Return to You Make Me Smile Chapter Four

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.

Tara entered her bedroom. She put the van keys on the top of the dresser and took out her earrings. Spencer had fallen asleep on the ride home and Tara had carried him into his room and put him to bed. Now it was supposed to be her turn, after all she had been on her feet all day long, and she should have been exhausted. Only, she felt more energized and wide awake than she had in a very long time, perhaps even since Spencer had come into the world. Tara looked at the clock, it was only 9:30 so she scanned the room for something to occupy her mind.

The unfinished painting she had brought in that morning, sat against the wall, staring at her accusingly. The painted figure in red, conveniently obscured by the mass of grays and blues of her own painted sky. "Her?" Tara questioned herself...gender was something at least...she could go from there.

Tara pictured, in flashes, long slender legs and smooth arms. As the figure completed itself in her mind, she saw the muted grays and the smudged blues of background noise, turning themselves into storm clouds and rain-darkened buildings. In her mind, barren streets stretched as far as the horizon line...the figure was alone. Lost. And didn't even know it.

She blinked, as a tingling-type of cautious euphoria soaked into the creative block she'd been experiencing for the past few weeks. She could feel the death grip it'd had on her begin to loosen. Tara smiled and crossed her arms across her chest. Perhaps she'd do a little painting in the morning.

Tara slipped from her room to pad down the short hallway, which ended in the living room. Spencer's bedroom door was closed and he was had always been a heavy sleeper so she didn't worry that she'd disturb him.

Tara filed through the records she kept in crates under the record player's old speakers. Besides her son and her art, these records meant the most to her, because they had been her mother's.

One of Tara's clearest memories of her childhood was of dancing to the music that flowed from these records. It had seemed like magic to her then, to be spinning in the kitchen to Dolly Parton and Hank Williams. They were comforting to her, like an old blanket or a worn pair of jeans. They were her last tangible link to her mother and to her own past.

Tara selected a record and set it on the turn table. She positioned the needle just so, above the grooved lines. It was intuitive--knowing just where to place the needle. In a matter of seconds the air that filled the small living room began to pop and crackle with the static-y goodness that was those old recordings.

Tara slipped out of her shoes and rocked easily back and forth from one song to the next until the music stopped. After the last song, the warped sound the needle made as it lifted itself of the track was followed by the mechanical whirr as the arm shifted into a rest position. Tara yawned, suddenly feeling very sleepy.

It was Tuesday morning and Spencer was rushing around the house in an excited delirium. Logan had called an hour earlier to announce that she was coming over to take Spencer to school that morning. Tara had been more than surprised, and Spencer had been beyond words, overjoyed.

Barely dressed, Spencer ran through the small house in his underwear and T-shirt, slipping on the vinyl kitchen floor with his white socks pulled up to his knees--spider man would have been proud.

"Mommy? Have you seen my lunch box?" Spencer called from the kitchen; Tara was in the little boys room, rummaging through his closet for his other tennis shoe. She could hear the cushioned plopping sound small feet make when they are jumping up and down to reach something.

"In the fridge!" Tara called out exasperated, and wounded from the binder of pokemon cards that had just fallen on her head. "You're cleaning your room this weekend, little man!"

Tara grabbed the pair of jeans off Spencer's unmade bed in one hand, while the other tugged on the crumpled sheets and comforter, smoothing them into a more pleasing configuration of lumps and wrinkles.

There was a knock at the front door and Tara could hear Spencer racing to answer it.

"She's here Mommy!"

Tara came from Spencer's room and stood a few yards away from the door as he pulled it open. He still didn't have his pants on.

"Lee-Lee!" Spencer shouted and leapt into Logan's arms. Logan caught him with sober stability.

Tara noticed Logan was casually dressed this morning, in gray sweat pants and a gray Berkley sweatshirt pulled over a white t-shirt that stuck out around the bottom of the sweatshirt.

"He was so happy you called," Tara said once Spencer had left the room to retrieve his backpack and to, Tara hoped, put on the jeans she had handed him.

"Yeah, well...I've been doing a lot of thinking about what you said the last time we talked."

Tara was shocked that Logan remembered their last conversation. She'd been very drunk that night. Logan reached out to touch her arm but Tara stepped back. "Don't, please." She spoke in a pleasant but firm tone. To her surprise Logan smiled and her dark eyes brightened.

"Hey, no prob." Logan crossed her arms across her chest. "Where you at, Tiger!?" she called to Spencer.

Tara heard the sound of drawers being closed in a hurry and then Spencer was making his way toward them. He had on his blue jacket, it was unzipped and Tara bent down to zip it. Spencer was so excited that he could hardly keep still and Tara had to try three times before the zipper threaded together correctly.

"If it's alright with you, I'd like to take him to my mother's house after school."

"Can I sleep over?" Spencer asked excitedly.

His blue eyes sparkled as he absorbed every ounce of Logan's attention.

"Not tonight, Tiger," the brunette said, touching the top of Spencer‘s head.

Logan made eye contact with Tara.

"I'll bring him back around...5:30?"

"That's fine." Tara bent down. "Have fun, sweetie," she said, giving Spencer a hug.

"I will."

Sometime later, after they'd left and the house was quiet. Tara sat at the kitchen table sipping a cup of lukewarm tea, and making out a grocery list for dinner that night. Willow would be coming over and there was so much to do before then.

They had talked on the phone earlier in the week and Tara had been surprised at how easily their preliminary banter about what to bring had turned into intimate conversation.

Willow had shared with her that she was a lesbian and Tara had felt applause for that little fact resounding throughout her spirit.

Tara had been about to confide in Willow the same admission but had been interrupted by Spencer asking some question or another and by the time she'd gotten back to Willow the time to say something had slipped past her. They had started talking about other things and Tara never did end up telling her that she too, was gay.

She hoped the opportunity would again present itself that evening.

It was late in the afternoon on Tuesday and Willow was trying very hard not to freak out. All week she had been telling herself that tonight would be a breeze...a light breeze in fact; that it would be easy to go in there, have dinner, make a little light conversation over a couple glasses of after dinner wine, then say goodnight. But as the time to leave neared, Willow's stomach, resolute, and having had enough of her unconvincing fabrications, had decided to go all acidy in protest.

Willow lay on the leather couch in her not-so-lived-in looking living room, rubbing her sour stomach in lethargic circles. When the pain didn't subsided right away, Willow began to panic.

She was in the throes of convincing herself that she had somehow developed an oozing stomach ulcer, and would be unable to attend diner that evening when the phone rang. Well, she wasn't about to answer the phone while she was bleeding internally so she lay there in self affected misery and let the answering machine kick on.

While the phone ringing didn't do anything for Willow's physical health, it did, however, succeed in taking her mind off of it for a little while. It reminded her of the telephone conversation she'd had with Tara earlier that week.

Willow had called Tara in order to get her address and to ask if she needed to bring anything. Their conversation had gone from there, and they'd ended up talking about parents and family.

Tara had told her that her mother had passed away some years ago and that her father lived in northern California with her brother, and that she didn't talk to either of them very often.

Tara hadn't gone into detail as to why there was a communication rift between she and her father but Willow had felt the undertones of hurt in the other woman's voice and suspected it had everything to do with her father not wanting to see her, not the other way around.

Willow was no stranger to parental meltdown and had substituted asking some nosy question she was sure Tara would not appreciate from someone she just met, by telling the blonde her own parental story--which included a graphic description of a fuzzy piece of cheese she'd found under her bed once when she was a kid. She probably could have left that last little tidbit of information out, and had she been thinking clearly, and not with the buzzing of her heart she might have even had the presence of mind to do just that.

Willow had gone on to tell Tara a few other things about her own life, the major part being that she was gay. Willow found it best to be upfront about that fact...she didn't want to risk getting close to this woman and then being hurt later by some hidden homo-phobia when the truth was finally discovered. Yep, it was best to get those thing right out in the didn't hurt much either it was kind of like taking a Band-Aid off. One rip and it was over with. So Willow had slipped it into conversation somewhere in between talk of fuzzy cheeses, and talk of what Tara planned to make for dinner on Tuesday.

Willow had held her breath, waiting for Tara to hang up on her or in the least pause for that imminent awkward moment of silence. It never came...they continued their conversation as if Willow's admittance that she abstained from the company of men was something Tara heard every day.

Right after, Willow had started calculating what that meant. She surmised that Either...Tara was straight but had a lot of gay friends, or that Tara was, herself, gay...hence the not being freaked out.

Spencer was no indication either were not just for straight couples anymore...a lot of lesbians were having kids these days. Willow didn't have much in the way of gaydar...but she definitely felt a certain something from Tara that was earthy and sweet and utterly intoxicating.

But that had been then, and this was now. And right now Willow's stomach was teetering on the brink of all out war.

Even though Tara had assured Willow that she had everything covered, Willow knew she would feel like a sap if she didn't bring something. So, earlier that very morning she had gone to the grocery store and picked up a loaf of French bread and some of their best wine-in-a-box, It wasn't a statement or anything, Willow simply liked wine in a tasted good.

Aside from the trip to the grocery store, she had also gone by the flower shop and bought a dozen red and white roses.

Willow leaned over to pick the bundle of flowers up off the coffee table in front of the couch to give them a closer examination. As she held them in her hands she could feel the small lumps protruding from the stems that had been left behind when the thorns were stripped away, as per her request.. Thorns were dangerous; they were sharp, and held the potential to cause scratches and punctures. Willow would feel very guilty if Tara pricked her finger.

But as she held them she grew uneasy. Willow put the roses down...there was something too obvious about them. Willow decided she should have gotten daisies or carnations... something that would say "Hey woman. I'd like to be your friend." But no...she had to get roses with their romantic symbolism and courtship-y undercurrents. Not the mention the fact that the wine was suddenly looking ominous, in it‘s own right...the bread was okay, she decided. Bread was so neutral. But the, what had she been thinking?

Dinner would be okay, she told herself again. Her stomach felt a little better. She just needed to calm down. Perhaps a soothing bubble bath would help take away the last minute jitters she was feeling. After all, It wasn't like she was looking to rush into a relationship or anything. Willow was pretty committed to her job as it was and it was probably best if she didn't let anything interfere with that too much.

Having some kind of logical thought pattern behind the sudden upheaval in her mind seemed to calm her down a little. Willow decided to take that bubble bath, after all.

Willow parked her yellow Xterra in front of Tara's house. The sun beat down on the windshield, heating the inside of the cab once the air-conditioning was no longer running. She closed her eyes against the bright glare of the sun and opened the car door. It was deceptively cold outside and Willow had to pull her leather coat around herself in order to keep warm. She could already feel her cheeks turning red from the crisp air outside. Willow glanced at the roses in the seat next to her...she thought one last time about taking them in with her, but decided it really was too soon for flowers and left them on the seat.

Tara's house was a modest one level with a stone walkway that led up to stone front steps. Hedges lined the houses' façade, growing upward quite a ways but ending just below what Willow suspected was the living room window. Willow deducted lamely that the van parked in the driveway belonged to Tara.

The outside of the house had a lot of character and a lived-in feel that Willow had never felt before. She liked it. A framework of lattice sat easily above and around the front door, and a terracotta sun hung on the wall to her right, where she stood at the front door. The soft tinkling of wind chimes played melodiously in the sporadic breeze.

Willow's hand's began to sweat as she prepared to ring the doorbell, and the very tip of her finger itched. Willow took a moment to wipe her hands on her jeans, then with renewed vigor and determination she steadied her finger into a point-- She was gonna ring that bell come hell or high water...preferably hell, because she was a mediocre swimmer.

Willow started to ring the door bell but halfway there the door was pulled open, and Tara stood on the other side of the threshold smiling at her crookedly. Willow waved a little wave and returned the smile.

Tara's warm smile instantly warmed her fluttering stomach that had started up again when she'd gotten to the front door. The blonde stepped back to allow her entrance and Willow suddenly wished that she hadn't left the roses in the car to wilt on the front seat. This woman definitely deserved flowers.

"I'm glad you came"

Tara took Willow's coat. She hung it up in the entry-way closet, right next to what must have been Spencer's bright yellow rain had green lining and hundreds of ducklings dodging raindrops on the inside. Willow seemed to remember having a raincoat just like it when she was little.

"Did you have a hard time finding us?"

Willow could smell the scent of food cooking in the kitchen. It smelled a restaurant. "Nope. It was a snap. A snip-snap." Willow snapped her fingers together in punctuation. Tara smiled. Willow blushed behind Tara's back as the blonde led them into the kitchen.

Continue to You Make Me Smile Chapter Six

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