“Come with me,” Emilia says suddenly, extending her hand to Willow. “We don’t have to stay here and watch the world go to shit. I have contacts outside of Venice, we can find somewhere safe, away from all of this… this war, this corruption.” Distantly, she’s aware that she’s talking too fast, but it’s hard to focus.
Willow glows in front of her, an angel on the ground, and Emilia can hardly reconcile this girl with the men who would hurt her, with the men hungry for power who lied and lied and lied, dared to dance with such a beautiful girl, dared to break her heart. Dared to lay a finger on her.
“Just… leave?” Willow asks, still so naive after everything. “What about your husband? What about mine?”
Emilia shakes her head. “They’re destroying each other,” she says. “I see it happen more each day. You and I, we don’t need to get caught up in it. We can run.”
For a second, she can see the idea dancing across Willow’s vision. She could leave this war-torn country and her war-torn husband, she could go somewhere where she wouldn’t be the President’s daughter, she wouldn’t be an icon or a celebrity, she could finally just… be. It’s so close, and so enticing… But.
Willow shakes her head, filled with a kind of sadness she shouldn’t have to know at such a young age. “I can’t leave Venice.”
Emilia feels rage boiling in her stomach, crackling through her bones. “Venice?” she says, thinking about the man who struck Willow and left her crying, broken on the ground. “He’s so twisted up in Markos’ revenge plot he’s almost as bad. What has he done for you? Drawn you back into a world of war? Hit you, hurt you? He doesn’t deserve you. Willow, you owe him nothing . Forget about Venice.”
She tilts her chin up, eyes miraculously clear of tears. “I wasn’t talking about my husband,” she says, small but sure. “I can’t leave my home. I can’t leave Venice , Emilia. This city… it needs me.”
“The city doesn’t deserve you, either,” Emilia says quickly. She means it. The city of Venice robbed Willow of her parents, her childhood, her innocence, her best friend. And the war rages on, and the pain never ends. It’s too much. It’s not fair.
There’s Willow again with that sad little smile, too old and wise for her youthful face. “Maybe you’re right,” she says. “But so what if the city doesn’t deserve my help? I can’t just abandon it. If I can help… I need to help.”
Emilia sees her then, really sees her. She’s not an angel. She’s not a princess and she’s not a girl. She’s a woman capable of making her own decisions… and she’s not changing her mind. “Okay,” she says, voice hollow. She thought she could save Willow, but she can’t. Maybe she can’t save anyone.
Willow holds a hand out to her. “Come with me.”