It's been one thousand, three hundred and twenty two days; almost four years, give or take whatever. It feels like it's been forever-but then, it also feels like it was yesterday.
Willow laughed at that thought. What a fucking cliché.
Taking one last, long drag on her cigarette, Willow flicked it to the ground and stubbed it out. It's been three and a half years, and they finally have a place. Sure, it was one bedroom, the toilet runs constantly, the kitchen has a roach infestation she swears is proportionate to Earth's population-but, it was a place.
It wasn't a sewer, or a door step, or a bar floor or even a cardboard box.
Shit, she was just glad to have a toilet. Who gives a crap if it ran and had some seriously worrying stains?
Anyway, back to that thought. Willow pushed herself of the wall, and began to walk down the gritty street.
It had been one thousand, three hundred and twenty two days, and about...sixteen hours and thirteen minutes. Willow pulled her jacket tighter around her, cast her eyes to the grey footpath.
That night is firmly in her mind, the sounds, the sight...the colour-the red. Her footsteps on the ground echo in her mind: a heart beat, ticking away seconds, minutes, hours-years. Just like a heartbeat, she can't take it back; she can't keep it moving forward.
She shook her head. She should really get back, before Faith started to worry.
Willow stepped through the heavy glass doors, about at the same moment as the loud, heavy metal music hit her ears. The smell of stagnant smoke, old beer and pool chalk surrounded her-the smell of her salvation. Her lips quirked a little at that thought; it was a strange salvation, but one none the less.
Hiking her legs up, Willow slid over the surprisingly clean bar top to land gracefully on her feet behind it. Grabbing a rack of glasses from under the bar top, Willow hefted it up and started to put them away. She lost her self in the task, lost herself in her thoughts. She thought back to the street corner, what she'd gone there to do. She wondered why he didn't show. He always showed, a different, prearranged corner every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Had never missed one, never been late. Until today.
Willow jumped a mile high when she felt a hand slap her ass.
"Yo, Red, where the hell's your head at?"
Willow scowled and flicked a dish towel at Faiths face.
"Why the fuck you always have to scare me, Faith? Huh?" Willow smirked at her, "I know you want to grab my ass, but geese, find a better excuse..."
"Yeah, right, it's me who wants to do the grabbing, not you who wants to be the grabeed..er..eeah...um...grabbered..." Faith trailed off.
"Aw, how unusual," Willow sniggered, "You confused yourself."
"Bite me, Red."
"You'd love that, Brunette."
"Girls, get your asses to work. You wanna pay the rent on your pretty new place? Then do something!"
Both girls rolled their eyes, and pulled the finger behind the retreating mans back, though it was half hearted and done with a bit of a smile.
"Yeah, yeah Lou."
They'd had the job for six months now. It was a fluke really. That, or their utter ability at being annoying.
Chalk On Ice, from the outside, looked like a dingy pool bar. It did from the outside, too. In fact, it was just a dingy pool bar.
But to the girls, it was money in the pocket. Clean money, too, which was something new to them both. No stealing, no bribing, no...well, it was clean.
They had discovered the place eight months back. Willow had spotted it, really, thinking it would be the perfect place to pull some wallets from some drunk, handsy men. They'd entered, and walked out forty five minutes later with four wallets. They contained: an old condom, DVD rental cards and a few credit cards, which would only be good for the night, before they were reported nicked in the morning. The bonus: they had three hundred and forty one dollars and sixty five cents. The returned again, and again. On the third night, a burly guy behind the bar clicked, grabbed them and threw them into a back room.
They thought he'd call the cops and them, and they'd be in juvy again.
Instead, he offered them a job.
They had started with cleaning, and got paid jack all, too. Yet still, a few nights a week, after the place had closed, Lou would let them in and they would earn themselves a few nights worth of meals.
After a few months, Lou must've thought the skinny red head that looked like she'd blow over, and the ballsy, over protective brunette had proved themselves. He soon had them pulling drinks and serving customers. Faith and Willow had fit right in. The fact that they were underage seemed to prove no problem-Lou had some kind of underground thing going on with the police that neither asked questions about. Lou asked them nothing, and they returned the favour.
A few days ago, they'd found they'd finally scraped enough money together to pay for the deposit on a crappy rental.
Last night was the last night they would ever spend on the street.
They'd vowed it.
"You pick up the keys, Red?" Faith flipped over the "Open" sign, turning it to the "Come Back When We Feel Like Opening" side. Faith thought it pointless-anyone who turned up at 2 am to this bar would be too far gone to read the tiny writing, but appreciated its meaning none the less.
Willow stretched her arms above her head, yawning as she spoke, "Yup-paid and signed for." She couldn't help but bounce a bit in her spot, her excitement a tad too much for her. She tried to hide it by sliding off the bar top where she sat.
Faith rolled her eyes, having always found the red head a little...odd. In a good way, but odd nonetheless. She couldn't help the next words, "You know, you were like, an hour late today. No biggie, you know, I covered but...the Housing Agent was just up the street." Faith rolled her shoulders and crossed her arms, "What took you so long?"
Willow averted her eyes and bent to pick up her tattered back pack, "Nothin', Faith, just had to sign some stuff I didn't realise was there. Took awhile."
"Could at least look at me while you say it, Red. A bit more convincing." Faith walked up to Willow, all joking gone from her eyes. She grabbed Willows arm and made her look up, "You were there again, weren't you?" She hissed, "I thought we sorted that shit out. I thought you and I were gonna come clean after this. In it together, out of it together? What the fuck happened to that, huh, Willow?"
Breathing hard through her nose, Willow ripped her arm away, "I wasn't doing shit, Faith. I picked up the keys."
"Since when do you lie to me"
Willow felt the anger boil, the drop, suddenly, leaving her feeling empty, "I-"
"You girls clearing out or what?" Lou lumbered out from out back, a lit cigarette drooping from his mouth, "I wanna get home and can't if you two are beating each other up in me bar."
Faith gave Willow a hard look, then turned away, "Yeah, sure Lou, let's get outta here."
A loud buzzing was being annoying. Irritating, one might even say. A crumbled, sleepy blonde head emerged from the four poster canopy bed. The face attached looked disgruntled. Her hand emerged and flicked off the alarm. She rolled onto her back and stared upwards, wishing for just another hour.
Her door creaked open, "Miz Tara, are you up? I have made your breakfast and your father wished you to be there for the meal."
Sighing, Tara rolled onto her side, "Thankyou, Sophie, I'll be there once I'm dressed."
"Okay, Miz Tara, I laid out clean clothes in your Bathroom last night."
The door shut quietly behind Sophie as she padded out.
Tara emerged into the North Wing of the house, clean and dressed for school. Her catholic school uniform made her feel...uniform. Lame, but true. She hated it. She hated her house, for all its glory, her private all girls school, she hated her town and she hated her life.
But mostly, she just hated her uniform.
Sophie opened the dining room door for her. Tara dreaded breakfast with her father and brother. She preferred it how it normally was, with them off away and her in the kitchen, eating at the little side table, talking to Sophie and forgetting things for awhile.
"Good morning, Tara."
Tara took a seat at the eight seater table. Surprised, she noted there was no Donny, only her father. "Good morning, sir. How are you?"
Her father, dressed for business in his Clergy uniform, nodded to his daughter, "I'm well. It was a busy month over in East Timor. The mission is doing well." He sipped his tea, "I hear your grades are good?"
"The same as last time, sir."
"Fine. And Graham, how is he?"
"Good." Tara buttered her toast, "He is still intent on joining the army with Riley when he finishes School."
"He's a good boy, that one. Has a good head on his shoulders."
Without further ado, his fatherly duties fullfilled, he stood up, brushing crumbs of off his lap, and started to walk towards the door, "And Tara?"
"There will be no more of last years Business, do you understand me?"
Tara lowered her eyes, "Yes sir." She swallowed, hard, "Of course."
"We exorcised those Demons, Tara."
She stared straight ahead, her eyes as blank as she felt when he spoke of this.