The Star and the Ocean: Chapter Twenty

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“Sorry,” Em whispered, finally noticing May’s discomfort. “I plugged this in days ago and completely forgot about it. I don’t get many calls, clearly.”

A new sound announced the connection had been established and a man’s smiling face flashed onto the screen. He probably wasn’t much older than May or Em, but his scruffy beard made him look like he was. A mop of messy brown hair flopped into a pair of friendly hazel eyes.

“Holy shit, Emmy!” He laughed loudly. “You ladies look rough.” He made a point to look directly at May. “No offense.”

Embarrassed, May muttered something about it being okay while Em grinned.

“We are both extraordinarily hungover.”

“Nice,” he nodded, a proud look on his face. “A sure sign of a good night. So, are you gonna introduce me or what?”

Em looked at May and nodded to the screen, “May, this is Dom. Dominic, meet May. She’s been letting me crash with her.”

“Oh!” May exclaimed, recognizing the name. “Em’s told me about you. You two worked together on the Tenna search and rescue team.”

In the many hours the two had spent talking, Em had told May all about Dominic and the rest of the Tenna SAR team. Dom, as he was known to friends, had been the one to recruit Em after he found her in the woods during one of his camping trips.

“I was very, very lost,” Em had explained.

An expert orienteer with an especially optimistic outlook on life, he had seen Em’s unique abilities as an asset to the team.

When May asked how much the team knew about her, Em had been fairly nonchalant in her reply.

“They know what I can do, but not what I am. You need to understand, there are a lot of different sorts on the mainland and, being the only spit of civilization along the only safe route through the mountains in that region, Tenna sees a lot of them pass through. I told them I’d be willing to help if they didn’t ask too many questions. It took a bit of convincing, but the team eventually agreed. It worked out well for all of us in the end.”

May had a difficult time imagining what “different sorts” inhabited the mainland for an energy-manipulating flying woman to seem plausible. The rumors and stories Hoku locals whispered about the mainland being a dangerous place were starting to make more sense.

Dangerous or not, Dom was the definition of friendly. As they bantered, he filled the girls in on the team since Em left: Trina, the youngest in the crew, was moody and briefly threatened to leave too.

“She’s all talk,” Dom assured them when Em balked at the news. “She loves us too much to leave.”

Matti, the team’s soft-spoken mechanic, was still asking Dom if he thought Em would ever come back.

“Aw, Matti,” Em smiled with genuine glee. “What a sweetheart. I haven’t been gone long enough for him to miss me that much.”

Dom shook his head. “It’s been at least a couple of months now. Feels like longer.”

“Someone needs to do a better job of managing that poor bastard’s expectations” Em said, her smile fading just a bit. “I’m not supposed to be coming back at all.”

“Aw, c’mon, Emmy,” Dom whined. “You can’t expect me to believe you didn’t even plan on visiting. I get you had to leave to figure your shit out and all but it’s not like you can’t swing back through every once and awhile.”

May watched the exchange with a rising sense of dread. She liked Dom, but she resented him for trying to plant any idea that would involve Em leaving. It was petty and selfish, but she and Em had just made some pretty important progress.

A peculiar look swept across Em’s face and she smiled widely.

“You know, I just had an idea.” She draped an arm over May’s shoulder,  pulling her closer so she was fully on the screen. “This one has has never been off the island. Can you believe that?”

May blushed again. As she opened her mouth to defend herself, Dom’s eyes went wide.

“Oh, shit! Well, I think we know what needs to happen now! Hang on.”

The camera became a smear of walking feet and hallway floors as Dom hurried somewhere within the SAR team’s headquarters. The girls heard him apologize to the team’s paramedic, Karin as he pushed past her into a briefing room.

“Okay,” he said, righting the camera. “What did you say the island was called?”

“We didn’t,” May replied, curious as to where this conversation was headed. “It’s called Hoku.”

Dom was silent for a moment as he searched a massive map of the world that was pinned across one of the walls.

“They use it to keep track of where people come from,” Em explained to May while they waited.

“Aha!” Dom’s eyes lit up as he jabbed at a small cluster of islands in the middle of the ocean. “In the Lewa archipelago?”

“Yeah,” May was surprised to hear him talking about her part of the world with such familiarity. Forgetting that she was looking through a screen, she tilted her head in an attempt to see the map better.

“This could work, you know,” Dom continued, tapping his chin. “If you two could get yourselves to Mondova, I could probably come and pick you up.”

“Right, just pick us up. Way to make my month of backpacking through the mountains look like a day trip.” Em turned to May. “Mondova is the city on the coast I was trying to reach.”

“I’d like to know how you managed to skip Mondova and go straight to an island, by the way,” Dom cut in.

“I flew.”

“All that way? I’m calling bullshit.”

“Wait,” May jumped in, trying to prevent the two from going off on a tangent. “Are you guys serious about this?”

“Sure, why not?” Dom couldn’t hide his excitement if he tried, and he certainly wasn’t trying now. “We get to see Emmy again, you get to see the world. It’s win-win, right?”

May hesitated. She thought about all of the stories she made up for Omi about great adventures and far off places. She had always been curious about what else was out there. The idea of finding out thrilled her. At the same time she wasn’t sure if she was brave enough to actually leave. And what would her family say? How would people react if they knew she left the safety of Omea? It was rare enough that anyone travelled to another island, let alone out of the archipelago entirely.

Em must have seen the concern on May’s face. She gave her shoulder a light squeeze and smiled reassuringly.

“We don’t have to decide right now,” she said gently. “Give us a bit of time to think about it, okay, Dom?”

Dom huffed dramatically but the look on his face said he understood. “Okay, but I am totally telling Matti you already said yes.”

“You’re a dick,” Em glowered. May laughed.

“It’s true,” Dom grinned. “But you know you love me.”

May smiled, relieved to not be on the spot anymore. As Em and Dom wrapped up their conversation, May looked out the deck windows and across the ocean.

It wouldn’t be forever, she reasoned. Just a quick vacation, really.

She stole a glance and Em, shining and smiling happily. The idea of an adventure with her didn’t sound that scary at all.

Maybe, May thought, she was braver than she gave herself credit for.

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Banner art by @beverlylove

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