The Star and the Ocean: Chapter Forty-Nine

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The air the next morning was thick with unspoken words.

May stared down at the sleeve of her shirt. When Em had crept back into the cabin that night, May had still been chasing sleep. She laid still, kept her breathing slow, hoping it was enough to look like she was sleeping. But she had forgotten a crucial detail, and her heart sank when she felt Em’s finger lightly trace along the edge of the short sleeved shirt. It had still been cast off, crumpled on the floor, when Em had snuck out earlier.

May glanced up just as Em shuffled back into the room, toothbrush protruding from between her lips and hair in desperate need of a comb. If she knew May had followed her onto the deck, she wasn’t saying anything.

“How doo seep?” Em mumbled around her toothbrush. May smirked in spite of herself.

“Meh.” She shrugged.

Em closed her eyes and nodded. “Smm.” Same.

When they had finished freshening up, the two curled up on the bed and waited; Em for the shore and May for a question she wasn’t ready to answer.

Em pressed her body into May’s back, circling around her while she traced invisible lines between the freckles on her arms.

“In all the excitement I forgot to tell you how proud I am of you,” Em murmured quietly into her hair.

May twisted, peering at Em over her shoulder. “For what?”

“For all the new things you tried and conquered on this trip.” Em’s eyes were closed but a wide smile pulled up the corners of her lips. “You’re so cool, babe.”

Too flattered to reply, May wiggled around and kissed her instead. They laid like that – kissing softly, tangled up in one another – until they both drifted back to sleep.

***

The remainder of the voyage was a master class in blissful avoidance. As if by unspoken rule, nothing of consequence – not what had happened in Tenna nor what would happen once they landed – was discussed.

It wasn’t until the ship docked and the pair stepped back onto dry land, hand firmly in hand, that Em turned to May and smiled.

“No matter what happens next, I’ve got you. Okay?”

May gave her a tight squeeze. “Ditto.”

They found Kai waiting for them as promised, leaning against his van looking tired. When he spotted them through the crowd he jolted upright and hurried forward to meet them.

“Holy shit, you made it,” he breathed, wrapping May in a hug.

“Of course we did,” May replied with a chuckle. “What a weird thing to say. How’ve you been?”

Kai took the pack from Em and tossed it in the van. “Let’s just say I’ll be glad for things to get back to normal.”

May and Em shared a questioning look as he hustled them into the van.

“We’ve got a long drive ahead of us ladies,” he boomed, clapping Em on the back. “Let’s get a move on.”

Em passed out almost immediately, her soft breathing that verged on snoring drifting up from the back seat made May giggle. She sat in the passenger seat, eager to catch up with her brother.

“How’s Omi?” she asked. “How’s everyone? What have we missed?”

“Everyone’s fine,” Kai replied, dismissing her questions with a casual wave of his hand. “I want to hear about you. Tell me about the trip.”

May didn’t realize how she actually longed to tell someone about her adventures until the opportunity presented itself. She started at the beginning, leaving out the magical intrigue and instead excitedly gushing about the mountains and the SAR team and all the things she’d done. Kai listened with an open-mouthed expression of amazement, asking question after question. The conversation filled the time and before May knew it the van was rolling into Omea.

She turned in her seat, shaking Em’s knee.

“You slept the whole way,” she laughed as Em grunted into wakefulness.

Em blinked, her eyes bleary, and leaned forward between the seats.

“Where are we?” she asked with a yawn.

May turned back around just as Kai pulled the van to the curb and put it in park. She peered out the window and frowned.

“Why are we at Ma and Papa’s house?” she asked, puzzled.

Without answering, Kai turned off the ignition. The girls turned to him expectantly. He fidgeted with his keys and swallowed.

“What’s going on Kai?” Em questioned, sensing something was most definitely amiss.

Kai looked to May, his face pale and eyes pleading.

“I’m really sorry, Maybe,” he said. The remorse in his voice told them he meant it.

The front door of the house opened and there, at the top of the steps stood the rest of May’s family. The look on her mother’s face made May’s heart drop.

“Uh oh,” Em whispered.

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