The next morning, Willow arrived at school twenty minutes early for first period. She decided that this time would be best spent searching out Buffy and Tara and talking to them. After circling the school, she saw Buffy emerging from an alcove near one of the exits. She would come to learn that this was the backstage area where the techs spent their time before and after school, sometimes eating lunch there when they could sneak out of the cafeteria. She went over and smiled. "Hi Buffy..."
Buffy smiled at Willow, looking distracted. "Hey. Look, I can't talk right now, but Tara and Xander are down there with nothing to do." She ran off before Willow could say anything else.
Willow walked into the alcove and looked around. All over the walls were posters and flyers from various plays and musicals. Some of them were performed by SHS, some of them professionally done. She saw Tara and Xander cuddling in a corner, the blonde on her back with her head on Xander's lap, her eyes closed and her knees bent, looking toward the ceiling. She hesitantly walked over to talk to them. "Hi guys..."
Tara opened her eyes and looked up at Willow. A smile graced her features and she sat up. "Hello Willow..."
Xander likewise smiled and waved slightly. "What's up?"
Willow sat across from them. "I uh... I got to school early."
Xander looked at Tara and grinned slightly, then turned back to Willow. "We noticed..." After a moment of silence, Xander asked "So... are you going to join the actors or the techs?"
Willow looked at him with wide-eyed confusion. "I... I have to join one or the other?"
Xander nodded. "Or you could do like the Buffster and join both... but that girl has superhuman functioning with no sleep abilities. I wouldn't recommend that."
Willow thought for a moment. "What does the tech crew do? I mean, I know you guys build stuff, but is that it? Because I'm really not good with building things. What with the hammers and the nails and the heavy boards... I'm really not built for building."
Xander spoke up before she began to babble. "There are other things you could do... like lighting... or sound... Or you could be stage manager if you can wrestle that away from Faith..."
Tara nodded. "I do lighting. We do need another senior up in the booth... I could show you how."
Willow smiled slightly. "I'd like that."
BING BING BING BING
Xander zipped up his backpack and stood up, brushing dust off of his jeans. "Well... time for class."
Willow and Tara followed suit, standing and wiping off their butts before picking up their bags. They began to walk to their class as Xander went off in the opposite direction. They walked in a comfortable silence for a few seconds, until Willow asked "Did you get home ok last night?"
Tara nodded. "Yeah... Right on time, actually... Do you think you'll come to Buffy's sleepover?"
Willow nodded. "I figure I should take any opportunity to make friends, right? I mean... I don't get invited to things much."
Tara nodded. "Before... well, before tech crew... I was really shy. I still am, I guess... I'm really comfortable with my friends, but... I don't know. I'm not really a part of the family like Buffy is."
"How long have you been in tech?"
She thought for a moment. "Since 7th grade, but... I moved here in 9th, so I've only been a member of this crew since then." She decided not to elaborate on the girl that had caused her to join, figuring Willow would find out at some point anyway.
Tara loved the weekends. It wasn't just that she had no school; it was the time she could spend with her mother uninterrupted. Since her father spent that time with Donny out in the fields, teaching him how to run the tractor with optimum efficiency, or how to shoot a rifle, Tara could spend long days with her mother, learning about herself and the world. Now, at 13, Tara was just starting to realize she wasn't exactly normal in the romance department. This was the time when all of her friends, the few she had, were getting boyfriends, and walking to the tiny resturant on the corner of Oak and Dell for dates. Sharing a milkshake was all well and good, but she didn't feel the same urge to be in the company of her male peers, to have boys like her, that other girls her age had. She felt more of an urge to be with one particular girl at her school. Joanie was everything that Tara wanted to be; smart, outgoing, and most of all, beautiful. Tara envied her, of course, but she knew that what she felt was more than that. And it was this that was bothering her this particular Saturday.
Elenor Maclay sat with her daughter on the girl's bed, braiding her hair into pigtails for the church social that night. She was listening to her daughter talk about all the reasons she wanted to be friends with Joanie. So far she had heard all about the teen's long red hair, deep blue eyes, gorgeous smile, and perfect teeth. Tara was just beginning to go into the girl's work with the school drama department's Technical Crew when there was a knock at the door. Tara's father didn't wait for a reply before he opened the door and peered in on the two of them. "Will you be ready in time for the social tonight Elenor?"
Her mother nodded. "Yes, Donald."
Her father smiled tightly. "Great. Donny and I will be in the fields until supper. We'll leave for the church at 7." Without waiting for a response, Donald Sr. closed his only daughter's bedroom door and walked away down the hall.
Elenor finished her daughter's hair and stood up, walking to the girl's closet to get the blue dress that she wore on special occasions. She removed the dress and walked back to the bed, laying it next to her daughter and sitting down. "I really think you should try talking to this girl. See if you have anything in common with her. She'll be at the social, right?"
Tara nodded, smiling slightly. "She's going to wear the green dress that her mama made for her. It makes her hair look so pretty."
Later that evening, at the church social, Tara approached the object of her crush. Joanie was standing by the punch bowl, talking with one of her friends. Tara walked over and stood about five feet away, hoping Joanie would notice her.
Joanie's friend turned and walked away, toward some boy she was interested in. Joanie herself turned around and nearly bumped into Tara. She smiled slightly. "Hey Tara."
Tara smiled back and waved awkwardly. "H-hi Joanie."
Joanie grinned and took Tara's arm, pulling her toward the wall and out of the way. "I was hoping to see you here... I'm having a birthday party this weekend and I was wondering if you'd like to come."
Tara grinned, a lopsided smile that made Joanie smile. "Y-yeah... I'd love to..."
"Great... Be at my house at 6 on Saturday." Joanie hugged Tara tightly, then walked away toward her parents.
Tara stood there, unmoving, for a full minute before grinning so widely that she thought her face might explode and running to tell her mama about what had happened.
When Tara got to Joanie's house, wearing her Sunday best, she quickly realized that she was the only one at this party. When Joanie answered the door, she was alone. The house was empty save the cats, the two girls and the furniture. Joanie led Tara to her room and told her where to leave her stuff and sat on her bed. Tara looked around nervously. "I... I th-thought this w-was a party?"
Joanie nodded. "It is... I just don't have any other guests."
Tara stood uncomfortably near the door and frowned. "Y-you only invited me?"
Joanie grinned and nodded again. "That's right..."
Joanie patted the bed next to her, waiting for Tara to sit. When she did, Joanie spoke again. "Because I want to get to know you. I've seen you watching me... in science? I want to know why... and I want to know why you never talk to me except to say hi."
"I... uh..." Tara frowned and looked down at her lap, allowing her hair to cover her face.
Joanie scooted a little closer to her, putting her hand on Tara's knee. "I've been watching you too. I see what you're like... how nice you are... how you always stutter when you talk to people... it's cute. I've wondered for a long time if I could get you comfortable enough with me that you wouldn't."
Tara barely looked up, but her eyes met Joanie's. "Y-you w-watch me?"
Joanie nodded. "Mmhmm... And do you know why?"
Tara looked back down and shook her head.
Joanie smiled. "Because I like you."
Tara's heart leapt into her throat and she gulped it back down. "R-really?"
Joanie nodded. "Yup."
They were both silent for a moment until Tara spoke up. "W-where should I p-put my sleeping bag?"
Joanie grinned. "This is a queen sized bed, Tara... you won't need it."
Tara signed up for tech crew the following Monday, to be with her first girlfriend.
Willow Rosenberg was the youngest girl in her kindergarten class. Her mother thought she was smart enough to start school early, so here she was. Four years old and entering the big scary school where her mother worked part time as the resident child psychologist. For all of her knowledge, it was amazing that Sheila didn't understand the horrifying nature of school for her daughter, but that was how she was. She understood other people's children and not her own. She didn't seem to notice how upset the little girl holding onto her hand for dear life was. Didn't understand that the tight grip indicated fear. All she had to say about that was "Willow, dear, you're hurting my hand. Could you loosen your grip?"
The small girl barely nodded, but did as she was asked. "Mommy? Why do I have to come here now?"
"So you can learn, Willow."
Willow understood learning. She knew she liked to figure out why things were the way they were and what made things work. But she could not understand at all why she had to go to a place with a bunch of kids older than her that she did not know to learn. She much prefered staying home and reading the books her mother had bought the latest in educational technology to teach her to read. She had just started reading a Berenstein Bears book that her father had just given to her as a present from his most recent business trip. She would have finished it, but her mother interrupted her reading to inform her that she was going to be taken to school in five minutes, and so she should get dressed for the occation. So she had gotten dressed, in her best Care Bears attire, and met her mother downstairs.
That led to her current predicament- being dragged into a classroom full of five year olds. All of the boys and girls here were a full year older than her at least. She could never hope to find common ground with them, it seemed, since they were all bigger than her also and so would get the best choice of play equipment during recess. Her mother removed her hand from her daughter's and bent down to give her a hug when the teacher came over to greet her. "Have fun, Willow. I'll see you after school, ok?"
The little redhead wanted to scream that it wasn't ok... to beg her mommy to take her back home, but she knew that it would be pointless, so she didn't bother. "Ok, mommy." She resigned herself to be miserable the rest of the day and walked away as soon as her mother dismissed her. She took a seat at a table and began drawing a picture to give to her daddy.
All of a sudden, it seemed, the yellow crayon she was using to color the doggy's fur snapped in half. Willow stared at it for what seemed like forever to her young mind and set it down on the table. She stood up and began to back away, until she bumped into someone. She turned around quickly to find a somewhat chubby brunette girl looking at her with interest. "Hi. I'm Ruth."
Willow frowned. "I'm Willow, but I'm gonna be in twouble soon so it won't matter."
Ruth frowned also. "Why will you be in trouble? Did you broke the rules?"
Willow nodded her tiny head and moved aside, showing the crayon to Ruth. "I broked it."
Ruth looked at the crayon for a moment, then picked it up and walked over to the teacher. "Miss teacher lady... I broked the crayon."
The teacher knealt down, taking the crayon from Ruth's outstretched hand and smiled warmly at her. "It's alright, Ruth... There are more in those cans. You can use those."
"Thank you teacher lady." She went back over to Willow and handed her another yellow crayon from the can. "Here. This one works."
Willow smiled, took the crayon and finished her drawing. She showed it to Ruth who in turn showed Willow her own drawing. Ruth put her's down on the table and turned to Willow. "You draw doggies good. Want to be my friend?"
Willow nodded. "Ok."
After story time and nap time, Willow and her classmates were given another play time, but they weren't allowed to do what they had done for the first one. Willow opted to play house with Ruth and another girl named Polly. After Willow had also agreed to be Polly's friend, the game began. Polly had set up the rules of who they would be playing. Polly would be the daddy, Willow would be the mommy, and Ruth would be the baby.
They began to play, Willow sitting at a table and tapping away at a fake keyboard, and Polly in the play kitchen trying to feed Ruth. Polly set a plastic plate full of plastic food in front of Willow. "Here's your breakfast, Harold."
"I can get my own breakfast, Sheila."
Polly frowned. "Well... I was just trying to be nice, Harold. Eat the food and you get a special treat tonight?"
Willow nodded slightly, picked up a phantom fork and dug in to the plastic food, eating as quickly as she could so she wouldn't be late for work.
After a minute or so of eating, Willow stood up and announced in as deep a voice as her four year old throat could muster "I'm off to work, dear."
Polly smiled and walked over to Willow. "Have a good day at the office, honey." She gave Willow a kiss, the best that she knew how, and the redhead, in a clip on tie and top hat, walked through the doorway with her plastic briefcase and off to work in the block area.
When Willow returned home from her first day of school she was happy. She did not dwell on why that was, but if she had she would have known it was because of her two new friends. All she knew was that she wanted to be friends with them forever.