“Em?” May called incredulously, scrambling to her feet. “Em!”
Chest deep in the water, the figure turned.
Yes, it was her.
Em’s face, twisted with anguish, fell as she froze. Motionless, she let the waves nudge her closer to shore. Time came to a standstill as they gazed at one another in disbelief.
Em let out an elated cry. She pushed forward, spreading her arms so that the water before her parted into a clear path. Her bare feet slapped against the sandy sea floor as she ran back to the beach. Soaring across the last few strides, Em caught May in her arms and whirled her around joyously.
“You came!” she crowed, crushing herself into May with unbridled joy.
May was soaked and breathless and yet it was the single greatest embrace she had ever experienced.
“What are you doing here?” She pulled back so she could look Em in the face. She could hardly believe she was really there. “I thought you’d be long gone by now!”
Em took May’s face in her hands, scanning her features as though memorizing every freckle and contour.
“Welkin didn’t want me going to back to Omea so I begged them to let me at least wait here until morning. It was a long shot but I thought, just maybe, you’d come. But morning was getting close and I was having a hard time keeping it together, so…” Em gestured back to the ocean, looking somewhat ashamed.
“Oh, Emmy,” May breathed, feeling guilty. “I’m sorry.”
“What for?” Em replied with an incredulous laugh. “I’m the one who should be sorry. I told you I wanted to give us a shot and then I just left you-”
May silenced her with a deep kiss. She didn’t care about apologies right now.
Breaking away, the last thing she wanted to do was stop but she needed to see Em’s eyes.
“Em, I Iove you,” she said. Her words rang clear and steady. “I should have told you and I couldn’t stand knowing that I let you leave without saying it.”
Under her hands, Em begin to tremble.
“Fuck,” she whispered, her voice catching. “I wanted to say it first.”
It was May’s turn to laugh. “Yeah, I think Kai has words for you about that.”
“Ah, shit,” Em mumbled before pressing another kiss – harder, more desperate – against May’s lips. “I love you. Holy fuck, I love you so much.”
Just like the first time their lips met on the beach, the pair tangled themselves up in one another, savouring the warmth and security they found in the other’s arms. A sense of calm spread through May like dye dripped into water and at last she started to feel whole again.
“May,” Em whispered, burrowing her face into the crook of May’s neck. “There’s so much I needed to tell you. I was such a fucking coward, I should have just talked to you.”
“It’s alright,” May insisted. “I overheard you and Welkin talking the other night and…” She sighed. “I was afraid to bring it up too.”
Em leaned back, surveying her carefully.
“Welkin knew I wouldn’t be able to stay on the island forever,” she said quietly. “They knew I’d have to leave sooner or later. I wanted to ask you to come with me but I felt like that wouldn’t be fair.”
“Well, I’m here,” May chuckled softly. “And you are not leaving without me.”
A smile broke out across Em’s face, even though her eyes looked sad. “It’s a big decision, Maybe. It won’t always be safe.”
May shrugged. “I’ll tell you the same thing I told Welkin – I don’t care. We’re an us. I don’t want to do this without you. Besides, I think we might have more in common than either of us realized.”
Em cocked her head. “What do you mean?”
May told her about her parents’ confession – that her biological parents had been hunted for reasons related to the Stars and that their last desperate move had been to keep her hidden and safe.
“I think…” she hesitated. “I might be a Wish, Em.”
For a moment, Em’s gaze grew unfocused as she stared past May into nothing, the wheels of her mind turning.
“Of course!” she cried suddenly, slapping her forehead. “That makes so much sense!”
“It does?” May asked. A big part of her had assumed Em would find a logical way to discredit the theory – May really hadn’t been expecting this reaction. “How do you figure?”
“Wishes are marked by gifts – unique talents that make them stand out.” Em waved her hands animatedly as if it might help illustrate what she was saying. “Jeremy had a perfect eidetic memory. Connor was ridiculously strong. They’re never markers that couldn’t necessarily be explained away but are always just enough to draw attention. That’s how Audrey and the others used to track down other Wishes.”
May fidget awkwardly. “So, what would my gift be?”
Em gaped at her. “You’re kidding, right? You instantly pick up new skills, learn things super fast. I can’t believe I didn’t figure this out myself!”
It was a perspective May hadn’t considered. She had always learned things easily; it wasn’t something that really stood out to her. But to think it might have had something to do with the Stars all along… May felt like she was going to have to sit down.
“We’ll have to run it by Welkin. They’ll be able to help us figure it out,” Em said confidently.
May’s stomach turned.
“When did you last see Welkin?” she asked.
“Just after we left your place.” Em looked a bit uneasy. “They told me to wait here until morning and then took off. Why?”
With a heavy sigh, May laid her hands on Em’s shoulders. “Welkin met Kai and I on the way up here. Before they could tell us very much these two lights came down from they sky. Welkin told us to go… Em, I think they might have been other Stars. I’m not sure what happened.”
Em’s face went blank. The news seemed to hit her hard.
“The lights were definitely Stars,” she choked in a voice that was suddenly quite hoarse. “Welkin knew they were in trouble, I just didn’t think…” She trailed off and brought herself down to sit in the sand.
May followed Em’s lead and sat beside her. While Em stared numbly out across the ocean, May took her hand and traced her thumb across the back of it.
“Emmy?” she ventured gently. “Is there anything we can do to help them?”
It took a moment for Em to come back down to Earth. She closed her eyes, pinching the bridge of her nose and shook her head.
“I don’t… No. No, I don’t think so. The best thing either of us can do now is lay low and stay out of trouble.”
May gave her hand a squeeze, kissing her cheek to reassure her. Em turned, her expression serious.
“Are you sure you want to do this, May?” she asked. Voicing the question looked like it hurt her. “Life out there… With me, it isn’t going to be easy. I can’t promise you safety and I just…” She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. “I don’t want you to have any regrets.”
With a soft smile, May leaned in and kissed her again. Her lips met Em’s in a way that was slow and tender; the kind of kiss that said so much, overflowing with love without need for words. When she pulled away she rested her head on Em’s shoulder, the two of them hushed as the sun began to rise.
“Look, there. Do you see that?” May pointed out across the water to the space where the stars faded into the seemingly endless expanse of ocean before them.
Em squinted. If there was something out there, she didn’t see it.
“What are you pointing at?” she asked. “The horizon?”
May grinned up at her.
“Exactly.” she nestled close to Em’s ear and whispered as though sharing a secret.
“Where the sea and the sky meet – that’s us. Let’s find out where it goes.”
Banner art by @flowerveil