The past few months had been very quiet for Tara. Only two deaths the entire month. Death was fickle, and Tara knew from experience that quiet spells did happen. These were moments to be cherished. Pure luxury, no fear of being discovered sneaking out and being able to spend a lot of time with Willow without being interrupted. Of course, she'd had had times when she'd have to Collect twenty souls on one day, so she knew it could change at any moment, but for now, these were quiet times.
Ironically, she had more forms to fill out when people didn't die than when they did.
School had ended for summer, so Willow had some extra time to spend as well. But, Willow being Willow, she'd signed on for some extra summer classes. Still, they had plenty of time for a different pursuit.
It had started as idle pillow talk while laying in each other's arms in the aftermath of lovemaking. How wonderful it would be to actually live together. They had gone to see a few apartments during earlier, almost as a joke and it never amounted to anything. But now that school had gone into recess, they had plenty of time to look for a new place to live.
And now they were here... In a gorgeous apartment located above a boutique in mainstreet.
Tara paced around in the tall apartment. It had a very high ceiling and large windows in the front wall, looking out into the street. Along one side of the wall was a wooden staircase leading up to a loft, where an open bedroom was located. A skylight in the roof of the loft provided the bedroom with healthy daylight. Beneath the loft was the kitchen, again open and richly furnished with the modern conveniences.
"Look, baby," Willow raved happily as her head popped over the railing of the loft. Willow had been cheerfully pointing out every single element she loved about this apartment. It's almost as if she's on mocha rush Tara smiled briefly to herself. "Look at this loft. We could put your bed here, cause my bed's too small for this loft, it'd look funny. Oh, and we can put my fishtank up here, and your dresser! Oh, and one of our desks!"
"But, sweetie," Tara started. She hated being the sensible one, but though lovely, this apartment was somewhat above their budget.
Willow, however, was running down the staircase and shot past Tara into the bathroom that was behind the kitchen.
"Look at that big shower!" Willow was getting giddy. Very giddy. "And that tub. It's big enough for two, baby."
Rubba-dub-dub, beautiful Willow in a tub, Tara droned automatically. "That... is a very nice tub, sweetie." Rubba-dub-dub, snuggling Willow in a tub. Tara's brain added for good measure.
"Baby," Willow calmed herself down. "We have to do this, baby. We have to go for this apartment. We'll never get a chance like this again, and so cheaply."
"It's not that cheap, Willow," Tara said. "I agree, it's gorgeous, it's perfect for us... but it's still above our budget."
"When we won't have to pay two separate rents anymore, we can make it," Willow promised. "And I can put in a couple more hours at Jenny's every week to bring in some extra money."
"Are you sure, sweetie?" Tara asked. "We'd have to dip into our holiday money to pay the deposit. We won't be able to go to on vacation this summer."
Willow nodded for a moment, a somewhat pouty expression on her face. "I was really looking forward to go to San Francisco with you, but... we won't get a chance like this ever again. It's so cheap all things considered..."
Tara nodded briefly. That much was true. Several apartments in their price range had simply been too small. And this apartment was gorgeous: well-lit, plenty of room, wonderful kitchen, perfect location... and it made Willow happy.
Rubba-dub-dub, making love to Willow in a tub, Tara's brain added for good measure, driving the nail in the coffin of Tara's sensible arguments. "Alright, we haven't booked anything yet... and we'll have plenty of time to fix it up. And don't even think about running off to summer classes and leave your poor girlfriend to do all the work herself."
A completely spazzed out Willow jumped in her arms and kissed her on the lips. However, Willow greatly overestimated Tara's strength and, added with the surprise of suddenly having a spazzy Willow in her arms, Tara stumbled back and tripped over the carpet, so that both girls ended up sprawled on the floor, in front of the artificial fireplace.
"W-why Willow," Tara chuckled briefly while wrapping her arms around her Willow. "We don't even live here yet. Cheeky."
"You need to eat more fiber," Willow smiled while snuggling on top of her prone lover. "Make you stronger."
"I wouldn't have needed to be stronger if a certain redhead wouldn't have jumped right into my arms," Tara smirked. "I'm not of the butch, sweetie."
Willow shifted comfortably. "Nice Tara-pillow. We need to fire up that fake fireplace and buy a fake bear-rug that's really soft."
"Right now," Tara grimaced. "Tara-pillow's Tara-shoulderblades are scraping over a very hard floor."
Willow released Tara and scrambled to her feet, taking Tara by the hand to help her to rise. "Sorry, baby," Willow said. "Let's go check out that balcony!"
"You go ahead, sweetie," Tara replied. "I'll go check out the loft."
Tara moved up the creaking staircase while Willow went out the back to check out the view. The loft was indeed nice and cozy, like Willow had said. Plenty of room to move around, even though the ceiling was a bit low. Tara's bed would fit in nicely, as would Willow's dresser, still leaving ample room a desk.
And that lovely skylight... they'd be able to watch the stars from their bed, so romantic.
Tara smiled to herself. Yes, this was a lovely house, perfect for her and Willow. It was, however, a little run down and in desperate need of a lick of paint and a new, uncreaky staircase. She'd have to call Head Office to clear it all, though. Officially, she had to ask permission to move to another house in her district, before she could receive help from the Head Office to prove to the owner of the building that she was credit worthy. Of course, knowing Paul would speed up that process considerably. He had access to all forms, files and knew what to bring to whom at which times to get the quickest results.
Tara's head snapped to Willow's jacket which hung from the railing near the stairs. Her cellphone was ringing, playing that odd ringtone again. When she'd asked Willow about it, her girlfriend had told her that it was actually a themesong from an old computergame called 'Leisure Suit Larry'.
"Willow, hon?" Tara called from upstairs. "Your phone is ringing."
There was no response. Tara thought that Willow must had closed the door on her way out to the balcony. She shrugged and took the phone from Willow's jacket. "This is Willow Rosenberg's cellphone, Tara Maclay speaking."
There was silence on the other end of the line, but Tara could swear that she could hear someone breathing.
"Hello?" Tara asked.
"...Who is this?" came a calm question from an older sounding woman.
"Tara Maclay," Tara repeated, just in time to hear Willow entering the living room again. "Ah, here's Willow now." Tara said and walked down the staircase, handing the phone to a slightly surprised Willow.
"Hello," Willow asked after putting the phone to her ear and sitting down on the floor next to the fireplace. "Oh!" her eyes suddenly grew wide. "Mom."
Tara frowned when Willow fell silent, apparently listening to her mother speak. "Yeah, that's Tara. We're... we're friends. Good friends." Suddenly, Willow's 'resolve-face' came out of the woodwork after Tara had sat down next to her.
"Girlfriends, actually," Willow corrected. "We're in love. W-we're lovers," she added while rubbing Tara's knee. "Lesbian, gay-type lovers."
Tara couldn't catch much more of the conversation, save for Willow's mother saying : 'Oh, Willow...'
Willow listened to her mother some more, then said a hurried goodbye and clicked off her phone. She laid her head on Tara's shoulder and sighed heavily, allowing Tara to steal a moment to wrap an arm around her waist.
"Tara," Willow sighed. "You're coming to dinner tomorrow."
"What was that for?" Tara blushed slighty as Willow broke a very passionate kiss.
"For good luck," Willow replied. "Cause you're gonna need it."
The Rosenberg homestead was, as these things go in suburbs, outwardly completely identical to Casa de Summers. Willow and Tara had dressed for the occasion, Tara wearing a blue jacket over a light blue shirt and a grey skirt. Willow wore a pair of green jeans and a nice light purple shirt with swirly multi-colored designs printed across her chest and arms.
"Well, here we are," Willow twittered nervously. "Just remember, whatever happens and whatever my mom tells you, I love you. We'll get through this."
Tara frowned. "You sound like we're going to war."
"No," Willow replied. "War's less deadly than my mom."
Tara watched Willow ring the doorbell and take a deep breath. Soon enough, the door was opened by a pleasantly smiling heavy-set man with black hair and a neatly trimmed beard.
"Dad," Willow greeted in a voice that was oddly devoid of emotion, something which worried Tara greatly.
"Willow," her father greeted. "Ah, and you must be Lara," he extended his hand, which Tara took.
"T-tara," she corrected. "Pleased to meet you, mister Rosenberg."
"Call me Ira," he said. "Your name is Tara? Sheila said your name was Lara, but I should know by now that she gets just about everyone's name wrong... even mine, sometimes. Oh, please come in."
So far, so good, Tara thought as she followed Ira and Willow into the house. Inside, the house had the same layout as Casa de Summers, but the furnishings were completely different. Leather couches were near the windows and there were cases piling out with books... everywhere. Several paintings hung from the wall, but oddly enough, there were very few family pictures.
A middle-aged woman with flowing red hair who could only be Sheila Rosenberg entered the den and regarded Tara for a moment. It made Tara feel uncomfortable, as if she was being sized up. Then again, she was sleeping with this woman's only daughter.
"Well," Ira clapped his hands together. "Willow, will you help me set the table."
"But... Tara," Willow started to say while her father herded her towards the dining room.
"Will be fine," Ira said.
And so Tara was left alone with Sheila Rosenberg.
"Well, Lara," Sheila smiled friendly. "Welcome to our home."
"T-thank you, and it's Tara," Tara replied, but was ill at ease. Sheila Rosenberg seemed nice enough, but Tara knew a fake smile when she saw one, and couldn't help but wonder just how much of her mannerism was a facade.
"Well, why don't you pick the mood-music?" Sheila asked. "Research has shown that music has a tendancy to smooth over awkward moments."
"Awkward?" Tara blinked.
"Oh, did I say awkward?" Sheila laughed to herself. A horribly, fake laugh. "I meant to say tense."
"Tense?" Tara asked.
"Of course," Sheila continued. "Why, you are meeting your... girlfriend's parents, Lara. Did you know that 86.7% of all young people have reservations about meeting their girlfriend's or boyfriend's parents? Dr. Spock's theorum on this recounts that... Ah, but we were talking about mood-music, right, Lara?"
"Tara," Tara said again. "Sure, I'll p-pick the music."
"Wonderful," Sheila smiled... fakely. "I'm afraid I don't have anything from the Indigo Girls, though."
"That's a-alright," Tara replied. "I don't like the Indigo Girls anyway."
Sheila stopped dead in her tracks. "You don't like the Indigo Girls?"
"Is that a c-crime?" Tara asked.
"No," Sheila replied. "I'm just surprised. Your people like their music, after all."
My people?! Tara thought. "Uh, well, I don't, really. S-s-sorry."
"That's alright, dearie," Sheila sighed. "Well, I do have a Melissa Etheridge CD somewhere. Do you like her?"
"It's o-okay if you want to p-play it, but..." Tara started to say.
"You don't care much for her either?" Sheila asked in surprise. "But... don't your people like her music too?"
Sure. We also wear shoes in my 'tribe', lady, Tara thought. "I'm s-sorry, but I d-don't. But it's okay if you w-want to play it."
Sheila seemed to scrutinize Tara for a moment, bringing her hand to her chin. "Are you sure you're a lesbian?"
No, I'm very, very confused, much like Anne Heche, Tara let the sarcasm flow in her mind. "Quite s-sure. We don't all l-like the s-same music. Different t-tastes. We're a-almost human that way," Tara sniped back, but Sheila failed to recognize Tara's rather biting sarcastic comment. "Willow doesn't like the Indigo Girls either, for example."
"Are you sure Willow's a lesbian?" Sheila asked, and Tara couldn't help but notice the hopeful twinkle in her eye when she asked that. Well, not so much a twinkle, more like the running lights of a 747... No, too small... Actually, it's more like the running lights of an Imperial Star Destroyer.
"Q-quite sure," Tara blushed slightly when she remembered Willow's passionate good-luck kiss.
"Alright, moving on," Sheila said quickly. "I happened to catch the most recent episode of the L-word. Wasn't that a wonderful portrayal of the struggles that lesbian women experience due to their sexuality, juxtaposed against the pressures and demands of society as a whole?"
That sounded a little rehearsed... Hmmm, L-word, L-word... Oh, that's that show Xander liked! About Lesbians? Hm... Tara thought. "Um, you know, I haven't s-seen it. Or any episode of it for that m-matter, r-really."
"But... it's a lesbian-themed show," Sheila replied, seemingly utterly confused.
Goddess, is this woman for real?! Yes, Earthwoman, we Lesbians are evil aliens who have come from the planet of Lesbonia to steal your gorgeous earth-girls like your daughter and take them away to our own world to do our evil bidding. Mwuahahahah. "Let's p-put it this way," Tara replied. "I'm not struggling with my s-sexuality. Why would I w-want to watch someone else who d-does? Isn't that a little, you know, m-mean? Besides I don't watch all that much TV these days."
"What do you watch then?" Sheila asked. Tara watched in a mixture of worry and fascination as Sheila picked a piece of paper from her pocket and folded it open. She just barely held it out of sight, but Tara could see it as a bullet-based list that had been neatly printed out.
"Well," Tara started grateful that the moment of awkwardness was finally starting to pass. "Besides watching C-Columbo with my best friend, I like the d-discovery channel."
"Ah, documentaries about lesbian culture and history, of course!" Sheila said to herself, immediately bombarding the conversation into awkwardness again.
"Um, no, no, sometimes, but usually... no," Tara started. "M-mostly just Koala's and Mythbusters."
Sheila started peering at her list. "No, no, no," she muttered as she checked her list. "That's not a lesbian themed show."
For a mere instant, she imagined what the show would be like if Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman were, in fact, lesbians... but she just couldn't imagine Jamie without the moustache. I've been hanging around Xander too long, Tara shook off the odd mental images and managed to catch a glimpse of the title of the list. Though it was top-down, she could decipher that it said: 'Lesbian Conversation Topics'. Oh, sweet Death, don't tell me she's made...
"Literature!" Sheila continued unabated. "You simply must tell me about the books you've been reading lately.."
"Well," Tara started with a sense of trepidation. What would she be subjected to this time? "I've been re-reading Moby Dick. It's one of my favorite novels and..." but Tara stopped talking when she noticed Sheila was too busy checking her list.
What? Moby Dick isn't on the lesbian reading list? Tara thought wryly. Oh, this is going well. I've only known her for five minutes and already I can't stand her. Okay, Tara, do this for Willow. Bite the bullet for Willow. Just think about Willow...
"I've also been r-reading a promising young author called Dawn Summers," Tara added for good measure and, predictably, Sheila looked up the name on the list.
"Are you really sure you're a lesbian?" Sheila asked again.
Are you sure you're a psychologist, lady? Tara thought wryly. Cause it's starting to sound like you play one on TV. But Tara took a few moments to calm herself. "Might if I ask a question in return? Why do all the TV-shows, books and music I like all have to be related to my sexuality?"
"Well," Sheila started. "It's been my observation that..."
And so Tara was bombarded with all types of psycho-babble and esoteric jargon, which made her feel like every word Sheila was saying had been poured through the Enigma machine before it would reach her ear. Tara blocked out most of the useless information, but started to realize that, as a theoretical scientist, Sheila Rosenberg was used to thinking in terms of systems and theorems. Making that list must be her way of making sense of Willow's coming out, Tara thought, softening somewhat towards the woman. She had a theoretical image of a lesbian in her mind and I shattered it by not conforming to it. Well, sorry, but I am my own person.
"Tara!" Willow rounded about the corner. "I've been looking for you," she said, taking her lover by the hand and leading her away from her mother.
"Thank you," Tara mouthed at Willow.
"Came as soon as I could," Willow sighed. "We might live through the night, if we're lucky."
Tara never understood why people made derogatory mother-in-law jokes... until this evening, that is.
The dining room was very nice. In Casa de Summers, the dining room was actually attached to the den, but here these were two separate rooms. A rectangular table stood in the middle of the room, set for four, while a candelabra gave the room some much needed atmosphere.
As Tara was about to sit down next to Willow, Sheila practically pushed Ira in the seat before she could sit down.
"Now, now," Sheila grasped Tara by the shoulders and guided her to the seat facing Ira. Willow and Tara shared a look: they wouldn't be able to support each other by holding hands. And because they were sitting diagonally from each other, there could be no footsies either. "You'll sit here and I'll wheel in our dinner. The caterers really outdid themselves this time, Lara."
"Tara!" Willow replied somewhat forcefully.
"Yes... Lara," Sheila blinked. "That's what I said."
Sheila left for the kitchen and came back wheeling in a cart with trays covered with the traditional silver covers. "Willow told me what kinds of food you really liked, Lara," Sheila said as she uncovered the trays.
Tara looked at the food, undoubtedly tasty and well-prepared but... Oh, goddess. Shrimp-creole, Easy Skillet Shrimp, Fried Shrimp, Shrimp Cocktail, Rice-and-Shrimp Stuffed Potatoes, Shrimp Etoufee. She was one dinner away from the grave...
"Mom!" Willow rose from her seat. "I can't believe you! I called you up front to tell you that Tara's allergic to shrimp! There's one food she can't eat and it's all we have."
"Sheila," Ira grumbled.
"What?" Sheila shrugged. "Lara? Tell Willow she's being silly and that you love shrimp."
"I c-c-can't eat shrimp," Tara started. "Eating shrimp causes me to, well, die."
"Oh, that's too bad," Sheila bit her lip. "Oh, dear..."
"Mom, why do you always do this?" Willow sank back in her chair, a hard edge entered her voice. "I'm gay, mom."
"Willow," Sheila started, sounding much like a mother telling her child in the toystore not to whine for the latest action figure-man.
"Why are you trying to scare the love of my life away, mom?"
"Oh, Willow, you think that now, but you're young and in college. Surely, I don't mind your experiments. It's college after all. You say you're in love now, you say you're gay now, but I only feel sorry for Lara because she'll be left all alone when you'll eventually snap out of this silly phase and settle down with a nice young man."
The only thing Tara heard was her own heart pounding. Willow leaving me... for a man? A phase? Just a phase? Is that what I am? No, no... Not going to happen. Don't listen to her, Tara. Remember, Tara, Sheila is nuts, Sheila is nuts, Sheila is nuts, Sheila is nuts... She tore away from Sheila Rosenberg to look at her Willow. Her Willow. Not some guy's Willow. Tara's Willow. Only Tara's Willow.
Willow's expression broke Tara's heart. Her gentle face was marred with a mix of extreme anger and sadness. She gritted her teeth with tears slowly ran down her cheeks. Tara wanted to rush over to comfort her, if only Sheila hadn't been blocking the way.
"Mom," Willow slowly rose from her seat. "What's it going to take? I'm gay, lesbian, of the female-love. I like girls, not boys. This isn't a college experiment, this is me... this is who I am. This is my life. I'm Big Gay Willow! Well, I'm sorry, mom, that I'm not into lesbian art or music. I'm sorry that I don't wear flannel lumberjack shirts, brickenstocks, a dozen noserings or whatever lesbian cliche you'd like to project on me! But I'm still gay! I'm happily gay! I'm a gay gay person!"
"But Willow, be fair. In college..."
Tara watched the scene unfold with some concern. Willow was talking. Sheila was talking. Neither of them were listening. Both she and Willow's father were soon caught in the middle of an ever intensifying stereo-babble.
She could barely recognize a sentence in the jumble of words that were produced by the amazing lung capacity both women seemed to possess.
"Tara?" Tara felt Willow's father put her hand on her shoulder. "This is going to take a while. Why don't we escape to my study?"
Ira Rosenberg's study almost seemed like a psychiatrist's office. Rows and rows of books behind a mahogany desk, a padded bench and two chairs around a small glass table. But Tara was too busy worrying about Willow. Muffled by the closed door, but still audible, was the 'conversation' between Willow and her mother.
"You want to go to her, don't you?" Ira asked gently. "To make sure she's alright?"
Tara turned back to Ira, nodding briefly. She figured her expression told him how worried she was. "D-does this happen o-often?"
Ira sighed deeply. "Every single time. Sheila thinks Willow's doing all this to punish her, you know?" he sighed again. "A teenage act of rebellion... A cry for attention even. She still has high hopes for Willow to get a PhD, a distinguished career and a socialite wedding to an upstanding citizen, lotsa grandchildren."
"What d-do you believe?" Tara asked.
"I... " Ira thought for a moment. "I think Sheila and I haven't been the best of parents. When... things started going wrong with this Amy girl... I mean, Willow had just told us that she was gay, and we were too busy trying to convince her that she wasn't, because she was only sixteen. We did everything she really didn't need us to do."
"When things went bad with the Madison girl," Ira continued, closing his eyes. "Looking back, she must have been in so much pain. And we never saw it. We never saw her crying in bed, not eating properly, not sleeping. We never would have known if her friend Buffy's mother, Joyce Summers, wouldn't have confronted us about it. Do you know what the saddest part was, Tara?"
Tara nodded, so Ira continued. "The saddest part that we, her parents, only noticed that something was wrong when her grades started to dip. We weren't there for her the moment when she needed us the most. We... I... was too pre-occupied dealing with the knowledge that my daughter wasn't normal... Ah, I apologize," he said, catching himself. "I meant to say that my daughter was... different from us... to realize that at the time."
Tara said nothing. Ira obviously needed to get this off his chest, and he was grateful that there was someone listening to him.
"Over time, I started to realize that... we were never there for her. Did you know that Willow used to be in the little league? Yes, she did. She was a wonderful slugger... or so the coach told us, because we never once went to see Willow play. We never went to see her projects at the science fair. We never..." he closed his eyes. "Did you know what Willow wanted for her 9th birthday? For us to be there, for a change. Her birthday's always in the period when the university wants to send us to some conference or another. She'll be twenty soon... I think we were only home on three of her birthdays."
Ira stood up and walked to the window. "What does it say about a psychologist who specializes in family counciling and ends up neglecting his only child? Willow deserved more than we gave her."
"T-talk to her." A statement that was simple enough, but very poignant. "T-tell her what you t-told me."
"No," Ira shook his head. "It's too late. I can't talk to Willow without her suspecting an ulterior motive. Let alone a fatherly hug."
Tara smiled. "I think Willow might surprise you. She's a very loving person."
"Tell me," Ira said. "Does Willow talk about us?"
The truth? I suppose he should know the truth. "Never," Tara replied. "I'm s-sorry."
"Don't be," Ira sighed heavily. "I wouldn't have expected anything else. Look, Tara, I'd like to thank you for listening to me ramble on. I'm sorry if it was awkward for you."
"Not at all," Tara offered her most genuine smile. "It s-sounded like you needed to get this off your chest for a long time now." Besides, you don't know the meaning of the word awkward until you've had a conversation with Sheila Rosenberg.
Ira sat down again and offered Tara a drink, which she politely refused. "You are a kind person, Tara. Tell me, do you love my daughter?"
"Very much," Tara smiled.
"I think you'll take good care of Willow," Ira said. "I really wouldn't want to see a repeat of the Madison episode. But, well, I wouldn't be much of a father if I wouldn't lay any ground rules for you dating my daughter," he spoke with a quasi-seriousness in his voice, but there was a smile in his eyes as he said so. "I'm just kidding. You're both adults, so I can't stop you. I'd just like you set an old man's mind at ease somewhat."
"Alright," Tara said. "Go ahead, please. I've got nothing to hide." Tara lowered her eyes somewhat. Nothing to hide. Yeah, right, Maclay...
"Thank you," Ira nodded. "Tara, are you a religious woman?"
Tara thought for a moment. What to say? Of course, she didn't know much more about the nature and cosmology of the Universe than the average human did; that was the Powers That Be's domain. But she did have insights and perspectives that were unlike anything known to non-Reapers. "Not all that much," Tara said, trying to remain as neutral as possible. "But there are things I believe in." Yemeth, Elysia, Stygia, Kali, Yama, Azrael, Azhi-Dakaha, the Conduit, the concept of Life and Death being two sides of the same reality... She'd be here all night if she'd try to explain all this, even if she refrained from mentioning anything about Reaper society.
"I understand," Ira replied. "I would like Willow to remain Jewish, even if it is in name only. I know she hasn't been to Temple in years, but still... I'd rather not see her joining some Oogy Boogy religion like Scientology or something."
"Willow's too smart for that," Tara shook her head and chuckle for a bit, trying to provoke a mental image of Willow raving about tiny aliens causing negative emotions in people, and that the best way to deal with them was to fork over 2000 dollars. It just didn't happen. In fact, from the few conversations she'd had with Willow about religion, she knew that Willow didn't believe in God, but she had enough empathy to realize that Ira probably wouldn't want to hear that right now.
"Second," Ira started. "Willow stays in school, you hear? I know young people like to travel, but there'll be enough time to go gallivanting around the world when she's graduated."
"Absolutely," Tara agreed. "School is very important. I wouldn't dream to trying to convince Willow to leave college." Besides, Tara thought, She wouldn't leave school even if the building was on fire.
Ira laughed briefly. "I can handle Willow being a lesbian, but I couldn't handle it if Willow was a lesbian, non-Jewish and a college drop-out. Tara, I'm very happy you're not a musician."
Tara listened carefully, since she could no longer hear the argument on the other side of the door. What she could hear was someone running up the stairs and slamming a door shut.
Tara turned back to Ira. "I s-should go to h-her."
"By all means," Ira nodded. "Do what I can't do."
Tara looked around to see which room was Willow's, but it was easily located by the picture of a willow-tree screwed on the last door of the hallway. The honey-blonde Reaper walked over and knocked softly.
"Go away!" she heard Willow call from the other side of the door.
"It's me, Tara," she said softly. She heard Willow walk to the door, followed by the click of the door unlocking. Tara entered Willow's room and found that Willow had already sauntered back to her old bed and throw herself on it, laying on her chest with her cheek mushed against her pillow.
Willow's parents mostly left Willow's room as it was the day she had left the house. Everything was nice, clean and proper. Not a speck of dust in the wrong place. A few old toys were left in some chests, some stuffed animals were set in the windowsill, while a few old posters were still hanging on the wall : The A-team, My Little Pony, Madonna and Suicide Bunnies. In that order.
Tara stroked Willow's hair briefly, then climbed on to the bed. While Tara sat in a lotus position, Willow laid her head in her lap while she stroked her hair, their standard comforting position.
"Do you know what my mother did to me when I was five?" Willow started. "She took me with her to one of her classes and had some toys there, shapes and colors, don't even remember. Her entire workgroup was looking at me. 35 people, looking at me. I was so scared, Tara. So scared. I wanted to go to my mother, but she just picked me up and took me back to the toys and the people looking at me. 'Go play with the toys, Willow. Play with the toys and have fun'. But I was so scared of all those people looking at me, so I crawled under a desk and refused to come out. And then mom was angry with me for not playing with the toys, and blamed me for ruining her presentation."
"Willow," Tara rested her hand on her lover's cheek.
"I hate them," Willow whispered.
"No," Tara spoke softly. "You don't."
"I wish they were out of my life," Willow countered.
"No," Tara brushed Willow's hair from her eyes. "You don't."
"Stop making me feel better," Willow sniffed softly while Tara rubbed away Willow's tears with a paper hanky. "You know what I wanna do?"
"No, but I'm sure you're going to tell me," Tara offered Willow a smile.
Willow, in response, flipped around and settled in Tara's lap so she she could look her lover in the eye. "I want us to sneak in here when they're both out so we can have sex in their bed."
Tara bit her lip, but she stood no chance: her body shook with barely contained laughter, while Willow was in no worse state then herself. "Vixen," Tara laughed. "Whatever happened to the Willow that was 'very seldom naughty'?"
"She met the beautiful and seductive Tara," Willow grinned. "And was lost. Now, why don't we get out of here, baby? You look hungry."
"I can toss something together at home," Tara said. "A quick dinner?"
Tara caught Willow looking about her room. "Baby, if I knew you'd be coming upstairs, I would have de-geekified my room first."
"Hey," Tara smiled. "You're the geek I fell in love with, baby. Let's go then, if you really want to. But we'll say goodbye to your parents first, sweetie"
"Hm?" Willow raised an eyebrow. "Well... okay... I just really wanna get out of here now."
Buoyed up by that coffin, for almost one whole day and night, I floated on a soft and dirgelike main. The unharming sharks, they glided by as if with padlocks on their mouths; the savage sea-hawks sailed with sheathed beaks. On the second day, a sail drew near, nearer, and picked me up at last. It was the devious-cruising Rachel, that in her retracing search after her missing children, only found another orphan.
Tara slammed the book shut, having finished one of her favorite books for the fifth time. She put it down and checked the clock: 19.30 and Willow wasn't back yet. A good sign.
There had actually been an death just after Willow had left. The third death this month and even though it was a simple case and she'd been back home in ten minutes, it make her feel more useful.
She thought back to this afternoon, how Ira Rosenberg had called and asked for Willow to join him for dinner at the Espresso Pump. Ira had no doubt chosen the Pump because Willow had been coming there for years.
Tara had to practically twist Willow's arm to get her to go. Talk to him. Just try it, she had told her love. If you don't do it for him, then do it for yourself. You wanted your dad for yourself? Well, here he is, seize the opportunity! And, though reluctantly, Willow had decided to go.
She heard a key slip into the lock and turn. In came Willow, smiling as brightly as the sun. "Tara," she smiled. "I'm so happy I went to see dad," she sat on the couch next to Tara and snuggled up. "We talked. We really talked."
"About what, sweetie?"
"About me," Willow blinked. "I didn't know there was so much to say about me. Cause, I'm, you know dull and geeky Willow with no life. Well, I have a life, obviously, since I'm not guest-starring in one of George Romero's latest zombie movie. We talked about me, about you, about my friends, about school, things I liked. Oh, and dad was nervous at first. Can you believe it? Ira Rosenberg nervous! I've never seen him nervous. We... we had good time. I can't remember the last time we've had a good time. We've even hugged, Tara. Oh, and the next time we come by for dinner, he's promised to make sure that mom will behave and..."
"Okay, breathe, Willow, breathe," Tara giggled. "All talking and no breathing makes Willow a purple girl."
Tara was happy for Willow. At least Ira was making an effort to make up for lost time, but she suspected that the rift between Willow and her mother was much deeper and would take a lot of effort from both of them to mend.
But for now, Willow was happy. And because of that, Tara was happy.
"I've gotten a call today," Tara gave Willow one of her patented half-smile. "Our deposit's been accepted. We can move in."
"Tara?" it took a few moments for Tara's words to register. "Oh, Tara!" Willow squealed and smothered her lover with a multitude of smoochies.
Living with Willow... a wonderful prospect. But it would make keeping her secret only that much more difficult.