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Faces: Chapter 4

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Irina didn't say anything for a long time.
Vasily looked away, out the window next to them. He no idea what time it was. No one was on the streets, and there were only a handful of other people in the cafe, few enough that the conversation felt uncomfortable.
Irina had been staring at him in awe for some time, but began staring at the table, lost in thought.
"How much longer do you... have?" she was barely audible.
Vasily put his elbows on the table, and started whispering his next words.
"I've been ill already for a few months, and I found out just recently. I'm in early stage, but it is chronic. It's not going to leave me any time soon, if at all... I was... cautioned to take care of myself and... not be a burden to anyone."
Irina's face was very pale. She was frowning mightily, and blinking a lot, probably on the verge of tears.
"You will get better."
"How can you be so sure?"
"Because I will take care of you."
"No," Vasily raised his voice. "No, I can't let that be. I will not hold you back, Irina. You have a life to live. You will be strapped to an invalid for God knows how long--"
"And I will be with you every step of the way."
"No! Listen to me! I won't be able to support you when I'm too ill, you will be forced to work. We will live in poverty. And... we won't be able to support children. When I die... you will be alone."
Irina was clenching her jaw, and staring at him firmly. She didn't respond as quickly as before.
"We all die, Vasily. What if I die before you do? Only God knows our fate. You have stated to me the drawbacks. But I will present some of my own. Vasily... I couldn't bare to see you die alone. Not after everything you've done for our church, my family... for me. I admit... I don't know whether or not I can handle to see you die, but I know at the bottom of my heart... no other man was meant for me but you."
Vasily looked at her straight in the face. "Are you serious?"
"I am," she nodded.
After a pause, Vasily stood up and held out his hand to her. She took it, and got up as well. They stepped out of the cafe, and started walking by the light of the streetlamps. A thin layer of snow covered the sidewalks and streets. It was very quiet, and very refreshing.
None of them spoke, but held each other arm in arm. They approached the end of a street, and the could see a canal ahead of them. The crescent moon was above them, sparkling lightly in between the sheets of ice on the water. Vasily and Irina walked along the canal until they reached a bridge, and went over it to the middle. It was a far view ahead of them both ways that the canal carved in the city.
Vasily could barely see Irina's face in the dark, but she was watching him intently. He held both of her hands in his.
"I hadn't... planned to speak to you right now what I'm about to tell you... but I must now. Everything within me begs."
Vasily got down on one knee.
"Have mercy one me, I can only express myself so far... Irina... I want you. I want you so much! I want you forever with me! I... would want nothing more than to spend the rest of my life with you, however long that is. I love you...!" he kissed her hand. "Oh God, if I didn't have my illness I would be so happy now, but I am only sad that I will make your life miserable!"
"No, Vasily..." Irina pleaded, and embraced him while he knelt. "It is no misery to love without begrudging it! I accept my fate willingly. Dearest Vasily, I will be with you to the very end."
"You are so good to me...!" Vasily stood up and they embraced each other tightly.
A clock tower far away struck midnight...

Their wedding took place in the summer, and it was very small, but Vasily's family was able to come, and his whole church was there for the gathering. It was a very happy wedding, and Vasily was able to forget his illness. After all, it only returned to him worse in the winter, and in the summers he would feel much better.
Vasily and Irina lived together in his small apartment, and Irina finally found a housekeeping job to keep them stable, while he also had his positions. Vasily also continued composing.

It was within a short amount of time that he met Piotr Ilyich.