Jitty parked her car in the small private parking lot at the back of the shop, with the very original name of ‘House of Saris'. She had been trying to start a conversation with Tara, but without getting much back. The blonde seemed very pensive and nervous. Dawn bounded from the back of the car towards the shop and Jitty let her go ahead and waited for Tara. "What's wrong?"
"That won't wash with me; I know you better so spill," said Jitty.
"I have a date. I told Dawn not to say anything to you."
"You are going on a date?" Disbelief sounded rich in Jitty's voice.
"Thanks for your support," said Tara. "I can get a date you know."
"I didn't mean it like that," said Jitty. "When is it?"
"Tonight," Tara replied.
They entered the shop; Dawn was already talking to the woman behind the counter.
"Are you taking her back to the house?" Asked Jitty.
"No, of course not," said Tara, louder than she meant to causing a few heads to turn toward them, including Dawn who was talking to Jitty's mom who had already arrived at the shop, they both waved at them. Tara continued only quieter. "It's just a first date; I'm taking her to Bobby's."
"Oh, you are going to impress her with Punjabi food huh?" Asked Jitty. "Where is she meeting you?"
"Does she know about Dawn?"
"Yes, of course she does. She is a friend of Buffy's tutor," answered Tara.
"A blind date then?"
"No, we went to the movies..."
"I thought you said this was a first date?" Probed Jitty.
"Jitty, stop it," snapped Tara. "I am not a defendant, if you want to know I'll tell you. It's simple I went out with Buffy to meet a group of people, Willow was amongst them; we got along, ergo date."
"Tara, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to...I promised your mom I would always look out for you both, but even if I hadn't too many things have happened... I love you both like you were my sisters." Jitty said softly and then in a firmer voice, "be careful."
"I will and I know you love Dawn and me," said Tara.
"We better not keep Mom waiting any longer," said Jitty, pointing toward her mother who was tapping her wrist and looking impatient.
Willow parked her car in the lot, where Tara had told her. She had thought the other woman was going to cancel their date but she had been quite touched when she had realized that Tara was worried that she wouldn't be able to find somewhere to park her car. She approached the shop feeling a little nervous; maybe she should have bought some flowers or something, but reasoned that that might embarrass Tara turning up in front of a shop full of people with flowers. Willow took a deep breath and entered the shop; she walked through the crowd of women who were looking at material and various saris. She started to feel a little panicked when she caught sight of them and her heart skipped a beat when she saw Tara. Willow remembered her being beautiful but she didn't remember her being quite as beautiful as she looked now. She had on a pale blue silk outfit picked out with silver thread; the outfit was a pair of loose fitting trousers and an ornate over shirt. On trembling legs Willow approached them.
Jitty's mother fussed around them, making sure that all the scarves matched with everyone's outfits. "Remember you must have your chunni at the temple."
"We know ma," said Jitty.
Her mother ran her fingers through Dawn's hair. "Such lovely long hair, if only Jitander could be persuaded to grow hers again."
"Ma!" exclaimed Jitty.
"Only kidding, dear," said her mother. "I can't wait to see how wound up you'll get by the end of the wedding."
Tara and Dawn giggled knowing that her Mom was one person that could always rock the lawyer's self-confidence and cool.
"Hi," said Willow, smiling shyly.
"W-willow, sorry we are running a little behind. I'll get changed and be with you in a few minutes," said Tara.
"I'll come with you dear, do you want me to take your outfit?" Asked Jitty's mother.
"Please Amarjeet and will you take Dawn's for me too?" Asked Tara.
"I'm Dawn," said the teenager offering her hand as her sister bustled away.
"I'm pleased to meet you," said Willow, who was surprised that the tall girl didn't let go of her hand but instead moved closer and whispered in her ear.
"If you hurt my sister I will beat you to death with a shovel," she moved back from Willow and gave the stunned redhead a big grin. "A vague disclaimer is nobody's friend. Have fun tonight."
"I will, I think," Willow said weakly.
"I'm Jitty," said the lawyer, who had watched the little exchange with an amused smile on her face. "And you are Tara's date?"
"Uhm yes," said Willow wondering what was coming next, the small women gave off an air of power and self assuredness that the student found a little intimidating and she was relieved that before anything else could be said Tara re-appeared dressed in black jeans and a white peasant blouse, that showed enough of a cleavage for Willow's mind to go blank.
"Are you ready?" Asked Tara.
"Great, the restaurant is just a block down from here. You can leave your car here and we can walk," said Tara. "I hope you like Indian food."
The owner of the restaurant greeted Willow and Tara as they arrived. "Jitander and your lovely sister aren't with you tonight?"
"Not tonight Mr. Singh it's just a table for two," answered Tara.
"I've told you before, call me Bobby," said the man as he led them over to a booth in the corner and handed them menus. "Drinks?"
"Pepsi, please," said Tara.
"Same here, please," said Willow.
He gave them a graceful bow presented them with their menus and left them.
"It's nice in here," said Willow. "I've never heard of it before."
"It's more popular within the Indian population, it's doesn't really cater for western tastes," explained Tara. "But the food is excellent."
Willow nodded and picked up the menu, there were a lot of dishes she recognized but quite a number that she didn't. "So what's good?" She asked, deciding that she would let Tara guide her.
"Hmm," said Tara. "I know how about Thali?"
"What's that?" Asked Willow,
"It's a mixture of some starters and it has a couple of little main courses, a dhal, pickles, some rice, chappatis and a sweet," explained Tara. "That way if there is something you don't like then you can leave it."
"Okay," said Willow.
Tara gestured to the waiter who came over and took their order.
"So did Jitty tell you about the place?" Asked Willow.
"Yeah, she took me here. Oh did I mention all the food is vegetarian. I hope you don't mind. I'm such a cliché, I'm a vegetarian, lesbian and I even own a cat. Well, when I say own he is this big black and white cat that turns up to be fed every morning and night and then makes the house his own and I'm sorry that I am gabbling; I'm a little nervous." Tara was slightly breathless and had started to go a little red in the face.
"Funny, I thought it was only me that that happened to," said Willow, amused and charmed. This woman had put her at her ease with her natural warmth, but there was one thing that was nagging at back of her mind and she needed to get it out. "Who's Jitty? I mean I know she was at the shop and she knew I was your date."
"She's my lawyer," Tara answered.
"Do you usually go shopping with your lawyer..." Willow stopped a second as the waiter arrived with the food. "I didn't mean it quite the way that it came out, most people aren't that close with their lawyers or even have them."
"It's a long story and that is a deep fried chilli in batter; okay too late," said Tara, as Willow spluttered. "Hmm s-sorry."
Willow wiped the tears away from her eyes and looked into Tara's concerned eyes and for a second she thought she could get used to being cared for by those eyes. "I'm fine don't worry, it wasn't that hot just went down the wrong way and please tell me your long story; I'm interested."
"When my Mom knew she was dying from cancer she looked around for the best lawyer she could find who could help draw up a will and trust fund for me and Dawn. She found Jitty, she practises family law and her and my Mom became close friends. When it became obvious my Mom was going to die before I was 18, Jitty put my Mom's mind at ease by becoming our legal guardian until I came of age. I suppose you could say she's more like a big sister," said Tara.
Willow listened to the way Tara told her story, in a low flat voice without looking at her. She could tell the other woman had so much emotion held inside, but Willow shied away from pushing. It didn't feel like the best thing to do on a first date, although the redhead stored it away for another time and maybe to ask what had happened to Tara's Dad. "She sounds like a special person. I don't think most lawyers would be that caring. What is this? Is it a sweet?" Willow pointed to a sponge on their joint plate of starters.
"It's a sponge with mustard seeds," said Tara.
"Yuk, I hate mustard," said Willow.
"Me too," giggled Tara at the face the redhead made and then a little more serious. "And you're right she is a special person. She knows what it's like to have an insecure future as a child. I think that is why she helped."
"I'm sorry if I'm prying, but explain?" Asked Willow as she pushed aside the starters and looked started at the round metal plate that held a number of small metal bowls with the rest of her food in them.
"No it's okay. Her family were from Uganda; she was amongst the Indians who were given 90 days to leave by Idi Amin. Jitty doesn't remember too much about it but her family moved around a lot. They went to England first, but her mom went to school here so eventually they settled in the states," said Tara. "But I've spoken way too much about me, how about you?"
"Well I'm boring really," said Willow.
"You could never be boring," said Tara. "Okay was that a little corny?"
"Only if you didn't mean it," said Willow.
Tara didn't know what came over her, she had talked more than she was ever used to and Willow made her feel very comfortable. She squeezed Willow's hand. "I meant it, I don't think you could be boring."
Willow felt the tingle in her hand long after Tara let it go. "Charmer."
"I d-don't... how is your food?" Asked Tara.
"Good, really good," said Willow, they sat in silence for a while as they finished their food; it wasn't a forced silence but comfortable, safe.
Tara gestured for a waiter to come over. "Can I have the check please?" He nodded and brought it over in a dish.
"How much do I owe you?" Asked Willow, taking her wallet from her jacket pocket.
"No, I asked you here; I insist on paying," said Tara, throwing some bills on the plate.
"Okay, thank you, but next time I pay," said Willow.
Tara gave Willow a smile that almost stopped her heart with its radiance. "So there'll be another date?"
"Oh yeah," said Willow. "I'd like that a lot."
Tara took her cell phone out.
"What are you doing?" Asked Willow.
"I thought I'd call a cab," answered Tara.
"I'll give you a ride home," said Willow.
"If you don't mind," said Tara and then a little uncertainly. "Actually my s-sister is staying with Jitty, if you would like to come in for c-coffee."
Willow nodded and smiled.