Willow is confused by another visit and Gerard's actions.
Unfortunately sleep didn’t come. She laid with her eyes open while listening to the others laugh and joke about things she didn’t understand. It saddened her to realize she was an outsider and always would be. What would it be like to have friends? At this point in her life, Kelly was the closest friend she had and really she was just someone Willow had met when she’d ran an ad for a room mate. She wondered what it would be like to sit around and joke with friends about things that had happened while they were together. Willow suddenly sighed and closed her eyes. She would never know what it would be like and she was just torturing herself thinking about it. She would never have that kind of life. No one wanted to be close friends with someone like her. Alicia was nice but Willow could tell that she still didn’t feel completely comfortable in her presence. A tear rolled down her cheek as she listened to one of the guys laugh loudly.
“Hey, you sleeping?” Alicia pulled back the curtain and peered in.
Willow quickly wiped her cheek and shook her head.
Alicia had seen the tear but pretended not to notice. “Well scoot over. Let’s talk.”
Willow was shocked but moved over and quickly Alicia slid in beside her.
“Hey, I know being around so many new people can be a bit overwhelming.” Alicia said softly. “But maybe if you give us a chance you’ll see all of us are pretty good people.”
“I know you all are.” Willow said feeling very confused. Had she made it seem she thought otherwise?
“Well then why are you here alone instead of being out there with us?”
“I…uh, I was just sorta tired.” Willow knew it was a lie. So did Alicia.
“Having friends is hard for you, isn’t it?” Alicia asked kindly.
Willow’s tone was flat. “I don’t have any friends.”
Alicia leaned up on her elbow and looked closely at Willow. “Well then I think it’s time you did.”
“You don’t understand.” Willow said slowly, “It’s always been so hard for me to be around people. Even when I’m not trying sometimes I hear what they are thinking and I’m afraid I’ll say something that’s in response to an unspoken thought.”
Alicia knew there was more. “I can hear it in your voice. What else?”
Willow looked away, “I was always afraid that if I did become close friends with someone and they found out about me they would realize I was a freak.”
“There’s that word again.” Alicia said rolling her eyes, “I thought we already decided that you are unique. Stop putting yourself down, Willow. You have an incredible gift.”
Willow wanted so badly to believe her but it was hard. “It’s not really a gift.” She whispered.
Alicia truly liked her and wanted to help. “Look, you saved my husband’s life. Not just from a fall but you’ve helped him realize he’s not crazy. Mikey told me that you said you’ve helped living and dead people. Really, tell me how many people can lay claim to that?”
“Hey, for the first time you are surrounded by people who know your secret and they like you. Don’t hide yourself away. Come on. We’re just about to start a game of “Seen It”. Have you ever played?”
Willow shook her head.
“You’ll love it.” Alicia said sliding out of the bunk. “Come on.” She held out her hand.
“But I don’t know how to play.” Willow protested.
“It’s easy.” Alicia laughed, “But just be prepared for Gerard to win. That dude is a movie trivia master.”
Willow took Alicia’s hand feeling a strange since of excitement. Was it really possible to be friends with these people?
As they walked back into the front area of the bus all eyes looked at Willow.
“She’s gonna play too.” Alicia announced happily.
“Great.” Frank said while munching on a bowl of popcorn.
“You can sit here.” Bob got up from his spot on the sofa so Willow could sit. “Maybe you can beat Gerard.”
Willow glanced quickly over at Gerard then looked away.
Ray explained how the game was played and they began. After a few minutes Willow began to relax and enjoy herself. While she had watched her fair share of movies Alicia had been right. Gerard was a trivia master. There was a collective groan when he answered the last question and won the game.
Afterward Bob and Ray both headed towards their bunks. Brian, who had been in the back of the bus called Frank back to go over some details for the next concert. Now it was just Mikey, Alicia, Gerard and Willow. Willow began to feel nervous again. For the past hour she had successfully avoided giving Gerard more than a quick glance but now he was speaking directly to her so that was impossible.
“I know you said you had to quit school but that were you studying?”
Willow sighed, “I was studying to be a music therapist.”
“What exactly is that?” Mikey asked.
“The field I wanted to go in was geared towards helping children with behavioral problems through music therapy. It’s been shown that music can either stimulate the brain or calm it depending on the type of music.”
“That sounds interesting.” Gerard said, “And it sounds like a field you would excel in.”
Willow shrugged, “I was just a few credit hours from graduating but it doesn’t really matter because there is no way I can afford to go back to school. My first priority is keeping the house my aunt left me and there are still back taxes to pay.”
“And yet you won’t let us pay you more than your McDonald’s salary.” Gerard said looking at her closely.
Willow didn’t need to listen to his thoughts to know what he was thinking. “I told you that I’m doing this to help Mikey.” She locked eyes with him. “Nothing else.”
Alicia wanted to steer the conversation in another direction. She was afraid Gerard would say something to upset Willow. “So tomorrow when we wake up we’ll be in Columbus. You ever been there?”
Willow shook her head, “I’ve never been anywhere other than Kansas and Missouri.”
“You’re kidding.” Alicia was shocked.
Willow smiled, “It’s the truth.”
“Then tomorrow before the concert we’ll have to show you around.” Mikey said “And it will give us a chance to talk.”
“Mikey, just let her enjoy herself for awhile.” Alicia said tugging on his arm. She understood Mikey was excited to talk to Willow about all the new things his mind was being opened to but she also understood that Willow wanted to just hang and be part of the group. She didn’t want to feel different.
“She’s right, Bro.” Gerard said looking over Willow. “There will be plenty of time to talk. Let Willow have some time to enjoy her travels.”
Willow looked over at him and smiled, “It’s okay. I know Mikey has lots of questions. I don’t mind.”
“But I do.” Gerard said firmly. “Tomorrow the four of us will hang together. Okay?”
Willow heard clearly the thoughts in his head he wanted her to hear. He was thinking that she needed time to just feel normal. His understanding and concern touched her deeply.
When Willow returned to her bunk a second time she felt asleep quickly. The constant dull hum of the bus engines lulled her to sleep but not before she had time to reflect on the last few hours. Alicia had understood how she felt and had gone out of her way to make sure Willow had been included. Gerard had understood too. Willow wasn’t sure how to react to that knowledge. Gerard confused her. One minute he was ready to throw her off the bus and the next he was showing concern for her. The fact that he could put thoughts in her head was a bit frightening. All of these thoughts were floating around in Willow’s head when sleep claimed her.
Several hours later Willow’s eyes opened and at once she knew why. Pulling back the curtain she saw Elena standing where she’d stood the night before. Willow opened her mind and waited for the images she expected to appear. But Elena simply smiled and in the blink of an eye she was gone.
Slowly Willow pulled the curtain closed and fell back on the pillow. Elena had appeared to her, yet she hadn’t a clue as to why. Had Elena been trying to tell her something but she hadn’t been able to understand the message? It wasn’t until much later that Willow finally fell back to sleep.