The Star and the Ocean: Chapter Forty-Two

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May was still upset when she climbed shotgun into Dom’s truck the next morning.

She had gone straight to bed when she arrived home the night before, feigning a deep sleep when Em had crept in shortly after. It had been hard to ignore the way Em whispered her name, softly yet overflowing with concern. But the alternative was actually talking to her, and May knew she wasn’t ready for that.

Exhausted as she was, she rose early; well before her patrol shift with Dom was scheduled to start. Anything to avoid having to see Em before she left. In lieu of sleep, she spent the wee hours pummeling her way through a hangover on the punching bag in the team’s training room. Her head screamed at her to stop, but her heart begged her to keep going.

Dom was his cheery self when he greeted her at daybreak, twirling the truck keys around a finger. He may have been impervious to the effects of a full night of drinking, but he wasn’t immune to how uncharacteristically detached May was as they rumbled out of town.

For a while, neither said anything. Dom glanced at May out of the corner of his eye.

“Did you have a good time last night?” he asked, breaking the silence.

May shrugged. “I guess.”

Sighing, Dom looked at her as best he could without losing focus on the road.

“Trina told me about what happened,” he said softly. “Do you want to talk about it?”

May crossed her arms. Looking out the window, she tried not to think of how much of this defiance she had picked up from Em.

Dom inhaled deeply. “Listen, May, what happened between Em and I was a blip. It was never serious.”

“That’s not… It’s not like I’m jealous or anything,” she muttered, looking at him finally. The expression on his face made her falter in her conviction. “Okay, I’m a little jealous. But that’s not the problem.”

“Then what is?”

May had been trying to distill her feelings down to one single thought all morning and she chewed on her words carefully before answering.

“She didn’t tell me,” she said. “After all the time we spent talking about you and her time here and everything else, she never once mentioned that you two had ever been more than friends. And that seems to be the theme of this trip because the longer I’m here the more I’m finding out there’s lots she hasn’t told me.”

“Well, you have only known each other a short while in the grand scheme of things,” Dom offered.

May glared at him. He was right, but still…

“Okay,” he tried again. “Here’s the thing: the Em you know is an almost completely different person than the Em I knew the last time she was here.”

“So?” May wasn’t sure that had anything to do with the problem at hand.

“When she was here, she was miserable,” Dom explained. “Maybe not all of the time, but she was often just… sad. Really, really sad. Sometimes we wouldn’t see her for hours and I’d end up finding her down in the river, soaked up to the waist and crying. She would never tell any of us what was wrong. I was worried she was trying to hurt herself.”

May tensed. The water; she had forgotten that Dom had no idea what Em really was or what life was like for her. No wonder he was confused.

Dom slowed the truck and made a turn onto the gravel road that wound around the perimetre of Tenna. Sunlight streamed through the leafy canopy above. As they bumped along the path, dappled sunlight give the cab an almost ethereal quality.

“I haven’t seen that girl since the two of you got here,” Dom continued, shooting a quick glance at May. “Not once. Em is literally happier than I’ve ever seen her. Definitely happier than I was ever able to make her. And I’m pretty sure that has everything to do with you.”

May swallowed. There was still a part of her that was angry, a part of her that wanted to hate Dom just because she could. But it was smaller now and harder to hear.

“She made us promise not to ask too many questions when she came to us.” Dom’s brow was furrowed now as he spoke. “I regret making that promise. I always kind of hoped we’d eventually win her trust; that she’d finally be honest about what was going on with her, you know? But…” he shrugged.

Fiddling with the handheld radio clipped to her belt – mandatory for any team member out in the field – May tried not to let it show that she was starting to feel the slow creep of shame.

“I think you should talk to her. Tell her what you’re thinking right now,” Dom smiled at her. “If for no other reason than your own peace of mind.”

***

It was nearly noon by the time May and Dom returned to headquarters from their rounds. She found Em in the garage bay, helping Sean with monthly inventory. Their backs were turned to the open door.

“I’m telling you, dude,” she heard Em say. “She’s insanely smart.”

“I believe it,” Sean agreed, his bald head nodding atop his broad shoulders. “I’ve never met such a quick study before.”

Are they… talking about me? May wondered.

“No, I think it’s more than that,” Em said. “It’s like she-”

May cleared her throat. Em turned, her face lighting up at the sight of her.

“There you are!” she smiled, jogging over to greet her. “I missed you this morning.”

“Can I borrow you for a moment?” May asked, ignoring the pleasantries. Em’s face fell.

“I supposed I could take a break.” Sean stretched.

May turned and strode toward the door. Em scampered to keep up. As she passed Dom she looked to him questioningly but all he offered her was a tight-lipped smile.

“What’s going on?” Em asked, reaching out for May when she finally caught up to her.

Pausing, May faced her. She exhaled, smiling in a way that didn’t quite reach her eyes.

“Walk with me,” she said. “We need to talk.”

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