❯ A Twist of Fate – Chapter 1
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It was just an ordinary Sunday when they got the news. Nothing would have indicated the sadness that was about to come. It was just nearing 10am when the phone it Willow’s apartment rang. She glanced at the number. It was vaguely familiar, but she couldn’t place it as she answered. « Hello? »
The voice that answered had a distinctly British accent. « Hello. Willow? »
“Yes. Who is this?”
“I don’t know if you’ll remember me, but my name is James Harring. I’m a member of the Devon coven. We put several years ago when you were here.”
A vague light clicked in Willow’s memory. She was surprised. It was rare that the coven contacted her, and when they did, they usually asked Giles to make the call. “Of course, James. What can do for you?”
The man on the other end didn’t immediately answer. It was rather clear that he was reluctant to say what he had to. After a moment, he took an audible breath and answered. “Actually, I’m calling to tell you that Rupert Giles has left the Earthly plain.”
Willow’s eyes went wide with shock as her muscles completely gave way. It was all she could do to keep the phone pressed to her ear and remain standing long enough to move the few steps to a chair before she collapsed. “What? When, how?”
James sighed. “Sometime last night, we believe. He was found this morning in his bed. Our best guess is he went to sleep yesterday like normal, and just never woke up. Rather a peaceful way to go, if you think about it.” The last part seemed to be added as an attempt at comfort. It did little to alleviate the shock coursing through Willow’s body.
It was a moment before she could form a coherent sentence. “So….what now?”
“Well, we’re planning on holding his funeral next Wednesday. We would be honored if you could attend. Also, we know that he had many friends and associates there in the States. We would appreciate it if you could pass on the news to them, expressing our condolences and inviting all who wish to attend the ceremony.”
Willow nodded automatically, forgetting the man was several hundred miles away. “Alright. I’ll arrange the flight over this afternoon. James….” she choked on the words. “Thank…. thank you for calling. I really appreciate it.”
“Of course. I look forward to seeing you in a few days. I only wish it were under happier circumstances.”
“I know. See you in a few days.” She hung up the phone and sat there in silence for a while. After a moment, she realized that if she was going to get anything accomplished, she’d better get to work before reality began to sink in.
She noted that her hands were shaking a bit as she picked up the phone. She may have been well over 60, but her hands were almost always perfectly steady. She dialed without hardly thinking about the number. After a couple of rings, a male voice answered. “Hey Will. What’s up?”
She took a breath and thought what to say. If she said it out loud, she risked losing her grip and reality coming smacking her in the face. `Not yet. Just a few more minutes.’ “Hey Xander. Um, could you meet me over at Buffy and Dawn’s?”
Xander could hear in her voice that something was up. “Willow, are you alright? What’s going on?”
“I’m ok. I….I can’t tell you right now. Just please meet me there?”
“Alright. I’ll be there in a couple of minutes. Don’t worry, I’m sure that everything will be alright, no matter what.”
They hung up and both headed to the Summers home. Willow got there first and knocked on the door as she walked in. “Hello. Anyone home?”
Joyce, Buffy’s 20 year old daughter (named for Buffy’s mother), poked her head around a corner. “Hey Aunt Willow. Mom and Aunt Dawn are up stairs.” She cocked her head, noticing her aunt’s agitated appearance. “Are you ok? What’s going on?”
Willow walked over and gave the young woman a hug. “I’m fine. I’ll explain when Uncle Xander gets here.” Pulling back, she steps over to the stairs. “Hey Buffy, Dawn, could you two come down for a little while?”
“Hey Will. Sure, be down in a minute.” Buffy called.
A short time later, the two older Summers girls came down and Xander arrived a moment later. They all gathered in the living room. “Ok Willow, what’s going on? You seemed on the verge of wigging out on the phone, and quite honestly, you LOOK like you’re barely hanging on.”
Willow was sitting on the couch, the shaking getting worse and worse as the time to admit reality came closer and closer. “Well, just before I called you, I got a call from James Harring.”
“James Harring? Isn’t that that one friend of yours from the Devon coven?” Dawn asked. “What did he say that’s got you so rattled?”
“He… he was calling to give me some news.” The others remained quiet and tense as she took a deep breath. “Giles….passed away in his sleep sometime last night.”
There was near perfect silence for a few moments, and a single tear slipped down Willow’s cheek. Just as she suspected, saying the words brought the reality of the situation crashing down on her. Her shaking became stronger, and the tears began to flow.
It was only a short time before reality sank in for the others. Joy and Dawn joined Willow in tears. Xander did his best to comfort the distraught women while quietly dealing with his own grief. The four held each other, murmuring quiet words to try and sooth, while feeling little comfort themselves.
Only Buffy seemed to remain nearly untouched by the sadness that soaked the room. She sat quietly by herself, staring off into the distance as if lost in her own world. Though she didn’t appear to be happy, she certainly didn’t look like a person who had just heard the news that the man she had once considered a father was dead.
Eventually, the others were able to pull themselves together. When Willow was finally able to speak, her voice was weak but steady. “James said they’re planning the funeral for Wednesday. I haven’t called the airlines yet. We should probably do that. The sooner we can get out there….. And James asked if I could spread the word here in the States…”
Dawn put a hand on her shoulder when it seemed that Willow was about to start going off the deep end. “Okay, just take a breath. You call the airport. The rest of us can take care of getting the word out, alright?”
Willow managed a small smile. “Thanks, Dawnie. I’ll let you know when I can get us a flight out. There’s so much to do, and so little time…..”