So I had buried myself in my work, and pretended that I didn't think about her. I'd had lots to catch up on when I transferred to UCLA, as not all my credits from UCS counted. So I was able to focus my mind on doing well in my degree, and I managed to graduate near the top of the class. Me, Tara Maclay, the girl whose father told her she'd end up dropping out of college, that she'd never be able to cut it. Although there were no friends or family to support me on my graduation day, I have never felt more at peace than I did then.
It might sound silly - a degree is just a piece of paper, when you reduce it to its barest form - but having the degree changed me. It proved to me that I could manage things on my own. I'd always hidden behind someone. At first my mom, to protect me from my father and brother. Then behind Willow, hiding in the reflected glory of her academic achievements and powerful magic. But now I knew I was strong enough to achieve on my own.
And it was now that my thoughts turned to Sunnydale. I'd learned that I could cope with failure, and turn that into success. Perhaps I could try things with Willow again. Maybe they wouldn't work out. Maybe we wouldn't fit in each other's lives any more. But I had to stop living in fear.
I decided to apply for a place on a master's course in Art History at UC Sunnydale. I got onto it, and now I was here, in Sunnydale, sitting in a dorm room much like the one I'd had when I first came here four years ago.
I unpacked my clothes, which didn't take up a lot of space, and my books, which did. I replaced the college duvet with my own bedspread and put up my much loved fairy lights. I looked around and smiled. I had a strange sense of coming home.
After getting settled in, I decided to go for a walk around campus. So much can change in 18 months, and I thought it would be nice to have a look before it got dark.