The Star and the Ocean: Chapter Nine

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May shifted awkwardly, trying to figure out the right way to say what she was feeling.

“You’re alone right now and I – I dunno…” May could feel the heat rising in her face again. “I guess I like spending time with you? I’d like to learn more about you.”

“Learn more about me?” Em looked like she couldn’t have possibly heard correctly. “What was all that talking we did last night?”

May stared Em down. This moment felt important – as if she could screw things up very badly if she wasn’t careful with her next move. She didn’t know why she felt such a strong need to push on this. All she knew was she couldn’t let this ghostly stranger leave yet.

She spoke slowly, feeling her inhibitions slip away, feeling brave. “There’s something you’re not telling me.”

Em looked genuinely shocked and again turned her eyes quickly back to the stars. Tension rose up like a wall between them. When Em didn’t respond, May felt that bravery trickle away.

“Em, I’m sorry. That didn’t come out the way – I don’t know why I said that, it was completely out of line. I’m sor-“

Em sat up, waving May back as if she could bat her words right out of the air.

“No, May, it’s fine.” She wasn’t looking at her, but instead staring hard through her. She seemed to be at war with herself. May sat still as stone, heart caught in her throat, silently reeling over how quickly things were falling apart. What had she been thinking, saying something like that?

The moment hovered heavy between them.

Em broke the silence with a long exhale.

“I’m not upset.” Em spoke softly through a shaky smile. “I’d like to get to know you better too. And you’re right; I haven’t been completely honest with you. But I’ve been thinking about it and… I’d like to be.”

May blinked in surprise. She had hardly dared to believe she’d be right, but she certainly hadn’t considered Em might be interested in knowing her better too. Her stomach fluttered, feeling hopeful.

Em stood with a sigh and turned slightly to stare out across the ocean. Her hands clenched, released and clenched again absently at her sides. May waited.

“I want you to know the truth,” Em announced. She looked down at May, still hunched over her mug on that old folding chair, and gave her a weak smile. “If it’s too much, just say so, okay? Just say the word and I will get the hell out of your life.”

May’s mouth went dry. Suddenly she wasn’t sure what she wanted anymore.

“O-okay?” she agreed meekly.

Em nodded. She shook out her hands, taking a step toward the edge of the deck. The perimeter was fenced more for aesthetics than safety with low, solid wooden posts spaced evenly around the edge and connected by relaxed lengths of nautical rope.

Em stepped onto one of the posts, balancing precariously.

May tensed up. Her dancer’s reflexes made her instinctively aware of every muscle needed to balance on that post safely. Em was one wrong flinch away from an awful accident. It was a fifteen foot drop from the deck to the sand below.

Em glanced over her shoulder at May and smiled again. “Last chance. Are you sure you want to get to know me better?”

Breathless with curiosity and a growing sense of worry, May nodded ever so slightly. What was happening?

Em stepped forward from the post and off the deck, feet touching air.

May’s mug of tea shattered at her feet, abandoned.

But her panic for Em’s safety was soon replaced with panic of a different kind.

Em had not, in fact, plummeted to the ground beneath them.

She floated eerily in the air. A  gentle pulsing emanated from where Em hovered, suspended much like one might look if they were under water. Em’s already spectral skin had a gentle glow to it now. Her long silver hair wafted effortlessly around her.

Em turned. Everything about her flowed dreamily. She locked eyes with May, those pale eyes shining bright. She grinned as if she couldn’t help but find the whole situation humorous.

She spoke, breaking the dream-like haze between them. “Here’s the thing…”

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Banner art by @beverlylove

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