. She thought about Willow's distress, but she was also imaging a duck suit on Conley. "It can seem so quiet and peaceful, but there's a lot of stuff going on." The girls heard a flush and they both started to giggle. Good timing they both thought. Through the chuckles Kitchen added, "Definitely a lot of stuff." She used her hands to indicate the quotation marks around "stuff."

"You know," Conley appeared thoughtful, "You're different than I thought you'd be ... actually not that much. It's your sense of humor that surprises me."

"You too," Kitchen Shimai agreed and added in a whisper, "I mean who would have thought you could do church hymns through your nose." Kitchen snickered, "or that you would."

"You do a pretty good Japanese Cookie Monster," praised Conley.

"It's funny how you just never know what's really going on in people's minds." Kitchen was thinking about Willow's active dream life. She was amazed at how much Willow was able to cover up her anxiety about upsetting Tara all day.

"That's true." Conley was still worried about Maclay Shimai. She had hoped she'd been able to help her, but she seemed defeated and she wondered if the visit to the mission president had anything to do with her current state of mind. She seemed perfectly fine during the day, but when the lights came down, her self-esteem seemed to come down too.

Both sisters made it to the sink and started brushing their teeth. When Conley finished she remarked, "It's the process that's important."

"What's that?" Kitchen wasn't sure if Conley meant to say that aloud.

"We do things everyday - like brushing our teeth. The next morning - it's the heartbreak of halitosis all over again." Conley smiled to show off her teeth. "It's a cycle."

"Okay..." Kitchen looked confused. She knew she'd stumbled into the middle of something.

"It could be anything really, combing your hair, washing your face, painting your nails." Conley appeared to be on a roll. "Lot's of things really, dishes, laundry... nothing stays done forever." Conley put away her toothpaste in her toiletry bag. "It's like it happens when you're not looking, like the sock that disappears in the dryer."

"Uh, huh." Kitchen Shimai was a little amused.

"Tell Rosenberg that both the icing and the cake are essential, that the icing compliments the cake and shows off its strength. And tell her, the process is also important. She'll know what I mean." Conley put away her toothbrush. "And tell her that her cake is fine.

Kitchen Shimai laughed, "That must have been some revelation."

"Nah, just too many hours with a faulty Easy Bake Oven." Conley laughed - you can tell her that too. Conley left the restroom and headed back to her room.

When Kitchen returned to their room, she went over to Willow and whispered Conley's message to her word for word including the Easy Bake Oven comment. Willow rewarded Kitchen with a tiny smile.

Willow turned out her light.


She was alone in the dark with her thoughts.

In the quiet, she prayed her brain would calm down long enough so she could get a little bit of sleep and that no nightmares would plague her dreams.

Fifty days to go.

Continue to Latter Days/Lonely Nights Chapter Forty-Seven

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