"Okay, Will... look at your suitcases!" Buffy was gesturing wildly, punctuating each word with a pointed finger... clearly the state of Willow's luggage was causing her some distress.
Willow spun around from the mirror after applying a light shade of lipstick and frowned in the direction of her neatly stacked luggage. There was a medium sized suitcase, one hat box and her small carry on bag. She raised her eyebrows inquiringly at Buffy.
"How on earth did you manage to fit enough clothes into that tiny little case... and where on earth are you going to fit all my presents when you come back?" Buffy grinned sweetly, batting puppy dog eyes.
Willow poked out her tongue, "Firstly, I'm going on a plane... not an ocean steamer. Secondly... I can buy another suitcase in Paris. Honestly Buffy, you should know to trust my judgment!"
Buffy gave Willow a look that said ‘I should never have doubted you,' and reached across to give her best friend a warm hug, "I am going to miss you like crazy Will!"
"Buff! I haven't even got to the airport yet and already you're about to cry!" Willow sighed in mock exasperation, she knew if Buffy started up then she would too, "Now do you think I've forgotten anything?"
"Rubbers?" Buffy asked in all seriousness as Willow turned back to the mirror.
Willow whirled on her friend, spinning around to reveal a face that had managed to go quite red in mere seconds. Her mouth worked soundlessly, all the while Buffy's smirk was widening. Snatching a scarf from her hatstand, Willow tried to wipe the smirk of her friend's face with a deft flick of her wrist.
"I'm not going to Paris to have sex with the first man I meet!" Willow said indignantly, "I mean, hello! Virgin here!"
"My point exactly!"
Willow put her hands on her hips, "Just because you did it with that great, big tall guy last year... honestly... you know, I could swear I never saw him in daylight. Anyway, just because you have doesn't mean I'm going to follow suit. I haven't found the right person yet... "
"Will, calm down... I'm just playing with you. I fully agree that finding the right person is important but I just want you to be happy!"
"I am happy... I'm going to Paris!" Willow smiled broadly but it never reached her eyes, Dammit, there's some days when I really wish she didn't know me as well as what she does... Willow looked down at her watch, "And speaking of going to Paris... my flight... "
"Where's your Mom and Dad?" Buffy asked with a frown, deciding wisely to leave the relationship conversation well and truly alone, "They not coming to see you off?"
"No, Daddy is at work of course, he's flat out with the Carrington deal... but I shouldn't complain, he did make a large deposit to my travel account yesterday. Mom is at the Society Ladies for War Widows Association meeting or somewhere much to that effect. It's no biggie really," the look on Willow's face said otherwise, "Come on, check in time is at twelve... Mr Weiss is waiting out front to drive us."
It was by far the boldest move Tara Maclay had ever even contemplated let alone actually carried out.
She had been sitting in her room, knees tucked tight against her chest as she stared out the tiny window with a heavy heart. Her father had never relented and given her permission to go... nor would he. Tara knew with gut-wrenching certainty that if she didn't take matters into her own hands then, ten years from now, she would still be sitting in the same room. Bitter and alone. She had been telling the truth when she had told her father she needed this. She needed to escape now or she never ever would. Rather than serve to strengthen her resolve, she was terrified as to what this meant. This wasn't just goodbye for the duration of her trip... it was goodbye forever. Once she walked out the front door, she wasn't coming back... damn that sounded good!
She picked up her suitcase and carry bag with trembling hands and crossed the short distance to the bedroom door. There was no reason to pause before she left her room, it had never really been any more than a place where she slept. Did I ever really live here? No... not me, someone else...
Giles was leaning on the hood of his car cleaning his glasses as she emerged from the front door. She closed it behind her with a sound that was both satisfying and terrifying all at the same time. For all it's cons, it was still her home, and it was familiar... if she took one more step forward, it would be into the unknown. Just as she was about to freak out completely, Giles was there to take her bags from her. Tara released them. If he sensed any reluctance in her movements he didn't let on.
"So your Dad didn't have a problem with you coming with me?" Giles opened the trunk to place her bags inside.
"Well... " Tara was not at all happy about having to lie to Giles and she decided on covering up a some details, "... not exactly... he had a few problems... but I think he's seen reason now."
Tara opened the passenger door. She took one last look back at the apartment where she had lived but didn't feel any pangs of regret at all, it was a home without ever really having been a home. You need people that love you to make it a real home Tara was feeling less and less regretful about leaving by the minute, Let them keep house and see how well they like it By nature, Tara had never been one to think petty thoughts but for some reason the thought of them arriving home that night to find no dinner prepared and a pile of unironed shirts caused her a feeling of immense satisfaction.
The airport was busy with people going to their destinations. People with mountains of luggage and gaggles of children in tow. Couples holding hands as they queued at the counter, perhaps on their way to their honeymoons. Business men, all ties and suits and taking absolutely no joy in the foreign locales they were jetting off to. Flight crews... pilots attired in their dashing suits, swinging their brief cases jauntily and turning the heads of every female they passed from the ages of five to fifty. Tara decided she liked the airport very much... there was so much promise... so many hopes floating around...
"When does our flight board?" Tara tried to peer over everyone in line but she couldn't see the sign.
"Two-thirty," Giles read it easily, "You want a magazine or candy bar before we board?"
Tara just shook her head, she was too excited to want either of those things. Instead she checked for the hundredth time that her passport was still in her hand and that it still contained her name, her picture... and a blank page waiting to be stamped.
Buffy stood on tip-toes but a tall man in a tweed suit was blocking her view. Rather than elbow her way through as she would in a department store sale, she reached up and tapped him on the shoulder lightly,
"Excuse me, you can't see when Flight 330 to Paris is boarding can you?"
"It's two-thirty," he replied in a crisp English accent, a friendly smile on his face.
Buffy nodded her thanks and elbowed her way back to Willow who was perched, cross legged on a chair. She was flicking through a magazine in the manner of someone who just wanted the time to pass.
"It boards at two-thirty Will, not long to wait now," Buffy returned to Willow's side.
"Boarding call for Flight 330 to Paris," the announcers voice called a few minutes later and Willow gathered her things together with feelings of both excitement and trepidation.
"Okay... okay... " Buffy was fanning herself with her hands, trying to calm herself down, "Leaving time... won't cry... won't cry..."
"Buffy, I'll be back in two months time okay... and with lots of presents!" Willow drew Buffy into her arms and hugged her warmly.
Buffy sniffled, "Just make sure his name is Pierre... or maybe Claude... oh, I don't care what his name is... just don't forget to have him gift-wrapped."
"I won't Buff," Willow whispered with a grin before letting go and moving to find a spot in the queue.
She kept turning to wave goodbye to Buffy. Not once did she see the excited blonde near the front of the line, her passport clutched to her chest in anticipation.
Tara pressed her nose against the window and watched as the New York skyline disappeared behind her.
"We're on our way to Paris," Giles leaned over her to catch a glimpse out the window and at the view that Tara was enjoying so much.
"I am going to Paris," Tara said with a growing excitement in her voice.
"What are you looking forward to the most?" Giles was flipping through a travel guide and put on his best faux French accent, "Le Tour Eiffel? Les Jardin des Tuilleries? Notre Dame?... les French boys?"
"Just being there I think," Tara replied.
Giles settled back in his seat with a fond glance across at his young charge, "It's supposed to be quite magical I'm told. You never know what'll happen."
Magic... As Tara watched the bright sunlight dance on the water that they were leaving behind she felt a surge of hope. For the first time since closing the door on Magic... For some reason she felt that this had become more than a working holiday... it was in every sense of the word a new beginning. She had no idea just how right she was.