Tara continued her remembrance of what had happened a month ago. As always, she had been forced to hang out with those shallow rich girls that acted like a flock of geese, fussing over every little thing. She really didn't fit with them, could nobody see? Her mother had, and only made her "mix" with her "convenient friends" on parties and public occasions. When it was necessary. But her mother wasn't... here anymore, and her father - perhaps out of fear that she spent so much time by her self - constantly urged on the "flock of geese" to never leave her alone. "To keep you company" were his exact words; a company which she abhorred.
The party was a noisy one, a celebration of constant cup-clanking, beer-dripping, belligerent conversations and savage cheerfulness. Women were a quieter version of their husbands, and girls were fussier versions of their mothers. Boys... boys were even louder fussers than their parents and their sisters.
Whatever... Tara's eyes couldn't pay attention to all the things that were going around her, and her head was spinning. If she could concentrate on something banal like the appearance of her hair or her dress, like the other girls, she would forget the ruckus surrounding her. But she couldn't, couldn't be superficial even if she tried.
There were some boys - some knights, judging by the pelt of plaited metal they wore over their shirts - spilling wine all over the table, trying to get the girls drunk by (unsuccessfully) trying to fill their cups. Tara couldn't bear it any longer; she stood up suddenly, pushing one of the boys' arms. Too late to move or duck; a splatter of wine flew out of the boy's jug, pouring on Tara's dress.
"I'm sorry" the boy muttered, rolling the words with his tongue "How can I-"
"I-it's okay" she muttered hurriedly, now having the perfect excuse to disappear from the table.
She rushed out of the great hall and leant on the wall, enjoying the relative calm of muffled voices. Thank God, she sighed, pressing her palms against the cool stone wall.
"Hey", a voice said, "are you alright?"
Tara opened her eyes and jerked her head to her right, without moving her hands or her back from the wall. There was a girl a couple of meters from her, with no apparent excuse to be there. No conquering young man, no stain in her greenish dress... The girl looked her age, maybe a little younger, and wore her hair shorter than the decent length for a lady. The longest strands barely surpassed her shoulder, Tara noted with surprise. But she didn't acknowledge these things with the horror any other rich lady would; she wasn't horrified at all; in fact, she felt rather curious. What was she doing in the corridor, alone?
The girl walked towards her, with a worried expression on her face. She wore a little wrinkled frown, and her eyes were frightfully enormous, but in the good sense. Those eyes...
"Are you feeling sick?" she asked, since Tara hadn't answered before.
"I'm fine, thanks. I'm not sick."
"Oh" the girl retreated a step "Sorry, I thought that maybe... uh, you were dizzy or something. I'm sorry."
"I was a little dizzy, but not of the wine," she explained, knowing what the girl had thought "Of the people, the noise..."
"Me too. That's why I came here."
Tara rose her eyebrows, surprised that someone had thought the same thing as her.
"Someone spilled wine on my dress" Tara grinned "What's your excuse?"
"Oh, I hadn't thought about that. Spilling wine on my dress... that's smart. My excuse... well, all I could think of was a headache."
"Not bad" Tara laughed "Oh, but I didn't spill wine on my dress. It was just luck, a pestering knight did. I only profited from it."
What was she doing? Winking at that girl? What? Suddenly, she became conscious of where she was. In her father's castle, just a wall away from a party that everyone important had come to. Anyone could come out and see them there, and wonder what was the King's daughter doing with some lady in a corridor? Why wasn't she attending the guests, accepting courtesies from lords and knights?
Anyway... the girl was here, was now, and she expected words, of course.
"So... um, who are you?" she asked, surprised at the bluntness of her question, the directness.
"I, um, my name is Willow."
"Willow?" Tara unattached herself from the wall and faced the girl "Willow?"
"Err... yeah..." the girl sounded suddenly afraid.
"No, no, y-you don't understand. You're Willow? Red-haired Willow?"
"Uh... yeah? Willow, yes, red-haired, yes. And you are-?" now she sounded even more scared.
"Willow, I'm... I'm Tara. Do you remember-?"
"Tara!" she exclaimed, a wide smile parting her lips "Tara, what are you doing here?"
"I live here!"
"I can't believe it. Is this your father's castle? I would've come to see you so many times..." Willow said.
"You would have?"
"Of course, I know we were only together for some hours but... I don't know, I would've liked to see you more. I... I have a horse, and I ride it. I'm not afraid anymore."
"Great, that's... great."
They began talking, rapidly at the beginning, excitedly updating their lives for each other. Slowly, they walked down the corridor and, almost unconsciously, they retreated even further away from the party, wanting not only to be completely alone, but to feel completely alone. They sat on one of the castle's many stairways, made out of cold stone, like the rest of the building. Being far away from the enormous fires that had been prepared for the occasion, they sat close together, almost huddled, talking.
Tara couldn't stop looking at Willow, at the growth her body had experienced. She was still a bit shorter than her, but that was the least fascinating detail. Her hair had darkened a little, but her eyes were still green, still the same that her nine-year-old version. They were and would always be the eyes of a little girl, she knew.
Even if they hadn't swallowed a drop of wine or beer, Tara felt her body getting drunk: heavy, slow. In fact, not just her body, but everything seemed to move at a slower pace: Willow's lips while she spoke, Willow's eyelids when she blinked, Willow's hands when she gestured. Willow. It was Willow.
Before she knew it, she was telling Willow about the death of her mother and, just like a drunk person, she couldn't lie. She couldn't even hide details. Suddenly concentrating on Willow's cheek (as if it was the most fascinating thing), she insinuated that her mother had been a witch, and had taught her things, even if her father was horrified by magic. His father was scared, scared of what he couldn't understand; and scared of what would happen to them if people knew about magic. Luckily, her mother had died a natural death.
Willow looked drunk too. She was telling her that she understood. Everything she told her, she would understand.
"You're my friend" Willow murmured "You'll always be my friend. I won't lose you now. I'll ride to this castle every day, to see you. I'll enter this castle and I'll find you. I..."
Tara flinched, getting to the ugly part of her remembrance. Sadly, Willow's sentence was interrupted. They were interrupted, and the interruption had lasted one month, until yesterday, when Willow came to her room.