The Star and the Ocean: Chapter Thirty-One

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“I can picture it.” Em’s eyes were closed and she was sitting cross-legged on the deck. “You surrounded by all these little kids in leotards. It’s fucking adorable.”

From behind her, May giggled. Legs hanging over the edge of the hammock, she played with Em’s long hair while the two of them enjoyed the morning sunshine.

“I think it would be fun,” May said, deftly twisting the strands into an elaborate braid. “I love kids and I love to dance. Teaching seems like the best of both worlds. But who knows. There’s a lot I’d like to try.”

Em tilted her head back to look up at May. “Do you-”

“Don’t move your head.”

“Sorry.” She dropped it back again. “Do you want kids? Like, in life?”

May leaned down and grinned in Em’s peripheral vision. “Don’t you think it’s a bit premature to be talking about kids? Pass me the elastic.”

“That’s not what I meant!” Em forced a laughed, doing as she was told. She was prepared to joke her way out of the awkward corner she had backed herself into when a sound in the distance caught her attention. “Do you hear that?”

“No.” May looked down the beach. She waited in silence, knowing Em’s hearing was far better than hers. If there was indeed something out there, she would be able to hear it herself soon enough.

Within moments, the rumble of a struggling engine gradually filled the air. May caught sight of a van making its way down the beach like a shimmering mirage in the heat. She squinted through the sunlight.

“It’s Kai.”

“Really?” Em sat up and followed May’s line of sight. “Shit. Should I hide or something?”

May shook her head. “He knows you’re still here. The rest of the family isn’t thrilled but Kai’s pretty laid back.”

Through everything that happened over the years, May’s family had stuck by her. Yes, her parents had been everything from mortified to furious at the height of the scandal, but blood or otherwise, they cared about their children unconditionally. Ora hadn’t spoken to May for months after the truth about her and Mila had come out, but even she had come back around in time, although May nursed the wound of knowing their relationship hadn’t been the same since.

But Kai had always been gentle with her. The pair of them were less than a year apart in age, and had grown up as one another’s closest allies. He believed every word May had told him about what happened – a fact not even their parents could lay claim to. He believed to the point that he had taken matters into his own hands, confronting Kane one evening shortly after the photo had gone public. The confrontation hadn’t ended well for either of them, but May had been touched by his valor nonetheless.

Devotion to her sister aside, Kai was also a good son. He had never been one to defy their parents, a fact May kept in mind as she watched his van roll up and come to park at the base of the tree.

“Yo, Maybe!” Kai called from the sand. “Can I come up?”

“Door’s open!” May shouted back.

Em watched quietly as Kai stepped through the door and called out a hello. Physically he was May’s opposite in virtually every way; tall, broad and dark to her slight and pale. He wore his wavy dark hair to his shoulders, framing his round face and carefree smile like a halo. Just like the first time they met, Em watched that smile falter when he caught sight of her at his sister’s side.

“Oh,” he said, trying to regain his composure. “Hey. How’s it?”

“Pretty great, dude.” Em smiled as warmly as she could. “Good to see you again.”

It was in a quick glance to May for reassurance that Em caught sight of something that made her stomach drop. How either of them managed to forget the fresh bruise blossoming across the side of May’s neck, she did not know. What she did know was that there was no way Kai wasn’t going to see it.

As was typical of most couples in the early stages of newfound intimacy, not a day had passed since that night in the woods where Em and May hadn’t found an opportunity to be close. It took virtually nothing – a sassy comment, a suggestive glance – for them to throw themselves into one another. The bed, the couch, the hammock – it didn’t matter where they were; clothes would vanish and the pair would lose themselves to pleasure. They had grown confident, trusting each other in a way that left May more than happy to explore somewhat new things including rougher, more intense ways of being passionate with Em.

The bruise on her neck was the incriminating evidence of what had been a night of just such exploration. Other parts of May’s body were littered with similar marks left by both kisses and teeth. They had been laughing about it only hours earlier. Now, Em was kicking herself for not thinking of it before Kai walked in.

Unluckily for both of them, the wide-eyed look of terror on Em’s face got Kai’s attention immediately. His eyes looked to where she did, his face twisting the instant he noticed the mark.

May, however, did not pick up on what was going on between Em and her brother right away. She frowned in confusion.

“What are you look-” Her hand touched her neck. “Oh, no.”

Kai’s head snapped to Em, his face transformed by rage.

“What the fuck did you do to my sister?” he bellowed, making both of them jump.

“Shit!” Em scrambled to her feet just as Kai lunged in her direction.

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Ko-Fi May

Banner art by @blushmallet

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