Tara opened her door to find Willow pitifully looking back at her. "I can't find my happy face," the redhead said, craning her head to see behind the blonde. "I think I may have left it in here."
Smiling, Tara glanced back into her room. "You know, you're more than welcome to come in and look for it."
Willow slipped past her girlfriend and into the room, "So where should we start?" A smile lit up her face as she turned to face Tara.
Deciding to play coy, the older girl shrugged, "The ‘Lost and Found' box?"
"Nope," Willow shook her head, "I've already been there... they had a lot of socks." She sighed, dramatically, and flopped back onto the bed. "It's hopeless."
Tara cocked her head to the side as she rested against a nearby coffee table. "You're a goof, you know that?" She said with a crooked grin.
"Yep," the redhead said, proudly.
"Have you seen the dining hall? They really went all out for this," Tara said, remembering the layout of the small cafeteria.
"Yep, and I think they even removed the plastic from the snacks," Willow replied, chuckling as she leaned back onto her elbows.
"What time are your parents coming?" The blonde asked. Earlier that morning, she had promised herself that she would treat the day as any other that had passed, no matter how much her mind protested.
"Never, they said I could go home with you," Willow said, partly wishing her words were true.
"Oh, really?" Tara asked and raised an eyebrow, enjoying the feeling of just being with her girlfriend.
"Well, not really, but it could happen," the redhead said, dodging the swat intended for her leg as Tara pushed forward from the table. "So how should we spend our last hour of freedom?"
"Barricade the door and play possum?" Tara said, joking even as she tested the table's sturdiness with her hip. She shook off the creeping sense of dread and sat beside her girlfriend. "We could take a walk, have a picnic, you know, do something outdoorsy."
"Hmm, I don't know, playing possum sounds pretty tempting," Willow said, smiling. "There'll be snuggles," in a sing-song voice, she wiggled her eyebrows.
"There can be snuggles outside too." Tara faced her girlfriend, taking Willow's hand within hers before continuing. "Just think about it. Trees, sunshine, yummy treats... seclusion. Nobody walking through the halls making noise-"
"Okay, I'm sold," the redhead said, grinning as she shook her head, "I am so easy." Willow chuckled and stood, bringing Tara with her. "I'll be on food-duty; I have to get the good stuff before it's all gone."
"Of course, I wouldn't have it any other way," the blonde said and lightly squeezed her girlfriend's hand. "So, let's say twenty-minutes, and I meet you in the courtyard?"
"It's a date." Pulling Tara closer, Willow stole a kiss and turned to leave when the blonde pulled her back. The kiss that followed was slow, savoring, and left both girls' mouths feeling abandoned once it was over. Several tiny kisses followed closely behind before the girls departed.
Twenty-minutes later, the young women joined near the picnic tables in the courtyard.
"What's in the bag?" Tara asked, raising an eyebrow. She cradled a folded blanket and a small bag in her arms as she smiled at her girlfriend.
Willow grinned, tightly holding the bag, "All kinds of bad things." Tara formed an adorable, crooked smile but said nothing. They began to walk down the concrete path, following the walkway until it disappeared and became a narrow, worn dirt trail.
"This should be good," Tara said, stopping, "besides, if we go any further, we might not find the way back."
The redhead beside her, smiled, "I wouldn't have any complaints." Her girlfriend shook her head in amusement and began to spread the blanket out on the grass. "I've brought some sandwiches, water, and cookies."
"Ooh, what kind of cookies?" Tara asked and motioned for Willow to sit down before doing so herself.
"The elf ones," the redhead said and frowned a little, "they were out of animal crackers so these were my next choice," she gave her girlfriend one of the small packets. "As for sammiches," Willow paused as she reached into the bag.
Tara chuckled at her girlfriend's slang use of the word sandwich and waited for the other girl to continue.
"Two turkey sammiches and I didn't know what you wanted on it so I brought everything," partially unwrapping a pouch of aluminum foil, Willow revealed the lettuce, tomato, and some packets of condiments.
"You're so thoughtful," the blonde said and stole a kiss from the willing young woman beside her.
"Did you bring your own bag of goodies?" Willow asked, motioning toward the sack beside Tara. With her hair pulled back, the blonde's face glowed when she smiled.
"I did," Tara said, continuing to smile as she grabbed the bag on her side, "although," she added, "what I've brought isn't as edible as what you've brought." She paused, "In fact, I wouldn't recommend eating it at all."
Willow looked across to Tara as she removed a book from her bag. The blonde had suddenly grown nervous, "T-There weren't any gift shops, so-," she paused and stretched across the blanket, "I want you to keep this." She let go when Willow's fingers curled around the binder.
"Your journal?" Willow asked, uncertain.
"I want you to keep it," Tara repeated, "And write in it. Whenever you want, whatever you want."
Hesitant, Willow stared down at the notebook, "But it's yours. Tara, I-," she stopped talking, continuing to stare at the cover of the journal.
"Keep it," the blonde said, insisting. "And when it's full... I will read it." Tara scooted across the blanket until she sat in front of her girlfriend. Legs folded, their knees touched as Tara went on. "Promise me that you'll write in it. Even if it's six o'clock in the morning and you feel like complaining about getting up for school."
"I babble at six o'clock in the morning," Willow's lips formed a tiny, embarrassed smile.
"Then babble to me," Tara said, smiling reassuringly. "Will you do that for me?"
Nodding, Willow kept her eyes on the journal. A simple book full of pages, some empty, some full. It wasn't that she didn't want the diary, but only that Tara's gift made her realize that their impending separation was real. And even though the blonde had promised to read the book, there was no telling when that would happen. A week, a month, a year, and how many pages would she fill before she saw Tara again?
"I will," the redhead promised and looked up after a short pause.
"Hey," Tara tipped forward, coming within inches of Willow's face, "Are you okay? I-If I said-," as she began to speak, she was interrupted.
Willow shook her head, cutting off Tara's unnecessary apology. "No, sorry, I was being pout-y, depressing girl," she said before smiling earnestly. "Thank you."
Tara sniffed quietly, "No poutiness, okay?" She clasped her hands over Willow's and attempted to be the stronger one. Soothingly, they mesmerized each others mouths as the blonde closed the small gap between them.
Carrying two sodas, Willow closed the door with her elbow and stood by the wall opposite her bed. Tara had dozed off during the redhead's short trip to the soda machine and snored lightly as Willow neared the bed. The young woman set the cold drinks down beside the pillow and brushed a strand of hair away from Tara's face, smiling when the blonde's nose twitched. One of the girl's arms was curved beneath her neck while the other arm was stretched out and touching the wooden headboard.
Willow leaned over the slumbering figure, admiring the peaceful way her girlfriend slept. She stole a kiss from the slightly opened mouth, repeating the action several times until the lips became responsive and moved against hers. With her eyes still closed, Tara reached up and held the redhead's face within her hands, pulling her down further. Their bodies pressed against each other as they breathed heavily, unwilling to let go just yet.
Tara pushed her fingers through Willow's hair, eyes opening while her mouth switched its direction and headed along the redhead's jaw and down her neck. She sucked on the pulse point, felt it beat against her lips, and enjoyed the way her girlfriend trembled atop her body. A tangled, but beautiful mess of arms and legs, the girls slowly moved against each other.
When breathing became too hard for her, Tara released her hold and looked up into Willow's face.
"I like watching you sleep," Willow said, a little giddy from the heated tingle coursing through her body. It was the first sentence that left her mouth.
Tara's cheeks reddened, "How long was I asleep?" She smoothed pieces of hair behind Willow's ears before circling her arms behind the redhead's back. "I always get sleepy when it's really hot outside," she said and moved a little to the side so that one of Willow's legs dropped between hers.
"You were only out for a few minutes." From her place on top, Willow lowered herself fully onto the blonde and rested her head against Tara's collarbone. Her soft breathing tickled the older girl's neck, "I just want to stay like this forever." She murmured and placed a kiss on Tara's throat, snuggling into her girlfriend and conscious of the breasts that pressed against hers and the curved hip against her stomach.
Drawing circular patterns on Willow's back with her fingertips, Tara hummed in agreement. She relaxed into the mattress and blinked slowly, still a little tired but loved the feeling of Willow in her arms.
Hearing her name, the blonde's eyes opened before she could shut them completely, "Yeah?" She whispered, fighting sleep.
"Are you going to tell your father about me?" Willow asked, staring at the side profile of her girlfriend's face. Tara looked upward at the ceiling before shifting a little so that she could see the eyes watching her.
"I- what do you think he would say?" The blonde asked, watching the redhead bite her lip in hesitation.
"I don't know," Willow answered. "I don't know how your father would react or what he thinks about... people like us."
"Are you going to tell your parents?" Tara continued to look across to Willow. The younger girl opened and closed her mouth, unsure of what to say. She knew how her mother would react: with books and theories, but thought, deep down, that her father would understand and accept her choice.
"I will if you want me to," Willow finally answered.
Tara sighed, lightly, and scooted out from beneath Willow to sit up. The redhead followed her movement and leaned back against the headboard while Tara sat on the edge of the bed.
"Willow, it really shouldn't matter what we want each other to do," Tara said, meeting her girlfriend's eyes. She slid closer to Willow, grasping her hand. "When it feels right, we'll tell them, and we'll tell them because we want to and not because we think we should."
"But you want to tell them, right?" Willow asked, understanding what Tara was saying but still a little uncertain.
Tara smiled to reassure the younger girl, "Of course, I do. I just want to get used to it... to us, first, you know?"
Willow nodded with a grin, "I know." Smiling wider, she added, "Besides, I'm not even sure that I'm ready to share you just yet." Tara chuckled and shook her head when Willow blushed and asked, "Was that too sappy?"
"You're never too sappy," the blond said, rubbing her finger over her girlfriend's knuckle. She smiled, invitingly, and inched closer until she could feel the redhead's breath on her lips. The kiss lingered, lasting for countless seconds, and conveyed more than words.
Startled by a series of knocks on a nearby door, the girls sprung apart. Tara sighed lightly, leaned her forehead against Willow's, and frowned. She thought she recognized the voices and shot her girlfriend a surprised look as she left the bed and neared the door.
"Is it your family?" Willow asked from behind Tara. At the blonde's saddened nod, the redhead's stomach sank, feeling as if it had been stacked full of heavy boulders. Tara cracked open the door to confirm her suspicion, and fully opened it when her brother turned around, having heard the sound behind him.
"Tara," Donnie Maclay smiled, happy to see his sister. "Did we have the wrong room?" He asked and stepped forward to hug the blonde when Tara stepped into the hallway.
Pulling away, Tara shook her head, "No, I was just... Dad, Donnie, this is my friend, Willow." She sputtered as Willow stood in the doorway. The redhead gave the men a tiny wave and smiled even though she knew that at any minute, they would be taking Tara from her.
"Nice to meet you," Donald greeted the seemingly shy young woman. His son smiled, giving Willow a friendly "Hi."
"Are you ready to go, Tara?" The eldest Maclay asked, noting the trace of sadness on his daughter's face. Before the blonde could speak, a loud voice came from somewhere in the next hallway.
"It's this way, Ira." Willow cringed a little when she heard her mother's voice and the sight of the older woman rounding the corner with her husband in tow.
"Willow!" The excited woman smiled and rushed toward her only child. She wrapped her arms around her daughter and moved over a little to let her husband join the hug.
"Mom," the redhead greeted her mother a little less enthusiastically.
When Sheila Rosenberg pulled away, she noticed the two men to her right and smiled warmly at them. After Willow's brief introduction of Tara's family and her own, the adults greeted one another with smiles and short pleasantries.
"It says here that there is a greeting session in the lobby," Sheila said and motioned to the slim booklet within her hand.
"And there's food," Tara blurted out. "Donnie, you're hungry, right? We could all go." She told her brother, attempting to mask her outburst but also trying to make sure she stayed longer.
"Sure, okay," the young man nodded, curious about his sister's behavior, "Dad?"
"I guess we have a little time," Donald agreed.
"Great!" This time it was Willow who nearly shouted. Tara grinned at her girlfriend and fought the urge to take the redhead's hand. Donald watched them but didn't have time to assume anything as Sheila ushered them down the hallway.
Although the idea of her mother lecturing the group about her newest theory on something or the other, Willow knew she would put up with just about anything to continue her time with Tara. She just hoped she could control all the feelings within herself that seemed to flow so naturally when she was around the blonde. Unsurprisingly, Tara was depending on the same thing.