Willow pulled her clothes on in a state of numbness. She couldn't really feel the fabric against her skin or beneath her fingers as she struggled into the garments. Her fingers wouldn't co-operate as she tried to do up the tiny buttons on her favourite red cardigan. She struggled with each hole, all the while the look on her mother's face kept intruding in on her thoughts. It had turned the beautiful moment with Tara into something ugly and repulsive... as though she should be ashamed for being caught.
She felt like crying as she slipped a button into the last buttonhole and realised she still had buttons to spare... she'd done it up all wrong. Willow stared for a few moments at the buttons that had nowhere to go before methodically undoing each button and starting from the top again.
Tara sat on the bed, her hands folded beneath her arms to stop them from shaking as she watched Willow. The red head had not said a word to her as they dressed and the silence was unbearable. She was terrified and she desperately wanted some assurance from her love that everything was going to be alright even though she knew Willow was just as scared.
Her heart tugged painfully as she watched Willow realise she had done her cardigan up wrong. Even as she struggled to start all over again, Tara stood and crossed the floor space between them to stand in front of Willow. Her hands went to Willow's, trapping the trembling fingers beneath her own even as they still struggled with the tiny button. Tara gently lowered her hands to her side and took over the task herself. Willow stood unmoving as Tara dressed her... feeling an odd sense of back to front déjà vu as she remembered the same thing happening the night before, only in reverse.
The last button down up, Tara's hands could not leave Willow's body. Instead, they snaked around the red head's waist and held her close. Finally, Willow met her eyes. They were wet, her bottom lip looked as though it desperately wanted to quiver on the verge of tears. Tara tried to keep the tears from her own eyes as she reached her hands up to cup her cheeks gently.
"I'm sorry," Willow whispered in a broken voice.
"Don't be sorry sweetie," Tara stroked Willow's cheek with her thumb, "You've got nothing to be sorry for."
"I should have known better after last time... it was my fault the door wasn't locked..." Willow hung her head.
Tara gently lifted the red head's chin, bringing her gaze back to her. She laid a gentle kiss on Willow's forehead.
"This was never about an unlocked door Willow," Tara replied, surprising herself with her own composure, "It's about the future... and I know you're scared, I am too but what's done is done... and maybe, all things considered..." Tara paused as if she were reluctant to speak her mind, "It was a good thing..."
Willow blinked as though she were not entirely sure she heard Tara correctly, she went to take a step backwards but Tara's arms went around her waist and held her close. Willow did not struggle but her expression was one of confusion and pain.
"My mother caught us in bed together, leaving very little to the imagination... just how is that a good thing?" she asked plaintively.
"You once said that you wished you could cry out to the whole world that you love me... I know this is far from the romantic scenario you envisioned but they know Will... we're... .we're out. I-I mean, it was not at a time of our choosing but people know, they were going to know eventually anyway."
"That's just the point! People know!" Willow could not think clearly enough to get her mind around what Tara was saying.
"Y-y-you d-don't want people to know... about us?" Tara asked, cursing her stuttering for returning at a time when she least appreciated it.
"No!" Willow burst out without thinking.
Tara was crestfallen, finally stepping back from Willow. She turned her back on her lover and felt tears burn her eyes. She sniffed violently, trying to stop the tears from starting up because she knew once she started she would not be able to stop.
At the sound of Tara's pain, Willow realised what she'd said and in turn what Tara had been trying to say. People were going to find out about them eventually, why not now? I'm not ready!
She crossed the short distance between them and laid a shaking hand on Tara's shoulder. The blonde did not shrug away but nor did she lean into Willow's touch.
"Tara, baby, I love you more than anything and of course I want people to know about us. I don't want to live a lie for the rest of our lives... but this has come upon us much too soon. I'm still at school... I wanted to graduate, find a job so I can look after us..."
Tara hung her head at Willow's words, "Do you think me incapable of taking part in your plans for our future?"
"Tara? No... I was just meaning..."
Tara fought back any traces of anger she felt and turned in Willow's arms. Now was not the time for them to turn on each other because of misunderstandings. Willow's intentions were sincere, if painfully misguided.
"I know Will, I know," Tara reached out both her hands for Willow's, entwining their fingers tightly until her knuckles were white.
Willow drew in a few deep breaths, "I love you more than anything Tara... you are my everything."
"I love you Willow Rosenberg," Tara barely whispered it.
The door suddenly flung open and both Willow and Tara whirled around to see Sheila and Ira standing there with tight faces. Willow let go of Tara's hands but did not move away from her.
"Miss Maclay, Joseph will take you home now," Ira said, looking at Tara with a steely glare that she met evenly.
Tara spun to look and Willow and she drew her close in a fierce embrace, "Come with me," Tara whispered in her ear.
"What?" Willow replied with confusion evident in her voice.
"Come with me."
"Right now," Tara whispered, clinging tightly to Willow even as she felt Ira and Sheila Rosenberg's eyes like daggers in her back.
"Walk out of here with me... please, I need you Willow."
Willow held Tara as tightly as she could, "I want to! But I can't... not right now."
"Willow, Miss Maclay has to go... now!" Ira repeated.
Tara drew back out of Willow's arms, tears rolling down her face as she stepped away on shaky legs.
Tara continued to walk away, still staring at Willow for a last few moments. Willow ached, she wanted to be able to throw everything away and go with Tara. However, even if she could be sure her parents would not stop her, what would she do? Where would they go? There were too many questions that all begged immediate answers, answers Willow did not have.
When Tara all of a sudden spun and rushed from the room, past her parents Willow stepped forward but all her father had to do was raise his hand for her to stop. Her lover was gone and she was left alone with her parents.
"We will speak with you in the living room when we are ready," Ira addressed Willow coldly, "Until then you will remain in here."
Feeling as though she was going to throw up, Willow watched her parents leave and shut the door behind them. She couldn't move from the spot in which she stood, her feet made of lead.
Willow kept her eyes downcast and her hands neatly folded together as her mother and father sat on couch opposite her... making sure to keep their distance as though she was contagious. It was clear neither of her parents really knew where to start this conversation. Her mother clutched a well-used handkerchief in her hand.
"I knew it was a mistake to let her go to Paris without us... Elizabeth shall hear of this and I will give her a piece of my mind for failing to supervise her adequately," Sheila muttered in a miserable, angry voice.
Her father spoke up next... it was like a criminal trial, "And we allowed you to go to university! Thinking that we would give you one last indulgence before you married and this is how you repay us?" Ira asked, "By carrying on with this... this girl behind our backs, and in our very house? I've always known you were a headstrong young woman Willow... but this goes beyond that into disobedience and a complete disregard for the people who love you. Would you turn your back on us? We thought we raised you well, gave you everything... and now we learn that we should have kept a tighter reign on you all along."
Willow blinked in bewilderment, finally finding her own voice, "You never raised me! You don't even know me, you were never here when I was growing up!"
"We gave you everything," Shelia repeated Ira's words in a tight voice, "Obviously we've been giving you far too much freedom, freedom to go out and find... that... her!"
"I love her," Willow replied calmly.
"It's indecent!" Shelia spluttered.
Willow met her mother's gaze, "It's not indecent to love someone. The real indecency is not to love someone at all."
"You wouldn't know the first thing about love, you're just a child," Ira was much more calm than his wife, although his arms folded tightly was an indication of how tense he was.
"Well, at least I love someone... which is more than I can say for either of you two!" Willow snapped, feeling as though this meeting was definitely not going to go anywhere productive.
Sheila spluttered again while Ira replied firmly, "You're never going to see that white trash girl ever again!"
Willow lost her temper completely and she stood to her feet, jabbing her finger at her parents, "Tara is not trash! Take that back!"
"Willow sit down, you're making a scene where one is not necessary," Ira cautioned.
"Not necessary?" Willow asked incredulously, "You made the girl I love leave, you call me a child and an indecent one at that, how much more necessary can you get?"
"Sit down please Willow."
"No! I'm not finished!"
"Oh yes you are!"
"Who are you to order me around?" Willow demanded.
Ira suddenly stood up and lashed out, striking Willow full on the cheek with a blow strong enough to send her flying backwards. She stumbled and fell, landing heavily on her back.
Willow clutched her stinging cheek as she looked up at her father with tears shining in her eyes.
"I'm your father," he replied, breathing heavily.
Ira looked decidedly unhappy, he had never laid so much as a finger on his daughter. He reached down to help her up but Willow yanked away.
"It's no good trying to talk to her Ira, she's past reason," Sheila stood without even looking down at Willow, "Besides, there's someone here to see you."
Willow glanced up at the figure in the doorway and she went cold.
"Hugh?" Willow was dumbfounded.
"We'll leave you two to talk."
Willow scrambled to her feet as her parents left the room, closing the door behind them. She smoothed down her skirts as the tall young man stared intently at her.
"Nice to see you again Miss Rosenberg."
"Can't say I can say the same for you Hugh," Willow replied quietly, trying to keep her voice calm and her anger under check.
"Well, it seems that we're going to be seeing a little more of each other... a lot more in fact," he seemed immensely pleased with himself.
"What are you saying?" Willow asked quietly.
"Your father has given me his blessing... to ask you to marry me."
"Like hell I will!" Willow shot back instinctively.
"And since your opinion counts for so much at this point in time?" Hugh laughed, "I dare say you'll be given a choice... marry me or be thrown out with nothing. Now that would be quite a shock to the system for you wouldn't it... especially after being so used to having absolutely everything you ever wanted."
Willow gaped, feeling cold and terrified all over. The mere thought that her parents would even consider doing this to her was enough to make her want to throw up. She could not stand to look at the smug expression on Hugh's face, it both terrified and angered her to the point where she would consider doing something stupid like trying to punch him.
"Not so talkative now are we? I'd say something small and private, since I'm sure your parents wouldn't want you to be seen in society," he moved across the floor with blinding speed and grabbed Willow by the arm with an iron grip, "I know what you are," he hissed in her ear.
"What am I?" Willow asked bitterly, trying to yank her arm away and failing, I'll tell you what I am... I'm nothing without her.
"You're a queer Willow Rosenberg," he said in a low voice.
"And that news is new in what way?" Willow snapped back at him, trying to appear undaunted by his sneering tone, "I'm a lesbian, I like girls, breasts turn me on... and unless you're covering up just as big a secret, you don't have any Mr Carrington! Now fuck off and leave me alone!"
"You're disgusting, you should be thanking me that I agreed to go through this marriage knowing what you are."
"If disgusting means that I want to be with the person I love more than anything then perhaps I am."
"You will marry me Willow... and I dare say one of us will enjoy it."
Willow was so incredibly scared and yet she took her inspiration from her lover, trying her best to emulate her courage even though her legs wanted to give way beneath her.
"They have words to describe people like you Hugh," Willow said, twisting her head as though his breath were rank.
"Now, now Willow... I want you to save all that feisty energy for our wedding night."
Willow couldn't understand the reasoning of cruel men, what kind of twisted pleasure did they derive from hurting people?
"Why are you doing this Hugh?" Willow wished he would let her arm go, it was beginning to hurt, "Why would you want to marry a woman who will never ever love you?"
He finally let her go and Willow snatched her arm away, rubbing the tender flesh where his fingers had dug in.
"Because you said no to me... and I'm going to make sure you spend the rest of your life regretting it," he said in a perfectly serious voice.
"You're cruel," Willow whispered, feeling her strength depart in the face of such unyielding evil.
"I know," he winked at her and then made to leave as well, "See you soon doll."
Willow sank back into the couch and drew her legs up to her chest as she hugged them tightly. She bit down on her lip, refusing to allow herself the comfort of tears because it would be him that caused them. It was all so surreal, as though she could not quite bring herself to believe everything that had just happened. Her parent's crule indifference and outright refusal to even try to understand her... just like Buffy. Although while Buffy had severed all contact with her, her parents were determined to hold on to her forever by forcing her into marriage. She was in hell and Hugh Carrington was the devil himself
Willow woke on Monday morning after a terrible nightmare. Her nightgown was drenched in sweat, the sheets strewn absolutely everywhere. She remembered every detail with painstaking accuracy. Someone had been torturing Tara as she was forced to stand and watch. No matter how much Tara screamed or pleaded for Willow to come and help her... Willow could not move an inch. It was as though she were cemented to one spot. At first she had though it was Tara's father torturing her... that is, until he turned around and Willow saw Hugh.
Tara was crying out for her... and she wasn't coming...
Willow scrambled out of bed and threw on the same clothes she had been wearing last night. Not bothering to shower or take the time to do anything with her hair other that shove it up into a messy ponytail. She grabbed the smallest suitcase from her wardrobe and began shoving clothes into it as fast as she possibly could.
All this happened within the space of a few minutes and Willow found herself sitting on her bed, packed suitcase at her feet, looking at the life she was leaving behind. There was nothing to look at... not the designer shoes arranged neatly in her wardrobe or the countless gowns she had worn to party after party. All of it meant absolutely nothing to her now. She wished fervently she had the guts to walk out with Tara. They could have gone hand in hand... instead Willow had made Tara do it alone.
Willow made her way down the stairs as quietly as possible. No doubt her father was at work already and her mother was yet to rise. She saw no one as she moved, carrying the suitcase awkwardly in both hands. Willow had no idea how she was going to get to Tara... just that she was going to her and that was all that really mattered. However, as she passed into the kitchen she stopped in her tracks.
Joe stood in front, his arms folded across his broad chest as he barred her way out the back door. Willow's suitcase cluttered to the ground, falling from her numb hand.
He made a move towards her, Willow shrank back. However, all he did was pick up her suitcase and turn towards the door.
"I'll take you to her," he said simply.