Kai’s van shook as it raced along Hoku’s central road. The old junker was unaccustomed to these kinds of speeds. May placed a hand on the dashboard, willing it to keep it together at least long enough to deliver them safely to the north shore.
She had no idea where Em and Welkin would have gone, so she fell back on the only path she knew.
“I’ll get a ticket to Mondova and figure out how to get back to Tenna,” she explained to her brother while he concentrated on the dark road, gripping the steering wheel. “Dom might have an idea of where to look.”
“This is the guy you worked with in the mountains?” He asked.
“Yeah, the forest spirit.”
Along the way May had done her best to tell Kai everything, right from the beginning when she first learned Em’s truth for herself. The pale, anxious look on his face told her he was having a hard time with it all but she loved him for trying.
“You’re going to be safe out there, right?” He stole nervous glances her way. “These Loyal people, what’s going to happen if they find you?”
“They aren’t even looking for me,” she assured him. “It’s Em they’re after now. I mean, at least I think so.”
“And what about when you find her? If they’re looking for her they might find you too and then what? Guilty by association?”
May knew he was making a point – a good one, at that – but she was hung up on the part about finding Em. A flurry of hope rose inside of her and she smiled in spite of herself.
“I’m serious, Maybe!” her brother balked at the sight of her sly grin. “I won’t be able to live with myself if-FUCK.”
Kai hit the brakes, jerking the wheel violently. The van skidded sideways before lurching to a stop. May didn’t even realize she screaming until she ran out of breath.
“What are you doing?” She cried, clutching at her chest.
“Look!” He pointed out May’s window to the center of the road in the direction they had been travelling.
Even in the darkness, Welkin seemed to glitter. Like an apparition, their brilliance sparked to life as they stepped into the crescent of light from the van’s headlights. The Star stopped there, stark shadows contouring the features of their beautiful, heartbroken face.
May’s heart was in her throat as she fumbled with her seatbelt and spilled out the door. Behind her, Kai called out but she was only thinking of one thing.
She paused just arm’s reach before Welkin.
“Where is she?” May demanded. She couldn’t tell if she was relieved or furious at the sight of the Star’s face.
Welkin gazed into the woods just off the roadside, their eyes heavy with sadness.
“Welkin!” May shouted now. “Where is Em?”
“She’s safe,” Welkin responded, voice uneven. “For now at least.”
“I need to go her,” May said.
“Are you here to stop me?”
Welkin closed their eyes. Their grief was so raw that May wondered for the first time if it was possible for a Star to shed tears.
“No, May. I’m not here to stop you. There may not be much that I’ve done right, but I know I wasn’t wrong about the two of you.”
May bit her lip. “Then tell me how to find her, please.”
“I came to apologize.” Welkin carried on as if they hadn’t heard a word. Perhaps they hadn’t; they seemed so lost in emotion it was hard to tell how aware the Star really was. “For everything. It seems all I’ve done is meddle and now…” they forced a sad smile. “Well, now look where it’s gotten us.”
“I don’t understand,” May crept closer. She wondered if Welkin needed help. She reached out a hand. “Meddled how?”
“I just want her to be safe; to be happy.” Again they ignored her. “She never should have existed and she certainly wasn’t supposed to get a second chance. But I couldn’t leave well enough alone.”
The Star placed a slender hand at the centre of their chest and closed their eyes. “My kind don’t understand the foolishness that comes with falling.”
“Falling?” May ventured. By now Kai had worked up the courage to come and stand at her side. He stared up at Welkin in open-mouthed wonder.
“Before you go, I need you to understand what you’re risking by chasing after my daughter,” Welkin’s golden eyes were open again and staring May down with a crushing intensity. “If you leave this island now your life will never be the same.”
May took a deep breath. “I know.”
Yes, she knew. From the moment she had first looked into Em’s diamond eyes, she had known.
“Are you ready?”
The sky filled with light, a powerful force of air pushing down and swirling around the three of them as they gaped around for the source of the commotion. Descending from the sky were two bodies of light. Formless as they were, May knew they had to be other Stars.
Welkin turned, eyes wide and cloak billowing.
“Go!” they cried. “Right now. Find her and tell her I’m sorry. Keep each other safe.”
May gaped with an unnamed terror.
Kai’s hand enclosed around her wrist. He dragged her back to the still-running van, heaving her into the passenger seat and slamming the door before she had time to react. He dashed to his side and leapt in, slamming the gas pedal to the floor. The van squeal passed Welkin so fast all May saw was a golden blur through her window.
Frantically she rolled it down and hung out over the pane just in time to see the Star devoured in a wall of blinding light.
Banner art by @flowerveil