The Star and the Ocean: Chapter Fifty-Five

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May wasn’t sure how she came to find herself sitting on her couch. She also wasn’t sure she cared.

She didn’t feel much of anything. Every inch of her was numb, her nerves frayed past the point of being useful.

Her parents and brother hovered around, their voices buzzing like static. She found herself wishing they would leave, although she wasn’t sure why.

“Maybe?” Her mother crouched before her, speaking gently. “Sweetheart, are you listening?”

No, she wasn’t listening. Whatever they had been talking about fell into the gaping emptiness inside of her.

“I know it doesn’t feel like it right now but this is for the best.” Another gentle voice; her father’s. The weight of him easing down onto the couch beside her. She moved her head, swaying it vaguely somewhere between a shake and a nod.

“You two need to tell us what the hell just happened.” The severity in Kai’s voice was what truly brought May back to the present. Slowly, she looked up to where he stood by the door, arms crossed and his expression stern.

Their mother sighed, casting an uneasy glance back at May’s vacant expression.

“Kai, I don’t think now’s the best time-”

“Now’s the perfect time,” Kai interrupted. He turned to his sister. “You too. What the fuck is going on?”

Oh, thought May. Right. I remember now…

Em was gone.

She inhaled sharply, as if she was suddenly coming back to life after dancing near death. Reality stung.

“Is it true, May?” her mother asked, placing a hand gently on her daughter’s knee. “Is Em the Star’s daughter?”

May looked at her mother, watching her silently for a moment. It was still so foreign to hear her speak of the Stars at all, let alone with so much familiarity. She nodded slowly and looked away.

“It’s a long story.”

“Can someone please explain what you’re both talking about?” Kai griped as he began to pace. “What do you mean by Stars?”

Their mother licked her lips, staying her patience.

“You know what we’re talking about, Kai,” she replied. “You’ve heard the legends.”

“About the cosmic forces that map out the destinies of every life on Earth?” he snarked. “Sure.”

He was scoffing; he thought they were being facetious and threw it right back at them. But his parents gave him the same look they had been giving him his whole life – the one that told him enough was enough.

“You can’t be serious,” he laughed, but not like he meant it; like he needed someone to let him in on the joke. When no one did, his face fell. He looked to his sister. “Maybe?”

She shrugged. The last thing she felt like doing at that moment was having this conversation. “You were there tonight, Kai. How else are you going to explain what you saw?”

“How long have you known, May?” asked her father.

May’s eyes flickered up to his. She was struck by the peculiar notion that suddenly she didn’t care whether or not he was proud of her anymore.

“A long time,” she answered. She watched the surprise flicker across her father’s face, heard her mother’s sharp inhale. May touched the tips of her fingers to her lips and recalled the way Em’s had felt pressed up against them. Desperate and soft; a perfect fit on May’s mouth.

She closed her eyes against rising tears, not wanting to believe that frantic moment on the beach might have been the last kiss they’d have between them.

“You chased them away,” she said, voice low and words slow. She didn’t want to crumble in front of them. “You made her leave.”

The hitch in her throat betrayed her anyway.

“Darling, you don’t understand.” Her mother pulled herself from her knees and settled close beside her daughter. She took May’s hands in her own and held them tight against her heart. “We were keeping you safe.”

Anger flared through the sadness and May tried to pull her hands out of her mother’s grip.

“Em isn’t dangerous,” she snapped, tears beginning to fall. “You don’t know her like I do, she wouldn’t do anything-”

“The Stars are dangerous, May,” her father cut in.

“They’re not.”

“They are for you.”

At this, May started. “What is that supposed to mean?”

She looked to Kai but he looked just as suspicious as she felt.

Their mother sighed and looked to her husband in defeat. “We have spent your entire life trying to keep you away from all that.”

“Away from what?” A hint of fear trembled inside of May. She was on the precipice of something, this much she knew.

Her father rubbed his face with his palm, looking uneasy.

“You’ve both heard the stories of the mainlanders who ravaged the island all those years ago,” he said, almost pleadingly as though begging for his children to understand. Kai tensed, his eyes flicking quickly to May and then away. “They were looking for your parents, May.”

She froze. “Why?”

“We’ve not sure, sweetheart,” her mother replied, running her fingers lovingly through May’s hair the way she had when she was just a girl. “We never knew for certain – they didn’t want us know, said it would keep us all safer in the long run. All we knew for sure was it had something to do with the Stars.”

“And they wanted to make sure nothing happened to you,” her father continued. He sat on the edge of the low coffee table so he could look May in the eye. “It was very, very important to them. They begged us to keep you safe when you were born, and we -” he took her face in his hands gently and smiled “- we were happy to.”

May couldn’t meet his soft, paternal gaze. She searched her mind ardently, trying to piece together what her parents were saying. Em’s voice telling her the story of how the Loyals had hunted down and destroyed any trace of stolen wishes made on the fallen star.

She gasped, the only truth that made sense hanging over her like a ghost.

“I’m a Wish.”

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