The alarm went off at six-thirty a.m. exactly. The strains of Natalie Imbrulgia’s “Torn” poured from the speaker of the clock radio. Groaning, Willow rolled over and turned it off. //A perfect start to another wonderful day. // Sunlight streamed through the panes of her door, hurting her bleary eyes that had barely been closed two hours.
She showered, dressed
and ate a bowl of corn flakes in a daze; the same thing she’d done this
and every morning for the past week and a half. Nothing felt right.
Buffy, Xander, Giles, Oz… all of them had commented. Each had
come to her privately to ask what was bothering her and if they could help.
Willow had blamed it on pre-graduation stress. Xander, Oz and Giles
she couldn’t tell. They would overreact, unable to be objective.
And Buffy…she couldn’t confide in Buffy for obvious reasons. It made
Willow almost physically ill that she’d
betrayed her best friend. Especially now that she had first hand experience with betrayal at the hands of a loved one.
Willow fought back tears as she gathered her books. She missed Angel so much that it was a physical ache that seemed to course through her body. He had become more than her lover. He was her friend and closest confidante. Determined though, she set her resolve face as she headed towards Sunnydale High. She would not see him until she knew whether or not she could accept what he’d done and move on.
Across town, Angel crawled into an empty bed, mentally ticking off another day without Willow. Nine nights had passed since he’d dropped her off at her door. He sighed as he rolled over, grabbing her pillow and burying his face in it. He knew he’d see her soon enough… she didn’t have a choice in that matter. But he wanted her to come to him out of love, not out of necessity.
The kitten jumped onto the bed and crawled up on his back, kneading her claws into him as she prepared for a nap. Angel gritted his teeth and allowed her to finish. If he couldn’t make Willow happy, the least he could do was let her kitten have its way.
The day was gorgeous, blue skies and not a cloud in sight. A small breeze blew over the quad and rustled Willow’s hair, but she took no notice. She was leaning against a tree, a book opened and unread on her lap. Munching an apple, she stared at some obscure point in the distance. She’d begged off lunch with the gang, claiming the need to study, hoping a little more time alone would clear her head.
“Willow Rosenberg! If it isn’t Sunnydale’s biggest cheat and…” Cordelia paused in her insult, taking in Willow’s pale face and the dark circles under her eyes. “God, Willow. You look more awful than usual! Are your nights of the living dead getting the better of you?”
Willow shook her head. “No, Cordelia, not at all. It’s nice to see you, too.”
Cordelia pounced on
the small nugget of information with glee. “No? Is there trouble
in cheater’s paradise? Did Buffy find out and give you the beating
you deserve? Darn, I would have paid daddy’s hard earned
money to see that!”
Willow sighed, not wanting to have to deal with Cordelia, too. But she had to do something she’d been putting off and now was as good a time as any. She stood up and took a deep breath, bracing herself for the lambasting that was sure to follow.
“Cordelia… I… I owe
you an apology. What Xander and I did, what I did, was thoughtless
and cruel. He was what I thought I wanted for so long.
That’s not an excuse, though. We… I’m sorry.”
Cordelia stood with her mouth agape. Never in a million years had she expected this. She finally found her voice.
“Okay. You’re right. It was wrong. But don’t try and tell me you look like death because of guilt over me. There is no way I’m buying that.”
“No, Cordelia. It’s not you. Surprising as it might be, it has absolutely nothing to do with you.” Willow replied.
Her interest piqued, Cordelia pursued, “Man trouble then. Or in your case undead vampire trouble. Good. You deserve it.”
She sat daintily on the grass and motioned for Willow to sit, too.
“I accept your apology on the condition that you share your pain. It’s
only fair that I at least get to hear about it.”
Willow sat, slightly stunned. Cordelia might not be her first choice as a sounding board, but at least she’d be brutally impartial. Hesitantly, Willow began to talk.
Cordelia handed Willow
another tissue as the teary-eyed teen finished her story. They hadn’t
gone back to class after lunch. Instead, they’d spent the afternoon
in a quiet corner of the Bronze. The brunette cheerleader found the
whole thing fascinating, although she would never admit it. Who would
have thought that Willow the geeky
mouse would wind up with such a dramatic love life. And why was she being so silly about it?
Cordelia awkwardly patted Willow’s shoulder. “Look, Willow. You’re over thinking this whole thing. You have two choices. Just pick one.”
Willow wiped her eyes and asked, “W…what? What are my choices?”
Cordelia rolled her eyes, “You really can be dense for someone with such high test scores. You have to decide what you can live with. Not forgiving him and being miserable your entire life or getting over it and getting on with it.”
Willow shook her head; “It’s not that simple. You don’t…”
Standing, Cordelia pulled her bag over her shoulder. “Yes. It is that simple. Well, thanks for sharing. It was almost as good as getting to tell Buffy about you and her boyfriend. ‘Bye.” Flashing a patented cheerleader smile, Cordelia left.
Willow wandered through
the mansion looking for Angel. She wrinkled her nose at the layer
of dust over everything. It looked like Angel hadn’t done any cleaning
in a while. Willow spotted Tupelo Honey on a
pile of dirty clothes and scooped the kitten up in her arms. She’d missed the cat almost as much as she’d missed Angel.
Cooing soft words, she carried the kitten back to the sofa in front of the fireplace. Angel obviously wasn’t home. Her stomach rolled at having to put things off any longer. Yawning, she lay down. It had been so long since she’d had any real sleep and her eyelids felt like lead.
“Just forty winks and I’ll go,” she assured herself.
In seconds, Willow was soundly asleep for the first time in over a week.
Stirring, Willow opened her eyes to find Angel watching her. He smiled, unable to contain his pleasure at being able to look in her eyes. Moving the kitten off of her, Willow sat up and refused to meet his gaze.
“Hi.” Willow’s voice was little more than a whisper.
They sat silence for a while, neither one able to take the conversation any further. Angel finally spoke up.
“Are you hungry? You don’t look like you’ve been eating right… or getting much sleep. Can I make you a sandwich, get you a drink? Or I think I’ve got some…” He stood, heading towards the kitchen.
The sound of her voice froze him where he stood. She was crying. He turned and was at her side in a flash. Willow threw her arms around him and sobbed.
“I don’t want a damn
sandwich! I don’t want an omelette, I don’t want a glass of water or a
soda or two point five kids and a house in the suburbs and a normal life.
I don’t care why you did it and I don’t care that you didn’t tell me from
the beginning.” She pushed away from him, almost stumbling backwards and
continued. "I’m going to spend the rest of my life with you and you’re
going to make me happy.” Willow smacked him hard on the arm. “I love
you and you damn well better love me back, vampire. Or I’m going
to… I don’t know what I’m
going to do to you, but it’ll be bad… real bad.”
Angel was flooded with relief. Gently, he took her face in his hands and kissed her, trying to convey all the love and happiness he wanted to share with her, always. Carefully, not breaking the kiss, he lifted her into his arms and carried her towards the bedroom and laid her on the unmade bed, drawing the comforter over them. He began to remove her clothes, then his.
Willow finally broke away.
“Don’t you think of anything else?”
“Actually, I’m thinking that you and I both deserve a good night’s sleep. And I’m wondering why you finally decided to forgive me.”
Willow answered seriously, “Because I’m going to need to be forgiven. I shouldn’t expect forgiveness if I can’t give it, right? And I love you… are we really just going to sleep?”
“Yes, little girl. Just sleep. There’ll be plenty of time for that tomorrow. And the day after, and the day after that, and the…”
Willow cut him off
with a kiss before they settled into each other’s arms and drifted into