The following Wednesday, May was at Ora’s house and completely distracted.
“May, are you listening to me?”
May was going back and forth, trying to decide whether or not she should have turned down Em’s offer to feel what it was like to float. She had a small fear of heights (“How can that be?” Em had laughed. “You live in a tree!”) and the idea of being held aloft by a hovering half-human hadn’t struck her as a good idea at the time, but now she was regretting saying no.
I’ll bet she’d let me try again if I asked, May thought.
After two failed attempts at getting her sister’s attention, Ora resorted to raising her voice, breaking May from her reverie.
May gave her head a shake with a small sound of surprise. “I’m sorry, what were you saying? I was miles away.”
“Apparently!” Ora laughed but May was all too familiar with the many ways her sister masked annoyance. From the breakfast table, Omi looked up to watch their exchange; he clearly recognized it too. “I asked if you were still planning on coming to dinner on Saturday. We missed you last weekend.”
May tensed. She and her siblings usually gathered at the family home for dinner with their parents every weekend. The tradition had started when Ora – the eldest of the three – first moved out. It was a rare thing to miss it, and the fact that she was now going to have to cancel two in a row made May’s insides squirm.
“I don’t know,” she cringed, unable to look Ora in the eyes as she lied. “The show is taking up more time than I was expecting. They might call me in early for rehearsals again.”
May hated lying to her sister, but what else could she do? She didn’t want to leave Em alone more than she already had to, and she couldn’t tell anyone about her either; at least not yet. Many people in Omaea were still wary about mainlanders. If her family knew May had opened her home to some unknown woman? She shuddered just thinking about it.
The first day after Em’s confession had been a tense one. Still, May had been willing to try and understand. When she removed Star-powered magic from the equation, Em was still the charming stranger May found herself so inexplicably drawn to. That certainly made it easier to suspend her disbelief.
Not that it was fair to call either of them strangers now. Opening up to May brought out a whole new side of Em – a side that was more confident and talkative than before. After a brief warming period, she won May over with her eagerness to share anything and everything.
Many of the days following Em’s big reveal involved sharing from both sides. Em had watched with genuine admiration as May showed her the conveyance system she had developed for harvesting and moving fresh water around her tree-top home. She had been just as impressed when May offhandedly mentioned that she knew how to surf.
“That is so cool,” Em had marvelled. “You’re so damn talented, May!”
“No, I’m not,” May demurred, acting humble despite being thoroughly flattered. “This is an island; you either learn to live with water or you drown.”
For her part, Em demonstrated the scope of her otherworldly abilities with the zeal of a stage performer.
“What other magic tricks can you do?” May had asked, watching in awe as Em twisted gracefully mid-air for what had to be the dozenth time. It was a mesmerizing thing to behold: almost like dancing.
Em pulled a face. “Calling it magic makes me sound like some kind of hokey birthday party magician.”
“What do you call it then?” May laughed, waving a hand in the space beneath Em’s feet as she hovered.
Em tapped the top of May’s head with her toes before gently bringing herself back down to the ground. “I call it an ability. There’s nothing mystical about it as far as I’m concerned – I’m just able to manipulate the energy around me in a way that other people can’t.”
“What does that even mean?” May cocked her head with curiosity. She had never heard of such a thing before.
“I’m not sure how to explain it,” Em admitted with a shrug. “All I know is, I experience the world differently than you. There is energy everywhere – everything has it. I feel it very clearly and I can interact with it in the same way.”
“Well, aren’t you special,” May teased.
“I know, right?” Em grinned.
Without saying any more, she had brought her hands together until a blue flash of glowing light ignited between her palms. She let it expand before tossing it into the air. An unseen shockwave fired after it, forcing the orb to explode into a fireworks-esque display. May had watched in delight as the residual energy gradually disperse back into the atmosphere like stars flickering out at daybreak.
And so went their days together. Any waking moment May wasn’t taking care of Omi or dancing, she spent with Em. May tried teaching Em to dance (Em, as it turned out, was woefully bereft of any sense of rhythm – a fact they both found incredibly entertaining) and Em taught May how to throw a punch (“The key is to use your shoulder,” she instructed, holding up a couch cushion for May to practice on. “That’s where the power comes from.”)
They cooked meals, swam in the ocean, and talked. For hours, well into the night, the two would talk about anything and everything. They were an odd pair, but each truly enjoyed the time they spent together.
The following Saturday, the day of May’s second cancelled family dinner, the two finished cleaning up from a late breakfast before settling onto the couch to watch a movie.
The day was overcast and gloomy; perfect for holing up indoors. At Em’s suggestion, May chose one of her favorite old black and white films where the actors both sang and danced. May hesitated; in the wake of Em’s personal revelation, she had become self-conscious of her more mundane interests.
But Em insisted.
“I’m sure they’re considered classics for a reason,” she concluded, filling a bowl full of berries leftover from their morning meal.
They sat close together on the couch. May tried not to burst with nervous excitement as they shared a blanket draped across both their laps.
A dramatic meltdown from the film’s leading lady made Em snort.
“Stop!” May laughed. Not for the first time, she nudged at Em playfully with her elbow.
“Oh, c’mon,” Em grinned, not looking away from the screen. “It’s meant to be funny! I’m supposed to laugh.”
May gave her an exasperated look, but couldn’t suppress her smile.
“Okay, give me another,” Em said after a moment.
May chose a plump berry from the bowl and flipped it skyward. Em skillfully caught the flung fruit in her mouth and went back to watching the movie as if nothing had happened, making May giggle.
Thoroughly satisfied with herself (she’d had May tossing her berries since the movie started) Em slumped comfortably deeper into the soft couch. Perhaps it was unintentional, but her shoulder settled gently into May’s.
A kaleidoscope of butterflies collided against the ceiling of May’s stomach. She tried her best not to react. What would happen if she relaxed back into the cushions too, just enough to bring them a little closer together? Would it be too obvious? She’d have to move slowly; make it look natural…
Just as she steeled the courage to make her move, Em sat up with a jolt.
“What is it?” May asked, flustered.
“Did you hear that?” Em cocked her head, straining to hear over the swelling movie soundtrack.
May reached for the remote and hit the mute button. The quiet revealed the sound of many pairs of feet stomping up the spiral staircase.
A look of horrified realization washed over her face.
Banner art by @beverlylove