Dawn wasn't used to her sister being so quiet during dinner. They usually shared their days, but while she had chattered on about an incident where one of the class bitches had finally gotten her comeuppance, apart from a couple of comments Tara had hardly said a word. And thinking of it her sister had been quiet all weekend.
"Tara, are you okay?" Asked Dawn, wondering if maybe her brother or father had threatened them again "Did Dad or..."
"No Sweetie, please believe me, it's nothing like that" said Tara, determined that her sister would never fear them the way she did.
"Well, I know something's on your mind," persisted Dawn. "And I am going to sit here until you tell me." She folded her arms and stuck her chin out determinedly.
"You just sit there and I'll tidy up around you," said Tara, picking up the dishes and taking them into the kitchen.
"Okay maybe... maybe I'll follow you around until you tell me," said Dawn, running after Tara.
"Good, you can dry while I wash," said Tara, tossing her a towel.
"Tara... you said... you said you'd always be straight with me, that I could trust you and tell you anything, but hey, I guess that doesn't work both ways" said Dawn.
"It's nothing," said Tara, then seeing the look on her sister's face she realized she wasn't going to let it go. "And yes you're right, it should go both ways. So, you already know that on Friday I went out with Buffy, well there was this woman and we talked and she came by the office today..."
"Go sis go," said Dawn, with a big grin.
"I wasn't there," said Tara, concentrating her stare on the dishes in the sink.
"Oh," said Dawn, laying the towel down because all her sister seemed to be doing was soaking her hands in the soapy water. "So is that the end of the story, 'cause you seemed in deep brood mood over dinner?"
"She left her cell number with Holly," said Tara, still looking down at the water.
"Woo hoo!" Whooped Dawn. "What did you say? When are you going out? Or is she coming here? Do you need me to make myself scarce? Cause, I can you know."
"I haven't called her," admitted Tara turning, her back now against the sink, staring into space.
"Why?" Asked Dawn.
There were just too many reasons for Tara to articulate to her sister. First and foremost, against all logical evidence, were her fear of rejection and the scar of insecurity that her father and brother had left on her as sure as any beating. There were other things and those she couldn't ever talk about with Dawn.
"Where is the number?" Asked Dawn.
"In my purse," said Tara without thinking.
Dawn rushed into the living room, hotly pursued by Tara. Dawn grabbed Tara's purse and tried to rifle through it, before her sister snatched it back.
"Dawn," panted Tara. "What are you trying to do?"
"I... uhm... Tara why don't you just call her?" Asked Dawn. "She must like you to have left the number, especially with Holly, 'cause you know, she can be scary, when she gets all protective."
"Okay, okay, I will," said Tara, to get her sister off her back. "She's cute and smart; which is always good and we did have a nice time."
Dawn started to dance around. "You want to kiss her, you want to marry her."
"That's not helping Dawnie," sighed Tara, suppressing a smile.
"Sorry, so are you going to phone her now?" Asked Dawn.
"In a little while."
"No prevarication, buster..."
"Prevarication, wow you must be doing well in English, I should compliment your teacher," said Tara, raising her eyebrow.
"You won't throw me off," said Dawn, and then taking Tara's hands. "You haven't seemed interested in anyone since... since Mom... she must be nice."
"She is, okay I'll call her now," said Tara, But only to stop you from going on and on, there is nothing more to it.
"Yeah right," said Dawn, grinning at her sister.
As Tara went to pick up the phone, she heard a knock at the door. "Dawn can you get that?"
Fred bounded into the apartment anxious to talk to Willow. She was surprised to see her friend sitting on the sofa starring into space. "I almost hate to ask."
"Oh hey," said Willow. "She was out and I made a total fool of myself with her boss."
"Oh god Will, I'm sorry. So how bad was it?" Asked Fred, gently.
"Pretty bad, I froze and her boss just kept asking questions and I left my cell number and bolted," said Willow, looking shame-faced.
"That doesn't sound too bad... why did you leave your cell number?" Asked Fred.
"Her boss insisted," said Willow.
"Wait, that's good, she couldn't have hated you or she wouldn't have wanted you to leave it," said Fred.
"Don't try and use logic on me," said Willow. "I liked it when I was being Miss Insecure, now you've got me all hopeful and you know she still won't call me and I'll have to go back to being Miss Insecure with maybe a dash of Miss Manic Depressive."
Willow's cell that was lying on the table started to ring; they both stared at it for one second and Willow made little you pick it up movements with her hand. Fred shook her head and Willow's movements became more frantic. After a few more beats Fred picked up the receiver. "Hi... hey Tara." She looked over at Willow who blanched. "Yeah, she is right here."
Fred tossed the phone to Willow who was making big head shaking movements until she caught the phone and took a deep breath. "Hey Tara... oh catch you later."
Fred raised her eyebrow. "That was kinda quick."
Willow looked slightly perplexed. "She sounded all friendly and then boom, she said she had to go."
"A tease maybe?" Asked Fred, shrugging her shoulder.
"I don't think she's that sort of person," said Willow now looking a little disappointed. "But she has commitments."
"Does that worry you?" Asked Fred. "'Cause she has a kid... if you know what I mean."
"I do," said Willow. "And to be honest I don't know. I mean it is going to be strange to have a relationship with someone who has take care of someone else, go to school stuff, watch her do whatever she does... here's me talking like she wants to be with me. I mean I might seem immature and frivolous to her; she's working, has her own house, job and car and here is me still in school."
"Wow, Will from an argument stance where she could have a drawback you have managed to talk her out of having a relationship with you. Do ya think I should send it to her in a transcript and then you wouldn't have to worry about face to face rejection," mocked Fred in her southern drawl.
"You're funny, you really are. I can't wait for your opening night," said Willow and then with a sigh. "No point sitting around waiting, how 'bout we go for a walk... or something?"
"I'm sorry to disturb you girls," said Joyce, she looked pale and she had dark circles under her eyes, which were red and blood shot. Dawn had led her into the living room and Tara had terminated her call when she had seen how bad she looked.
"It's okay," said Tara. "Is everything okay with Mr. Summ... Hank, or hmm Buffy?"
"Dawn, do you mind if I talk to your sister alone for a minute?" Asked Joyce, sitting on one of the chairs heavily.
Dawn looked like she was going to argue for a second and then caught her sister's eye and shrugged. "I'm already gone."
Joyce watched Dawn leaving the room and then she looked at Tara and when she spoke her voice was shaking. "Tara, did anything happen on Friday?"
"At the movies. Did Buffy get upset or did anyone bother her?" Asked Joyce.
"She was quiet, but she seemed f-fine," answered Tara, a shade guiltily, knowing that her mind had been focused elsewhere that night. "Why?"
"She said she was thinking of quitting her lessons with Fred and then she shut herself in her room nearly the whole weekend," said Joyce. "All she did was use the bathroom and picked at the meals I left for her. Oh Tara, if she has another relapse I couldn't... I can't lose her again.
Joyce dissolved in tears her head dropping into her hands and Tara felt her own tears pricking at the corner of her eyes. "Do you want me to try and talk to her? I d-don't know if it would do any good. But she might just be feeling a bit overwhelmed with the world and I know how that uhm feels."
"Tara, I don't know... I only came over here to find out if anything happened. I don't want to put you on the spot," said Joyce.
Tara's head dropped for a moment and then she met Joyce's eyes. "I want to help. She might talk to me. Will always says I'm good at listening. Surely it can't do any harm."
"Okay, should we go over now or do..."
"No, can you stay here with Dawn. I think it would be better if I go by myself, so she doesn't think you've asked me to go and talk to her. Is Hank at home?" Asked Tara.
Joyce looked a little like she had been caught off balance. "No."
"Good then eventually she will have to open the door for me," said Tara, rising from her chair.