Return to You Make Me Smile Chapter Two

You Make Me Smile

Author: MissKittys Ball O Yarn
Rating: NC-17
Feedback: Please let me know what you think... cause I love feedback. I hope you enjoy. Please leave feedback on the You Make Me Smile thread on the Kitten Board.
Disclaimer: Joss owns it all. Except my brain... well, probably that too.

After putting Spencer to bed that night, Tara sat down on the cough with a steaming hot cup of tea. She could smell the honey scented liquid as the warmth bathed her face. Tara held the mug in her hand, letting the warmth grow under her palms until the heat turned from comforting to nearly painful. Tara set the cup down on the end table and tucked her legs against her body, bringing her feet up to bury her toes between the couch cushions.

Tara had tried all day to choose the paintings she wanted to bring to the Sidewalk showing the next day, but something had kept her feeling blocked all day. She hadn't felt like doing much painting either and had had to stop when the frustration of not being able to work began to set in. So after Spencer came home from school, she'd dropped everything and they'd spent the remainder of the day at the park, spending time together and walking around the duck pond without shoes.

Tara loved Spencer, and they had a wonderful relationship, but there was a part of her that really missed adult interaction; a part of her that really missed soft touches, and cuddling on a rainy day with someone whose T-shirts didn't all feature Spiderman. Tara really missed having a conversation and feeling like there was someone else in her world who understood her and cared about her. She hadn't had that in a long time, but that didn't stop her from wanting those things.

Tara sipped her tea, and listened to the music coming from the neighbor's stereo. The sound drifted in even though the windows were closed up tight. She didn't find the music to be annoying, instead it served to fill up the empty space around her.

She hadn't even gone back to the canvases that lined the garage wall. And she knew she wouldn't, even as she sat there thinking she should. Tara just couldn't seem to muster the want to rise and attend to the task. Instead she'd sit there and listen to the muted sounds of life though the sealed space underneath the window pane.

Willow awoke in the night and found it nearly impossible to go back to sleep. She lay there in her blue pajama's listening to the sound of the wind as it stripped past the large glass windows in her bedroom. She could feel the big stuffed dog she had slept with since college pressed awkwardly against the top of her head, apparently it had relocated itself to the top of the bed at some point in the night but she wasn't sure when. Willow reached above her head, dislodging the dog from it's unfortunate resting place. Willow fell back on her pillow with a sigh.

She'd been sleeping with that stuffed dog for so long that she had almost forgotten what it was like to sleep lying next to an actual person. It seemed like forever since the last girl had left her bed. Not that there had been that many over the years, but there had been a few. Willow wandered what it was that kept her from feeling that connection with another person. She'd tried to tell herself over the years that it was he drive to succeed that had ruined things for her, but at this point in her life she wasn't so sure of that anymore. She desperately wanted to connect. She wanted to feel that fire in the pit of her stomach and that ache in her knees she'd heard so often about from friends who'd fallen in love. Willow wanted those things for herself and she was beginning to believe that she wanted to love and be loved more than she wanted anything else, business or otherwise.

Willow was silent as she stared up at the darkened ceiling. Was this just her life? Maybe she was destined to be alone. Maybe she should accept that fortune and move on with her life. She didn't want to be an old spinster woman, but if that's what the cards held, who was she to argue with fate? Willow didn't really believe that, but it was a comforting feeling to relinquish control over her life for the moment.

Willow tuned her mind to thoughts of what tomorrow would hold. She wondered if she'd find what she was looking for at the sidewalk showing in the morning.

"You want some toast little man?" Tara asked, turning off the water faucet in the sink. She had wet a rag and was now wiping the kitchen counter free of the sticky juice Spencer had spilled earlier that morning. The boy had tried to clean it up himself, but hadn't been too successful.

"Yes please, Mommy."

"Jelly?" Tara asked, loosening the metal twisty tie from around the loaf of sliced sourdough.

"Just butter please."

Tara stood at the counter as the smell of toast floated up from the white appliance. She braced herself against the counter as she stared into the toaster at the red hot coils. "Did you put your canvases into the van, Spencer?"


Tara watched as Spencer chose a crayon from the colorful box of in front of him, his fingers traveling over pointed tops of the multi-colored, waxy medium. Tara brought her eyes back to the toaster as the toast coming up disturbed the stillness of the morning. She spread butter onto the crusty slice of bread.

Tara came around the table sitting the toast next to Spencer, but the little boy was too wrapped up in what he was doing to notice his breakfast. "What are you drawing Spencer?" Tara leaned across the table on her arms, interested in whatever he might be creating.

"I'm not drawing, Mommy. I'm writing a letter to Santa."

"A letter to Santa? It's only October Spencer...Shouldn't you be writing a letter to the Great Pumpkin instead?" Tara teased, but she could tell Spencer was serious.

"Very funny Mommy. There's no such thing as the great pumpkin."

Tara made a mental note to rent Charlie Brown's Halloween Special for the poor, television-deprived child. " that case you must have something pretty important to ask Santa for this year."

"I do."

"You wanna tell me what it is?" Tara's eyebrow rose at the boy, but she could already tell by his disposition that this was one bit of information he wasn't going to give up so readily.

"I can't."

"Why not little man?" Tara inquired.

"Because if I tell you then it won't come true."

"I thought that rule only applied to birthday wishes." Tara smiled at the boy, but he remained serious.

"It doesn't. It applies to all wishes, and this one is top secret, Mommy."

"Okay sweetie. Eat your breakfast. It‘s going to be a long day today."

Willow made her way through the crowded square. There were people everywhere; milling around tables and easels that were set up like mobile galleries. The blur of color was impressive, but daunting. She hadn't expected the turn-out to be this large. Willow was feeling more like Gretel from the Grimm fairy tales with each passing minute. In fact, the urge to leave a trail of bread crumbs just so she would be able to find her way back to where she'd parked the car was beginning to sound like the most clever plan she'd ever heard of.

"Mommy! Look! It's the lady from the restaurant!"

"Uh huh, that's nice sweetie" Tara wasn't really paying attention to what Spencer was saying as she held his hand tightly. The two of them had been waiting in line to buy bottled water for more than 15 minutes and she could tell that Spencer was getting tired but Tara's sole focus at the moment was to make it to the front of the line without being knocked, shoved or getting her toes stepped on.

"Mommy! There's that lady from the restaurant! Remember her? She helped me when I fell."

Tara could hear Spencer chattering beside her again. Tara glanced down at the top of her son's head, but he wasn't paying attention to her, instead, his eyes were focused somewhere inside the dense mob of people. Tara lifted her gaze but she couldn't tell what Spencer was looking at.

"'re holding my hand too tightly." Spencer tugged slightly on his hand to emphasize his point.

"Two bottles of water please." Tara said politely to the man behind the counter. His T-shirt was tie-dyed and he wore a matching bandana on his head with an emblem from the old rock band The Grateful Dead"

"Here you go ma'am"

"Thank you." Tara said taking the change he held out to her. She'd have to remember to bring water from home next time. It wasn't like she shouldn't have known that; she'd been to enough of these showings to know better; at five dollars a bottle, it was a pricey detail to forget.

Tara let go of Spencer's hand momentarily in order to juggle the bottles the vender had given her. She stepped on the toe of Spencer's worn, white sneaker lightly as a reminder to him not to move away from her; in a crowd this big one could never be too careful.

Spencer was already well versed on what to do in this particular situation fore he too had been to many sidewalk showings. Spencer put two fingers through the loop on the long skirt Tara wore, his sneaker-clad feet plodding along as they made the walk back to their space.

Willow moved from one bunch of canvases to the next. Each distinctive style setting easy boundaries between spaces. So far she'd seen nothing too spectacular; some westerns and a bunch of modern pieces; not exactly what The Kirkland Group was looking for, she was sure.

She was about to give up and pack it in for the day when something caught her eye. It was a canvas painted entirely in blue. In the center of this blue was a single flower, a bud crafted so intricately it almost looked alive. Willow imagined she could see motion, as if from a time lapsed camera, as the bud opened at a staggering pace. It didn't literally, but figuratively the flower was a kaleidoscope of movement. Willow moved onto the next piece. It was a set of three canvases stacked one above the other in a vertical line. Each canvas was a different shade of yellow and down the center in a disjointed but eloquently brushed strokes stood a daisy looking as if it belonged in an English Garden.

Willow was excited. She could feel it. This was it. This was what she came here for. Willow looked around for the artist, but she could see no one. There were more paintings further down but before she could move she felt a tug on the hem of her brown leather jacket. A young voice sounded from somewhere near the ground.

"You're the restaurant lady aren't you? See Mommy, I told you she was here!"

Willow could only stare blankly down at the boy for a moment as her brain took time out to calculate the possibilities of who she thought she was seeing. Willow found herself completely stunned by the encounter and every attempt to speak was failing. She tried again to open her mouth, to say something, anything...but no words would come out.

"Mommy, I think she's broken...."

"Spencer!" Tara rushed around the table to where her son had the redheaded woman by the sleeve. "I'm sorry..." Tara said blushing as she gently removed her son's hand from around the woman's expensive looking leather jacket. "He doesn't usually accost people like this." Tara apologized again for Spencer's behavior.

"You're amazing!" Willow blurted out. She instantly kicked herself when she saw the look of amused confusion on the blonde's face. "I as in your I guess by extension you as a person are amazing.." Willow reminded herself to calm the babble before she scarred the woman away.

"Thanks....?" Tara raised her brows at the redhead, and then it hit her, what Spencer had been trying to tell her for the better part of two hours. "You're the restaurant lady." Tara said mirroring her son's earlier declaration.

"And so are you" Willow smiled warmly as she pointed out the similarity. She couldn't help but marvel at the odds of seeing this woman again.

"I suppose I am..." Tara met the other woman's gaze Tara felt Spencer's hand in her own. She was focused on the redhead, but she could see her son's head volleying back and forth between she and Willow as he tried to keep up with what was being said.

"But I do go by other other circles...some less conspicuous." Willow watched the woman's blue eyes twinkle in the bright light of the afternoon sun. "Even though..."restaurant lady" is one of my favorites, mostly people just call me Willow."

Tara blushed and held out her hand. "Tara...." She nearly gasped when the other woman's delicate fingers grasped her hand with gentle firmness. "A-and this is Spencer." Tara withdrew her hand from the woman's and ruffled her son's blonde hair.

"I'm six!" Spencer said, cupping his hand over his eyes to block out the sun.

Willow was amused by the excitement with which he‘d announced his age. "Pleased to meet you." Willow said smiling down at the boy, she was surprised when he looked up at her with the sun in his eyes and stuck out his hand for her to shake. Willow remembered the nickname she'd heard Tara call him that night at the restaurant Little man seemed very fitting.

"Like what you see?" Tara inquired, noticing for the first time the paintings Willow must have been looking at before Spencer had manhandled her.

"Excuse me?" Tara's words caught Willow unaware as she'd forgotten all about the paintings in front of her.

"The paintings..." Tara clarified when she saw the confusion on the redhead's face.

"Oh, yeah. Yes! I like them very much. They are very beautiful. You‘re very talented." Thoughts of asking Tara to work for her instantly sprang up in her mind. She could see late nights in her vision....many late nights spent with this woman, but there was something in the blonde's expression that was telling Willow not to count her chickens too soon before they hatched.

"Actually, these are his." Tara said, motioning her head to Spencer.

"What?" was all Willow could say as all the previous thoughts of late nights sank from her mind...There was still hope that she'd misunderstood and Willow grasped onto that hope tightly and with both hands. Matters were soon cleared up when the boy spoke up.

"Do you wanna buy one?" Spencer asked, tiring of the adult conversation.

Willow thought how charming the boy‘s forwardness was as she felt her disappointment subside. " Well...I don't know if I could live with just one, can I buy all of them?" There must have been twenty canvases on display. Willow expected the little boy to answer right away, but he appeared to be thinking about her proposal. He thought for a long moment.

"No." Spencer stated.

"Why not?" Willow couldn't picture any little kid that would turn down an offer like that.

"Because if you like them that much, then you can just have them for free."

"I wouldn't want to take your paintings without giving you something in return."

"Why not?"

"Well....because it wouldn't be fair." Willow explained.

"Okay. Do you have any gum?"

"All these paintings for a stick of gum? Maybe you should ask your mom first." Willow didn't want to take the boys paintings for so little.

"They're his to do with what he'd like." Tara only smiled. She was warmed by her son's generous heart and wouldn't dream of saying anything to discourage his kindness. Also, she did think it was rather cute the way the redhead's voice rose an octave higher as she tried to haggle Spencer into charging her money, which didn't make the most business sense, but was very sweet.

Willow was against a wall. She didn't want to hurt the kid's feelings by refusing the gift, but at the same time she didn't feel right about accepting the paintings in exchange for gum...

Tara didn‘t know what came over her, but she suddenly found herself with the urge to ask the woman out. It was a shame that Tara couldn‘t even dream of being that bold or coming on that strong. The next best thing would have to be lunch...maybe she could work her way up to dinner later on. "Would you like to come and have lunch with us? It's not going to be anything fancy, we were just going to go right across the street and grab something....." Tara cocked her head to the side as she waited for Willow to respond.

"" Willow paused to take a breath "I'd love to...." She said smoothly.

"Great." Tara said cheerfully. Tara spotted her friend Ginny a couple stalls down and motioned for the short haired woman to come over. She was certain Ginny wouldn't mind keeping an eye on things for an hour while the three of them went across the street for a quick lunch.

Continue to You Make Me Smile Chapter Four

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