Return to Normality Chapter Four


Author: Magrat
Ratings: PG-13
Disclaimer: Not mine; I would have treated them all so much better.

"Do you want some hot chocolate?" Asked Fred, to a distracted looking Willow.

"Ah-huh," said Willow, who was curled up on the sofa in her jammies, snuggling a pillow to her chest.

"Will, Xander and Gunn were frenching all the way through the movie," shouted Fred from the kitchen.

"Ah-huh," again answered Willow.

Fred walked back in with two steaming mugs of chocolate. "And then me and Buffy swapped bras."

"Ah-huh... what?" Asked Willow, now staring wide-eyed at Fred.

"Earth calling Willow, where are you?" Asked Fred, as she handed Willow her cup. "Let me guess somewhere with a certain blonde assistant designer."

"No, of course not," said Willow. "Well maybe a little. She was sweet."

"Sweet! You walked all the way together and then sat together through the movie and walked her to the car..."

"That's not fair; Xander was with me while you and Gunn fetched his truck. It was hardly a romantic moonlight stroll..."

"But you wanted one," laughed Fred, who ducked as Willow's pillow came spinning towards her. "Hmm I seem to have a struck a chord."

"Yes... no... I suppose... maybe, she's sweet, but after Penny..."

"She isn't Penny, Will," said Fred. "She is gay though?

"No, she isn't Penny and yes, she is gay, but I don't think I'm ready and she has responsibilities, so she probably isn't looking for someone and what if she doesn't find me attractive?"

"You could be her friend," said Fred.


"Will, tell me the truth," said Fred. "I know you."

"Okay I like her, she's nice..."

"Nice, doesn't do it, lots of people are nice," said Fred. "Dogs are nice, horses..." She watched Willow give a little involuntary shudder. "Okay maybe not for you, but you get my point. I noticed you couldn't keep your eyes off her"

"Fred, please leave it," said Willow. "I'll probably never see her again anyway."

"Oh come on Will, I teach her next door neighbor for goodness sake. It's hardly like someone you met at a bar," said Fred. "Plus, I have her business card or rather her boss's; Richmond Designs."

"How did you... it doesn't matter and really women are the last thing on my mind at the moment, after Penny," said Willow.

"Willow, how many times have I got to say this, there is no way in hell that Tara is like Penny," declared Fred.

"I know Fred, but really, having the ex-girlfriend from hell kinda makes a girl skittish," said Willow and then smiling shyly at Fred. "So... do you think she likes me?"

"Hello, Richmond Designs," said Holly Richmond, surprised by a call coming through to her direct line. "Hi Mr O' Hara is everything... Oh I, okay, there must have been some sort of misunderstanding... Yes, I understand your disappointment, but I'll make sure you have everything in an hour... no problem, oh yes, you can never trust couriers. He must have picked up the wrong bag... Yep, I'll send Tara; she'll be there as soon as she can. Sorry again for any inconvenience."

Holly brushed a little of the soft brown hair that had escaped from her ponytail out of her eyes. She was dressed casually in jeans and a pale shirt, she looked good for her 45 years and held a slight tan from the time spent out supporting her 3 sons in their many sporting endeavours. She walked from her own private office into the main drawing room that her assistant and her secretary shared and where she usually spent the majority of her own working day.

"Tara, what did you do with the fabric samples for the O' Hara job?" Asked Holly.

"I put them in the courier bag," replied Tara, looking slightly panicked.

"Mr O'Hara has just phoned and said the bag was empty..."

"Holly, I'm s-so sorry," said Tara, picking up some material from the desk. "I must have forgotten."

"Where is your head today Honey? It's okay anyway; I managed to convince him that it was all the courier's fault. So, you owe Bob the next time you see him and he's been abused by our customers," said Holly, with a wink. "Oh and I told Mr. O'Hara that you would drive the samples over to him."

"Do you want me to wait until ‘Becca comes back from lunch?" Asked Tara.

"No, I told him you'd be right over," said Holly. "Tara, are you okay? You've worked with me for almost a year and I've never known you to forget anything I've asked you to do before."

"I'm s-sorry, I promise it won't happen again," said Tara.

"It's not that... " Holly paused while she thought of the right words to carry on. She knew her young assistant was a very private person and she didn't want to offend her. "Jitty called me a couple of weeks ago. She told me that your brother has been pestering you again... he hasn't been..."

"No, no," said Tara quickly. "I have had a few things on my mind but Donnie wasn't one of them. I'd better go; I don't want to let Mr. O'Hara down again."

"Okay," said Holly, settling down in front of one of the sketches they had been working on. She picked up a pencil and started to rap it against her teeth as she thought of a few more things they could add that would catch the client's eye.

Willow was talking to herself as she stood in line at Starbucks. "Hi, I was just passing... no, no, that is so... Tara hi, hmm Fred gave me your card... okay that sounds pathetic. Tara, you won't believe this... she really won't. I spent all weekend thinking... oh way too pushy, damn, it seemed such a good idea at the time."

"Miss, Miss," said the young guy behind the counter. "Do you want anything?"

"Sorry, can I have two mochas and two cream cheese bagels, please," said Willow.

She emerged from Starbucks taking a deep breath and a quick look at the business card that Fred had given her and walked quickly towards the office's block. Reaching the lobby she told the doorman that she was going to Richmond Design and he rang ahead and pointed her towards the elevator.

Willow felt her heart start to pound as she exited from elevator and she repeated over and over to herself. "This is not a date, this is not date." She walked into the office and there was a woman with light brown hair tied in a ponytail, she had an open, friendly face with just a touch of make-up, sitting behind one of the desks. "Can I help you?"

"Hi, hmm, I was looking for Tara, is she around?" Asked Willow.

"No, I'm afraid not," said Holly and she watched as the young redhead's shoulders dropped. "She's gone out to take care of some business for me."

"Okay, I should go," said Willow crestfallen, having gotten so worked up about seeing Tara.

"Can I give her a message or tell her who called?" Asked Holly, feeling a mixture of intrigue and protectiveness. As far as she knew, she knew all of Tara's close friends. Who was this woman and could she have something to do with Tara's brother?

Willow froze for a second, would this make her seem weird, turning up at the workplace of someone she hardly knew? "It's okay, I'll call her."

Holly moved quickly to intercept Willow. "But you have come here and you seem to have bought her lunch, surely you want to leave her a message?"

"Hmm... just say Willow stopped by."

"Has she got your number?" Probed Holly further, pushing a pen and paper in Willow's direction, when the redhead shook her head. "If you write it down, I'll give it to her."

Willow scribbled her cell phone number and practically bolted for the door.

Holly waited impatiently for Tara to return, her curiosity was piqued and she couldn't wait to find out who the redhead was. Although she had a sneaky feeling she was the one causing Tara to be so forgetful today. She looked up as the door opened and Tara walked in. "That was quick. I hope you didn't run too many red lights."

"Nope, all the lights were in my favor," said Tara, laying her purse on her desk and logging onto her computer.

"Who's Willow?" Asked Holly.

Tara immediately blushed. "W-willow? Why?"

"Well, this little redhead with lovely green eyes came around with some lunch for you. She seemed very disappointed that you weren't here."

"She did?" Asked Tara, astonished. She had spent all weekend dreaming of those eyes without ever thinking that Willow would be interested in her.

"Yes, she also left her cell phone number," said Holly, waving the piece of paper at Tara. "So who is she?"

"I... she... I was going out with Mrs. Summers' daughter and she was with friends of her tutor and we talked," said Tara.


"And... there is nothing more," said Tara.

Seeing that the young woman she was so fond of, was bright red and starting to duck her head; Holly decided to let the subject drop not wanting to cause Tara any more discomfort.

Continue to Normality Chapter Six

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