High school was the best years of your life. Parties, boys, football games, and no responsibilities except for school. Fun. Carefree.
Her teachers worried. Tara's grades had slipped, not uncommon after a parent died. How about counseling?
No thanks. Daddy would never allow it.
Besides, Tara thought, after cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, washing dishes, and grocery shopping, who had time for counseling? She barely had time for homework.
Daddy said her mother would be proud. Tara smiled, but on the inside she was screaming.
The best years of her life? She just wanted to disappear.
So, one day, she did.
The fist knocked Tara to the ground. Why try protecting herself? There was no safety here.
"It's for your own good," her father said between blows.
That was too much. "I didn't," she had to spit blood, "do anything wrong."
"No? What you did with Tanya was normal? Was right?" Another punch. "Girls kissing girls...it's unnatural. The demon in you."
"Yes! You're evil!"
Something inside her broke. "Evil? Then why...why..." She stood, a strange wind blowing her hair. "Why are you pissing me off?"
The last thing her father ever saw was Tara's eyes turning black.
She knew she shouldn't. It would be wrong.
Willow was so beautiful, with her creamy white skin and hair as red as strawberries: a delectable feast. Tara could eat at that table and never be filled.
Even as she dressed for the occasion, she couldn't quiet her doubts. This was wrong.
Tara was so lonely, drowning in a sea of solitude. Surely, just this once, she could connect?
It wouldn't be real. But who would ever look twice at Tara? And this loneliness was killing her.
She opened the grimoire. "To Manufacture Love." Yes.
She cast the spell.
"But you have to!" Dawn sounded wounded. "I miss Mom so much. You just have to."
Tara didn't bend. "I know you do, sweetie. But resurrection spells...no. They're horrors. I won't help you do that to yourself."
"It will work, I know it will."
Tara shook her head. "It's a mistake."
"You don't know that!"
But Tara did. She'd been where Dawn was now. She had made it work, too. The shambling corpse had dragged itself to her doorstep, an empty, lifeless obscenity.
She wished to God Dawn was right. There were some things she didn't want to know.
The pain was gone.
Tara suddenly knew what that meant, but she wasn't afraid. The white light took her fear away. She turned toward it, ready to go.
Except...oh, no. Willow was still alive, and her pain shrieked like a banshee. How could she leave her alone?
...Don't be silly, she thought. Willow's not alone.
The dead cannot touch the living, but they can whisper in their ears.
Xander closed his eyes, sick from Warren's screams. Suddenly, he thought he heard a voice whispering to him about yellow crayons, and felt better.
Everything was going to be all right.