For the longest time my dark little secret was that I was afraid. I was afraid of this one thing I seemed to have no control over, the one thing I wanted to bury under the floorboards and forget about. But it grew, and I was no longer just afraid, I was disgusted - for the most part with myself because with disgust would grow dishonesty and cowardice.
I was in love, with a girl - the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. My heart would break with even a glance from her. I tried to tell myself that it was just because I respected her and that it would only be natural that my feelings of respect would eventually drive me to seek closeness with her.
But I knew this wasn’t true, I’d felt this way before, this was attraction - pure and simple, a connection I needed to make. A container to carry the hot burrowing feeling in my stomach, making me feel weak and dizzy. I worshipped her more intently than any Goddess I could name.
I met Willow at Wicca group.
But I knew her along time before that, In my heart and my restless dreams from the few times I’d seen her beautiful face in the library or around campus. It made my heart sing and brought a smile to my face. The one or two ‘friends’ I clung to began to ask me who ‘he’ was and when I was seeing him again as my true feelings of happiness began to surface.
I lied to my friends, keeping up the pretence that ‘he’ was just a friend who enjoyed my company and spending time talking to me, because I was afraid - of their judgments and cruelties. My lie became my own personal drowning point - the lies were becoming more elaborate and was becoming more disgusted with myself because there could be no shame in loving someone as wonderful as Willow. But I still clung onto that feeling that the world would want to ridicule me.
But I confronted my fears, the cruelty of others and the contempt of my blood ties and ‘came out’ with my real feelings to the people I believed meant the most to me and the world turned into this magnificent place, with Willow in my life and her friends as my new family.
Now it was Willow’s turn to face the prejudices head on. She decided that she would tell her Mother about our relationship, I admit it hadn’t turned out as well as hoped and we were ‘basking’ in it’s glorious aftermath. She sat slumped by the front door, the hurt clearly visible across her normally angelic face. You see, Willow’s dark little secret isn’t that she’s scared how the world will see her for loving me - it’s something a little deeper than that.
“Honey, talk to me?”
“Well…that majorly sucked…” She sighed.
A smile graced my lips. “It’s true it’s not the happy ending we were inevitably fishing for.”
She raised a brow. “That’s it!” She sat up and the pout crept over her face.
“I’m cutting you off! No more studying ancient texts with Giles, cos you’re starting to channel him… Next you‘ll be asking if I would ‘mind ever so much’ fixing you up some tea and getting you a copy of the Daily Mail - purely for the cricket results you understand!”
I could feel the grin forming and sat down next to her. “Would you? - be a love, ooh and a copy of The Sun…purely for the page three girls you understand.”
“But….but they’re half naked! You can see their….” She made what I can only describe as a crude melon squeezing motions.
I wiggled my eye brows suggestively.
“Oh veeery funny!”
I smiled. “A gal has to feel useful round here with ya’ll out fightin’ demons, sugar.” I gave her a wink. “Besides I have to keep up with the spells…it’s a little harder for me and Mr Giles is a good teacher.”
The frown dropped away from her face and was quickly replaced with a smirk, then she leaned in for a kiss before laying her head in my lap. “Why did this all get so screwed up?”
“I wouldn’t really say it’s screwed up - I mean this is a huge thing to process in one go - your Mother probably just needs a little time.”
Willow shifted in her position and looked up at me. “Nu uh, this is just typical of her - If she can’t accept it she just denies it, she can displace the information and still live in denial land - doesn‘t she know what ‘De Nile’ is a river?”
I was just waiting for her to get up and start pacing.
“I mean - there was the whole trying to burn me at the stake thing…never spoken of again.” She waved her hands in the air in a little ‘poof’ motion.
I tilted my head. “Is that what’s really bothering you? Your Mother denying it or you?”
“Because I thought you were happy that she wasn’t involved in our lives?” She gave me the puppy dog frown. “I promise I’m getting to a point here.”
I smiled. “Isn’t this the same kind of thing? - she isn’t involved…we hardly see her, she denies what you have told her…we hardly ever see her to talk about it anyway.”
“Yeah but she makes me kinda angry..”
“Why?” I wanted to let her finish without me coaching her - to find out the real reasoning for her contempt at the situation.
She looked at me with big teary green eyes and a tiny voice and her dark little secret was to be revealed. “I want her to take an interest, but she wont even accept me for me.”
And finally we were there, Willow still seeked the approval from her parents after all this time. For all the years she had driven herself by herself, she had always craved the praise and the pride she achieved solely for.
“Honey, just because she doesn’t wear her emotions out there on her sleeve doesn’t mean she isn’t proud of you or you haven’t lived up to her expectations…You know that right?”
She sat up and looked me in the eyes. “You think so?…she never shows it, neither does Dad…I guess it’s just cos I’m not carrying on the Rosenberg genius…I‘m not some well known psychologist rewriting theories and research books.”
“Does it help that you’ve read most of the books ever written?” I said with a sympathetic smile.
“Well more like scanned them…”
“And had better grades than anyone in the class, even after everything that happened?”
Willow smirked. “Well I found someone who inspired me…”
“…But she’s always gone on about Grandchildren. Cute little red haired grandchildren.”
“H-hair color has been k-k-known to skip a generation or two.” I said. Damn that treacherous stutter.
“L’Oreal manufacture some great shades.” she said with a shrug.
“You know what I think?”
“That you love me more than yesterday?” She said with a satisfied smile.
I grinned back. “Of course, but also…I think that your Mother wouldn’t have reacted at all if she didn’t take any pride in you or who you are.”
“You think I’m being stupid don’t you?” She said with crossed arms.
“No, I think it’s a silly notion to think your parents don’t care…but it’s perfectly human to want your parents to be involved in everything you do.”
“Pride.” She said simply. “It’s just like that film, with Kevin Spacey all mad and hairless and the head in the box at the end. Oh Goddess…I’m turning into Brad Pitt…”
I laughed. “I should hope not…that man needs to find a razor half the time….still, he is cute like a puppy.”
“Hey now…sitting right here!”
“Willow, I’m going out for a bit.”
She looked at me, more than a little puzzled. “Whaa? Where are you going?...what are you doing?”
“I’m going to channel Mr Giles a little more.”
“Not the tweed, please not the tweed…me and Kitty...well…we just wouldn’t be able to handle it, I-it‘s all scratchy and dull, did I mention scratchy?…I like bright, clingy and non coordinating you!”
I tried not to laugh as I stood. “Ah yes, flattery.”
“What is it then?”
“I’m going to exercise the English forwardness and speak to your parents.”
Willow’s eyes went wide. “You remember when Glory sucked your brain away? You were there but you couldn’t find a way out? Imagine that times infinity and without the loss of sanity!”
“Will, it’s okay - I’ve never really introduced myself to them…I figure this as good a time as any. I promise I wont be gone long.” I picked up my bag and headed for the door. “And if you’re good while I’m away…I’ll pick up some donuts.”
She grinned, one of the best ways to calm a worried Willow is to feed her…I swear she picked it up from Xander.
I made my way through the streets, out to the suburbs where all the houses and yards seemed to look and feel the same. Hardly any children out playing games. I was half expecting all the residents to come out at the same time to mow the lawns. As I got closer to the Rosenberg residence I realized my time would have been more productively spent figuring out something at least half decent to say, rather than ‘Hi, I’m practically your daughter-in-law and I thought I would just pop by for coffee on the off chance that you will welcome me in with open arms.’
I hadn’t even realized I was already standing at the front door. I brushed down my skirt and blouse and took a deep breath before I knocked. Mr Rosenberg answered, his reading glasses half way down his nose.
“Hi Mr Rosenberg..”
“Ah Willow’s friend right?”
“Come on in.”
He stepped aside and welcomed me in. Even though it wasn’t the first time I had visited I still couldn’t resist a sly glance at the pictures along the walls. Willow, Buffy, Xander and Oz all in their gowns for graduation - all looking a little tattered. Mr and Mrs Rosenberg being handed an award at a presentation, and a family shot - where I could only hazard a guess that Willow must have been around two or three years old. I smiled, they were all huddled together and all looked so happy.
Mr Rosenberg closed the door. “Is everything okay? I mean I half expected Willow to be with you.”
“Actually Mr Rosenberg, I came to speak with you and Mrs Rosenberg.”
He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. “Please call me Ira, You are a grown woman after all, between you and me and although Sheila seems to think it only appropriate - It makes me feel a little old.” He smiled and I returned it.
He ushered me through to the kitchen. “Would you like a drink? I’m afraid Sheila isn’t back yet. I’m surprised you didn’t see her actually - she said she was going to visit Willow.”
“I’m fine thank you, She did stop by…unfortunately we didn’t all part on the best of terms and I wanted to come over to fix things.”
“Well I’m sure it isn’t anything that can’t be fixed.” He turned and walked around the kitchen table pulling out a chair. “Please take a seat…apologies for the clutter on the table…Sheila and I are due to go away to a seminar in Las Vegas in a few days…never hurts to start getting yourself organized early, wouldn’t you say?”
I nodded as I sat down. I could see where Willow got her eagerness from, always prepared for anything well in advance. My attention turned to the hallway as I heard the front door shut.
“Ira? Are you in the kitchen? I have something we must talk about…”
Mrs Rosenberg breezed in from the hallway and into the kitchen.
“I’m glad you’re back, Willow’s friend Tara stopped by to talk to us….” Mr Rosenberg began.
Mrs Rosenberg looked a little shocked at my presence. “Tara? What are you doing here?”
I stood from the chair. “I came over to talk to you and Mr Rosenberg…”
“Ira.” He added
“Ira.” I finished, with a nervous smile in his direction.
“Don’t you think it would be polite to get our visitor a cup of coffee?” She looked to Ira.
I jumped in. “Actually Mrs Rosenberg, Ira did offer but I didn’t want a drink. I realize you both must be busy right now - with the trip and all but I thought this was important.”
She sat down at the table and Ira sat down next to her. I took a seat and cleared my throat.
“I realize that things must have come as a shock to you today.”
“Just a little..” Mrs Rosenberg answered a little defensively.
“Was there a problem Sheila? I thought it was just a social call?” Ira shifted a little in his seat.
“It’s what I wanted to talk to you about Ira, I didn’t know Tara would be here. Willow and Tara are together.”
“Well of course they are..” He chuckled. “We helped Willow move some of her things over last year. You thought it was a wonderful thing Willow was gaining her own independence.”
“No I mean ‘together’ together.” Mrs Rosenberg continued.
Ira frowned for a moment, considering the information he had just been given. Then it sunk in.
“As I said, it must have come as a shock to you today.”
Mrs Rosenberg relaxed a little and slipped into a more formal manner. Professional mode was now activated, this was going to be tricky. “You have to understand this is a huge issue to deal with right away.”
I looked down at the table as if it was the most interesting thing in the world. “Is it though? I mean, an issue?”
I could feel her staring at me before Ira continued. “Well, it’s commonplace for people of your age to have these type of feelings…especially as you both spend so much time in each other’s company.”
He shifted a little and continued. “…I’ve dealt with many cases…I mean it even happens in extreme situations, for example hostages or kidnap victims have been known to develop strong physical and emotional feelings for their aggressors after long periods of time…”
“I am aware of Stockholm Syndrome Mr Rosenberg…but this isn’t at all like that…Neither of us is forcing the other into this…we both care deeply about each other…I promised her I would take care of her and protect her.”
Mrs Rosenberg interrupted. “In my professional opinion I believe this to be merely a phase…”
“And in your parental opinion?” I looked up and challenged her, slightly annoyed with her instant dismissal of my feelings. She didn’t say anything and so I continued.
“I have never loved anyone as much as I love Willow, Mrs Rosenberg and I will never hurt her, if that means you have to hate the idea of us being together…”
“You’d leave her?” She questioned.
I looked her in the eye. “No. I would be all the family she has been for me…but I really hope it doesn’t have to be that way. I don‘t want her to be caught in a situation where she feels compelled to choose…this isn‘t what all of this is about.”
She sighed. There were quite a few moments of silence. Sheila stood and paced a little, I had to hide a smile by biting my lip as I recognized the movements mirrored by Willow earlier that afternoon. Ira sighed and lightly drummed his fingers on the table as if some mystical rhythm would give him the answer.
Sheila stopped and sat back down, she looked to Ira who nodded.
She looked back to me. “Are you both happy?”
“Very much so, I love her with all my heart.”
“Does she feel the same?”
“It’s going to take some time for us to get used to it, I feel like we barely know our own daughter any more.”
In that moment I noticed how truly sad she looked.
“If it makes any difference, Willow feels the same…and because of it she seems to think that you both are disappointed with her. It’s like she believes that because you haven’t taken as active a roll in her life recently…you aren’t proud that she’s achieved so much. I told her that I didn‘t think that was true.”
Ira looked at me. “We just thought that she would fair much better if we let her start making her own choices…we just saw things through our professional eyes. But we have always been proud of her achievements. ”
Sheila nodded. “She’s was always so consistent with her grades and her awards and she‘s always topic of conversation at our seminars.”
“I guess, maybe she just needs to hear it once in a while.” I gently slipped in, after all I’m pretty sure they don’t need parenting tips from me.
Mrs Rosenberg looked at me with a shocked and somewhat horrified expression…maybe the advice was a little too much.
“Oh Tara, I’m sorry - I’m usually so brash with you…ordering you round your own home…such.”
I smiled, a little relieved. “It’s okay, really…In all fairness you really don’t know me that well, but I’d like to get the chance to get to know you both if you’d like to get to know me better. You both have always been welcome at the apartment.”
She took a quick glance at the table before looking back at me. “Please don’t take this the wrong way, I just think….Ira and myself just need a little time to adjust first.”
I nodded…at least it was a starting point.
“Well after that I think I need a cup of caffeine…anyone care to join me?” Ira asked and I nodded with a smile.
I made my way back home, feeling, well - a little proud of myself actually. I opened the door and scanned around looking for Willow, who was sitting cross legged on the couch.
“Oh thank the Goddesses, you’re still in one piece…did they try analyzing you or start calling you Terri?”
I placed the box of donuts on the counter in the kitchen as I breezed through. Willow got up and followed me in.
“Tara?…please talk to me…it was much worse wasn’t it?”
I picked up a donut. “Piece of cake.”