Yes! yes its an update! My Goodness I realize it’s been awhile since I visited Barley and Nessa. Since I am pantsing this story, I have no idea where it will go, but for now, I hope some questions are answered for Barley. The poor guy’s been agonizing. Stay? Go? Without further delay, here is part 10. I’m so sorry it took me so long!
Where I’ve Been – Part 10
Maury was shrugging into his work jacket when Barley came up the side porch and into the house. His boots clomped on the wooden floor, too loudly. Maury turned, thinned his lips, and nodded to the kitchen. Barley followed him in.
“Turner is leaving with the army.” Barley blurted.
“I know.” Maury said tiredly. “He told us after the church gathering dispersed. Some fool notion to go find his boys.”
“I tried to stop him.”
“No one can stop Turner when he has his mind to something. He’s hurting, Barley.” Maury replied.
Barley nodded, the truth of it not lost on him. He had done the same when he was just a boy, and was just as foolish. They stood in silence for a moment, Barley fiddled with the hem of his own jacket, hesitant to bring up the subject of him leaving again.
“So.” Maury said, breaking the silence. “You decided yet?”
Barley shook his head and leaned on the counter. He let out a huge breath, and ran fingers through his hair, tossing his cap out in front of him. So many people would be hurt if he stayed. So many people would be hurt if he left. It was an impossible situation, at least for him.
“I don’t know what to do, Dad.”
Maury nodded, and leaned beside him. He held out a work-worn hand, the palms ringed with callouses. His eyes searched it, as if reading a well-worn book, and then he closed his fingers slowly. Barley waited.
“Son, where does your heart say you should be?” He finally said, and looked back at Barley.
“It can’t decide either. Its hopeless.”Barley replied, looking down. “I want to stay, this is my home. But, I have this need to go with them, and-”
“Your family will always be here. This is where you come from.” Maury replied. “But your heart is another matter. Your heart tells you where home is.”
Barley blinked, and stood up. “But Dad, its more than that. I don’t want to disappoint you, or Jessica. I’m home now, you need me-”
Maury waved his hands, interrupting Barley. “Bullshit. You are a joy to me, my son returned by grace of God! But I know that you are a man now, and need to make your own decisions. God will help you decide, and show you your path. God will show you where your heart is. I believe this.”
“But-” Barley interjected.
“No buts. Of course, we want you to stay, but it is your decision to make, and I do not want to be the yoke around your neck if you stay, and regret not helping those poor unfortunate souls to survive. Be free to stay or go, my son, knowing that I- well, both of us- love you no matter what decision you make.”
Barley ran a hand through his hair again, turning, pacing the length of the kitchen, pent up anger at the indecision of such a simple, yet difficult decision making him vibrate with impatience. He growled in frustration and turned to his father again.
“Why does this have to be so complicated?” he said, then added, softly, “I love you both. I want to be by your side to help Jessica find a husband, to help you farm. But I know that if I don’t go those people out there are going to be leaderless soon enough, and it tears me up inside to think I can help, but wouldn’t because I was too selfish.”
Maury nodded and folded his hands in on themselves, waiting. Barley watched them, studying the blunt fingertips, the sun spots, and the wrinkles over the knuckles. He frowned, realizing that those hands had dried tears as well as tanned hide when he was a boy. Hands he would never, ever forget, no matter how long he lived. Hands he hoped wise enough to emulate someday, which was a strange thought. He blinked, and looked directly at his father.
“I love Nessa, Dad. I think I have loved her since the day I left this place. And dammit, I love her so much I can’t even stand beside myself knowing how much I could hurt her if I leave! But is that enough to tip the scale and stay?”
Maury came to his son, and put an arm on his shoulder. “Love is what you make it, son. It survived all this time, don’t you think you should ask her if its enough?”
Barley hesitated, his fist hovered over the door. He breathed out, and as he was about to knock, it was opened. Nessa’s mother stood at the door, her expression frowning as she set eyes upon him, her hands wet from the sink of dishes behind her.
“She’s in the living room.” She said tersely, and turned from the door.
Barley blinked at the reception, and walked in, peering around the corner into the living room. Harriet was pouring tea, and Nessa was folded up on the couch, a book forgotten on her lap as she looked up and saw him.
He stepped past the scowling Mrs. Wooler, and swept his hat off his head. He stood at the doorjamb between the two rooms and cleared his throat. Harriet sat back, regarding him with red-rimmed and angry eyes. It was clear he had interrupted something serious.
“Barley.” Nessa said, uncurling and standing. “Would you care for tea?”
He watched her measured movements, the tightly controlled emotions, her own wrung-out face, and his heart broke. These past few days had been hard for both of them, but more for her. He could see the hurt she was holding back, he assumed the fear that he would leave, again. Her hands smoothed down her shirt, shaking, and he strode to her, taking them quickly up into his.
“No. We need to talk.” he said. He felt Harriet move away, and he pulled her further up into the room, away from the couch, towards a window.
“You’re leaving, aren’t you?” Nessa whispered, her eyes filling.
Barley put his fingers under her chin, and lifted her face to look into her eyes. His heart stopped at the emotion pouring from her, and he kissed each cheek, tasting the salt from the tears working their way down. Nessa was home, not some place, or house. Here was where his heart told him was home. His Dad was right.
“Nessa.” he whispered back, and pulled her to him, crushing her in an embrace, feeling her mold against his body. “Nessa, I l-”
She pushed at him before he could tell her he loved her again, tell her that it was all that mattered, that he would stay if she truly wanted him, forever. She studied him, backing away, and then turned.
“You are leaving. I can see it in your eyes. You have to help them. I don’t want to be the regret you have if you don’t.”
“You think that?” He asked, wondering where she saw this from, and thinking she was perhaps jumping to conclusions he hadn’t even made yet, or her fears assuming the worst. He looked down at his hands, flexing his fingers as she walked around the couch, and bent over to pick up the discarded blanket, smoothing it out as she folded it.
“I do, Barley. You need to help them, and they need you.” She replied, dropping the folded square of blanket onto the couch.
He was confused, and bewildered. “Nessa, what are you saying, do you want me to go?”
“No Barley. I’m not. I’m saying if you go, then I am going with you.” She replied, sniffling, and drying her tears with the back of her hand.
Nessa watched Barley go from surprised to angry in one heartbeat. She figured he would try and stop her, just like her mother and sister had begged and pleaded with her to stay. She had told them, under no uncertain terms, if Barley decided to go, she was going too.
“You’re what?” He spluttered, looking her up and down. “Tell me you aren’t serious.”
“No.” he uttered.
“This is my decision Barley. You can’t change it.” she replied.
“Well, then you are insane. Do you even understand what you’re saying? You are leaving the safety of this place to go out into a war?” he said, raising his voice, gesturing around him.
Nessa winced. She had pictured this going much differently. She expected he would be somewhat welcoming once she had convinced him she was determined to go, and they would stride out together, hand in hand to face the danger. She figured he would welcome having her by his side. Perhaps she had figured wrong.
Barley had now walked over to her, and grabbed both her arms, shaking her slightly. “Nessa, stop this.”
She looked directly into his eyes, steeling herself to the onslaught of emotions he rose in her, and shook her head.
“No. If you go, I go too.”
He growled, dropped her arms, and turned away, pacing to the window and back, crunching his cap in his hand, his fingers on the other standing his hair on end. The agonizing he had done deciding whether to stay or go had been tough on both of them. Nessa wondered sometimes if Barley put too much on himself, and felt resonsible for things he could not control, but his heart was so big, it was hard not to understand that about him. That was part of why she loved him so much. When he was young, he would give and give, he was always trying to please everyone, most of all her.
She reached out and grabbed his arm as he strode past. She needed to help him see the truth of this, and accept her decision. They had learned a lot about each other since he had come home, but she also realized they were still learning the adult them, which was entirely different than teenage them.
“Barley please, let me explain.”
“Explain what, Nes? That you are going to go on some adventure once you are out those gates? That it will be all excitement and heroic moments? Well, its not. There is disease. Violence, death, and even some of the most hardened of folk don’t make it! I don’t want to be responsible for your death! This is not some story in a book!”
He was yelling now, and Nessa’s mother and sister were at the door, both clutching a side of the doorjamb, Harriet’s eyes the size of saucers. They had never seen Barley angry. Not many people had. She took a steadying breath.
“I’m not stupid Barley. I’m well aware of the dangers. Do you not think I would understand, given your stories of what you went through?” She said quietly, then continued. “I want to help. I can heal, and I can carry. I’m not weak, nor am I naeive.”
Barley clenched his fists. She could see his jaw muscles working, his eyes snapping with anger. He came toe to toe with her, looking into her eyes, and she willed herself to be calm. She needed to be calm in the face of his emotion.
“Dammit Nessa, I love you too damned much to let you be in danger, don’t you understand? That is why I am staying. I have to stay. You are my home now.” He said between clenched teeth.
Her heart stopped for a moment. He was staying? For another heartbeat, they just looked at one another, and he sighed, closed his eyes wearily and lowered his lips to hers, claiming her mouth. Her hands flew around his neck, and he gathered her close. She could feel the heat from him radiate through her clothes, and suddenly she wasn’t close enough to him. She longed for privacy then, and wished her mother and sister would just leave.
He broke the kiss and whispered in her ear as he held her in a bear hug. “You are my home Nessa. The rest of the world can go to Hell.”
She let the tears fall again. He was staying.