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Snapshots: Willow

by Northlight

Title: Snapshots: Willow (1/1)

Author: Northlight

email: temporary_blue@yahoo.ca

Summary: Bits and pieces of Willow's life.

Rating: PG/PG13.

Distribution: Yes, but ask first.

Disclaimer: Joss Whedon owns the Buffy characters.

Date: Jan. 27-31 2001.


She was born, and they placed her body--small and helpless--in her mother's arms. And her mother looked down at her with awe and her father, beaming, stood beside mother and child. She thinks that they loved her then. She imagines her mother with a rounded belly, flushed with fear and excitement, anticipating the arrival of her first child. Her father would have hovered, nervous and proud, his hand resting reverently against her mother's stomach, waiting for his child to move beneath his palm.

She imagines that she was the most precious thing in the world to them. That they held her and felt a fierce surge of love and protectiveness. That she was wanted.

That wouldn't be a bad way to begin life, Willow thinks. But she can't imagine her mother bubbling with maternal emotions. Sheila Rosenberg, Willow suspects, worked and planned and organized until her body refused to move her from house to office. She thinks that her mother would have lay propped up in bed by pillows, glasses perched on her nose, pen in hand and papers scattered across the comforter draped across her legs. Ira, Willow reflects upon her father, he would have come into the bedroom, loosening his tie as he dropped a kiss upon the crown of his wife's head. They don't talk to each other in this possible reality, busy and professional. Things to do, places to go, people to see--rattle off those words and Willow thinks of her parents. She sometimes wonders at the fact that they were in the same place long enough together to actually conceive her.

There are pictures of her, bald and fat, "cute" only because she is a baby and that is what all observers are expected to declare. The pictures are professionally done, because Willow can't imagine her mother and father snapping photos and making silly faces at her in order to make her smile. The pictures are slipped beneath the plastic covering of a photo album--a pale pink spotted with dancing elephants swinging opened parasols. It is the Willow Book, the chronicle of her life. And maybe the Rosenbergs actually thought that they'd fill the album with baby pictures, pull it out on occasion and reminisce with smiles and misty eyes.

Willow knows that Buffy has baby pictures, that somewhere there is a baby Buffy, naked and smiling at the camera from a bathtub, bath toys floating around her, naked mouth clamped against a washcloth. Buffy has groaned and laughed and rolled her eyes at those pictures. Willow finds the thought of parents at their child's side, camera in hand, capturing the most mundane of images from a baby's life incredible. She thinks that Joyce must have cooed at Buffy, the silly babble that some adults adopt with children. Intelligent and creative, Willow's imagination fumbles at the thought of her parents on the their knees on the floor, fingers tickling at her round baby's belly or playing peekaboo.

She thinks that they must have loved her, and maybe still do. But it isn't in any form that Willow recognizes as true. Willow thinks that there is more to love than just saying the words before another business trip, more than scrawling them on a birthday card mailed from halfway across the country. She just doesn't think that her parents understand that, so she doesn't try to explain anymore.

...~*~...

She first understood that love was an emotion and not just a word when she met Xander. Ask her who she is and who she has been, and Xander is wound through her response. He was her best friend and her constant playmate, and she grew up a bit and decided he was her future everything. She didn't quite understand marriage, but she knew that brides wore pretty white dresses and there were promises made about together and forever, and what was forever without Xander?

Sometimes, Xander relented and played out the ideas tumbling through Willow's mind. More often, they played Transformers and He-Man, plastic figurines flying and screeching through high-action adventures. She remembers the two of them sitting in her backyard, her dolls and his action figures in secret forts formed out of the space between roots and drooping branches. They were sitting side by side, he with his He-Man: broad chest, square jaw and bowl haircut; and she with a She-Ra Glimmer doll: bouncing purple curls and glinting fake-jewel embedded between her plastic breasts. And she crept her doll towards the oblivious hero and... and nothing, really. And even now, there's a strange echo of disappointment in her, as if meshing perfect plastic fantasies one against the other would somehow have made everything different.

Willow missed Xander with a fierce intensity when she couldn't see him. There were times when he never showed up at her house and he'd stay away for days. When he came back, that first day, he'd be still and quiet and slow in speech and motion and thought, smothered by something Willow couldn't quite understand. She can't quite recall the how or the when, but she remembers that she grew up and into the world beyond her home and her fantasies, and she saw the bruises and started to know, if not understand. And she loved him all the more, wanted to take him into her arms and hug away everything bad. She had begged her parents to let Xander live with them. They'd bought her a teddy bear and a Barbie and told her that they would take care of everything.

...~*~...

Cordelia was in Willow's gym class. She was soft and round beneath the uniform's maroon t-shirt. Breasts, Willow thought, and it all seemed so incredibly absurd. Hair hanging in front of her face, she'd cast a quick glance in Cordelia's direction. She looked at Cordelia's chest and felt a sudden swell of satisfaction that she was still herself and free.

Maybe Willow had spent more time that strictly normal studying and considering Cordelia's breasts. She'd gone from smug satisfaction to a sharp pang of self-disgust. High school, and Cordelia would strip off her shirt, and there they'd be, full and caught by pretty material, and Cordelia knew and every girl seeing her knew that those were something worth envying. Xander looked sometimes, often, and Willow would think of her own tiny breasts, invisible beneath her loose shirts and nearly cry.

There were perfect girls, and then there was Willow. There were girls that Xander would lust over, and then there was Willow. She looked at the girls Xander looked at, flesh and blood and glossy magazine images alike. And Willow learned that the perfect girl had perfectly coifed hair, she was slim with trim legs that she was more than willing to show, breasts, and a glint in her eye that proclaimed: "I'm gorgeous, worship me" and she was right, so they would.

Willow couldn't be the perfect girl. She didn't want to be, she told herself, because the perfect girl was shallow and stupid, and she'd grow old and ugly and then where would she be? And sometimes Willow would imagine herself, stunning and confident with designer clothing that clung to perfectly proportioned curves. She didn't blend into the morning crowd, but swept through the doors, eyes fell upon her and stayed there, glowing with appreciation and envy. And Xander would see her and he would realize that she was everything he wanted and more.

Willow didn't date, and that was fine she thought, because boys were blind and stupid and if they wanted Cordelia or Harmony, well, then. . . . And Xander didn't look at her, and he was the only one she'd ever want, anyway.

She can't remember when she began, but she'd hook her fingers between her legs and swirl until her hand was sticky and her body trembling. And she would pull her blankets up to her shoulders, pull down her nightgown and cross her hands over her stomach. Willow would stare at the ceiling, sick and disgusting and wrong, and she knew she'd do it again.

And it was all so very. . . ridiculous.

...~*~...

She tried to see Cordelia in the hospital. The other woman refused to see her. Willow thought of Cordelia, the rod tearing through her stomach, and decided that it was probably for the best that Cordelia didn't want to talk. Willow wouldn't have known what to say.

Somehow, 'sorry' seemed a bit weak.

...~*~...

Sunnydale didn't boast much of a Jewish community. Willow grew up knowing that she was different, that her religion wasn't theirs, and that an entire history of loss and hurt accompanied the belief system she named as her own. Her parents told her that she was Jewish, but they left the knowledge behind the label vague and intangible.

She wasn't so very old when she found out about the Holocaust. It was immense and terrifying, and distant bits of pieces of her family had fallen straight into it. Willow had curled up beneath her comforter that night, over and around her head, mind skittering madly around her imagined recreation of past events.

Willow had slept with her blanket over her head for years, meager protection. But the covering cut off the darkness of her room, the open hunger beyond her curtains. Nose brushing against bedsheets, vision restrained, she could pretend that her bed was the extent of the world and that she knew where everything in the world was, that it was just her and that she was safe. There would be stories of fire and murder and rape on the news, and Willow would listen to the creaking of her house and choke on terror.

Buffy brought peace with her, opened the night and made the monsters real and mortal. Stakes, holy water and crosses, and a Slayer standing guard and Willow knew that darkness wouldn't merely sweep over her. If monsters loomed, she'd not have to stand against them alone. She peeked her head out from beneath her blankets and found that she could sleep.

...~*~...

It isn't something that Willow takes great pride in, but she has a pile of romance novels stacked high one upon the other in her closet. She doesn't read them anymore, but their messages have been imprinted in her mind. Women are strong--they are stubborn and smart and maybe even dangerous--and then they fall in love and turn weak. And the women in her romance novels were always being transformed into objects--forced or humiliated or toyed with in mind and heart, but they forgive because they're in love and being dominated isn't so bad.

And maybe, Willow thinks, she once thought someone strong and determined sweeping her away was romantic and sexy. But she's grown up, seen things, experienced things, and she wonders what woman could possibly want her control to slip away. She has nightmares, sometimes, Spike's head resting against her shoulder, and he hasn't "had" a woman in weeks and God, help me! she's screaming in her head. No, she likes her control. She doesn't want a man, strong and determined and ready to fling her over his shoulder.

Spike likes Buffy, Willow has noticed. Maybe the vampire is old, but she doubts that he's had to deal with a crush in quite a while. And loving and wanting and lusting in secret agony is something that Willow has had a vast amount of experience with. Willow thinks that Spike is an idiot. Not for wanting Buffy, but for wanting her. Buffy is one of the perfect ones, and it is only natural for a man to want her. But Spike doesn't just lust after Buffy's body, there's something more there, and that's where Willow thinks the vampire has lost hold of his senses.

Willow briefly thinks about Spike. He is handsome, she thinks, but that recognition means nothing to her. She looks at him, and sees his demon's face, and can't think of him without remembered terror. She pities him now, chip in his head, but she doesn't like him, doesn't trust him. She remembers the weight of his body pinning her down, fangs heading towards her neck. She remembers being locked up by him, the threat of a bottle through her face. And sometimes, he steps into Giles' home and Willow nearly screams, wants to crawl out of her skin, make him go away.

...~*~...

She started dyeing her hair in high school. Red. She thought it was wild and sexy and would show everyone that she wasn't just a mouse. Cordelia and the Cordettes laughed at her, and her face had burned, stomach heaving.

Xander had smiled at her, caught a lock of hair between his fingers. And she'd kept her hair as it was.

...~*~..

Saturday morning, and Willow would get out of bed early. She would head downstairs in her nightgown, slippers slapping at the cool tiles as she poured cereal and milk into a bowl. There was a tv in the living room, and she would turn it on, settle on the couch with her breakfast, and watch the flickering screen for hours.

Transformers, He-Man, She-Ra, My Little Ponies, Ninja Turtles, and dozens of others she no longer has names for. They don't have good cartoons anymore, Willow has noticed. She doesn't wake up at seven o'clock to watch action and adventure and a dash of romance played out in bright colours and magical worlds. Sometimes, she'll wake up early and wander downstairs, and morning shows (did they really need another Today show?) and infomercials flicker past her.

There's something sad in the loss of her morning ritual. She pities those children who don't wake up early on weekends to gorge themselves on children's shows.

Willow doesn't want children of her own. Not now, not ever. There are times when she imagines herself with a child and she does everything right, everything the shows and books and articles say a mother should do, everything her parents didn't do. But she thinks of the responsibility and the fact of a child--its needs and wants and its very physical reality--and she comes back to herself.

She doesn't really even like children. People think that she is sweet and naive and almost a child herself in some ways, but Willow doesn't understand children. Little ones make her nervous, and the older ones, high school and beyond, make her heart pound with remembered terror. There are groups of high school students on the bus, and their voices are loud and they laugh, and Willow finds herself slipping back into who she was. And though they don't know her, she thinks that they're laughing at her, Cordelia and Harmony and the rest's voices ringing in her ears.

It's silly, Willow thinks, to still fear others opinions, to still hear laughter and fear for one's emotional safety. It took her a long while before she could hold Tara's hand in public. And maybe the world is suppose to be more open and accepting, but she's still been insulted more times than she cares to recall for leaning into Tara's body.

Even her friends have a line that she and Tara aren't allowed to cross. Smile and hold hands, but don't do anything gay while we're around, thank you very much. Willow has never kissed Tara in public, or anywhere beyond the safety of their own room.

Willow used to believe in forever, one true love and happily ever after. Experience has taught her better. Willow still believes in love, true and strong and now. She desires Tara, she likes Tara, she loves Tara. But Willow doesn't close her eyes and imagine the two of them twenty or fifteen or even ten years from now. And that's okay. Because right now, they are together and they do love each other and that's enough. It means something real no matter how long they last.

...~*~...

Jesse's grave is empty. She still visits it on occasion. She and Xander don't talk about him, and that's not okay, because memories are the only thing left of Jesse. But she leaves flowers on his grave. And Xander leaves flowers on his grave. And one day they'll figure out how to remember him beyond the solitude of their own minds.

...~*~...

She remembers the first time she saw Giles. He was so dignified and smart and his accent had left her weak in the knees. Willow had adored him. She still does. She still thinks that he's smart and dignified and she knows him now, and he's so very much more. Giles holds a piece of her that no one else can quite understand. He knows her mind, her thirst for knowledge and understanding, he knows why magic calls to her.

The library was one of the first places at school where she truly felt safe. There was no Cordelia, no laughs or insults. There was silence and knowledge and a man who talked to her like a person rather than an obligation. Silent and dry eyed, she mourned the library when it died with the Mayor.

She cried for Jenny, real tears, deep and painful and constant. Willow had loved Jenny. She had looked at the older woman and seen someone she wanted to be like. She remembers being held by Angelus, the paralyzing crush of emotions that accompanied the cold hand at her neck. Jenny was all alone, knowing, and that was a terrible way to die. Willow has nightmares for Jenny.

Willow doesn't proclaim her feelings, but she is glad that Angel is gone. She was never comfortable with him--older and vampire and male, and she always felt silly and dowdy when he was there. She remembers his hands against her. That he was in her room, invading her space, stringing her fish. She didn't feel safe in her home for months. She remembers Jenny, and Giles' grief. She remembers Giles, the injuries that he couldn't hide from them. Angel means heartbreak and fear and loss, and soul or not, he can't mean anything else to her anymore.

Buffy cried against her shoulder after Angel left. There are occasions when Willow thinks of Oz and her own pain and how Oz-pain wasn't equal to Angel-pain. She does love Buffy. And sometimes she hates that Buffy is Buffy and that she is strong enough to catch up her friends and bring them into her suffering, so deep that their own is blotted out.

...~*~...

Oz has beautiful hands. Willow thinks that she could tell him apart from everyone else from the feel of his hands alone.

...~*~...

She lays next to Tara on the bed they share, her head resting on Tara's stomach, the other witch's hand tangled in her hair. Her head rises and dips with every breath Tara takes. Contentment is the sound of Tara's heart.

They touch each other often and easily, transmitting comfort and love and a multitude of unspoken emotions in the brush of their hands. It is hard not to fall into Tara's arms when she is with her, and Willow thinks that one day, she will risk the stares and censure and press her lips to Tara's.

This place, this time, with this woman, she is happy.


If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Northlight

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