The moon was bright as the clouds parted to show its fullness in the sky. Gusts of wind hurdled in, seeming to blow the small, western town until it was left clinging to the Pacific ocean. People bustled aboard the rented school buses, waving frantically from the windows at family and friends.
P.I.C.K.L.E banners hung from the side of each bus, decorated with bright colors and people linking hands. For the second time that week, Tara Maclay silently thanked her brother from signing her up for the trip. He had done it in secret after her high school graduation, but hadn't been able to control his excitement before bursting with the news.
People for Improving Communication, Knowledge, Love, and Enjoyment. 'Neo-hippies,' is what he had called them. She chuckled lightly and glanced back out the window, watching her family drive away as the doors closed.
Before the bus moved an inch, a voice yelled from the parking lot.
"Wait, wait." Red locks swung in the air. Struggling with her gym bag, the young woman stumbled, spilling the contents onto the ground. She cursed under her breath, dropping to gather the fallen items.
The bus driver opened the door but made no attempt to help the redhead. Tara glanced around, watching as the other passengers went back to their conversations. Making a decision, she left her seat and exited the bus.
Willow Rosenberg mumbled under her breath as she tossed the various papers and clothing back into her back. When she reached the last two items, a hand had already covered them.
"Thanks," the redhead reached out without looking up. She stuffed the calculator and shoe into her bag and finally caught sight of the person who helped her. Rising to her feet, she smiled until her face hurt.
"Y-You're welcome," Tara shrugged, trying not to stare at the girl standing before her. A familiar feeling rose up inside of her when she met sparkling eyes.
Willow continued smiling, not knowing what else to do. The girl was beautiful. Blonde tresses down her shoulders, eyes that seemed to reflect the sky, and lips... "Thanks." Willow repeated cheerfully, shaking her head as she chastised her mind's gutter-ness.
Gorgeous. The word suddenly popped into Tara's mind as her mouth moved. "You're welcome." She flashed a lopsided smile and Willow's bag slipped a little from her shoulder as her knees weakened.
The bus horn made them both jump. Turning back, Tara noticed that half the occupants were staring at them and that they were the only two people left under the street lights. Willow saw the same people watching and blushed. It was her parent's idea to send her on the trip, and although she had weakly protested, she was more than excited to go. She glanced back to the blonde in front of her, whose head was still turned, and a silly grin crept onto her lips.
"I guess we, um, should probably g-go." Tara bit her lip when she stuttered, hoping that the redhead didn't notice.
But Willow had noticed, just as she'd noticed the first time the blonde spoke. She inwardly smiled at the cuteness. "Okay." She didn't say 'yes' because she didn't really want to leave the space. She wanted to stay rooted in her spot and stare at the blonde all day. But although it wasn't possible, at least she could watch from afar.
The two made their way toward the bus. Tara spotted her seat but realized that another person had taken the window view. Looking around, she noticed that many of the other seats were taken and those that weren't, only had room for one more. Slightly disappointed that there were no empty seats, her hope deflated and she returned to where she was.
Willow watched the other girl sit beside someone, and sighed. What was she thinking? Of course..., she frowned, not knowing what to fill in the blank with. No names had been given during the game of 'repeat' nor after. Once again, everyone was staring at her. She felt foolish for thinking that... insert name... would want to sit by her anyway.
Quickly scanning the bus, she saw that the only half-empty seat that would give her a good view, was in the back. Hefting her bag onto her shoulder, she made the long walk down the aisle.
Tara watched her go with a pang of regret, especially when the occupant of Willow's seat stood up, making the redhead slide in and away from Tara's subtle backward glances. There was just something different about the slender redhead. She would definitely have to get to know her, but first she needed to know her name. Sneaking another look back, she caught a flash of red. Despite the distance, the small glance fed her daydream as the bus pulled off.