Willow and Jessica had chosen a prime table at The Common Grounds. It was well out of the main lines of the shop's traffic and situated at the center of the large plate glass window, which afforded a perfect view of downtown Trillium. The street outside was busy – it being early afternoon – and the town's citizens hurried about their business.
The two women were paying little attention to the activity outside, however. Both were laughing at something or another, and it was clear they were enjoying each other's company very much. The drinks next to them on the table were still warm, but had hardly been touched, each girl more attentive to the conversation at hand.
Wiping her eyes with the back of her hand, Jessica smiled at Willow and repositioned her glasses. "Is there any branch of science you don't love?"
The redhead mulled this question seriously, and declared, "Biology. Too much carvin' up of dead things." She chuckled again before adding, "I get enough of that in my spare time!"
As soon as the words had left her mouth, Willow appeared to want nothing more than to snatch them back again. But it was too late, and Jessica was already giving her a quizzical look.
"Uhh, I mean ..." Desperately, Willow wracked her brain for something plausible. "With cooking. You know. What with the chicken and the cow, though not so much with the pork since, hello, Jewish, but ... whoo. Chicken."
Jessica's expression had hardly changed, and Willow hastily turned the conversation back to safer topics. "Plus in Biology, they always give you frogs. Now don't get me wrong," the witch held up her hand defensively, "I'll dig on in when I gotta, and what girl hasn't had to farm her own amphibian eyes in an emergency?" Once again Jessica looked confused, but Willow wasn't stopping to justify that one and the brunette shook her head as the witch continued. "But then afterward it's all nightmares and green slimy hoppy things and brr. It's just unpleasant," she summed up.
Confusion lingered around Jessica, but she appeared to be taking it all in stride – or as well as possible. "You know I think I could talk to you for years and never fully know you," she grinned, taking a sip of her drink and studying Willow over the rim of the cup.
"Well that's me, Enigma Gal! Who is that masked redhead?" Willow found the thought amusing, but she soon sobered and shrugged at her new friend. "Ehh, I dunno though. The right people – they wind up knowing you better'n you know you, you know? Just gotta find ‘em."
"Guess it takes time," Jessica responded.
"Usually," agreed Willow, and then slowly, her smile faded. Her thoughts seemed to have shifted, memories seeping into her consciousness, unbidden. When she next spoke, it was wistful and far away. "Sometimes, though ... it happens right away. As soon as you see them, touch them ... you know her, and she knows you. And somehow, it's like it's always been that way."
Jessica blinked, uncertain of what to say and clearly without a similar frame of reference. Almost immediately, Willow realized she'd gone off on a tangent, and she flashed the brunette an apologetic, if somewhat sad smile. "Ignore me," she stated, waving her hand as though to clear away her thoughts. "My brain likes to go wandering around without me sometimes, and all I've got to go on are the postcards it sends home."
But Jessica chose not to ignore it, and tilted her head to one side as she considered what she'd just heard. After a moment, she appeared to reach a decision, nodding slightly to herself for confirmation and encouragement. "I think I'd like to be someone like that. But I guess we should start out slow first," she suggested. "So, maybe ... dinner? Just ... you and me?"
The instinctive reaction was to be flattered, and Willow smiled warmly at Jessica. The brunette began to return the smile when Willow shook her head.
"I can't," the witch said firmly but with an unspoken apology. "Not right now. Some stuff ... I- I'm still getting over a few things." Willow smiled again, but it was self-assured. "I'm not ready yet."
Initially, Jessica was disappointed, but it was only for an instant. "It's okay," the brunette assured her sincerely, not sounding upset in the least. "I sorta figured as much," she admitted.
"Oh, but we can still be friends, right?" Willow worriedly asked, distress woven into every feature. "I mean, you have no idea how hard it can be to find an intellectual conversation that doesn't revolve around the plausibility of ‘Farscape'. And even then I use the word ‘intellectual' loosely." That earned her a laugh, and Willow grinned hopefully. "I like talking with you, I just can't—"
"I understand," she promised. "And I'd really like that." With a glance at her watch, Jessica rose, gathering her books together. "I'll give you a call. Maybe we can go to that seminar on quantum singularities next week?"
"Ooo, my brain's all a'flitter." Willow waggled her fingers near her head and the two women grinned at each other.
Flashing a warm parting smile, Jessica grabbed her coffee and exited the shop. Willow watched the other woman depart, obviously feeling pleased with how their meeting had turned out. Once her new friend was out of sight, the redhead pulled close the nearest textbook from the pile on the table next to her. Cracking it open, she began to read as she sipped her drink, becoming thoroughly engrossed in the text almost immediately.
With a abrupt, violent jerk, Willow bolted upright in her chair, like she'd just been shocked by a cattle prod. Her eyes were wide, confused, and her gaze darted all around chaotically. Taking a deep breath to calm herself, she turned her head and peered over her left shoulder. She examined the scene before her – just customers enjoying their coffee, nothing out of the ordinary. Slowly she began to turn her head. Furrowing her brow, Willow studied each new inch of scenery as it drifted into her line of sight, but could see nothing unusual. Still she searched, her head rotating slowly to the right, to the large glass window that dominated the shop's wall. People walked by outside, cars swished past – nobody gave any indication that something was amiss. Then, Willow's eyes were drawn to a figure across the street, and her breath caught in her throat. All at once she seemed to fixate on too many details.
Long blonde hair. Full lips. Blue eyes.
Willow's face crumpled, a sudden intense and indefinable tsunami of emotion. Her throat was raw and constricted. She could only whisper one word.