Tara tapped her pencil restlessly against her Japanese text. The eraser muffled the sound against the pages. The voices around her in her class seemed to echo as if spoken through a soup can. She was trying to piece together her thoughts but finding it hard to do so. It's too bad they don't give us any time.
What the mission president had said concerned her. She needed to remain focused on the work she was called to do so that she might enjoy the blessings that were waiting for her. She would be able to teach the Gospel, but she had to avail herself of the tools she had been given: a willing heart, an open mind, and strength to do what was right. He had cautioned her to be wary of the temptations around her, that she needed to be strong and faithful. He said, "The mission is what matters." She had to be patient and true and let her heart light the way. She felt there was something else in the words, if she could just work it out, it would make some sense.
The language part of this MTC experience was getting the best of her. She needed to concentrate on speaking it more. She had never been that great of a student, but she wasn't dumb. She needed to use what was available to her. Maybe singing would help. Maybe the group could practice hymns tonight from the songbook, song biki, san baki, sanbika - yeah, sanbika.
She knew Conley Shimai could sing, heck she seemed to be speaking Japanese fluently already - but maybe that was because she did everything so fast. Maybe we could just really learn a song that would have meaning for us. I wonder if Willow sings.
She took a deep breath again trying to pull her mind back but the scent of the redhead was distracting. This really is a nice jacket. She absentmindedly felt the fabric on her sleeve. She needed to focus, but it was so hard. Willow had really saved her today. She had been feeling so self-conscious about the stain on her top, and the sister had been a lifesaver. Make a mental note - buy candy.
She looked at her watch for the tenth time that class. Time seemed to be stuck. She needed to work out her ideas in her journal maybe talk through her thoughts and figure out what Rosenberg had to do with the big picture. She knew there was a reason for their connection.
Willow was coming down from her sugar high as she sat in language class. Her leg had finally stopped its unconscious shaking. They should just let us have some time off after they set us apart. She wanted to remember everything. It had gone smoothly, but it was mostly a blur. She hoped that Kitchen Shimai had taken good notes and it would jar her memories of what he said.
The actual "setting apart" was different than she expected, it was actually just a blessing - the laying on of hands and a few words of guidance through the Mission president. His hands were heavy on her head. It was a little distracting. She did remember that he had said she would be able to discern the dangers that would divert her from her work, that there would be challenges and struggles along the way and that she needed to listen for guidance and follow the examples of those around her.
She was in language class not listening. This is so bad. I'm a good student. This is so not like me. Willow had been trying to pay attention, but thoughts of her other activities were consuming her mind. She needed to find a way to connect with Japanese, to make her thoughts transition the words more readily. Maybe we could try some hymns out. I'd actually like to learn these so I'm not all stupid when I get there. I mean, I'm not the world's worst singer, and I bet Tara could cover me. Oh and we still have our thumb wresting match. Maybe if I'm lucky we can run to the vending machine for a little snack.
She got lost again in thoughts of her friend. I wonder how Maclay's blessing went. She seemed so self-conscious about that little red stain. I hope she felt more confident going in. She looked very nice in my suit jacket. As she considered her last thought, she bit her lip as the image of the beautiful girl again filled her thoughts. Willow caught herself again wondering what Tara was doing at that moment. She forced herself to form a mental image of the sister sitting in the classroom across the hall listening intently to the teacher setting the perfect example - for her.
Willow reflected on what she needed to do to stay focused on her work. She hoped she'd get a chance to write in her journal tonight before they headed over for the party. Willow looked at her watch for what seemed like the hundredth time that day. She couldn't wait for the day to end and the evening fun to begin. Another sugar high was definitely in order.
Willow and Tara sat across from each other during their lunch break. Willow had grabbed some salad and a sandwich and was currently struggling with a condiment package. Tara was looking over her selection and glancing occasional to monitor Willow's progress. Her rip/tear campaign had failed miserably. It looked like the packet was a little mangled, but holding strong after Willow tried to pry it open with her fingers. She had just finished trying to tear it with her teeth. Tara sensed her frustration. She could almost see Willow's brain at work as she looked for something to help her to free the mustard.
Her sugar high was officially over and she doubted if the pudding she'd grabbed would do much of anything. She grabbed the fork preparing to go another round with the miserable little mustard packet. No sooner had she picked up the packet and fork and placed the tine in the middle preparing to poke a hole in it, she felt a something warm and soft touch her arm. Looking up she gazed into the now familiar oceans of blue.
"I just don't have a good feeling about that maneuver." Tara looked into the sea green eyes searching hers in earnest. "I'd hate to see that pretty green sweater with a matching stain like mine on it. Here let me try. Dekimasu ka?" [May I do it?] Willow was feeling a little desperate and frankly hungry and if the Maclay thought she could best the little brat packet who was she to argue.
"Knock yourself out." Willow smiled and gently tossed it over to Tara. "This I have to see." Willow folded her arms across her chest and waited for the show to begin.
Tara picked up the little package and studied it. Willow had certainly made an impression on the rectangle but not enough to gain entry. Feeling the weight of Willow's stare, Tara carefully grasped the corner of the packet in between her fingers placing the edge of her fingers along either side of the manufacturers mark. Glancing up at Willow as she pulled gently in either direction she felt the packet give a little.
"It's about finesse." Tara was teasing now. "You just have to get it started and then the mustard is all yours." Her eyes twinkled as she watched Willow react. Gotcha.
Willow gasped quietly and held her breath. Okay, you need a good wholesome response, Willow.
Oh, that's Brilliant!
Okaaaay, that's just not good.
"See, now I'm all flustered and it's the mustard's fault."
Tara pretended to be distracted by her food. Oh gosh, she is just too adorable.
"What did the mustard do?" Tara looked over at Willow with a coy and seductive smile. She just couldn't help herself she just loved goading the redhead. Oh, now I've left a huge opening. She's not going to be able to say anything without it sounding very wrong. It's just so easy with her.
"Oh, that's so unfair; you know exactly what the mustard did. It was just in there waiting to be ... "used" and the outside was impervious and then you came along and, and, and ... oh fine ... you win this round Miss Sister Maclay Shimai person."
"What?" Tara feigned innocence. She took a bite of her apple.
"Oh you know exactly what, what." Okay, she is officially evil and I think I'm really falling for her. She took another slow breath and completed her thought. God help me.
All of the girls seemed lost in thought and a little tired. It was Saturday. Sunday would alter their class schedules a little bit and then Monday it would be P-day. They would have four hours to accomplish all their preparations for the upcoming week. All Willow wanted to do now was sleep. Willow blinked slowly and glanced at her watch. Their second language class was almost over and they had a date with the other sisters.
Every day she felt more tired than the day before. This was the schedule, like it or not for the next eighteen months, so she needed to get used to it. No time outs for personal study, or a nap or just a little break; there would be no alone time, no music or television or movies or anything not related to the work. It was just her and her companion, a weekly planner and an occasional dinner appointment (DA) to break up the day's events. The training center was the only time she'd get a moment to enjoy the fellowship of so many others facing the same challenges. So tired or not, they would party.
Kitchen, Smith and Rosenberg showed up at Conley's room shortly after language let out. After the branch group sing, they had hurried through rain back to the dorms for a quick change into comfortable clothes. When they got there, Colson was giddy and had her camera out.
Despite the protests of several of the girls, she managed to talk them into a group photo. She lined all the girls up by hair color. Smith and Colson, the two lighter blondes, would take the ends - mostly because Colson was camera operator and soon to be owner of the photo. She was in charge. Kitchen and Conley sat beside their respective companions. Willow and Tara sat in the middle. Once she had everyone in a sitting position, she realized something just wasn't right.
"We're in our comfy clothes. Let's get cozy." She set the timer on the camera after several checks through the lens. "Okay, on the count of three everyone fall left and lie down. We have ten seconds before the shot." Ready? Onetwothreeee."
There was a chaotic chorus of unified yells: "Wait! No! Hang on! What? One lone voice rang out after the others: "Look out!"
Smith toppled left, Kitchen and Willow like dominoes they were falling, but the movement temporarily stopped as everyone watched in awe as Colson jumped back behind Conley.
Colson shouted out, "everyone get down." The rest of the domino sisters fell. "Okay now squoonch together."
Amazingly, the bunk held the weight, and after a lot of maneuvering, all six of the girls lined up in some semblance of a row. It was a tight fit.
The girls huddled together, stared at the camera, and started smiling.
Kitchen still holding her smile tried not to move her lips. "What did you set it for?"
Colson replied in her ventriloquist impression, "Ten seconds. Keep smiling."
Tara had been afraid to breathe, but she inhaled after a moment. She was directly behind Willow and could smell the gentle fragrance of her shampoo. She was almost against Willow's back and Conley was snug up against her. With the pressure behind her, she was finding it hard not to fall forward. Moreover, she had nowhere to put her arm.
Willow could feel Tara behind her. The sensations were almost too much to take. She felt Tara's breath on her neck and it sent a pleasant shiver through her body. She could tell Tara was tense behind her almost as though she was struggling to keep an invisible barrier between them, but then she felt a change.
A tentative arm draped across her waist. It was a light touch at first, but soon she felt it relax. She nearly closed her eyes when she felt the body behind her rest and press against her back. She could feel the warmth radiate through her. She couldn't resist the urge to push back to feel the closeness and curves of Tara as she spooned behind her.
"Okay, I'm gonna check it." Colson got up and walked in front of the camera, just as the flash went off.
Another chorus, this time all the same note: "Oh."
"That's ok, we're gonna get it, just sit tight for one more second." Colson fiddled with the camera again.
"Well at least I can relax my face." Conley said as she started stretching out her jaw and face muscles.
Willow and Tara lay quietly ... waiting.
Willow felt the arm around her waist tighten and the soft breasts and stomach mold into her back. She felt like Tara was everywhere. She was euphoric. She thought her eyes were going to roll into her head.
Colson broke the intensity, "Okay, I think I've got it. Everyone say ... um ... senkiyoshi" [missionary].
It was just a few moments and the flash went off.
Smith Shimai hopped off the bed and the others followed. Willow and Tara were last off the bed and they resumed their positions in a circle around the room on the floor.
When Tara finally glanced over at Willow, she was lost in the sea green eyes before her. Willow was looking at her with such intensity she felt like she couldn't breathe. They spoke without saying a word; their connection so intense there was no denying the power between them. Their gaze turned into a stare. Willow had to remind herself to breathe. It was as though she couldn't pull away from the ocean blue eyes. Tara was captivated as well and she couldn't move. Time stopped. The world stood still.
"Oh that was a good one." Colson had snapped a candid photo.
Neither girl knew what image Colson captured. They only knew that the one in front of them was permanently imprinted on their souls.