The Star and the Ocean: Chapter Thirty-Seven

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Lenaia was the first to move. She rushed forward and crouched over Kane, surveying the damage. Blood flowed from his nose and split lip, staining the collar of his dress shirt crimson.

“Okay,” she breathed in relief. “He’s not dead.”

“Of course he’s not dead.” Em grimaced as she shook out her hand.

Lenaia looked up at Em, her expression torn between awe and fear. “I don’t think you understand what you just did. I’ve never seen anyone move that fast! He’s out cold.”

May took hold of Em’s wrist, pulling her around to face her.

“What were you thinking?” Her eyes were large with panic. “We spent the whole night trying to lay low and you go and punch out the town golden boy.”

“He was talking shit about you, May!” Em’s mind was buzzing again. She was dangerously close to shouting.

“Shh!” Lenaia hissed. “You two should probably get out of here. I’ll take care of this.”

Neither May nor Em argued. Whispering their thanks, they ducked under the windows and darted down the stairs to the beach.

Once they had stumbled far enough from the house, May paused to pull off her shoes. She kicked them into the sand in frustration and rounded on Em.

“You hit him!” she snapped.

“I told you, he was talking shit,” Em massaged the side of her head, willing herself to focus. “I’m sorry, I just couldn’t-”

“He’s always talking shit about me, Em.” May cut her off with a dismissive wave of her hand. “That’s not a good reason to punch him out.”

Em peered at May in surprise.

“I’ve never heard you swear before,” she remarked quietly.

“That’s because I haven’t been this mad yet,” May grumbled back, folding her arms across her chest. She was already starting to lose her edge. The adrenaline was ebbing – her fear and anger over what Em had done was slowly replaced by a certain fondness over why she had done it. “What were you doing outside in the first place?”

“I was trying to be discreet, believe it or not,” Em tried to force a laugh but it came out more like a strangled sob. “My mind isn’t… I’m struggling. I didn’t want to pull you from the party so I thought, maybe I should try to get to the water but…”

May gasped. She had been so caught up she hadn’t noticed Em’s labored breathing and pained expression.

She stepped forward, closing space between them and wrapping her arms around Em tightly. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t realize…”

Em leaned into the embrace, the electricity running through her body grounded under May’s touch. She pressed her mouth to May’s, kissing her once to apologize and then again to say thanks. She poured everything she struggled to say into the desperate meeting of their lips until, just like the night when they had first fallen into one another, they found themselves tangled and breathless on the beach. When they finally pulled away, Em’s mind was her own again and May had forgiven her completely.

“How do you feel now?” May asked, gently stroking Em’s cheek with her thumb.

“So much better,” Em replied. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “Thank you.”

May studied Em’s face in the moonlight. She didn’t want to think of what would happen once word got out about the incident with Kane. The idea of facing anyone right now made her stomach twist. What she wanted more than anything was to hide away for a little while.

The idea came to her like a whisper.

“Maybe we should leave,” May said. “Just until the dust settles.”

Em opened her eyes to search May’s. “Leave?”

May swallowed, her mouth dry. She tried not to look as anxious as she felt.

“If we could find a way to Mondova, do you still think Dom would come pick us up?”

***

They stayed up the rest of the night pulling the trip together.

While May packed, Em called Dom. He was ecstatic, waking Matti to rearrange shifts right there with Em on the phone.

The biggest challenge would be getting away for a couple of weeks without raising suspicion. When morning came, May called Kai with a plan.

It took some negotiating, as well as having to sit through some admonishing words, but eventually he agreed to take a couple weeks off work to watch Omi in May’s place. He would tell the family he wanted to spend more quality time with his nephew in exchange for getting to stay at the tree house while the girls were away. He lived with a roommate and the prospect of privacy – in a tree house, no less – was a powerful bargaining chip.

He also agreed to drive May and Em up to the North Shore. A passenger ship left the island once a week, travelling to a couple other islands in the archipelago before heading to the port city of Mondova. It was the only passage from Hoku. May and Em had combined their meager savings for a pair of return tickets.

“I can’t believe I’m helping you two do this,” Kai groaned, breaking what had been nearly two silent and tense hours on the road. “I can’t believe you want to do this, May.”

May had anticipated her brother second guessing the plan. He was too well behaved for this sort of thing and she knew he was probably torn between helping her and doing right by their family’s wishes.

“Think of it as a vacation, Kai,” she reasoned calmly, using the same rationale she leaned on herself. “People go on vacations all the time.”

“Yeah, to other islands,” he shot back. “Nobody from Hoku goes to the mainland. I have a bad feeling about this.”

“The mainland isn’t as bad as you all seem to think it is,” Em mumbled defensively from the back seat.

Kai gave her a pointed look via the rearview mirror. “That’s easy for you to say. What if something happens to you while you’re out there? What am I supposed to tell ma and pa when they find out?”

If they find out,” May corrected.

The van rumbled into the dockyard. Kai found a place to park and turned to May, his expression grave.

“May, I love you. But if our parents figure out something is up, you know I can’t lie to them. It’s a miracle they don’t think me taking holidays just to look after Omi is weird.”

May frowned but didn’t argue. She knew they were putting him in a tough situation.

“I get it,” she said with a nod. “Thank you for helping us with this.”

Kai turned to look at Em over his shoulder. “Take care of my sister out there,” he demanded sternly.

“You have my word,” Em replied. Even she knew this wasn’t the time to joke around.

“We’re going to be fine.” May gave her brother a reassuring smile. “Please, try not to worry.”

Kai laughed and pulled her into a tight one-armed hug. “That’s not going to happen.”

As he held her, May realized this wasn’t just brotherly concern – he was genuinely frightened for her.

“Are you sure about this?” he whispered, his voice laced with unease.

May nodded wordlessly into his shoulder. She was as sure as she could be.

Kai pulled back and forced a smile.

“Okay then. Here goes everything.”

When it was time to depart, May cast one last look back to where her brother leaned against the van looking grim.

This was her last chance; she could still choose to stay.

“Ready, babe?”

May turned. Ahead of her, Em waited with her hand outstretched; warm and welcoming.

A thought flickered across May’s mind. All at once she understood nothing would ever be the same once she stepped aboard that boat.

Was she ready?

Taking a deep breath, May put her hand in Em’s.

Maybe this was a bad idea, but there was only one way to find out.

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Banner art by @blushmallet

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