A sudden jarring movement brought Willow back to reality. Her head snapped up and a momentary rush of blood to her head left her confused for a few moments. The first coherent thought that entered her mind was the unhappy realisation that she was no longer in Paris...
The flight from Paris to New York had been an absolute nightmare. The only thing that had kept her sane was the pleasant memory of her last few moments with Tara at the airport. Despite the fact that they would be seeing each other again in mere weeks, Willow was sure she had managed to shed enough tears to make herself look a fright. Their goodbye kiss had been tender and sweet, more of a promise than a goodbye. Mr Giles had chosen that moment to remove his glasses and clean them with far too high a level of concentration for such a menial task.
Then she had left to board the plane, a last quick but intense hug and Tara was no longer within reach. Even as she sat waiting for the plane to take off, the aching started. She missed Tara already and fresh tears fell when she realised that two weeks was an eternity when you were in love.
An hour into the flight, the metaphorical ache became far more real than Willow would have liked. In hindsight she guessed it was the chicken from the previous night's dinner... but then the details weren't all that important. What was important, however, was that she spent almost the entire remainder of the flight either curled up in her seat in pain, rushing down the aisle to the bathroom or actually in the bathroom retching as the line of people waiting grew longer and more impatient.
The plane eventually, and much to Willow's relief, landed in New York. When a very dishevelled and exhausted Willow emerged from the baggage claim, she predictably found no one there to meet her. Willow had sighed...just this once she had really needed someone to remember to pick her up. She'd hailed a cab to get home. The driver had piled her bags into the trunk and the taxi had pulled out of the airport... onto the freeway. Willow barely managed to state their destination before, with the hum of the vehicle's engine and the steady driving motion, she had very promptly fallen asleep... Until now...
Willow blinked the last few remnants of sleep away before realising that the taxi had come to halt. She sighed disappointedly at what was rather unfortunate timing. A very pleasant dream about a certain young blond had been rudely cut short just as it was getting even better.
Mmmmm, Tara kisses...
Willow was even more disgruntled when she looked out the window to see the glaringly familiar fašade of her home.
"Here we are young miss," the driver announced when he saw her finally awake from her slumber, "You looked as though you were going to sleep clear on through to next Christmas."
Willow managed the barest of smiles before discreetly wiping a small amount of drool from the vinyl of the seat. The driver had already moved around to open the door for her. When she emerged from the cab she straightened her cramped muscles with a pained groan. The last part of her trip over, she was home... and she didn't like it one little bit.
The driver fetched her bags from the trunk as Willow stood staring up at her house with a strange expression on her tired features,
"Hello home," she said softly to herself as the taxi driver carried her bags to the front door.
Willow followed the driver reluctantly. He deposited her bags on the top step and after receiving his fare and tip, left her standing there alone. Willow raised her hand to knock, pausing before rapping her knuckles on the heavy wood. I'd rather be in Paris... but then again, I'd rather be anywhere so long as it were with her. She finally knocked and the butler, Mr Jenkins, promptly opened the door.
"Miss Rosenberg! Did you have a pleasant trip?" he asked, his surprise at seeing her home was all too evident in his voice.
Willow realised with some annoyance that she could have quite easily remained in Paris indefinitely and no one would have paid the slightest notice. Except Aunt Elizabeth of course. Willow was relieved to be finally free of the old gargoyle... she was clearly first choice for the part of Paris Willow would miss the least.
"It was great Joe... just great," Willow picked up her hat box and followed him as he carried her suitcases inside, she shut the door behind her on the outside world.
"My parents aren't home are they?" she asked half-heartedly as they walked up the stairs, already knowing the answer.
"No, your father is still at work and your mother is...at the meeting for the Ladies Aid Society for the Unfortunate Children of New York... or was that yesterday... maybe it's the War Widows Society..."
Willow managed a small smile, "It's alright Joe... I can't keep them all straight either."
Joe deposited her bags in her room, "Can I bring you up anything to eat?"
Her stomach rumbled in response but at the same time she was made all too acutely aware of the fact she had spent her hours on the plane throwing up everything she had ever eaten. She was famished but still just the thought of trying to eat food made her nauseous.
"I'm fine thanks Joe. I think I'll just curl up and go to sleep," Willow honestly didn't think she had the energy to do anything else.
He shut the door behind him as he left, leaving Willow standing alone in her room. Everything was exactly as she left it... Willow slowly spun around once to let it all sink in. It was as though she had never left really.
However, she had left and in doing so, her entire life had been changed by meeting one person. It was because of that person that the Willow who stood in the middle of her room was not the same Willow who had packed her bags a mere month ago. She was in love.
As she looked around, everything seemed so sterile and boring. Her collection of porcelain dolls, she had received a new one every birthday since she was five. Her school pennants, awards and trophies. The soft toys piled atop a comforter patterned with pastel pink flowers.
It was a child's room.
Willow suddenly hated it and had to fight the urge to tear the pictures of cutsey animals and teen rock idols from the walls. She continued to scan the room and her eyes drifted over her carefully shelved and alphabetised record collection. She flicked through them, absently at first. More for something to keep her eyes and hands busy with than a serious desire to actually play something. Frankie Avalon, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley... songs of a childhood she desperately wanted to be able to leave behind. Willow picked up Ricky Nelson and remembered the badly out of tune version of his hit song she had sung to Tara on the banks of the Seine. Another song from that night came drifting back to her as she slipped Ricky back into his spot. Something a little more mellow, moody... Dean Martin. She carefully slid the record from its sleeve and placed it on the player. The record started spinning and after she had lowered the needle the soft, warbling tones flowed over her.
Willow sighed and crossed the floor to her bed. She flicked off her shoes and curled up atop the soft comforter. Her eyes closed as she listened to the song, letting the words sink in and memories of her feet dancing across the pavement return. Willow smiled as she drifted off into sleep with one name on her lips... Tara Maclay.
Willow managed to sleep through the entire night before waking the next morning in time for Saturday brunch. It was the one day of the week when the Rosenberg family made an attempt to be together... and invariably someone was always missing. However, this bright Saturday morning, a still sleepy eyed Willow walked out onto the patio to find both her mother and father settled down to a hearty brunch. An aroma of smells immediately wafted up Willow's nose, hash browns, pancakes, waffles with syrup, scrambled eggs. The thought of sitting down with both her parents together almost caused her to sneak discreetly back the way she had came. However, her stomach growled in protest even as she took the tiniest step backwards. Her hunger easily won out.
"Oh, goodness... Willow, I didn't know you were coming home this week," Sheila Rosenberg looked up in surprise, "Jenkins, set another place for my daughter please."
Her parents managed to stare at her in shock for all of two seconds before returning contentedly to their previous activities.
"How was Paris Willow honey?" Ira Rosenberg asked perfunctorily, seemingly more intent on slicing a piece of grapefruit and trying to read his paper at the same time.
"Wonderful Daddy, just wonderful," Willow yawned as she took a seat, she smiled her thanks as a plate was set before her.
"And how was Elizabeth? I trust you were a gracious and very polite guest... you know, it was very kind of her to have you for the whole month. She is a very busy woman," her father's voice took on somewhat of a lecturing tone.
"She was... very well, in excellent health... and yes I was on my best behaviour," Willow tried not to giggle as she remembered gravy splashing so fantastically all down her Aunt's bosom. She quickly shoved a forkful of mashed potato into her mouth to stop herself laughing.
Willow gave her parents the somewhat abbreviated version of her holiday. She told them that her camera had fallen into a fountain. The fact that she had been holding the camera as she'd fallen into the fountain while trying to get the attention of a cute blond was not mentioned. She also gave accounts of her trip to the Paris museum, minus the mummy hand incident...and the Louvre without going into details about how French museum curators really shouldn't dress all in black. Her mother and father both listened somewhat attentively and nodded at appropriate moments. The questions weren't coming at her from all angles but her mother predictably asked the one question she had been pondering an answer to so as to avoid telling an outright lie.
"So, did you meet anyone nice?" her mother asked, Willow could have sworn she really wanted to ask, so, did you meet any nice young men?
"Oh yes... my cousins had some... interesting friends," Willow bit her lip, even to say that they were 'interesting' was stretching the truth a little too much, "They were... nice... but..."
"Oh well," her mother replied in a somewhat disappointed tone before quickly brightening when another thought entered her mind, "You remember that nice young man, Hugh Carrington... well, he has asked your father about you on several occasions. I think you made quite a favourable impression on him at Darlington party."
Willow choked on a mouthful of waffle and tried to recall what on earth she could have said that would have lead him to the conclusion that she was even remotely interested in him. Did I really not looked bored enough?
"Your father and I were thinking of asking his family to dinner one night..." Sheila began, Willow could see her plotting already... her mother always had this funny little quirk to her mouth whenever she was planning something of particular importance. Willow felt a chill run down her spine.
"I did meet someone," Willow interrupted quickly, stalling her mother's planning session.
Sheila's eyes lit up, "Oh really dear, who?"
"A girl... from New York... she was holidaying there too..."
Her mother's attention waned, she resumed plotting in her head even as she carried out the rest of the conversation politely, "How lovely, and you saw the sights together?"
"What is her name, do we know of her family?" her father managed to put down the morning paper for a few seconds.
"Tara, Tara Maclay," Willow felt a small, delicious shiver just from saying her name, she wanted to keep repeating it over and over but she knew that would strike her parents as being a little odd.
"Maclay?" her father pondered for a moment, "No, I don't believe we know anyone of that name. Do we dear?"
His wife shook her head, "No, we don't. Willow are you sure she came from good people, I mean the thought of my little girl running all over Paris with the wrong crowd..."
"Tara is not the 'wrong crowd'" Willow gritted her teeth as her mother looked at her with a worried expression.
She thought it ever so typical that her parents would not know the day their daughter was returning from Paris but want to be fully informing as to who she was keeping company with.
"I'm sure she was a very nice girl," her mother patted her on the hand and resumed eating her grapefruit, her father went back to reading the paper.
That was it, they went back to the activities as though they were glad the momentary interruption to their morning was over. Willow ate the rest of her brunch in silence, the food sitting in one sodden lump in her stomach.
After brunch, Willow wandered aimlessly through the house. Buffy was still at her family's summer house for another week. What on earth was she going to do? She eventually found herself in the library. It was one of her favourite rooms in the whole house. She picked one of her favourite books from the shelf and curled up in one of the huge armchairs. Despite her long sleep the evening before, her eyelids became heavier the harder she tried to focus on the pages. The book slipped to the floor as Willow fell into a deep sleep.
"Oh my god! I am so not good with heights! I never thought I had a problem until now," Tara looked gingerly at the edge.
The two girls were standing atop the Eiffel Tower, it was an overcast day but warm and pleasant nevertheless. A cool breeze swirled around them and the other tourists enjoying Paris's most famous landmark. The whole elevator ride, Tara had clutched Willow's arm, her face as white as chalk. A very insistent Willow had tried to persuade her that she didn't have to come up for her sake but Tara was not to be put off by her fear.
"How about I put my arms around you like this," Willow snaked both her arms around Tara's waist and held her securely, her chin resting on Tara's shoulder, "Now walk to the rail."
Tara slowly walked to the rail which was all that kept them from the colossal drop many meters down to the pavement below. Her heart thumped in her chest as she glanced downward. About to panic and pull back she was suddenly reminded of the firm grasp around her waist, a warm body pressed against her back. Willow was right there right behind her... there was absolutely nothing to worry about. She looked out at the beautiful bird's eye view surrounding them, the wind whipped her hair across her face but she no longer believed that it would sweep her from her feet and over the railing. A smile curled her lips before a delighted laugh escaped them.
"You're like a..." Tara searched for the right description, "one of those blankets that small children always carry with them, comforters... a comfy blanket!"
Willow grinned and placed a light kiss on Tara's cheek, oblivious to anything but the woman in her arms.
"Then that's what I'll be," she announced firmly, "Henceforth I am to be known as 'comfy Willow!' Although don't spread the word otherwise everyone will want one... and I'm just for you."
"No problem there," Tara replied quietly, her voice taking on a husky edge to it as Willow rubbed her stomach.
Willow rubbed her body sensually against Tara's, hips gyrating in a way she would not normally dare in public. One hand began undoing the buttons on Tara's shirt... people round them began to talk... staring both in fascination and disgust...
Willow's eyes snapped open and she peered around in a daze. She was still in the library and no one was staring at her. She grinned, they had indeed visited the Eiffel Tower together and Tara had been terrified of going anywhere near the edge until Willow held her hand. The last part of her dream had most certainly not happened... although in hindsight, Willow wished fervently it had. Burrowing deeper into the armchair she tried her best to imagine her arms still wrapped around Tara's waist but it just wasn't the same. She missed the tickle of Tara's blond hair as it brushed against her face. Willow sighed... these next two weeks just couldn't pass quickly enough.