Inbetween: Chapter Sixty Eight


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She knew she needed to talk to Yuri. In fact, she had been meaning to do bring it up for a while now, but she found herself wondering if now was the right time, again. The fact that he sent her away made Willow hesitate, of course, but the look Lady Nyura gave her as she walked past her going into the room had her seriously reconsidering her decision to say anything at all.

Putting it off all this time just kept making it easier to keep doing the same, even if it might be the wrong thing to do. She told herself she needed to have a serious conversation about what was on her mind with Yuri today, but thinking about it made her too nervous to sit still.

She practically ran back to her room when Yuri gave her that look that told her that she needed to go. That look did not leave room for questions, and after the dirty look from Lady Nyura, she was not willing to stick around and fight to be heard. Once she was back in her room, she found it impossible to stop moving. As long as she was walking around the room, her mind did not seem to able to do much to blow the upcoming topic of discussion out of proportion. Even so, she knew this was going to be a big deal. It would change everything.

She had expected Yuri to be right behind her. He had not said as much, but she could sense from that one small look that he intended to follow along behind her. When he did no join her within the first few minutes she felt her heart rate pick up. She paced the room while wringing her hands and trying to remember to breathe normally. If Yuri was avoiding her now she did not know what she should do.

Talking with Asa had helped some, but he was not going to act until Yuri was on the same page with them. It was up to Willow to get him on that page, but he needed to show up first.

By the time the door opened, she had moved past hand-wringing to nail-biting. She had to quickly wipe her hand on the leg of her pants and act like everything was normal before he could notice.

“Yuri,” she said, hating how surprised she sounded. “I need to talk to you.”

“I know,” he said simply before sitting down on the small couch.

Willow pulled the nearest chair closer to him before sitting down herself. They needed to be close for this conversation, but getting everything set up properly was making her feel incredibly awkward and more than a little self-conscious about how imperfect and selfish she was being by even thinking of asking Yuri to do what she wanted right now.

“It’s not easy to say what I wanted to say,” she explained.

“That’s okay. I know you’ve wanted to talk to me and I figured it must be something pretty big if you didn’t just blurt it out.”

She carefully folded her hands on her lap to stop herself from fidgeting and picking at her nails. Getting the words out was even harder than she thought it would be, and she had assumed it would be one of the hardest things she ever had to do. She knew there might not be another opportunity to have this conversation for a long time, but she could feel herself blowing this opportunity to have a serious discussion with him.

He waited. His patience only made her feel guilty for making him wait. She could feel the guilt building up inside of her and knew that it would end in one of two ways. Either she would finally blurt it out or she would bottle it up and it would stay like that for a long, long time. Finally, the guilt did the trick and she found the words spilling out of her mouth without any will or effort on her part.

“I want to go home. I know it’s not exactly a good time for it, but being back here makes me think about how we came through near here so I should be able to find a way home from here too.”

Yuri frowned slightly. “What do you mean ‘it’s not exactly a good time’?”

“You’re so busy. You have enough on your plate without worrying about me.”

His frown deepened. “What are you talking about?”

Her heart rate picked up as she tried to explain his own situation to him. She thought it should be obvious to him as it was to her, but apparently, he needed to be told exactly why she knew she should not add to his burden. A small part of her hoped that maybe she was overestimating how overwhelmed he felt and he would have plenty of time and energy to put toward helping her.

“You’re so busy with your duties. It’s not right for me to ask you to take on even more right now.”

He kept frowning. Willow could not tell if he was still confused or merely thinking about what she said. She had no choice but to wait and see. Everything about this conversation was hard for her, but not being able to read his body language was by far the worst of it.

“I wish you’d said something sooner. I’m busy, but I’m not too busy for you.”

She wanted to cry from both relief and shame. She knew she should have said something sooner, but the time never seemed right.

She looked down at her hands resting on her lap. “I talked to Asa about it too. He’s going to talk to someone here who might be able to help once he has a chance to go into the city.”

Yuri sighed. “I didn’t mean for you or Asa to feel trapped here by my responsibilities.”

“It’s not like that,” she insisted. “We want to support you.”

“But you still want to leave.”

Words failed her. She did not know how to make him see that both could be true. She wanted to be here for him. He was important to her, but she had so many loose ends back at home that she could not feel content staying here. She knew she should tell him the truth. Lying to him did neither of them any good, but just thinking about leaving while looking at Yuri made her heart ache. Even so, she knew the regret would continue to eat away at her until it tainted all of the things she loved.

“I have to go back home,” she insisted. “It will eat me up inside if I don’t.”

She could not hold back her nervous energy any longer. She might not be jumping up and pacing around the room, but she was back to picking at her nails. No matter how hard she tried to stop, she could not get her hands to listen to her right now. It was a miracle she was able to restrain herself enough to keep from biting her nails. Instead of focusing on something she could not seem to fully control, she looked up and locked her eyes on Yuri’s.

After an uncomfortably long moment, Yuri asked, “Do you think you’ll come back?”

That was a question she had been asking herself over and over again lately. She tried to imagine the next step after she went back home, but everything beyond that point was blank in her mind. She might stay or she might want to find a way back to Yuri and Asa. The fact that she could not see what she would want to do frightened her.

“I-I don’t know,” she admitted.

She watched as Yuri’s lips curved into a forced smile. He hurt because of her. That was something she never wanted to do and now she was doing it just by telling him what was on her mind—or rather how she had next to nothing on her mind.

“I’d like you to come back if that makes any difference.”

She smiled. It really did make a difference to hear him say that. Knowing that she wanted to leave and still hoping for her to come back told her just what she needed to know about his feelings. He cared enough to let her go, but he desperately wanted her to come back to him. It was like that old adage about if you love something set it free. She never understood how that might apply to people, but now she thought she could at least see some practical application.

“It does make a difference,” she assured him.

She reached out and put her hand over his. He immediately shifted the position of his hand to hold hers. His smile looked genuine now and she felt her expression changing to match his.

“We’ll figure out some way to get you home.”

He said the words so solemnly but Willow had to wonder when he would have time to help her find a way back home. Asa said he would help, of course, but he was busy too. She realized she might still be mostly on her own, even if she had done her best to keep everyone on the same page.

She was too caught up in her own thoughts to notice at first, but when she glanced up he was leaning in and watching her intently. She knew that look and quickly rose to her feet to move to his side.

The couch was more than big enough for two people, but she purposely sat down close to him. He immediately put his arm around her, drawing her closer. She rested her head against his shoulder and sighed. He sighed immediately after.

“I’d stay if I could. You know that, right?”

He nodded.

“I hope you aren’t mad at me, Yuri.”

“Why would I be mad?”

“I’m leaving. You need me here and I’m trying to leave.”

“But you’ll come back. I know you will.”

“How can you be sure?”

He shrugged. “I just know. You’ll come back and we’ll be together, you, me, and Asa.”

He shifted a bit so he could look into Willow’s eyes. She was not sure what she saw when she looked in his eyes at the moment, but she felt her heart skip a beat and then kick into overdrive. Whatever was now happening certainly felt important.

“When you come back we can get married… if you want.”

She blushed, which was not the reaction she expected to have to an impromptu marriage offer. She told herself she should protest. It was way too soon to be thinking about anything like that, but she said nothing instead. She was not sure she was ready to accept just yet, but she was not going to refuse him either. She kissed his cheek, which felt like the right response at the moment.

Yuri turned his head slightly and caught her by surprise with a kiss. At first, the melancholy feeling behind the kiss made Willow wonder if this was a goodbye. Then she felt herself growing hopeful. She knew he would let her go, but he would also wait for her. She had to go home, but she was sure now that she would fight to find a way back here again.

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