Author: MissKittys Ball O Yarn
Tara sat out on the back deck with a cup of coffee in one hand and the other half of Spencer's poppy seed muffin sitting on the small, round, glass patio table in front of her. She sat with her back against the chair; she could feel the curving where the metal-worker had shaped the piece into being. She'd bought the table and chair set at an auction years ago and had loved it ever since. It was the only furniture she had cared to take with her when she'd left Logan.
The sun was just peeking over the tops of the trees in her neighbors backyard and the Fall birds were greeting the new day, creating an un-choreographed ruckus from their nests--the nests that had been built and tucked away in the sparse trees and under the eves of the houses around her. On impulse she turned and looked over her shoulder; to examine the underside of her own sloped roof. Perhaps a bird or two had made a cozy nest there. But her examination came up empty-handed, and she returned her attention to the rising sun, and the partially eaten muffin on the table. She really was quite hungry and a her tummy rumbled as if to say it agreed with her. She picked up the muffin and took a bite, and then absently brushed at the crumbs that had fallen into her lap.
Tara was enjoying the first moment of quiet she‘d had all morning, which was brought to her, in part, by the fact that Ginny and Ellen had taken the boys with them to the grocery store for a few last minute odds and ends they‘d need later on. Tara suspected that Ginny had picked up on her need for a little R&R before time to go. Tara was used to one quiet, well behaved child, not two energized darlings with an affinity for early morning escapades--which is exactly what she'd been dealing with since first thing that morning.
The boys had been running around the house in an excited frenzy since 5:47 that morning, in anticipation of the adventure ahead of them, and it had been all she could do to keep up with their shenanigans. Even Maddy, who was used to keeping up with the older boys had had enough of the two good-natured scoundrels, and had promptly fallen asleep, seated upright in her car-seat, right smack in the middle of Tara's living room floor. The little girl with brown ringlets and a Beautiful Princess nightgown was still there now, at half past seven, with her blanket, snoring softly and smelling nicely of baby lotion, and that smell that only the smallest of small children have--that scent that's like babyhood. Tara had left open the sliding glass door that lead into the kitchen so that she would be able to hear if the little girl woke up before the troop returned with their goodies.
And in all honesty, Tara could hardly blame her son and his friend for their excitement and healthy exuberance, and she certainly would never, ever dream of begrudging them that. After all, she remembered what it was like to be a child on the cusp of some grand expedition. There was plenty of time for seriousness and non-fun-having when they grew up and had true serious and non-fun responsibilities. The truth was, that even she was beginning to get in the camping spirit, and the thought of two perfect starlit nights out in the wilderness with Willow certainly wasn't doing anything to dampen her mounting enthusiasm, either.
There hadn't had a lot of time to think about much of anything that morning, what with getting things together for the trip and dealing with event-hyper children running around the house, but now that things had settled down for the moment--however short it may be-- she found her thoughts sprinting effortlessly to Willow.
The way they had connected on the phone the night before, she'd never experienced anything like that. Even now, the feeling she got in her stomach at the thought of suggestion in Willow's silky-soft voice last night, caused a melting that started at the top of her head and cascaded down her body like a slow moving drip of ice-cream on a warm summer day; And last night, she'd felt herself melting all over, into a cozy realm of whispered words and Willow. The memory of it wrapped around her, even now, and her stomach coiled tight beneath the layers of clothes she was wearing. Suddenly, Tara couldn't wait to see the beautiful redhead again.
Tara Maclay looked back across her shoulder at the warm brown and gold clock hanging on the wall in her kitchen. Willow would be pulling into her driveway at any minute, and that thought made her happy--it made her smile in a way she hadn't felt before the redhead had slipped into her world.
Of course, Spencer always made her smile, she loved him so much and just the sight of him brought warmth to her heart; but the love she had for Spencer-- would always have for Spencer-- was that of love a mother has for her child and there is nothing comparable to it. But the way Willow made her smile, now that was a completely different entity. Willow made her feel...Tara searched for the right word inside the list of wrong words that scrolled inside her mind, like the end credits of a movie; and then she saw it. Willow made her feel loved--loved in a "more than" romantic way, and she didn't mean just in the two-dimensional-candy-hearts-and-greeting-card way that she‘d felt with Logan from the beginning. The way Willow made her feel was not at all like that. Willow's words from the night before sounded in her head: I've never felt this way before and neither had Tara--she wasn't even completely certain she was doing things the right way when it came to the redhead. Was she letting her evolving feelings for Willow get in the way of her good judgment? Tara wasn't certain there even was a right way, as much as she'd been telling herself that there was, lately. All of this felt so new to her, and she was secretly terrified that she would make a big mistake, or overlook something and cause the trust she was carefully building up, to come crashing down all around her like a ruddy-made house of cards. But Willow wasn't Logan. Willow was Willow, and Tara's instincts were doing everything in their power to remind her of that.
Tara took a sip of her coffee, letting the rim of the chipped mug linger on her lips for a moment while she enjoyed the warmth of it against the sensitive flesh of her lips. She was reminded of Willow's kisses, and with her earlier inner discord momentarily absolved, that thought was granted entry into the forefront of her mind. The thought of Willow's lips against her own, warmed Tara even more than the coffee in her belly and the pleasant tightening just below that.
Over the course of the last few weeks she'd gotten to know Willow's kisses quite well, and to say that she thoroughly enjoyed being kissed by the redhead would have been a grievous understatement. There was something so tender in the way Willow kissed her--so much sweet care in those soft lips that it made Tara shiver in remembrance.
She'd never experienced that kind of romance with anyone before and she'd actually thought about calling a cab to take her over to Willow's apartment after they'd hung up the phone last night, but she'd thought better of it. She hadn't been about to start rushing into things with Willow, and chance ruining the beautiful thing that they were creating together. Each minute seemed to be a new and exciting experience, and for the moment she was content to let it be as such. Even the earlier fears that had reared their ugly, uncombed heads, had receded and she was left with nothing except the warmth in her stomach and the anticipation of seeing Willow again.
Going slow didn't have to mean that she feared intimacy with Willow, or refused to trust Willow, it just meant that she liked the butterflies she felt in her stomach each time Willow said her name, and being excited each and every time Willow touched her hand or looked at her with those piercing green eyes. Waiting for the bigger stuff had nothing at all to do with anything other than wanting to savor those feelings for as long as she could, Tara told herself.
"Hi sweetie," Tara said, greeting Willow at the car with a mischievous grin and a quick kiss on the smaller woman‘s cheek. She noticed the redhead's arms, instantly, laden with an armload of camping goodies and an anxious smile. Tara thought she looked adorable standing there, trying not to drop the marshmallows that teetered precariously on top of a box of economy-sized graham crackers and a stack of chocolate bars. This abundance of chocolate, crackers and puffy white fluffs of sugary goodness, however, didn't hinder Willow's motor skills in the least; Tara quickly found herself with Willow's arm wrapped snuggly around her mid-section, being pulled toward the lips she'd been remembering since the belated breakfast she'd enjoyed earlier. It was a nice kiss. Warm and sweet. And short, unfortunately... Too short for Tara's liking, at that moment. So she found herself subconsciously following Willow when the redhead pulled away to set her load, now being juggled in one arm, onto the hood of her SUV. Tara gravitated toward her like a tiny boat being pulled down by the sinking of a massive ship.
"Mmm Coffee." Willow grinned languidly, tasting remnants of the brewed beverage on Tara's lips. God, she'd missed this woman so much. It had surprised her just how much she'd missed Tara last night, after they‘d hung up the phone and had retired to their respective and separate beds. Separate houses. Separate streets. Separate parts of the city they both lived in. The one night they'd spent together, holding each other had spoiled Willow, and now it seemed that even one night alone--though she'd always been alone-- was too many.
Tara blushed, covering her mouth with her hand. "Sorry. I had some earlier. Coffee breath. I-I should brush," she apologized, but made no move to turn away. Willow's gaze was strong and it held her captive.
"No...it's okay. I like."
They smiled at each other and moved in for another quick kiss, but before they could make contact, a new model Ford Explorer barreled into the driveway, parking at an angle just behind Willow's yellow SUV. They pulled apart quickly just as the car's rear door opened, but their hands came up to link them in a silent acknowledgement of mutual regret over the shortened kiss.
As Willow watched, Spencer jump to the ground from the inside of the large model, black SUV parked behind hers, he was followed by a larger more robust boy that she'd never seen before. One after the other, they landing sure-footed onto the grass at the edge of Tara's front lawn.
Spencer spotted Willow right away and lopped across the yard toward her like an excited little puppy. He's happy to see me, she thought, and her heart melted. She was pleased by this. Spencer called out to her, beaming and hugging her around the waist, causing her heart to melt into an even melty-er puddle. She realized that she was just as happy to see Spencer as he appeared to be to see her. A warm smile spreading across her face when she realized that She'd missed him too. And then Just as quickly as it began, it ended; Spencer released the bear-hug he had on her, and ran off with the other boy--the one Willow didn't know.
"That's Tyler," Tara, said. Leaning into Willow's body, she pointed toward the new child.
Willow's eyes followed the playing children. Tyler had sandy blonde hair and was bigger than Spencer but Willow gathered that he was probably the same age as Tara's son, based on the way they were frolicking around in the grass together.
Willow, lost momentarily, watching the children playing, didn't hear the approaching footsteps of another woman, who had already emerged from the newly parked car and was happily walking toward them. When Willow did finally see her, it was almost too late.
An earthy-type woman with long dangly earrings and a honkin' crystal necklace was already upon them, kissing Tara‘s cheek and grinning broadly at Willow as she did so.
"And I'm Ginny. Hi. I'll take these," the woman said with a mischievous grin and a wink. Eyeing the chocolate bars, graham crackers and marshmallows that Willow had brought with her, and had sat down on the hood of her car, the sandy brunette scooped the items up and started to carry them off.
"Oh no you don't!"
Another woman came jogging toward them. She took the goodies away from Ginny and the two exchanged a playful look. Willow realized that the new girl must be Ellen.
"I'll take these... if we let Gin take them we might never see them again... and that would never do. I‘m Ellen, by the way."
Ellen had added the last bit as if it was unimportant compulsory information. She shook Willow's hand with her free one. "Willow," Willow said, simply. She could already tell that she liked both Ellen and Ginny. There was a light, good-natured quality about them that she found refreshing and comforting. She was glad that Ginny wasn't some intimidating brute. And they seemed to like her too, which was of the good.
"Good. Willow then. Nice to meet you."
Ellen breezed away to pack the goodies into one of the four supply boxes littered around Tara's front yard. Ginny nodded toward Willow and then took off after Ellen.
"They can be a little overwhelming on first appearance," Tara was saying as they sidled out of earshot.
Willow knew that Tara was obviously making note of her friend's boisterous nature. But Willow could only watch the blonde's lips move. She was so transfixed by Tara's supple lips and the need to draw those lips in closer--perhaps touching them with her own. "No... they seem really nice." Willow's hand's waved in the air. "A-and they seemed to like me too.. I mean--I could be wrong... or misreading the signals... but I got the impression they liked me." Willow felt babble mode kick on and she wondered if she sounded like a total dork or worse... like the teenager she'd once been...all desperate for acceptance, instead of the self-sufficient, business savvy woman she'd become.
"What's not to like?" Tara stated simply.
They both blushed.
Willow could feel her cheeks burning at the honesty in that compliment. She was used to people sucking up to her on a daily basis. But this was different. It was pure and there was definitely no sucking up involved. Willow didn't know how to respond and there was a moment of awkwardness between them. Luckily Spencer chose that moment to announce his plans to ride with Willow and Tara to the campground, sufficiently saving Willow from having to face her own cowardice. But she wished that she was brave enough to tell Tara just how much she'd missed her and how much she'd enjoyed their phone conversation the night before.
"Come on, Mommy. Come on. Come on."
Spencer was filled to the brim with childlike impatience, and from the backseat of Willow‘s big shiny car--as he'd so lovingly called it earlier-- leaned in between them; Tara in the passenger's seat, and Willow in the driver‘s seat.
"I'm going to go fishing, and catch us a big fish. And you can cook it," he said, demonstrating with his hands, holding them out to indicate a very large fish.
He'd leaned in so close to Willow now, that she could feel his bubblegum breath on her cheek. She'd never seen anyone as excited about something as Spencer was right at that moment. She'd never been around kids much, and it had been sooo long ago since she'd been one herself, that she almost couldn't remember what it was like to be so genuinely, and all-to-god honestly enthusiastic about something. But Spencer's enthusiasm was catching, and Willow, in a few short seconds, found herself looking forward to the event itself, aside from the excitement she already felt at the prospect of spending time with Tara.
"It's a little cold this time of year for fishing, Little Man-- and I‘m not too sure Ginny is up for a romp in the river this time around, sweetie... but we'll see," Tara added, seeing the stricken look on her son's face. She knew his favorite part of camping was getting to fish-- he even had his own license. He'd, as of yet, only ever caught one little river fish, but to hear him tell the story it might as well have been a shark that had taken up the mind to go for a leisurely, fresh water swim.
"I'll take him out," Willow said, not liking the disheartened look spreading quickly across the little boy's rosy cheeks.
"Yeah, Mommy. Willow will take me out!" He brightened immediately, and gripped the back of Willow's seat, enthusiastically giving it a shake.
"You know how to fish?" Tara turned to face Willow and was overcome by the cuteness that was the redhead. It had been nice of her to offer to take Spencer fishing, but Tara knew that Willow had no idea what she'd just let herself in for. She felt it her duty to give the redhead fair warning before any decision was written in stone. She knew her son well enough to know that he would have the sweet, and well-meaning redhead up at the crack of dawn, wading around in the shallows on the outskirts of the river before she even knew what was happening.
"No...not exactly." That was, of course, an overlooked technicality on her part.
"I can teach her." Spencer‘s eyes pleaded with Tara, and then to Willow: "I can teach you..."
"I said, we will see, Little Man...," Tara said in her best ‘Mommy-knows-best' voice, and then she turned to Willow and said "You don't know what you've just let yourself in for." Tara chuckled, and shook her head, and was glad that she'd remembered to pack the camera.
They left just after 10:00am in an futile attempt to wait out the morning rush-hour traffic; but even northbound on the I-5, twenty-five minutes outside of the Los Angeles city limits they were feeling the heat of midmorning gridlock just as surely as if they'd never left the 405.
Willow tapped the steering wheel lightly with her finger to the sounds of the mid morning traffic report filling the interior of the car. The oh-so-excited Spencer from earlier had already been replaced by a less lively, sleeping Spencer. And Willow had to smile as she glanced in the rearview mirror at the little boy, with his head propped sleepily against the strap of his seatbelt. His cheeks were a healthy shade of pink from the heat inside the car, and his usual exuberant expression had been replaced by the tranquil stillness of a child at rest. She'd seen Spencer sleeping on many occasions and more than once she'd yearned to experience that same sort of unencumbered sleep. It had been so long since she'd really been able to rest without worrying about work, schedules, clients, and all the other general happenings that occur when one owns one's own business. Willow was certain that sleep like the kind Spencer enjoyed wasn't even a possible gleam on her horizon line...
"He's been like that since he was a tiny baby. Car rides always put him to sleep," Tara said, the makings of a smiling curling at the corner of her lips.
"He's cute when he's sleeping. He‘s cute when he‘s not sleeping, too. Yep, cuteness abounds," Willow offered, warmly. And she meant it. Spencer was the cutest child she knew--and she wasn't just biased because he was Tara's son--Spencer was the only child Willow knew, which, in her mind, didn't make the statement any less true. She was sure that if she knew a hundred kids, there wouldn't be one of them cuter than Spencer.
"It also helps that he's been awake and going non-stop since before the sun was even up ." Tara added, with a little chuckle and a half-hidden yawn.
"Does that mean that you've been up that long, too?" Willow asked, light concern flavoring her voice. She could tell Tara was more exhausted than she was letting on.
"That's exactly what that means."
Willow logged their destination's co-ordinance into her GPS system, much to Tara's bemused expression, and when she chuckled again, this time in a tone that was far richer, and more erotic, Willow had to suppress a shiver that ran down the length of her spine. She glanced at Tara briefly and could tell that the blonde had no idea how much she was affecting her--which was for the best, Willow reminded herself. After all, Spencer was in the backseat, and Willow was in the middle of a pesky little chore; driving. When Willow glanced over again, Tara had drifted off, her eyes closed lightly, and her breathing slow, and even. Like mother, like son, she thought to herself and smiled.
37 minutes later, to be exact, they squeezed out of the traffic jamb and onto the exit that would take them most of the way, riding the skyline east, toward all things natural.