"My m-mind�s not the b-best p-place to b-be right n-now, W-Willow."
I wrapped my arms around myself and didn�t look at her when I answered her question about what was bothering me. It was a harsh reply underscored by my soft, near whisper, voice and lack of eye contact. I don�t want to subject her to my personal torments.
Gods...I hate being like this...but when it�s been verbally beaten into you, repeatedly, about how worthless you are, you come to accept it as truth. "You" meaning "me." And when someone tries to tell you differently, you think they�re lying to make you happy...and that they know the truth and they�ll leave you when you�re no longer useful or amusing.
They always do.
"Baby..." She was speechless. I don�t blame her. It�s tough to talk to someone who won�t listen. Instead, she tried to hold me, to give me the comfort I crave, but am afraid to ask for. I back away from her. Can I let her into the throbbing pain that is my heart and soul?
Thank the Gods she�s persistent. This time, when she stepped forward to hold me, I welcomed the embrace...backed, as I was, against the table. I would have given in sooner or later anyway...why wouldn�t I?
"It�s okay, baby...let it out..."
With those simple words, she gives me the key I need to unlock my shell enough to let her in. Just a little.
I want to love her. I ache to do so, but can I without poisoning her? She�s survived the Hellmouth for so long...can she brave the storm of my insecurities?
I pull back from the embrace and search her bright green eyes. Among the tears welling there, I find patience, love, trust, love, strength, love, understanding, and, well, everything that makes Willow Willow...
Did I mention love?
I sigh and sit us both down on my bed, without daring to break the physical contact. Over the next few hours, I tell her everything. I let it tumble out of me, releasing the darkness in my soul and handing over what I can find of my heart.
I don�t make eye contact with her. I wouldn�t be able to tell her everything if I looked into her eyes again and found the jade darkened by disgust.
Finally, once I�ve run out of words (at least until the next downpour of self-depreciation), she lifts my chin so she can look into my eyes.
"I love you, Tara. Never, ever forget that."
She pushes my hair behind my ears, then caresses my cheek, the love emanating from her eyes pure and true.
"No one�s said that to me before...and meant it," I say as I smile awkwardly.
"Oh baby...I do. With every fibre of my being I do."
*Do I deserve to be loved? Can I ever be enough for her?*
"You do deserve love, Tara," she tells me as if she read my mind. "And you�re more than enough for me, but not in a �too much too soon� kind of way, or a �I can�t handle her� kind of way, but you�re more than enough in a �I can�t get enough of you, never ever ever so it�s good you�re more because all I want from life IS you� way." She forces herself to stop babbling as the blood rushes to her cheeks, turning them the same delectable shade of red as her hair.
I can�t speak. I can only croak as my tears roll unbidden down my face and into her hands as they come up to cup it. She leans forward and kisses me gently, assuredly. It felt like the first time and the millionth time, though it was, in truth, the twelfth. I�ve kept track.
How is it that she makes me feel like a human being? Whole...special...loved...that our love is the truth...? Someday, I�ll have to ask her, but for now, it�s the best thing she could ever do for me.
I press into the kiss, letting her know that the truth has gotten through to me. I use that truth to chip away at the gritty filth that�s been fried to my Self by every cruelty that been inflicted on me...and I make a vow to not let it happen again. I think I can keep this one because I�ve got Willow to help me back up when I fall into the dirt and dust of hatred.
I pull back from the kiss to once again gaze into the wonder of Willow and I breathe to steady myself.
"I love you, Willow."
She smiles, relieved, as if she were worried that I didn�t love her back. How could I not?
"I love you, too," she whispers, a song that calls out to me. I lean forward and kiss her again, briefly, before we lie down and are just there with each other. Sometimes we talk, sometimes we kiss, sometimes we touch. Mostly, we just look into each other�s eyes, stating, reaffirming, giving and loving.
I�m not an advocate of easier living through magick, but, just this once, I break my rule and turned off the lamp by calling on the forces of nature. With a quick apology for the abuse of the powers given to me, I allow Willow to cover what she can of me with her slim frame, to cover me from the mental abuse I�ve suffered at the hands of others and myself. I feel safe.
I wrap my arms around her waist and hold her flush against me. She hears my heart rate pick up and pulls back to look into my eyes.
"We have the rest of our lives for everything else. Tonight is for you, to make you know and understand how much I love you, my friends love you, how beautiful you are and how incredibly lucky I am to have you near me, much less love me." She then smiles and dips her head to kiss me.
"I love you, Tara...so, so much."
More tears leak from my eyes, which she promptly kisses away. "I love you, too, Willow...so, so much."