5th March 1788
My hands shakes for a reason other than excitement tonight...events have moved to the point where I now feel as if I am standing on the edge of a precipice and I know I shall fall. W surprised me at a soiree this evening by making no attempt to disguise her desire to speak with me alone. I thought perhaps after Edward's announcement that she would disavow all knowledge of our relationship. However, she made it very clear that this was not her desire for us.
"I want you to leave with me," W asked simply as we were alone in a secluded hallway of Hagley Park, "I cannot abide the thought of you wed to that foul toad Edward Walsh, you must leave with me."
I was struck dumb by the fierce intensity in her voice and I knew that these were no mere girlish dreams that she was giving voice to. W was serious in her intent...and I must admit that I was scared.
"Where would we go?" I asked in a strangled whisper.
"Paris...anywhere in Europe...even America!" W grasped both my hands in her own, squeezing them firmly and holding them to her breast, "Abraham will see us safely anywhere we wish to go...and you know there is the money for us to do this, he will deny us nothing. It is simple!"
My dear, dear W...she could not even begin to understand the ties that bound me to Edward Walsh and my intended fate. She could only understand love...
"I can leave," I admitted, "But my family would be ruined...our lands lost to debtors, my parents and siblings destitute, not all are fortunate enough to have the family fortune you have inherited from your parents...in marrying Edward I will save my family."
W's brow furrowed as though she were mulling over this information in her mind, her solution was all too simple, "Why not allow me to help...I'm sure Abraham would..."
"W, please desist with your follies!" I stamped my foot in exasperation, if only she would make it easy on me, "The only course of action is for me to marry Edward...anything else is unacceptable to society."
"I love you, Tara," W protested, "surely that is all that matters?"
With those impassioned words she threw herself forward into my arms and pressed her lips to mine. That kiss served to remind me that we belonged together, W and I, the skin on my lips melded to hers, I closed my eyes and I was lost to her touch. At that point I began to entertain the thought that perhaps her folly would work, and we would be able to find a place where we could be together, away from my family and Edward.
My lips parted with a gasp as she thrust her tongue into my mouth, I accepted it hungrily, my hands cupping her face. She forced me back against the wall with one fierce shove as our kiss continued, growing in intensity. I felt her begin to tug at my skirts with one hand, lifting them over my knee and up my thigh until she reached the hem and her hand could find its way beneath. I parted my thighs eagerly; god knows I needed her regardless of the open hallway in which we stood.
It was as her fingers tugged at the laces on my underwear that our kiss broke as I felt her weight cruelly dragged away from my body. I opened my eyes in time to see W thrown back against the opposite wall of the hallway, a man stepped between us. It was Edward, his face alight with fury as he drew back his hand and slapped W across her face with all the force he could muster. She fell, sprawling on the ground at Edward's feet. I cried out, dashing to my W's side but Edward grabbed me by my hair and yanked me backwards. Tears were brimming in my eyes as I looked to W crumpled on the ground. I saw her stir; she rose into a crouching position before using the wall as an aid to stand. With her cheek already a violent red, she stood and faced Edward and I. With fire in her eyes she stepped towards us. Edward threw me to one side as Willow approached.
Even now I can still see W, standing toe to toe with Edward, him towering over her small frame. She would not back down. Even when he threatened to give her the beating she deserved she did not flinch once. Edward was as immovable as a rock, I could see in his eyes the immense and overwhelming hatred he felt for W for the simple fact that, even though he may marry me, she will forever remain the one I love. I screamed as Edward raised his fist, rushing to restrain the hot-headed fool but he shoved me aside once more with a mere flick of his hand. I was thrown into the wall behind me and collapsed like a sack of flour with the wind knocked out of me. It was at that precise moment, just as Edward was about to bring his fist crashing down on W, that someone else rushed past me to restrain him. I saw a flash of red hair, a military uniform. Abraham Van Helsing was on Edward Walsh in a second, the dandy hardly having time to turn his head before the hardened captain drove his fist straight into Edward's nose. A shower of blood spewed forth, staining Edward's shirt and sending him flying away from W. Abraham pressed forward and seized the fallen man by the scruff of his bloodied shirt, hauling him upwards so the two of them were nose to nose. One trembling with fear, the other with barely controlled rage.
"If you ever lay a hand on my sister I will see to it personally that you never use either of your hands again...that should be simply enough put even for the likes of you!" Abraham growled, "I wish to god I could stop you from marrying Tara as well..."
It was at that point that Edward laughed, and it wasn't the laugh of someone even remotely amused...it was the laugh of insanity, the whites of his eyes were huge as he met Abraham's stare.
"But you can't can you, Captain?" his voice was high-pitched, close to a shriek, "Your abomination of a sister is going to spend the rest of her life knowing that I'm the one who gets to take my rights with my wife...and be most assured, I will take them!"
I could see the desire to do murder written plainly on Abraham's face and I desperately wanted him to go through with it, to drive his fist again and again into Edward's face until the bastard was nothing but an unrecognisable and bloodied corpse. Yet I knew that would only bring instant satisfaction and not the lasting life of peace with W that I craved. I knew at that point that there was nothing that I could do that would bring about the end I craved with all my being...although I could not guarantee W's happiness; at least I could guarantee her protection. If Abraham were labelled a murderer, she would be left completely alone. It almost killed me to do it but I threw myself over Edward even as Abraham was about to lose himself to the rage, pleading for the Captain to spare him, vile a man as he was. I will never forget the look of incomprehension on Abraham's face, or W's as I pleaded to spare the life of the man I most loathed in all the world. I watched on as Abraham backed away from us both and turned his back on me to face his sister. I only saw W's face for a moment but it was more than enough to reduce me to tears. The expression of disbelief and pain that was written there forced a terrible sob from my throat that might have been an attempt to say her name. Within seconds she was gone, bundled away from the scene by Abraham and I was left kneeling next to a bloodied, dazed Edward.
Although I am quite sure that I am now rendered less than whole with the loss of my W and my impending union with Edward, I cannot accept that my life is over. While I fear I will never again know love, I will know duty.
...while I fear I will never again know love, I will know duty...
Willow traced her fingertips gently over the long dried ink on the page of the diary from which she read, feeling the anguish that Tara must have felt through the physical contact with the paper. The last line for the entry was written with such fierce strokes that the words were intended into the page...and duty had been underlined thrice. She snapped the small volume shut and clutched it tightly against her chest. Feeling her eyes burn fiercely, Willow turned to stare out the window of the train and lost herself for a few moments in the tranquil French country side rolling by. As she felt one hot tear escape to slide down her cheek, she heard the door to the compartment side open. She discreetly dashed the tear away as she shoved the diary into the writing case at her feet.
"Reading?" Myles inquired a little too cheerfully, "I always find..."
He stopped abruptly when he noticed the tell-tale moisture on Willow's cheek, while Myles Cavendish had no great understanding of women, he did know enough to know when he was intruding on a private moment. He took his seat on the opposite side of the compartment and fell asleep rather quickly.
Willow glanced across as the young man started snoring in a forced manner and she managed a smile. She herself found sleep rather impossible, there were far too many thoughts racing through her mind for her to be calm enough for sleep. Instead she settled for the scenery.
Before long the low farmland gave way to the outer suburbs of Paris and eventually their stop. Myles jerked awake as the train ground to a halt and Willow was already gathering their luggage from the racks overhead.
"We're to meet our guide at five in the evening, at this hotel," Myles said as he and Willow stepped off the train and onto the bustling platform, "I've got the name of the hotel somewhere."
Willow turned and regarded him through narrow eyes, "Why is it that Giles trusted you with such an important piece of information?"
"Something about instilling a sense of responsibility," Myles shrugged, "Should we just go to the hotel and wait?"
"I guess," Willow mused glancing down at her attire, "Although I do think we should pay a little visit to a clothing store...Giles was right, I'm dressed for the library...not for the field."
Myles grinned, "This will be fun, I've never seen you wear anything other than those boring old suits of yours...it's high time you wore something a little more flattering."
Willow cuffed the young man over the back of his head, "How the hell would you know anything about fashion?"
"I know enough to know that what you're wearing..." Myles nodded in Willow's direction, "Is not fashion."
Giles had seen fit to include the card of the store he mentioned that morning in Myles' small collection of instructions and locations. While Willow had at first been hesitant to spend Museum funds on clothing, she had decided that it was a sensible course of action given their destination. So it was an hour later that Willow glanced down at herself and wondered if what she was now wearing was fashion. For some reason she decided that it definitely was not.
Willow stepped in front of the provided mirror and studied her reflection with a serious frown. She'd modelled her attire after Faith of course, being the only globe trotting adventurer that she knew, but for some reason she did not look like her dark-haired friend. Her feet were clad in high, sturdy brown leather boots of the type worn by military officers and serious explorers laced up to just below her knee. Willow then examined the leather trousers; she shifted a little uncomfortably as they were tight even on her decidedly non-curvy frame. Flicking up the back of her leather coat she turned her back to the mirror and glanced over her shoulder at the way the pants hugged her bottom rather scandalously. She sighed, for the most part her jacket would be covering the offending area and they would be out of civilised company for much of the trip. Although, as Willow studied this particular view of her reflection for a moment longer, she had to admit that it was not an unpleasant sight the way the leather hugged her flanks. Red creeping into her cheeks, she glanced at the changing room door to check that no one had been observing her at the moment. She then faced the mirror front on once more, adjusting the collar of her shirt and lamenting the lack of a bow tie...she was savvy enough to realise that a tie would not compliment her outfit. To complete the outfit, she wore a green heavy cotton jacket beneath her thick leather coat which brushed the tops of her boots and was sure to keep most of the travelling dust at bay. With a deep breath, Willow stepped out of the changing room to Myles' enthusiastic approval. He saw fit to add a wide-brimmed leather hat as a last addition and Willow had to admit that it did serve to make her seem at least a little dashing.
When the two of them returned from their shopping expedition to the small, out of the way hotel in which they were spending the night, there was a man of around Willow's age seated in the lobby. Once glance at him and Willow could tell he was a little ill at ease in his surroundings. He was perched awkwardly on the very edge of the plush chair as though it would swallow him up if he sat on it in the normal fashion. His clothes were clean but well worn and definitely the attire of a man of action as opposed to one who spent his time behind a desk. Willow could see the way his shirt hugged his rather large biceps and the curved corners of his lips which meant he was prone to smiling often. She supposed that a lady not of her inclinations would find him to be rather attractive and, given the way his grin was rapidly forming at the sight of her, the gentleman no doubt was fully aware of this. He practically leapt out of the chair as though grateful to be able to stand and took a few quick strides towards Willow and Myles. Despite Myles' admiring stare, he only seemed to have eyes for Willow.
"Hey there little lady, I'm Alexander Harris...Alex to all the ladies, I believe I will be your guide for your journey into the dark and dangerous depths of Eastern Europe," Alex placed his worn and weathered hat on his head and tipped it jauntily.
Willow eyed him suspiciously before replying in a rather rude tone, "I trust that you'll have the good sense to avoid the dark and dangerous bits and just take us where were need to go."
Alex's smile slowly morphed into a confused frown, and he paused to scratch his head for at least a minute before replying. It was as though her were trying to figure out whether the ‘little lady' was pulling his leg or being completely serious.
"But Ma'am, it's the dark and dangerous bits that I'm being paid to take you to..." He looked her up and down, eyes roaming over her entire get up, from her un-scuffed leather boots to the smart jacket and hat, neither of which had never known rain or dust, "Say, just how much experience do you have in the field?"
"None," Willow replied promptly, quite proud to admit that she had never sullied herself with such things, "I'm a researcher."
Alex was staring at Willow in an expression of outright shock when Myles slipped between them and held out his hand with an enthused expression on his face. Still struck mute, Alex took the younger man's hand in his own.
"Myles Cavendish at your service, Mr Harris!" Myles pumped Alex's hand rather firmly in his enthusiasm.
With his gaze going back and forth between Willow and Myles (especially staring at the young man's pith helmet), Alex could barely contain himself. His expression took on a rather worried turn when he realised that he would be escorting the two greenest expedition greenhorns in continental Europe. He tipped his hat again before backing away from them both slowly.
"Um, I'd best be turning in for the night...I'll meet you both on the train tomorrow morning, right?" he turned, not waiting for an answer and walked away muttering something about having to find a new line of work.
Willow and Myles watched Alex take the stairs two at a time, soon disappearing from sight. Willow turned to Myles and shrugged, "I guess we should try and get some sleep as well...I think it might be a long day tomorrow."
While Willow managed to make it into bed with the covers tucked securely beneath her chin at a respectable hour, she could not bring on sleep. She kept telling herself that she was exhausted after their boat and train journey during which she had not slept a wink, indeed she had spent most of the boat journey hanging over the railings emptying the contents of her stomach.
After an hour of fruitless tossing and turning, Willow finally re-dressed herself and made her way back downstairs. The hotel lobby was mostly deserted, with just the front desk clerk looking extremely bored and impatient for his shift to be over, and two gentlemen talking over brandy and cigars near the bar. Not being particularly keen on the idea of drinking or smoking herself to sleep, Willow made towards the front door with the intention of popping out for a brisk walk in a well lit area. She was drawn up short of the door when she saw a figure standing at a nearby window, elbows propped up on the windowsill as he gazed longingly outdoors. It was Myles, clad in his bulky overcoat as though he were heading outside.
"Myles?" Willow asked, effectively announcing her presence lest she startle the young man. "It's rather late, are you not tired?"
He spun away from the window with a slightly sheepish grin, "I really want to see Paris, even just a little...but being so late and all I was afraid to go out on my own...and I did not know if you would approve."
"Well, given that I was about to head out on my own I can hardly be one to protest...how about we take a stroll together?" Willow offered, not entirely sure that company was what she sought but feeling sorry for the young man who so desperately wanted to get out on the town.
"Are you sure?" Myles leapt up from his leaning position with a broad smile, "You bet, thanks awfully, Miss Rosenberg."
"Willow, please Myles," Willow urged as they made their way out into the night air, Myles holding the door open for her. "You make me feel like a school teacher calling me ‘Miss Rosenberg' all the time."
"Sure...Willow," Myles beamed, striking up a rather jaunty strut as he set out on the footpath.
Willow followed suit, pleased to find the streets around the hotel well lit with electric lighting, much the same as in London. People were still strolling about although most were hurrying home. To all outward appearances, Willow and Myles appeared to be two young Englishmen taking in their first sights of the city...which was very much the truth excepting of course that Willow was a woman. They were able to wander quite freely and at the brisk pace both had set they covered a great deal of ground. Myles was quite sure he was leading them in the direction of the Seine and Notre Dame but as they continued on doubts began to form in Willow's mind about Myles' sense of direction.
The two travellers found themselves in an area with fewer streetlamps and ominously dark alleyways that they both scurried past rather quickly. Someone whistled in a low tone and both Willow and Myles spun to see two women emerge from a nearby doorway.
"Here's a handsome pair of young men, looking for a good time I'll bet?" the nearest asked, she was clad in a particularly violent shade of yellow that did not compliment her pale, blotchy skin.
"Is that right, you boys looking for a good time?" her companion asked, she was almost pretty although wearing so much rouge on her cheeks it gave her the appearance of a doll.
Her red dress was cut so low that Willow glanced down and saw the dark areola surrounding her nipple, Willow felt heat rise in her cheeks. It was definitely the closest she had ever come to seeing breasts other than her own and not in a dream but all she felt was a cold terror.
"No...I mean yes we're having a good time...but we're fine thanks," Willow stuttered, canvassing the best route of escape, unfortunately there was a dead end in front of them and the prostitutes moved to block their path.
The two approached, practically backing the unfortunate pair against a wall behind them. Willow cringed with her back pressed against the wall in effort to escape the red-frocked prostitute who was several times taller and heavier than her and drenched in a scent that Willow was quick to discover made her sneeze. Meanwhile her companion in the yellow dress was stroking Myles' pink cheek, the young man staring rather raptly down at her bosom which was peering from the top of her dress.
Willow sneezed again as the prostitute placed one hand on the wall beside her, moving so close their bodies were almost touching,
"Sacre bleu! My but you are a pretty boy!" she exclaimed, pinching Willow's cheek, "For you I will make a special offer, two francs for a knee trembler but for ten francs I will take you back to my room for a whole hour of love making...it is a good offer non?"
"Ah, it's a very good offer...but I'm honestly not interested!" Willow squeaked, her back sliding along the wall as she inched further away.
"Oh, I bet you are," she breathed.
Willow almost squealed aloud as the frisky prostitute made to reach for her crouch, in lieu of having a broom or some such object to fend off the unwanted attentions of the lady of the night, Willow had to make do with her own nimble feet. She darted out from beneath the woman's outstretched arm and seized Myles by his sleeve.
"Ah, Myles, now would be one of those times that we should run!"
Still dragging the young man (who seemed to be digging his heels in for some reason), Willow tore out of the dead-end street and kept running as fast as she possibly could. She received an awful shock when she glanced back over her shoulder to see that the two prostitutes were not about to give up potential clients that easily. They had hitched up their skirts and were running after the pair, white legs flashing in the night. Willow increased the pace, as well as ducking down a side street that appeared to offer more potential for hiding places.
"I've got twenty francs in my pocket!" Myles called out to her as they ran, "Isn't this what you're supposed to do when you're in Paris?"
Willow glanced across at the hopeful expression on his face with a furious one of her own, "If you're a sailor...which you are not! Not to mention that's museum money in your pocket!"
Myles shrugged; obviously he had the feeling that it was a valid travelling expense. Willow groaned in exasperation and glanced over her shoulder once more. They were still there. She rounded another corner up ahead, not caring where she was leading them and ducked down a rather darkened alleyway. Halfway down she dragged Myles into a doorway and the two of them pressed their backs against the door, melding into the shadows as much as possible.
Willow soon heard the heeled shoes of the prostitutes on the cobbles and she feared they would somehow hear her hoarse breathing. She tried to slow it down somewhat but exertion combined with anxiety meant that this was almost impossible. A few seconds later it became apparent that the prostitutes were going to run straight past them without pausing to check the alley. Willow exhaled loudly and beside her Myles sighed. She reached over and patted him on the shoulder.
"You're a good-looking lad Myles, I'm sure you'll meet a young lady worthy of your attentions," Willow reassured him.
She saw Myles face turn towards her in the dim light, "Are you sure about that? I think I'm a bit skinny for the ladies."
"Skinny or not, I have no doubt you'll be successful in love," Willow added, thinking perhaps she had gone a little tone far in her reassurance when she saw the beaming grin on Myles' face.
They waited for at least a minute to emerge from their hiding place, just to be sure that the two prostitutes had gone. Willow and Myles found themselves quite alone in the alley, breathing a collective sigh of relief. Such sighs were short-lived however as two figures moved to block the entrance to the alley. Both men were wearing ragged, bulky clothing with hats low over their brows. Even in the darkness Willow could see the gleam of the knives they wielded. She reached out and dragged Myles behind her even as they approached confidently.
"Now we'll be having all your property there lads, money, watches..." the nearest growled, running his thumb along the length of his blade.
"We don't have anything!" Willow replied, wondering whether she could risk backing away slowly, she shifted her body slight and in doing so her jacket feel open, revealing her shirt beneath which hugged the curves of her breasts.
The second man stepped forward quickly and grabbed his partner's arm with his excitement, "It's a woman!"
They both leered at Willow, wide smiles spreading to reveal mouths full of missing teeth from a lifetime of drunken brawling.
"It's our lucky night...looks like a sweet one too, beneath the men's clothing..."
Willow kept a firm gaze on both of them, she was watching for any sudden movement towards her when Myles shoved her aside from behind.
"Don't you dare lay a hand on her!"
Myles was between them in an instant, drawing out from beneath his coat a narrow sword which he proceeded to pull from its sheath a little awkwardly. In his haste and terror he fumbled and dropped the blade, it clattered to the cobbles below. Willow stared at it for a moment and then realised that the nearest cutthroat was about to make a move towards it. She dived forward and seized it by the handle.
"Back you devils!" Willow cried, brandishing the sword in the direction of the pair of cutthroats.
Both men were taken aback by the sudden appearance of the gleaming sword in Willow's hand, sudden expressions of hesitation appearing on their faces, especially given the competent manner in which the sword was directed towards them. Willow stood poised, both hands on the grip of the katana as it was raised above her head, ready to strike at either of the men if they approached. She felt an urgent tug on her jacket.
"Ah Willow, it's good that we have the sword and all but I think we should still run!" Myles insisted.
Willow found herself hesitating for a moment at Myles' sensible suggestion, for the briefest of moments she felt as though she could take on both men and win easily, even with the knives in their hands.
The feeling was gone as quickly and she nodded urgently at Myles, "Yes!"
Despite having already exerted themselves to their fullest extent in fleeing the prostitutes, both Willow and Myles managed to set a cracking pace with their lives on the line rather than just merely their virginity.
When Willow glanced over her shoulder as they emerged back into a street lined with lamps, she was surprised to see no pursuers behind them. She did not stop to dwell on the reason for this and kept running, the sword still clutched in her hand.
In their frantic flight, Willow and Myles did not slow down in the slightest until they were sprinting up the steps of their hotel. Both were clearly exhausted and out of breath but relieved to be alive after the encounter with Paris' seedy underbelly of crime...however brief it may have been.
"Myles, where in God's name did you get this sword?" Willow eyed the katana in her hand as they re-entered the safe confines of their hotel, "I thought I left all our weapons behind on the dock?"
"Nicked it from Faith's stash and hid it in my luggage," Myles admitted shamelessly.
"Myles!" Willow gasped in horror.
Myles remained unapologetic. "Come on, she's got dozens."
Willow then shrugged as though Myles made good sense, "I'll keep a hold of this...and I would suggest that we don't mention a word of this little incident to our American guide, I suspect it would further erode our already tarnished image."
"Agreed," Myles nodded quickly, relinquishing his hold on the finely worked sheath of the katana into Willow's waiting hand.
They both made a beeline for their respective hotel rooms, neither would think about emerging until the day had well and truly dawned. As Willow settled down to sleep that night she could not help but feel apprehensive, with the journey barely underway she had already narrowly escaped death...she was in for a very long haul indeed.
The thugs in the alley were still trying to work out exactly what had just taken place; they were having difficulty in accepting the fact that they had just been thwarted in their work by a woman and a boy. Even as their prey disappeared out of sight they made up their minds to follow, surely their brute strength would make up for the initial surprise of the woman brandishing a sword in their direction.
They had no sooner picked themselves up than both felt a strong grip on the back of their clothing. One was thrown backwards with tremendous force and he hit the wall face first with a sickening thud. He fell into a heap at the base of the wall and did not move. The remaining man found himself being held at least a foot in the air, his feet kicking uselessly beneath him. He too was thrown back against a wall but the figure holding him was on him faster than the wind, he tried to scream but no sound emerged. With iron like fingers clamped fiercely around his jaw he was forced to stare straight at the creature that held him. Her face was terribly beautiful, piercing blue eyes boring through into his soul as her blonde hair fanned out behind her even though there was no wind. She bared her teeth, revealing abnormally pointed incisors that drove a knife of fear straight into his heart.
"Did William or Angelus put you up to this?" she growled, keeping her fangs visible. "Tell me now or you will know true pain!"
He tried to shake his head but her grip was too firm for him to move his head, "No, no, I do not know who those people are!"
The creature lifted him forward a few inches and then slammed him backwards, the back of his head cracked against the brick wall and he cried out in pain.
"No one put us up to anything, it was just us! They looked like easy meat! Posh clothes...obviously lost...easy pickings!" he gasped as he struggled futilely, his face growing redder by the second.
"You're thieves," she whispered.
"Yes, yes, just a thief!" he agreed, striving to appease her.
"You're scum," she added, "you attacked someone dear to me...and for that I do not feel sorry for your death."
"My death?" he squealed, "No..."
His protest morphed into a scream. Just moments later the fangs which had held him so transfixed in his terror buried themselves in the white flesh of his neck. Minutes later his lifeless corpse was thrown to the ground and the dark-clad woman stepped over him as though he were a pile of trash, wiping the blood from her chin.
The next morning Alex appeared to have set aside his apprehensions regarding his two abysmally inexperienced companions and he was in fine spirits as they boarded the train for the next leg of their journey. The leg would of course be much longer than the first short jaunt to Paris and they had reserved a large carriage complete with foldout sleeping berths. Willow wrinkled her nose, less than impressed as she stowed her luggage away. She struggled on tiptoes to stow her bag overhead and was about to have it come crashing back down on her head when a large arm shot up and shoved the bag firmly in place.
"I promise I don't snore," Alex lent over and whispered in her ear as he tightened the luggage straps.
Willow whirled around, surprised by being in such close proximity with a man...and a decidedly odd smelling one at that. She mumbled her thanks and claimed one of the spots by the window, thankfully Myles quickly claimed the other window seat directly opposite her so should would not be forced to stare at Alex for at least a while anyway. Myles beamed when Alex chose to sit next to him, puffing out his chest and trying to look as manly as possible rather than the skinny little boy he really was.
As Alex opened the days paper and Myles fished in a bag of sweets he had purchased a the station, Willow turned her attention to the platform outside the window. It was clearing now, most of the passengers having boarded the train already. There were just a few well-wishers awaiting the imminent departure. Scanning the crowd, Willow passed her eyes over porters lugging bags or pushing carts, the conductor ushering latecomers on board, as well as all the assorted well wishers from all walks of life. Working class men wearing their distinctive caps, hands jammed in the pockets of their overalls, middle class ladies perhaps saying goodbye to their husbands or fiancés and somewhat apart from the rest of the crowd, one exceedingly familiar blonde haired woman in dark attire. She was staring directly at Willow, meeting her gaze quite calmly as though it were natural for her to be there. No one else on the platform seemed to notice the woman; they all gave the location where she stood a wide berth. Willow's lips parted in surprise, she wanted to call out or even get off the train but she heard the conductor calling out his last call. Moments later they were trundling along the track, barely moving at first and Willow continued to stare...then the train gathered speed and she passed out of sight.
Willow turned to look down at Myles who was staring at up her with a disconcerted expression on his face. She realised that she had subconsciously risen to her feet while staring at the blonde woman and quickly sat down once again.
Willow shrugged in what she hoped was an offhand manner, "I thought I saw someone I knew...that's all."
Myles nodded as though this explanation satisfied him, he offered Willow a sweet but she declined, it was much too early in the morning for her to inject sugar into her body. She instead settled back against the seat and realised that it was actually quite comfortable. With the lulling movement of the train combined with her lack of sleep, Willow quickly drifted off to sleep, her dreams once again filled with the tortured love story of Tara Maclay and her W.