Tara’s mind had forgotten how to connect thoughts. Words were futile and the surging emotions were too tangled and twisted to make sense. Her body had served as communicator; it’s language the silent and steady flow of tears as she packed; the near collapse of sorrow as Dawn slammed the door behind her, leaving Tara standing on the front porch alone, shut out; the shaking that rocked her bones as she rode in the backseat of the cab; the trembling of her fingers as she slid the keycard into the motel room’s front door; the numb heaviness in her eyes as she stared.
She had done it. She had left Willow. She had walked away from the person who felt like home. Willow had been her world, Willow’s love and friendship a constant and comforting eddy. That eddy had been swallowed by a maelstrom.
Tara used a tissue to wipe at the streaked mirror in the cheap motel room. Her single box of belongings was placed on a faded wooden side table. She sat at the mirror, trying to undo the series of small ponytails Dawn had given her just this morning. They’d been quirky and cute, and now they made Tara want to scream. There were too many and she just wanted them out.
She pulled impatiently at the tiny yellow rubber bands, their maddening resistance corroding Tara’s attempt to hold herself together. With each painful snap of a band, she felt her anger surge. Betrayal sickened her as hair was torn from its constraints, leaving stolen strands wrapped around the rubber. Each tug was a reminder of the gnawing ache, echoed in her belly. She pulled frantically, her heartbeat matching in a desperate pace as she tried to get through it all.
Every muscle in Tara’s body tensed and trembled as anger and sorrow warred for dominance, demanding release. She clutched at a particularly stubborn tangle, shoving her fingers forcefully through the mass to pull it loose, only managing to tighten the knot at the end and send pain into her scalp. Body on overload, she shot out of the chair. Her hand grasped the water glass beside her and Tara pulled her taut, shaking arm back into a throwing position. “Fuck!” She wanted to throw it, needed to somehow free the emotions raging within her but she couldn’t go through with it and she hated herself for always holding back. Why couldn’t she let go? Shakily, she set the glass back on the table, telling herself she didn’t want to cause a scene, didn’t want the cranky man at the front desk banging on the door. Tara squeezed and pulled at her hands, her body at a breaking point. It began as a low keen, pouring from the place within that is deep and primal. A soul’s lament. Her knee buckled and harsh sobs assaulted her body. Tara lurched herself at the bed, curling herself into the tightest ball she could as the force of her weeping overrode breath and Tara found herself panting as waves of betrayal, grief, and heartbreak overtook her.
The violent release ebbed and Tara sat up and wiped a hand across her tear streaked cheeks. She used the bathroom sink to fill a glass with water, uncaring about the smudges on the glass, and sat back down in the chair in front of the clouded mirror. There, she resumed undoing her hair. A small, pained smile barely touched her lips as she thought of how proud Dawn had been when she’d finished them. And now, every band that was stripped away felt bittersweet. Every loosened strand changed her from the woman who had left just hours ago. Life had changed and every new thing moved her farther away from Willow.
Tara struggled to pull a nightshirt over her head, exhaustion making her clumsy. Gathering a flat pillow and the top layer of a suspiciously brown bed covering she curled into herself at the foot of the bed. She reached lazily for the remote and turned on the TV, looking for something to hold her attention enough to zone out on, to let her mind rest for a moment. Finally settling on a rerun of Friends, she was out within minutes.
The next morning, it had taken every bit of energy Tara could muster to get dressed, not even able to shower, and make her way to UC Sunnydale. She had slept in spurts, waking with a sudden jerk every two or three hours, snippets of dreams staying with her only momentarily. Each time she opened her eyes, the loss was an immediate, tight, and nauseating throb in her abdomen. Tears exhausted her into the next few hours of sleep.
Check-out was at eleven, which meant if Tara wanted to get to the University Housing Department she had to be on the way to their office by 7:30. She wanted to be able to store her things and not lug them with her. Tara rolled over with as little effort as possible to check the alarm clock; forty minutes to try and rest her swollen, tired eyes just a little more.
Thoughts of an alarm clock startled her as she realized that she no longer had one, it had been left with Willow in the room. It was inane and replaceable and left her feeling wounded and bruised. Tears of resignation stung bitterly as they dropped onto her cheeks, slipping over the slope of her nose and melting into the bedspread. She watched the water as it was absorbed into the fabric, thinking of all the things she would need now, now that it was just her again. No more ‘we’.