Inbetween: Chapter Fifty Two


She tried not to let her anger show. Until Willow got a handle on it and was able to explain just why she was returning in such a thunderous mood, she thought it was best to keep it under wraps. It would make her life a little bit easier if she was not asked questions she did not yet have the ability to answer.

Her anger was of the sort that could be put to a purpose so she did everything she could to refocus the negative energy she felt into something more useful. She needed answers. She would not rest until she had something other than her questions to occupy her mind. It would be a waste to not put the energy and inclination she had to good use when the alternative was to continue to stew in her own negative emotions.

She heard the anger in her footfalls as soon as she entered Mason’s home. The sound of her boots stomping through the hall made her cringe. She knew it was more than likely impossible for anyone to accurately determine her state of mine from the sound of her footfalls, but she could not shake the feeling that her walk sounded angry to her. The boots were heavier than her usual footwear so each step made an alarming amount of noise.

When she entered the room she was sharing with Yuri and Asa and the door slammed shut behind her, she knew that she was doing a poor job of hiding her emotions. There would be no second-guessing from anyone who heard the way she was moving about this house. Her belief earlier that she was at least leaving a hint of doubt in anyone’s mind had to be a delusion.

She sat down on her bed with a huff and began undoing the laces to the boots she had been given. The laces were a bit more complicated than the ones in the shoes she normally wore which slowed her progress and allowed her to notice the shake in her hands.

She was still struggling with the laces and against her own emotions when the door opened. She looked up, unsure of who she should expect to see entering the room. She tried to force herself to look as neutral as possible until she knew who she was dealing with to hide her frustration.

She felt her mood darken again, back to the full force of anger that it had been before she tried to dampen it. Whether or not he deserved it, Yuri was going to receive the brunt of her anger and frustration. She felt pretty guilty about it at first, but at least some of her current state of mind was because Yuri saw fit to keep her ignorant of some very vital facts about how she might interact with this world. He left her vulnerable to Alenna’s investigation and shook her confidence in him. What else might he have conveniently left out?

She stood up, intending to cross the room and demand some answers, but her half-unlaced boots caused her to stumble. With lightning fast reflexes, Yuri crossed the room in time to help steady her. His assistance did a great deal to soften her feelings toward him once again. She knew her anger was not deeply rooted since it could be disrupted so easily.

Her questions persisted and she intended to ask them, but she felt sure she could do so without starting out in a place where she would be shooting barbs at him from the start. If he did not answer her questions she might find some of that harsh edge to her feeling returning, but until then she felt as though it would probably be safe for her to try conversing with him.

“Whoa. Are you okay?” he asked as he steadied her with his hands on her shoulders.

“I’m not sure,” she admitted with more honesty than she originally intended.

“Let’s sit down.”

His suggestion to sit down was more than welcome. She dropped back onto the bed and finally freed her feet from the boots. She was pleased to find that her hands were steadier and it made for easier work in unlacing the boots.

“Something is obviously bothering you,” Yuri said gently. “What’s on your mind?”

She wished that she could dig into him with the full strength of her anger and frustration. Those feelings seemed to have seeped away or receded as soon as she was face to face with Yuri. Without that anger, her grievances seemed so small and childish. Sharing now seemed like it would only make things worse. She could not even justify it by telling herself that she would feel better once she got it off her chest.

Now her main concern was that she would only end up hurting the people she cared about by bringing this up. She hesitated. From the intense way that Yuri was studying her, she knew that she was, in fact, hurting him by remaining silent. She might be unduly harsh if she spoke up, but it was not as though she could prevent all pain and suffering just by being silent.

She sighed and looked away. It might be easier for her to figure out just what to say if she did not feel quite so guilty while she was trying to figure out what she was going to say. She found her courage and looked back over to Yuri.

“You never told me how dangerous and strange my magic would seem if I tried to act as though I was completely ordinary.”

He looked as though he had expected almost anything but what she told him. Since he was at a loss for words at the moment, she pressed on with her rant.

“Alenna noticed and she’s been really curious. She took me down to the mines today to test me. She was experimented on me to see what I could do. I feel like I’m some sort of freak.”

He faced forward but his gaze was still on her face. He seemed uncomfortable with the whole topic, but it was too late for her to bad out of it now. She started to talk and now that she was opening up about it, she had to get it all off her chest or she would end up coming back and picking at it over and over again until she lashed out for no particular reason. Considering how close she came to doing just that a few minutes ago, she knew she needed to do whatever she could to keep from getting back to that state of mind.

“I’m sorry,” he said finally. “If I knew she was going to do anything like that to you, I never would have allowed you to go off alone if I thought Alenna would do anything like that.”

“I know,” she admitted with a sigh, “but it did happen. Down in those mines, I touched some of the ore they dig up to use for the flying ships. It reacted to me, Yuri. I don’t know what information Alenna was trying to get from me in this test of hers, but I think she got it. I’m scared of what she might do now that she knows and I’m afraid I might have handled it badly when I realized what she had done.”

Yuri let out a heavy exhale. “Well, it certainly doesn’t sound good.”

She jumped up from her seat on her bed. Now that her feet were free from the confines of the boots, she felt a lot more nimble on her feet. It was fortunate that she unencumbered herself when she did as she needed to move around freely just now.

The confines of this room felt suffocating all of the sudden. Just a moment ago she had found the small room to be something of a comfort as she knew that it gave some degree of privacy to their conversation. Now she just needed some room to breathe. It was frightening just how quickly her own emotions and needs were changing. A part of her knew that it was just because she was upset, but she wanted nothing more than to deny that she was upset. As long as she was denying that fact, she could believe at least in some small degree that she was being logical.

“It’s not just that she was toying with me,” she tried to explain. “I could not shake the feeling that she was getting the information about me to use for some secret purpose.”

“She does tend to give off that impression, but I don’t think she’s actually done anything yet to actually suggest she would do anything to betray us,” Yuri spoke in a calm, reasonable tone, but his words did little to assuage her concerns.

Willow sighed. Her gut instinct still told her that there was cause to be uneasy, although Yuri’s assurances made perfect sense to her. At this point, she just wished she could find a way to reconcile the two.

“There’s nothing we can do if she wanted to do something to expose or hurt us, I suppose.”

Yuri let out a frustrated exhale. “You’re right. I wish you weren’t. If Alenna can’t be trusted we’re in no position to protest her actions.”

“You’re right. We’re really vulnerable here. Can we at least do something to take away the advantage that what Alenna now knows gives to her?”

“Unless you’re interested in learning how to use the magic you’ve got more effectively, I don’t think we can do much to turn this to our advantage.”

That was not something she had considered. The thought made the hairs on the back of her neck stand up. Learning to use her magic more effectively would make her feel more confident and make shake the confidence of people that thought they could control or take advantage of them. At the same time, she did not want to be a threat to anyone at all. That was part of why she endeavored to keep her abilities a secret. She wanted to avoid being seen as dangerous or being manipulated into being weaponized in some way.

“I really didn’t want to have to do anything like that, honestly,” she admitted. “Now I’m not sure what other options I have.”

She turned back and looked at Yuri. She did not know what she wanted from him. Support, guidance, or even completely taking the problem out of her hands would be equally welcomed by her at this point. He offered none of these but appeared to be giving the matter some thought. She appreciated that, even if it did nothing to help her.

After a long silence, he began to speak slowly and carefully. “I think you need to learn more about the magic of this world and maybe see if you can learn to use your magic more effectively. I can’t help you with either of those things, but I might be able to convince a priest to give you some lessons.”

“A priest?” A sense of foreboding filled Willow. She did not feel right involving yet another person in a matter that she would have preferred to keep a secret. “Wouldn’t it just be easier for you to teach me about this stuff yourself?”

Yuri laughed. “I doubt I’d be a very good teacher. You’re going to have questions and even if I have the answers, I just don’t know how to explain what I know in a way that would make you understand.”

“I see.” She sat down near him on the bed and pulled her knees up to her chest.

What he offered to her just now was a real learning opportunity. She should not be resistant to potentially learning more about the role she might need to fill in this world, but she still hesitated. A part of her, perhaps a bigger part than she ever realized, wanted to remain invisible. Learning to do more would only risk drawing more attention to herself.

She knew what she had to do. The part of her that wanted to stay hidden away and invisible was encouraging her to be a coward. She needed to find the courage to be of use to the people she cared about in this world.

“If you can find someone you trust, I’d love to learn whatever I can from them.”

He smiled and moved closer to put his arm around her shoulders. “I’ll see if I can find a priest up here to explain the way the magic in the stones works. People here seem to be pretty independent so I think that we can trust anyone who is genuinely willing to help.”

Willow nodded. She did not know if she entirely believed what Yuri said, but she thought that she had no option but to trust him at this point.

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