CW: Strong language
All eyes were on Em.
“Emmy?” May whispered, laying her hand carefully on Em’s thigh.
“I don’t…” Em’s eyes searched something no one else could see. “I forgot.”
“You clearly didn’t forget everything, did you?” Jeremy said. His voice was tight with anger. Placing the guitar on the floor, he stood and looked down at his friends. “I know you think I’m crazy but I believed it then, and I know it now: somehow, she is Audrey.”
“Jeremy,” Priva hissed, unconvincingly scandalized. The fear of realization had already settled across her features.
“Tell me I’m wrong again,” Jeremy barked, pointing straight at Em. “I fucking dare you. No one else knew that song, no one.”
Em gaped wordlessly. She was frozen in horror, completely unable to act.
“Stop it,” May shouted, jumping to Em’s defense. “You need to let this go!”
Jeremy rounded on her like a cobra. “You fucking knew, didn’t you?” His voice shook. Tears threatened on the brims of his eyelids. “You’ve known all along, haven’t you?”
Now it was May’s turn to falter.
“I…” She didn’t know what to say. Her breath tightened; she was trapped.
“Just fucking admit it,” Jeremy yelled. May jumped, frightened by his forceful energy. “Tell me the truth.”
Seeing Jeremy come at May was the antidote to Em’s paralysis. She leapt up from the couch and stepped between them.
“Leave her alone,” she growled. “You’re not wrong, okay?”
“What?” Connor choked, getting to his feet.
Rue’s eyes were round as the moon. “How? Audrey is dead. We saw her, we put her in the ground together.”
“It’s complicated,” Em said, raising her palms before her like a protective barrier. “And it might be hard to understand. Audrey did die.” She forced herself to meet Jeremy’s fiery stare. “Welkin captured what they could of her spirit before it was completely lost and had an Emandi help to create a new body to put it in. But you need to understand, I am not her.”
May looked to her in confusion. This was the second time Em had mentioned the Emandi, but May still had no idea what that was or what it meant.
“How can you say that?” Jeremy’s voice was barely a whisper. Silent tears snaked down his face. “How can you stand there and tell me you carry her spirit but you’re somehow “not her”?”
“A spirit begins to evanesce as soon as the body dies, Jeremy,” Em spoke gently, sadly. “What Welkin was able to salvage wasn’t whole. They had to fill in the gaps themself. I am a new person.” She swallowed hard. “Jeremy, I’m so sorry.”
“My stars,” Rue exclaimed, distracting everyone with her expression of surprise. She gazed at Em as though she were seeing her for the first time. “Is it true?”
“I promise, I’m telling you the truth,” Em assured her.
Rue stood and stepped to Em slowly, taking her hand and regarding it with near reverence. “Incredible. This… this has never happened before! It makes so much sense! Where is Welkin now? I need to speak with them.”
Em opened her mouth to answer but Jeremy cut her off.
Everyone turned to stare at him as he stood, fists balled at his side.
“You came back, knowing what you did – who you are – and you didn’t even try to find us? You didn’t let me know that you were alright? Do you have any idea-“
“Jeremy, please,” Em stopped him abruptly. “You’re not listening to me. I might have some of Audrey’s memories but I am not the same person. Besides, it wouldn’t have been smart or safe of me to come find you guys and you know it.”
Glowering, Jeremy’s eyes grew dark and foreboding. “So you got your freedom and I got left behind to grieve. Amazing.”
“That’s not fair,” May interjected. “She had to die for what you’re calling freedom.”
“Shut up,” Jeremy snapped back. “I am not interested in anything you have to say. You couldn’t possibly understand.”
Drawing up her courage, May pushed back the hurt. “Of course I understand: I love her.”
“So did I!” he screamed back, lunging forward.
“Cut it out!” Em shouted, shoving him back. The intensity of her confusion and frustration rippled outward from her like an impact strike, rattling the glassware and knocking him off his already unsteady feet.
In a flash, Jeremy was back up. Snapped from their awestruck reverie, everyone else jumped into action, struggling to pull and push Jeremy and Em away from one another. The two were incensed, shouting and swiping at one another around the others.
When May reached into the chaos, Jeremy’s hand caught her wrist and he stared at her with the fury of a wild, cornered animal. “This is all your fucking fault.”
“Let’s go!” May cried, wrenching herself from his grip and stumbling back from the mele.
Tears sprang to her eyes. Her heart hammered in her chest. She was completely overwhelmed.
With a sob, she turned and ran from the room.
She needed to get away.
Shoving open the heavy oak doors that lead outside, May tripped into the twilight, and ran.
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