Endless possibilities flashed through May’s mind, all of them bad.
Had the others been caught? Were they dead? Was all this a set-up?
Pulse pounding, she and Em followed Marina through a side door and into the house. As if she could read May’s anxious mind, Em reached over and took her hand tightly in her own.
Marina didn’t speak. They followed her through a series of rooms – an entryway littered with shoes and the debris of a busy life, a kitchen stocked with state-of-the-art appliances covered in grubby fingerprints – and into a dark sitting room. She closed a pair of frosted glass doors and drew the window curtains before turning to May and Em.
“Are you alright?” she asked, scanning the pair with worried eyes. The look of concern on her face reminded May of someone, but May couldn’t quite put her finger on it. “Are you hurt?”
Em shook her head. “No, just tired. Kind of hungry.”
On cue, May’s stomach let out a deep and embarrassing growl. She hadn’t realized how famished she was until Em had said something.
“I can imagine.” Marina dropped into an armchair, looking almost as exhausted as May and Em. She gestured to the couch and the pair sat tentatively.
“Where are the others?” May asked. Her brain was still shouting terrible what if’s at her. “Are they safe?”
Marina sighed deeply. “I have no idea. Connor would never tell me that, no matter how much trouble they were in.”
May’s stomach lurched. “Trouble?”
“They’re coming though, right?” Em asked. Her expression was one of calm but the grip she had on May’s hand gave her away. When her eyes flicked, May knew she was sizing up the room just in case they needed to run.
“They are,” Marina assured them. “I promise, they’ll meet you as soon as they’re able. I don’t know the details of what’s going on and, before you say anything, I don’t want to know either. But when my brother reached out to me I knew it had to be serious.”
“Why’s that?” May asked. She hadn’t known Connor had a sister until Em mentioned it back in Luxton. It dawned on her she didn’t know how involved in WIND and Wishes this woman was.
“Because I never hear from Connor,” Marina said. She smiled, but her eyes were sad. “Generally speaking, it’s always been safer that way. I didn’t pry when he asked me to find you, but I knew it was important.”
“How’d you know we’d be on that train?” May still didn’t feel as safe; she wasn’t convinced they were in the clear yet. Despite everything, it just felt too easy.
“Jeremy let me know.” Marina pulled out her phone, opened it to a glowing message, and handed it to May. “That asshole has eyes everywhere.”
The message was from an unknown number. All it said was “8:15”. Attached was a pixelated security camera photo of May purchasing tickets at the Luxton station. Under different circumstances, the image would have made May sick with fear. Instead it filled her with a rush of relief; if Jeremy was somehow hacking into security cameras, it meant he had made it out of that alley alive.
Having read the message over May’s shoulder, Em sat back. “So, now what?”
“If you’re caught up with my brother and his friends, you likely need a safe place to wait,” Marina said, taking her phone back. “You can stay here, but only on the condition that you both stay out of sight. I don’t want any trouble, got it?”
Somewhere in the house, a door slammed, making May jump.
“Well?” Marina’s intense gaze held them both.
There was a sound of shuffling, followed by footsteps coming their way.
May cut a wide-eyed glance to Em, panic rising back up with each thump of the incoming footsteps.
“Of course,” Em answered with a nod. “We could use a safe place to lay low.”
Marina smiled, warm and relieved.
“Mom?” A voice shouted from somewhere down the hall.
Something in May’s mind clicked into place. The mess in the entryway and the fingerprints in the kitchen suddenly made sense: Connor’s sister had a family of her own. May recognized Marina’s worried expression because she had seen her own mother and sister wear the same one over the years.
“In here, hun.”
The door squeaked open and through the crack peered a sandy-haired boy of about nine or ten. His eyes landed on May and Em, full of curiosity.
“Where’s dad?” Marina asked the boy as he took a cautious step into the room.
“We stopped at the store on the way home,” he replied, glancing at his mother. “He’s putting the groceries away.” He wore a grass-stained soccer uniform. One of the knee-high socks had slid down his shin. May’s mind wandered back to Omi, the same way it usually did when she saw young boys who reminded her of all the things about her nephew’s life she was going to miss.
“Go give him a hand, please,” Marina said with the contrary gentle firmness only a mother can pull off. “We’ll be out in a second.”
“Who are they?”
“Myles, go please.”
The boy harrumphed but did as he was told, closing the door as he went.
“Like I said.” Marina was looking at May and Em again when they turned back to face her. “I won’t ask any questions. If you don’t cause any trouble, you can stay. Fair?”
It was May who nodded this time. The reality of what Marina was putting on the line for them was all the assurance she needed. “Very.”
Marina stood and smiled. “Good. I promised Myles ice cream after his soccer practice, but I’m sure I can find you something with a bit more substance first.” She winked.
May grinned. Something about the warmth of a family setting made her feel at ease.
But when she looked at Em, it was clear she didn’t share that feeling. Brows furrowed tightly, Em was so deep in thought she didn’t notice May stand up until she crouched down in front of her.
“Are you okay?” May asked quietly.
Em gave her head a shake and with it, her grimace faded. She forced a smile.
“Sure.” She took May’s hand. “Let’s go get that ice cream.”
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