Although Willow Rosenberg was a girl of many talents, singing had certainly never been one of them. While Willow was quite willing to admit to this, she would never go as far as to demonstrate for anyone. Yet tonight for some strange reason she was feeling particularly musical and unencumbered by silly inhibitions and her lack of talent. The volume on her favourite Frankie Avalon record was turned up as high as her record player would allow as she sang along with great gusto. She was quite glad that her parents were out attending yet another charity dinner or else this would add to their list of strange Willow behaviour. Firstly, disappearing from a ball before the dancing had even finished for the night. Sheila and Ira hadn't completely fallen for her flimsy excuse about not feeling well, normally Willow's legs would have to give way before she left the dance floor. Secondly and far more disturbingly was her sudden request to attend college. A request that had sparked off an intense debate between husband and wife. It was the first time Willow could remember her parents arguing about anything, usually her father just acquiesced to her mother's wishes without complaint.
She was sure that if her parents heard her singing aloud it would be the last straw and they would demand to know what had come over her. Willow knew full well what it was. The reason had everything to do with a certain blonde and the way her feelings towards said blonde caused her to do the darndest things.
She finished the last song on an exuberant high note, raising her hands to the ceiling before collapsing onto her bed after the final flourish. The bed bounced a few times beneath the sudden weight and Willow stretched back on her bed, head snuggled securely amongst the abundance of pillows at its head. Late afternoon sun drifted in the window and fell across the bed in warm strips. Willow sought out a full sunbeam and curled so that it fell across her entire body.
A state of silence, and normality, had been restored much to the relief of the serving staff who happened to be in that wing of the house. Willow's mind quickly reverted to its busy state, working overtime, playing out the events of the past week. Mostly her thoughts were torn between pleasant images of being with Tara and far more unpleasant thoughts of her disastrous attempt at conversation with her parents. When her thoughts drifted towards Tara she felt the familiar stirrings of warmth in her belly that really made her wish that Tara was there. Yet her mother's shrill, angry voice always brought her straight back to reality and an awful feeling of guilt replaced the warmth in the pit of her stomach. It was no contest as to which she preferred and yet she felt as though she couldn't have one without the other.
She loved Tara... they were together... but it was by no means that simple.
Willow knew she couldn't go on like this. She was deceiving her parents by keeping her relationship with Tara a secret. It wasn't fair on them and it certainly wasn't fair on Tara.
But to tell them...
Willow sighed. She wasn't so sure that she was up to that just yet... or ever would be for that matter. Every time she had begun to play out the conversation in her head, her stomach had tied itself in tight knots.
She rolled over onto her side, curled in a foetal position. As she played absently with the nose of one of her teddy bears her eyes strayed to her walls. Willow frowned at the all too familiar images of her childhood idols stared back at her. Frankie Avalon was winking as though he had just shared a personal secret with her, Elvis held his microphone with a look that had 'hey baby,' written all over it. For the first time since she had returned from Paris, she wondered why she still kept the images on her walls. Willow sat up and stared at Elvis... he was such a... well, such a man! Willow cocked her head to one side as she studied the young man.
Why do I have pictures of guys all over my walls?
For a good few minutes, Willow's face appeared to be frozen in a permanent frown as her busy mind ran away with her again. Okay... I'm in love with another woman, so that makes me a lesbian right? So I don't like guys... ew, no of course I don't like guys. Especially not when his name is Hugh Carrington. So I like women in general? But there's just one... just Tara... For the first time she wished she had someone to talk to... explain a few things that she didn't understand. Willow had dated a few guys before, even kissed them... well, one of them had tried to kiss her and she had expertly deflected the sloppy lips on to her cheek rather than her lips. Of course she had felt nothing of the magic she felt with Tara. Did that mean she had always been attracted to girls? Willow propped her chin up in her hands and wondered if she ought to put up posters of Grace Kelly or Marilyn Monroe.
Now that would be a good conversation starter with my parents... if they ever actually came into my room... which they don't... so that wouldn't work...
No, posters just seemed so juvenile... Willow swung her feet onto the floor... they were juvenile. She crossed to her desk and the Elvis poster hanging above it. Sliding the chair out from under her desk she clambered on top of it and in one swift motion she ripped the poster from the wall. Small corners of paper still remaining where the tacks held them down. Willow looked at the crumpled up piece of paper in her hand and then back to the bare space on the wall.
Some minutes later, Willow was left with a pile of paper in her trash basket, a pile of tacks on her desk and very sore fingers after picking each of the aforementioned tacks from her walls. Bare walls greeted her from all sides... empty, waiting for something new.
Willow was musing over her new career as a decorator when there was a soft knock on her door, she frowned as she went to open it. The door swung back and she came face to face with Buffy, the blonde looking down at her feet. Willow's heart gave a small leap and she started to grin. The grin had barely formed when Buffy looked up at her with an expression on her face Willow had never seen. Her eyes were red rimmed, as though she had been crying recently and there was a hint of anger around her tight set lips. Willow was scared as to what it meant, as to what Buffy was feeling. Her fingers tightened on the door frame, needing something solid to hold on to.
The seconds stretched into minutes and they were still staring at each other in silence. Both waiting for the other to speak and yet neither being able to choose the words even if they wanted to.
Willow turned away and gulped in a breath before she faced Buffy.
"Buffy," her best friend's name sounded strange on her lips, as though she were saying it for the first time.
Buffy remained in the doorway, her toes poised on the threshold as though there were some invisible barrier preventing her from stepping over it.
"Willow," Buffy's voice sounded strained, as though she were fighting back tears.
More time elapsed as they stood staring at one another. Willow just wanted to throw her arms around her best friend, hugging her close. However she knew that was far from the best idea in the circumstances. She had no idea how Buffy was feeling.
Buffy cleared her throat, "Um, Joe let me in... I would have called first but I was so worried that I would just find an excuse to not come. Just say the word and I'll go if you don't want me here..."
"No!" Willow raised a hand towards Buffy, stretching out to her, "I mean... don't go... please."
"Believe me... I'd like nothing better than to go," Buffy admitted quietly, "But I needed to talk to you, my exit last time we spoke was somewhat sudden..."
"You want to come in?" Willow asked slowly, Buffy's words not exactly instilling her with confidence.
Buffy nodded and walked in to Willow's room. She looked around and immediately noticed the absence of posters on the walls. She didn't say anything and took a seat on the corner of the bed, crossing her ankles demurely.
Willow pulled out the chair from her desk and sat opposite her, a good distance away so she wasn't crowding Buffy. Buffy cleared her throat yet again, as though she kept choking up,
"Willow," Buffy interrupted Willow before she could say another word, "I can here to say what has been on my mind ever since you told me... well, what you told me... please can i just talk?"
"Okay...sure," Willow replied quietly.
Buffy shifted uncomfortably, crossing and uncrossing her legs. Willow felt as though she were waiting for the firing squad to pull the trigger...knowing that it would come eventually but not the exact moment. Buffy looked as though she were remembering something and a small smile even flickered across her face before it was gone as quickly as it had appeared.
"I remember..." Buffy began quietly, "I remember the first night you stayed over at my house when we were seven. What an adventure it was... we had a tea party with soda and ice cream and were so both so sick from eating too much. You never could say no to ice cream. Then the next morning we were eating breakfast with my parents, I passed you the bacon and you said you couldn't eat it. I told you that you were weird, not quite being able to get my mind around the whole being Jewish thing. My Mom sat me down later that day after you had gone home crying and explained that your family was a little different but you were still Willow... you were still my best friend. You were Jewish... so you were a little different than me, I could accept that," Buffy bit her lip, searching for the right words to say, "But the other week when you told me you were... you were a... well, you were what you are... I couldn't quite get my mind around it at all. I mean, you're Willow... you're my best friend and suddenly you're telling me that you're one of those kind of people... what am I supposed to say?"
"One of those kind of people? What do you mean by that?" Willow had to say something, "Buffy, I am still Willow and always will be..."
"You like girls Willow!" Buffy burst out and stood again, pacing to the window and spinning back around to face a distraught Willow, "You like them in a way you shouldn't!"
Willow's jaw dropped at the surprisingly vehemence in Buffy's voice, "You're saying that you think it's wrong?"
"Look Willow, I-I'm sure she's a very nice girl but..."
"But? It's still wrong?" Willow felt tears stinging her eyes and she fought to keep them away, Buffy thinks that I'm wrong... Buffy...
"How can it be right?" Buffy replied.
"How can it not be?" Willow said, thinking of the beautiful, blue-eyed blond that held her heart, "I love her Buffy."
Willow choked on the tears that finally began to flow, running unchecked down her face. Her shoulders shook as she sobbed, wishing like crazy that Tara was there to hold her. Buffy crossed the floor, moving a little closer as though she wanted to comfort her but couldn't quiet make the last few steps. She stretched out her hand but it was something of a futile gesture as there were still meters apart. Buffy quickly drew her hand back and looked towards the door as though she wanted to leave very quickly.
"Can't you just forget about her... tell her you never want to see her again... and then everything will be back to normal. Everything will be just fine again... you, me... just like it's always been. Two classy dolls driving all the guys wild... of course, you're already driving one wild... Will, Hugh is such a catch..."
Willow gritted her teeth and dashed her tears away, feeling incredibly stupid for bursting into tears at the slightest provocation.
"Why is it that everyone is blind when it comes to Hugh? He may very well be the nice young man that everyone says he is but I don't love him... I don't even like him very much. Buffy, you know me... you've known me for most of my life... can't you tell... can't you see that it's not what I want?"
"You're being selfish Willow, it's not like you... you know as well as I do that you have a duty to your family to marry well and yet you choose this... girl? You'd choose her over your family, over me?"
Willow's tears had long since been replaced by a seething anger that she was trying to keep in check. She frowned at Buffy's words, giving voice to the thought that had surfaced in her mind,
"You're jealous? Of Tara?"
Buffy spluttered and quickly retorted in the manner of one who has been found out, "No!"
"Buffy, no," Willow pleaded, "Tara's my girlfriend and I love her... but that doesn't mean I've suddenly stopped loving you, you're my best friend... and I need you but after hearing what you've been saying today, I'm not so sure I want you to be. You really feel that way... that I'm being selfish?"
"Well you are," Buffy replied matter-of-factly.
"I've spent my entire life being what other people have wanted me to be, the perfect daughter... the perfect friend..."
"Isn't that a good thing?" Buffy replied quickly.
"Not when it doesn't make me happy."
"And this girl... Tara, does?" Buffy almost spat the other blonde's name, causing Willow to flinch in shock.
"Yes Buffy!" Willow replied, Oh Buffy, you have no idea just how happy I am when I'm with her "So unbelievably happy. When I'm with her I can really be me... she loves me for who I am, not what everyone thinks I ought to be. And I feel things, things I never felt around any guy I might have dated, she makes me..."
"Ugh! I don't want to know!" Buffy shuddered and turned away to face in the opposite direction.
Willow's eyes widened at the noise of disgust that came from Buffy, it was far more damaging than any word she could have said. Willow hugged herself tightly, wrapping her arms around herself for comfort, the last thing she wanted to do was to burst into tears again. Yet she was out of words. Willow knew exactly how she felt towards Tara... the intensity of the love that she knew they shared.
She knew it was for real... and that it was right.
However try as she might she could not convey those feelings to Buffy in a way that her best friend would understand. In a way that would break through the hardened social stigma and reach the part of Buffy that had always accepted her no matter what. Willow was beginning to think that she would never be able to reach her and that thought saddened her more than any amount of hurtful and insulting words that Buffy could ever say to her.
Willow stood, feeling her legs a little shaky beneath her, she looked at Buffy's back.
"I'm really sorry that you can't accept this Buffy... but no matter what you say..."
"I know how stubborn you are Willow, I've been on the receiving end of it so many times. I just thought that if I came and talked to you that you would see what you were doing to yourself... what are you going to do when people find out? When your parents find out?"
"I don't know," Willow replied in a small voice, "I'm terrified..."
Buffy turned around when she noticed the tremor in Willow's voice and for a few moments she wanted to throw her arms around the redhead. She took a quick step back before she gave in to those impulses, throwing a quick glance to check that the door was still there.
"So that's it?" Buffy said quietly.
"That's what?" Willow asked, her heart sinking.
Buffy felt as though she had been stabbed as she watched the devastated expression take hold of Willow's features, her lip trembling unconsciously. Oh no you don't Willow Rosenberg, Buffy thought angrily, Don't you even start with the lip trembling... but oh god she needs me... I can't walk out on her... no... leave Buffy, just leave. Without a further word she walked, or rather ran, out of the room. Willow wasn't about to let her go so easily. She ran to her door as Buffy made her hasty retreat,
"Buffy please stop!"
"You do whatever you want Willow, seeing as you're suddenly so good at it," Buffy turned, walking backwards for a few paces to give Willow one last, sad look.
She turned again and kept walking, Willow watched her as she disappeared down the stairs. A weak protest was forming on her lips, something was telling her to run after Buffy. She wouldn't let her leave until Buffy said that everything was alright between them... or at least gave her hope that it would be someday. She couldn't let her go like that.
Willow took a step forward but found that she lacked the willpower to even move let along mount a convincing argument along the lines of the ones that she had already tried and failed miserably with.
She turned back into her bare-walled room and weakly gave the door a shove so that it closed shut behind her. Willow made a few more shaky steps across the room, not quite knowing where she was headed, then she felt her legs give out from beneath her. She fell to the floor heavily in a small heap as those annoying tears started up. This time there was nothing to stop her, she wasn't crying in front of anyone, she was alone in more ways than one. Drawing her knees to her chest she hugged them to her tightly, resting her chin on her arms.
How long she sat like that, Willow couldn't tell. She just held herself, rocking back and forth gently as the tears flowed. Her shoulders heaved as she sobbed, soaking the sleeves of her shirt.
All she wanted was to go to Tara, find the haven in the blonde's warm embrace that she knew would be waiting for. Willow shook her head stubbornly, Tara would not know if she didn't tell her... Willow gulped in a huge lungful of air, Tara would know... not only would she not be able to keep it from her... Tara would know that something was up...
When she was all cried out and her chest burnt painfully, Willow dragged herself to her bed and curled up on it. She closed her eyes, feeling the crusty dried tears on her cheeks. The sun still fell across her body but it was no longer warm.