Willow had been putting off unpacking her carryon for over a week. But she could put it off no longer. Classes were starting in just a week, and somewhere in that bag was the charger for her Palm Pilot. And if she was going to make it through the crazy carnival ride that is the first week of classes, she would need to have that Palm Pilot fully charged and synchronized with her laptop. So it was that Willow now found herself surrounded by papers, books, pens, and "AHA! Now I've got you!"
She pulled the adapter out from under some old takeout menus and walked to her desk to plug in her PDA. That done with she decided to tackle the rest of the mess on her living room floor, starting with all the pens, which she had decidedly kept far, far away from Buffy when the eager friend offered to help Willow pack. Though really, if it hadn't been for Buffy's "help" packing Willow might never have gone to the airport food court to scrounge for napkins, and Willow might never have met Tara.
Oh yeah, now I remember why I wasn't unpacking... because somehow everything makes me think of her... Well enough, Rosenberg, you took a shot, and you were denied. Get over it...
Willow sighed and focused on sorting by color the handful of pens and placing them in the various containers sitting on the corner of her desk. She returned to the slightly improved mess on the floor and started separating papers. She dumped all the junk into the wastepaper basket and was left with fliers and menus from the different places and other things that she had done with her friends over the summer. These she organized into a neat stack and placed in a tray on the desk, for later incorporation into her scrapbook, once she had printed out the pictures from her digital camera. She picked up her bag from the floor and held it over the trashcan to shake out the dust and crumbs. A small card fell out in the process. She zipped the bag up, and set it under the desk, then bent to pick up the card. Turning it over she sighed again. It was the ticket stub from the concert where she, literally, ran into Tara. Willow opened her desk drawer and brushed her fingers against the narrow box inside. Just as she pulled the box out of the drawer the alarm on her laptop beeped, and a box popped up reminding her to go pick up some things for Faith. Willow slipped the ticket stub into the space between the cardboard covering and the tin box of pencils, put the box away, and shut the drawer. After hitting the dismiss button on the reminder box the redhead shut her computer down, grabbed her jacket, purse, and the empty bag, and headed out.
Fifteen minutes later Willow found herself standing in front of a small store. Rock music drifted out the doorway as a customer leaving the store held the door for her. Smiling her thanks, Willow waved to the tie-dye bedecked man behind the register, who returned the greeting and pointed to a beaded curtain. The redhead made her way past the beads to a door at the end of a narrow hallway. The door opened to a spacious room that served as a back office, employee lounge, storage area, and rehearsal space for the band that was currently playing a cover of No Doubt's Don't Speak. Willow shut the door behind her and gave the lead singer a small wave. The girl waved back, pointing to her watch and mouthing the words 'two minutes' during a break in her singing. Willow nodded and sat down on a nearby couch.
The lead singer and several of the other band members were employees of the store. The aging hippie owner was more than happy to let his staff and their friends hang out in the back and use the space for practice. Faith had taken a job at the store and on the days that Faith's shift ended around the same time as Willow's classes, Willow would pass by and wait for her friend. The owner had noticed her hovering inside and in front of the store on several occasions and was amused by her shyness. One day, about a month after Faith had started working there, Willow had been waiting for Faith to finish up when the owner had insisted she wait in the back. She had arrived earlier than usual and would have stood outside for the hour until Faith's shift ended had the jolly old man not insisted she wait in the lounge. The sky had been overcast that day and he was sure that any minute the clouds would burst over the redhead. She finally agreed when she felt drops of moisture hit her nose. He had dragged her into the store and pointed to the beaded curtain and gave her a 'now scoot!' before turning to help a customer.
A few minutes after she had taken a seat on the couch that day a girl in leather pants with long wavy dark hair walked in through the back entrance, followed by a short, red-haired boy and another girl with cropped half black half blond hair. They all exchanged brief hellos with Willow, they too had all noticed the redhead who often stopped by and waited for Faith. Willow was surprised when the dark-haired girl picked up an acoustic guitar from the corner and joined the blond at an electric piano. Several other people came in and within ten minutes a full-scale rehearsal was taking place.
Willow loved it. Apparently they were a very, very good cover band. It was almost as if someone had stuck a ten-dollar bill in a jukebox and pressed the random play button. They had played songs by Alanis Morisette, Sheryl Crow, Counting Crows, Collective Soul, Nirvana, Toni Braxton, Green Day, Bob Marley, and Natalie Merchant. Willow found out later that the reason for the variety was because the group performed everywhere from local bars and music festivals, to weddings and proms. From that day, whenever she was early to meet Faith, Willow would automatically head to the back room. If the group was not rehearsing as a whole, there was usually at least one or two of them there trying out a new arrangement for a song, restringing a guitar, or just hanging out reading a magazine.
It turned out that the dark-haired girl, Amanda, was the band's lead singer and had a sarcastic streak, attitude, and love for leather to rival Faith's. In fact, the similarities between the two meant that Amanda and Faith were often mistaken for sisters.
Thinking of Faith reminded Willow of the reason she was at the store, and the reason she was there reminded her of Tara. She sighed and returned her attention to Mandy, who was now walking in her direction. Willow stood and the two friends hugged briefly in greeting.
"So, you ready to do this Tree-girl?"
Willow couldn't help but laugh, knowing that the singer only called her Tree-girl if she wanted to get that exact reaction out of the redhead. Otherwise she was either Willow or Red. In fact, because of Faith, most of the store employees had taken to calling her Red. Again the thinking of Faith made her mind wander, but this time Willow halted that train of thought before it could leave the station. She nodded to Mandy and the two friends walked over to the lockers in the corner of the room.
Mandy led them to the last locker in the row. Etched into the paint of the locker were the words 'Ya gotta have' above a sticker with Faith's name on it. Willow pulled a key from her pocket and unlocked the door. As soon as the padlock was removed the door swung open and things came pouring out from the bottom of the locker.
"Looks like this is going to take a while." Willow laughed as she stared at the contents of Faith's work locker. She turned to Mandy and gestured to the rest of the band lounging by their instruments. "I can do this, I don't want to hold you up."
"Not a problem Red. Just let me know if you need any help alright?"
Willow nodded as she turned back to assess her friends things.
"She's really doing this isn't she?" Mandy asked.
"Yes, she really is."
After a few seconds silence, the singer let out a long whistle.
"Damn." She said in awe.
"Pretty much what I said." Was all Willow could say as she took a seat on the bench behind her and began folding the assortment of clothing that had escaped from Faith's locker.
"Damn." The singer said again. After a moment she gave Willow a pat on the shoulder and walked back to her bandmates.
As she sorted through her friend's things she couldn't help but think about the reason she was cleaning out Faith's locker.