Chapter 55: Mallrats

Tara finished getting ready while Willow showered and headed downstairs, desperate for a cup of coffee. She entered the kitchen to find the men of the house sitting around the table enjoying a late breakfast, with Hunter surfing his iPad while Ira and Grandpa Leo read the newspaper.

"Good morning Tara," Leo greeted Tara briefly looking up from his newspaper.

"Hi, good morning everyone," Tara replied, receiving a return greeting from Hunter and Ira.

Tara poured herself a cup of coffee and sat down next to Hunter. "So, I hear ya'll have a big girl's day' planned today. Sooo, what's on the agenda?" Hunter asked curiously.

Tara replied as she added cream and sugar to her cup. "I think we're going to Rachael's to see the nursery and then doing lunch. Beyond that, I have no idea."

Grandpa Leo scoffed, "You couldn't pay me enough to go out of the house today. All the crazies are out shopping like the world's ending tomorrow. "Sheesh…" He grumbled, searching through the paper that was strewn across the table. "Where the devil is the sports page?"

Ira sighed deeply, folding the open paper he'd been reading and reluctantly handing it over to his father-in-law. Leo mumbled a quick 'thank you' under his breath; knowing that Ira was reading it, but taking the paper anyway.

Tara watched the little exchange and laughed quietly to herself as Ira caught her eye; smiling in return and giving the blonde a knowing wink.

"Um Tara, have you seen this?" Hunter asked with a tinge of concern clearly evident in his tone.

"Hmm?" Tara shifted in her seat and leaned towards Hunter. She craned her neck to look at the iPad screen that Hunter was viewing.

Tara read it to herself, PHZ has learned that embattled super star, Tara "I'm Gay" Maclay, has lost the opportunity for the lead in an upcoming Ron Howard project AND has been iced out of the second installment of the widely popular, 'Against The Grain' sequel, which thrust Maclay into the national spotlight five years ago, firmly cementing her position as the perennial 'girl next door.' PHZ has also learned from a source close to the actress that "she is devastated and regretting her decision to come out." Maclay is currently hiding out at the Texas ranch of her new gal-pal, college student and Olympic Gold Medalist - Willow Rosenberg. Rumor has it that Rosenberg is experiencing problems of her own with the high maintenance actress; seen here sitting curiously close to one of Rosenberg's brothers. The fiery redhead was extremely unhappy and could soon become an ex-gal pal…from the looks of this next picture. Just another example of a child actress spinning out of control.

Hunter rested his hand on Tara's arm; his eyes full of concern, "Tara, are you ok?"

Tara looked up surprised, "Huh? Oh yeah, I'm fine. Why?"

"I just…well, I'm sorry about the movie, but there'll be others."

"Thanks Hunter, but it's okay I didn't lose any movie roles," She said giving his hand a reassuring squeeze.

"But it said…" Hunter said quietly as his voice trailed off.

"I'm not upset because none of it's true. It's completely made up. I turned down the 'Grain' sequel because number one, their shooting schedule overlapped my schedule on 'Grant's Park,' and number two, the script was awful. As for the other project, we're still in talks and it could go either way right now." She said relaxing in her chair and nonchalantly popping a piece of fruit in her mouth.

Hunter shook his head and smiled, "Wow, you're one cool customer Tara, but I think my sister might not be when she sees these pics. She's gonna flip out."

"What am I flipping out about?" Willow asked cheerfully as she entered the kitchen.

Ira folded his paper down and peered over the top, "Flipping? There will be no more flipping. This is a flip free zone." He declared, waving his hand in a circular motion as he eyed his children before going back to reading the paper.

Tara snickered, "Will, you're timing is impeccable. Maybe you should take up acting?"

"Hmm, maybe I should," She spun dramatically, lowering herself to one knee; placing a hand her hand over her heart and reaching toward Tara with the other. "But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the East, and Juliet is the sun! "

Tara smiled, taking Willow's outstretched hand, "O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?"

Grandpa Leo rolled his eyes, "Do you two have any idea how much you skipped in between?"

Willow grinned as Tara pulled her up from the floor, "I know," She replied taking a seat in Tara's lap and popping some cut melon into her mouth, "But we don't have time. Molly and Stella will be here soon and we need to get going." Willow smiled towards her grandfather as she wrapped an arm around her girlfriend's shoulders.

Tara blushed at Willow's bold move and felt a little awkward, having no idea what she should do with her hands. Deciding to wrap one around Willow's back and rest the other on the table.

"So, what cha' guys lookin' at?"

Hunter squirmed uncomfortably and turned the tablet away from his sister.

"Come oooon, let me see," Willow whined as she pulled the device out of his hands and began reading.

Willow soon found a frown creasing the corners of her mouth, "Damn," She said causing Tara and Hunter to cringe, "What is with these pictures? I look like a sweaty angry demon! Dark Willow or something...I'm generally a happy person, why can't they publish those pictures online?" Willow continued to rant, sparking her father's attention.

"Hey, let me see," He said reaching out a free hand.

Willow got up and handed mobil device over to her Dad as Hunter and Tara gathered up their dishes and headed to the sink, "See, I told you." Hunter said, catching Tara's eye; the blonde simply smiled knowingly.

Ira examined the pictures closely and read the article; shaking his head as he handed the iPad back to his daughter. "You know Willow, you need to be more careful."

"Hey! What's that supposed to mean?" Willow answered slightly defensive.

Ira continued, "I'm just saying that you're in the public eye now more than ever and you need to be mindful of what you do or say and apparently, how you look," He smirked as he noticed Tara at the sink washing out her coffee mug. "And you Miss 'high maintenance' really need to tone down that outlandish behavior!" Ira joked.

Tara glanced over her shoulder laughing and held up her wet hands, "Willow, come hither and dry my hands. I just can't be bothered with such trivial things. Afterall, I am the Tara Maclay." Everyone began laughing as Willow rushed over to dry Tara's hands and then curtseyed.

"Anything else, Milady?" Willow asked mimicking Tara's British accent.

Hunter snorted, "I like how high maintenance equals a British accent. Just what are you two implying?"

Tara continued to giggle, "I don't know, I guess I just Shakespeared out for a minute."

The group continued to chat, laugh and poke fun at "High Maintenance Maclay" until Molly and Stella arrived and the four girls left for Rachael's house.

"Rach, this is adorable!" Willow gushed getting her first peek at the nursery, "I LOVE retro Pooh! Where did you find all this stuff?"

"Oh you know, here and there..."

"Willow is right, this is so cute. Did you and Jeff do everything?" Molly asked.

"Yep! Jeff put everything together and I painted and decorated." Rachael said proudly.

Willow wandered around the room, spotting a vintage Pooh Bear lamp sitting on the dresser. Tara watched as Willow cocked her head curiously and gently ran her hand over the body of the lamp. Tara noticed the moisture forming in her girlfriend's eyes and came up behind her; snaking her arms around and snuggling her from behind.

"Hey, are you ok?"

Willow closed her eyes and sank into the soothing warmth of her girlfriend. It never ceased to amaze her how Tara instinctively knew just what she needed and when she needed it most. "Yeah, I just..." Willow turned her head towards her sister, "Rach?"

Rachael simply nodded as Willow turned her head back towards the lamp, "This was mine and Hunters when we were little. It sat on the table between our beds. I'd forgotten all about it until now," She whispered softly. "Rachael, where did you find this? I...I thought Mom got rid of all that stuff." Willow said turning towards her sister.

Rachael shook her head, "No, she kept it all Will, right down to the sheets," She said glancing towards the crib. "I-I hope you don't's just that I really loved it and I didn't think that you'd need it just yet and I promise to take really good care of it so whenever your ready..." Rachael rambled nervously.

"It's fine Rach, I don't think I'll need it...just yet," Willow said glancing at Tara, who winked back; causing Willow's face to flush.

Tara snickered, giving Willow a final squeeze as she turned away; suddenly very interested in the rest of the room. She wandered to the crib and ran her hand across the cool sheets and the fluffy Pooh comforter. She reached up and lightly tapped the stuffed Piglet hanging in the mobile. Tara smiled as she imagined a tiny redheaded baby lying on those sheets; giggling and cooing as she peered at the swinging animals. Someday...washed through her mind as the conversation continued on behind her.

"So, all this was mine?"

"Well, everything except the crib, but I'm sure she would have kept that too if you and Hunter hadn't destroyed it."

"What are you talking about? We did no such thing!" Willow replied indignantly.

"Uh, I beg to differ," Rachael said as Tara turned away from the crib and her baby daydream to catch up on the conversation. "Mom used to put you and Hunter in the crib together to play and nap. Anyway, you guys were in there one day when she heard this loud crash. She came running in and found all four sides of the crib on the floor and you and Hunter were sitting on the mattress in the middle looking shocked and guilty." Rachael looked towards Tara, "Apparently, they started jumping and rocking the crib until it just exploded."

"That never happened," Willow scoffed; folding her arms defiantly across her chest as everyone else in the room started to giggle.

"Did so and there's a picture to prove it!"

Willow thought for a few seconds until she finally realized that her sister was right. "Oh shit, she's right...I forgot all about it!" Willow joined in the laughter, "Tare, I'll have to dig it out and show you when we get home later. It is pretty funny."

"So, are you ya'll hungry, because I'm STARVING!" Rachael exclaimed, "And I have this intense craving for Cheesecake." Everyone nodded enthusiastically except Willow who groaned.

"You don't like cheesecake sweetie?" Tara asked.

"No, I love cheesecake, but the only Cheesecake Factory is at the mall and..."

Tara's eyes lit up, "Oh yay, shopping!"

"I could shop," Molly chimed in.

"Oh, me too!" Rachael added.

"But Tara, it's Black Friday!" Willow whined.

"Oh Will, buck up and take one for the team. Besides, I have pregnancy cravings of the cheesecake variety."

"Uuugghh," Willow groaned looking towards Stella as they both rolled their eyes.

"Okay good, now that that's settled, let's go before this baby eats a hole in my stomach."

Several hours later Willow found herself sitting on a comfy leather couch next to Stella in the middle of the mall with several despondent boyfriends, and husbands sitting in the surrounding chairs. Every now and then Molly, Rachael or Tara would show up and drop another shopping bag at their feet. Willow and Stella had given up trying to keep pace with the trio nearly an hour earlier and had decided to camp out and people watch instead.

"Oooh, what about those two?" Willow asked Stella.

"Hmm let's see, they've been together for about six months. She's a high-powered lawyer and he's a cable repairman. Um, that's how they met; he came to her house to repair her box...if you know what I mean?" Stella wriggled her eyebrows causing Willow to snort with laughter. "Anyway, she has a secret life and he has no idea. It's easy for her to be sneaky because they don't live together. Okay, your turn." She said to Willow.

The redhead cleared her throat, "But recently, he found something when he spent the night at her house and he got curious. So, he decided to snoop around when she was taking a shower and found a hidden stash of...hmmm...of...oh I got it! Whips, chains and leather S&M gear!" Willow shouted a little too loudly and piqued the interest of several young men sitting near them.

"Ssshhhh..." Stella giggled.

Willow chuckled, "This is fun, thanks for hanging out with me Stella. I just couldn't do anymore 'shopping''s not so much fun when you're broke."

Stella nodded in agreement, "Tell me about it."

Willow's face suddenly felt hot, "Oh God Stella, I'm sorry. I didn't mean..."

"Willow, it's okay and it'll get better one day," Stella shrugged, "I hope." She said with a nervous laugh. "I um, I signed up for night classes over at the community college and I start in January." She blurted out, ducking her head.

Willow's eyes lit up, "Really! Stella that's great!" She rewarded her sister in law with a tight hug.

"I knew you'd be happy for me."

"Well you know me and school," Willow beamed, "What do you plan to study?"

"Um, I thought maybe elementary education? I'm not really sure yet, I just want something more...for me. Pretty much my entire adult existence has been about other people. First it was Eli and then it was Milo; now it's both. I figure I'll start slow next semester with just a couple classes and once Milo is in kindergarten next fall, I can take a full load."

"That's really great Stella, I'm so happy for you."

"Thanks Willow, I'm uh...I'm happy for you too." Stella admitted shyly.

Willow looked at her curiously, "For what?"

"I'm happy for you and Tara. She's so nice and not at all what I expected."

"I'll take that as a compliment?" Willow joked. "No, I know what you mean. She's not your typical celebrity, plus she's pretty much the best person I've ever known." Willow's eyes shined with love when she spoke about Tara and she blushed furiously.

"Uh oh," Stella said.


"Incoming," Stella replied pointing across the mall at the three women that were heading in their direction; laughing and chatting with their arms full of shopping bags.

Willow jumped up to help her girlfriend, "Baby, what is all this stuff?"

"Just you know...stuff. They h-had deals and what's a girl supposed to do...just pass them up?"

Willow smiled sweetly and shook her head. She relieved Tara of several bags, getting a kick out of the cuteness that was pout-y Tara. She knew that if Tara wanted to, she could probably buy the entire mall and certainly didn't have to worry about catching something on sale. She was just too adorable for words.

"Well, I think this calls for a much needed coffee break and if the Starbucks just happens to be across from the Apple store, well then...that would be a weird coincidence."

Molly and Tara shared a knowing smirk and hi-fived as Tara spun towards Rachael, "I believe someone owes me a coffee?"

Rachael made a face, "Fine," She said reluctantly.

"Hey! You guys bet on me? My own girlfriend bet on me?"

Tara stiffened a bit worried that Willow would be upset and wondering if they were talking about her behind her back or something. She was relieved to see a wide grin appear and quickly spread across Willow's face.

"Alright! Go Tara it's your coffee.." Willow began to sing and do an awkward little dance.

"Oh good grief! Come on, let's go," Rachael said as she tugged on her sister's sleeve.

Willow got her mocha and true to form, wandered over to the Apple store while the four other women sat around a table enjoying each other's company. Molly and Stella left to use the restroom, leaving Rachael and Tara with some one on one quality time together.

"Tara, I just um...I just wanted to say thanks."

Tara looked at Rachael with a bewildered expression on her face, "Hmm?"

"For not bolting out of here yesterday. If it was me, I'm not sure I would have stayed. You are most definitely a better person than I," She finished as she sipped her tea.

"Well, I don't know about that," Tara said sweetly giving Rachael's arm a gentle squeeze, "I might be an only child, but I'm definitely no stranger to family strife. Besides, your sister's worth it."

Rachael returned Tara's smile, "You really love her don't you?"

Tara nodded and smiled sweetly.

"Well, you're fairly awesome yourself," Rachael replied eliciting a deep blush from Tara, "I have to admit Tara, You're not at all what I expected."

"You mean I'm not a pretentious high maintenance celebrity?"

Rachael giggled, "Been reading the gossip columns I see. No, you're not a nerdy comic book loving lesbian or the butchy athletic type or all of the above? Although, you most definitely got your butch on yesterday."

"Wow, stereotype much?"

"No, I'm just describing what I thought would be my sister's type?"

"Well, you know what they say about opposites attracting? Anyway, I don't think Willow is the least bit nerdy or butchy; beautiful, smart, funny...but definitely not nerdy and butchy." Tara responded as she looked up to see Willow playing with an iPad across the mall in the Apple store. The redhead was engrossed with her brow furrowed, her tongue poking out between her teeth and her body leaning every which way as she played the game. "Okay, maybe a little nerdy," Tara conceded and enjoyed a good laugh with Rachael.

"So, do you know what you're getting her for her birthday yet?" Rachael asked.

Tara sighed, puffing out her cheeks slightly, "I don't know. What do you get a Jewish girl that just happens to share her birthday with Christmas?"

Rachael glanced across the mall again at Willow, "Hmmm, I wonder...uh oh."

"What?" Tara eyed Rachael curiously.

"I think the word is out," She replied as a small group of people approached Tara for autographs and another crowd with cameras was forming outside the coffee shop.

"Damn," Tara sighed in defeat realizing that the hat, scarf and glasses hadn't worked as well as planned.

Across the mall Willow was starting to have issues of her own, as numerous fans also approached her. Some wanted her autograph and picture, but most were asking about her famous girlfriend. Then her phone started to buzz furiously.

The text was from Rachael, 'Will, time to go. NOW.'

Willow did her best to politely excuse herself and with the help of several Apple employees and was finally able to exit the store; only to be met with a mob scene across the mall in front of the coffee shop.

The crowd was large, there were dozens of people and it was growing by the minute. It took some time before Willow was able to fight her way through to reach her slightly panicked girlfriend.

"Tara! Are you ok?"

"Yes, but I think w-we need to get out of here."

Willow nodded and looked at Molly, who was trying to keep the mob from crushing them, "Where's Rachael?!"

"She's fine, she and Stella took all the bags and went to get the car. They're meeting us out front." Molly replied seeing Willow instantly relieved; guessing that she was worried about the possibility of her pregnant sister getting trampled.

"Good, cuz we need to make with the speedy exit." No sooner had the words left Willow's mouth when mall security showed up to try and help escort Tara from the building. Willow received another text from Rachael stating that she was at the entrance with the car as Tara did her best to be cordial to her fandom without getting caught on tape completely losing it. It was the last thing she needed.

Willow's phone began to vibrate again, "They're at the entrance, let's blow this popsicle stand!" She exclaimed and even amidst the chaos, received a somewhat amused look from Tara.

They tried to make a hasty exit as the crowd began to surge forward with Willow and Molly flanking Tara in the middle; arms linked and protected by about a half dozen swarly mall cops. Unfortunately, it turned to a snails pace as the mob increased in size and they had to navigate the narrow aisles lined with busy kiosks and holiday shoppers. Once outside the doors Stella lunged forward, grabbing Willow by the shirt, and shoving them unceremoniously into the back seat; but not before she shouted at a couple of over zealous women that had tried to throw themselves at Tara.

"I'm in...DRIVE! DRIVE!" Stella shouted as Rachael sped away from the curb.

They girls in the back were panting and still slightly out of breath from their ordeal. Willow was concerned and turned in her seat, looking back to see if they were being followed.

Rachael was the first to speak as she turned on to the freeway, "What the fuck was that?!"

"It was fucking awesome!" Stella chimed in. "Exhilarating! I was so ready to kick those chicks asses! Just a little bit closer..." She said as she punched the air with her hands.

The stunned spectators glanced at each other and then all burst out in a fit of laughter.