[ CW: Strong language ]
The fallout was explosive and volatile.
People on the sidewalks froze, rounding on the garage where two young women were in the throes of a full-blown meltdown. Indifferent to their audience, the girls screamed and cried, taking their quarrel out from the garage and into the streets.
“Where are you going?” Em shouted, trailing behind May as she stormed out of the open bay doors.
“What do you care?” May snarled back without turning. Her face was drenched in tears that wouldn’t stop flowing; she focused her red eyes beyond the prying ones in the Rookery and on the sidewalks.
“Don’t do this, May.”
“Don’t do what?” May whirled back. Every inch of her – from her glistening face to the balled fists at her sides – screamed of hurt and heartbreak. “I’m leaving. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do when your girlfriend tells you she doesn’t want to be with you anymore?”
“You’re making a scene.”
It was a cruel and heartless thing for Em to say, and the hushed, incredulous whispering around her said everyone within earshot knew it. But they couldn’t see her glassy eyes, wet with unshed tears. Tact may not have been Em’s strong suit, but this was still killing her inside.
May huffed a hollow laugh. “How did you think I was going to react, Emanthy? We’re an us; we were supposed to do this together. I love you.”
“I know.” Em couldn’t bring herself to look at her. She didn’t say the words back.
“I can’t believe this,” May sobbed, raking her hands through her hair. “This can’t be happening.”
It was her very worst nightmare, come to life.
For a moment, neither spoke. The air between them sizzled like freshly seared skin; just breathing burned and stung.
“I’m sorry,” Em said. Her words fell at May’s feet like a stone. “I never should have brought you with me.”
“Why are you doing this?” May wept. She knew she sounded pathetic but she couldn’t help herself.
She was about to lose it all.
“You’re in the way, May.” Em’s eyes flashed. “Thanks to you, I’m a wanted woman. None of this -” she gestured around her with a wild wave of her arms “- is what I wanted. I never should have let you talk me into this and now I’m so far in I don’t think I can get back out. I can’t do this anymore.”
“You think this is all my fault?” May asked in a small, heart-wrenched voice.
“Yes, I do.” Em didn’t even need to think about it.
May’s breath caught in her throat. The crimson of hurt-turned-fury raced up her neck and across her face.
“Fuck you,” she growled dangerously.
Em buckled as though she had been punched in the gut, but caught herself quickly. Breathing deep, she drew herself up tall, despite the sadness blooming across her face like a bruise.
She rose into the air, electricity licking and snapping in the space around her. With one last indiscernible look, she twisted around and took off skyward.
She was gone, and May was alone.
May ran until the aching of her lungs and the fissure through her heart became too painful to bear. But even after slowing, she marched on in the direction of nothing in particular. She had no idea where she was going, just that she had to keep moving. The rhythm of her footsteps kept her grounded; as long as she didn’t stop, maybe she wouldn’t crumble into the wreckage she felt like inside.
After what felt like a considerable amount of time – but could have only been a matter of minutes as far as May knew – the roar of an engine came up behind her. The car it belonged to was a refurbished roadster, and it coasted to a stop a handful of yards up the road. May watched the silhouette of the driver lean across the front seats and pop the passenger seat door open.
With a deep, shaking breath, May shuffled up to the car and slid into the open door. As she pulled on her seatbelt and clicked it into the buckle, she could feel Lety’s eyes watching her.
“You okay?” Lety asked, her voice uncharacteristically soft.
“No,” May answered.
Lety exhaled with a nod and shifted the car into gear. They drove on in silence, saying absolutely nothing for nearly an hour and a half. Miserably, May watched the city give way to rural landscape. Everything seemed to have a memory attached to it, no matter how tenuous, and every memory featured Em. Every time May thought she must at last be cried out, she’d spot a particular kind of tree, a bird, a road sign that would harken back to some adventure the two of them had, and the tears began again anew.
May’s single saving grace was Lety’s silence. She drove as if she was in the car alone, not even casting so much as a pitiful glance in May’s direction. Perhaps it came with the territory – asking too many questions or saying the wrong thing was enough to seal a criminal’s fate. But perhaps she was simply being respectful of May’s pain and giving her the space she needed to grieve.
Whatever it was, May was grateful – even if she couldn’t bring herself to say so.
Eventually, the bones of a new city built up around the highway. Lety took an exit and navigated the streets with familiar ease. By the time she turned into the parking lot of their destination, the day was old and May was exhausted.
Lety turned the car off and looked at May for the first time since she climbed into the roadster.
“You could stay,” Lety said after another silent moment passed between them. Somewhere in the distance, a lonely train horn announced its impending arrival.
When May didn’t answer, Lety touched the back of May’s hand with her fingertips.
“You wouldn’t have to run. We could keep you safe.”
It took a moment for the words – and their implication – to pierce the fog of misery surrounding May’s thoughts. She turned the idea over in her mind and discarded it just as quickly.
“I know,” she replied at last, shaking her head. “But no. I’m going to stick with the plan.”
Lety took the hint and withdrew her hand. Leaning forward in her seat, she regarded the train station with a wary eye. “Want me to wait out here? Just in case?”
May looked down at her bare and trembling hands and sighed. “You don’t have to do that. You’ve already done enough and it’s getting late.”
“I’m gonna wait.” Lety sat back in her seat and folded her arms as if she hadn’t heard a word May said. “Just poke your head out and give me a signal when you’re good.”
With a tiny laugh that sounded more like a hiccup, May slid out of the car and made her way into the station. Even this late in the day, the place was busy and it took her a minute to find the alcove of public lockers through the crowd. She hunted for locker number 13 and, when she found it, used the combination she had scrawled on her forearm to open it.
Inside the cramped space was her pack, crammed in tight. May struggled to free it and, when she finally did, an envelope fluttered to her feet. She glared down at it for a beat, repulsed by what she knew was inside. But bitterness wasn’t going to get her anywhere, so she heaved her pack over her shoulders and scooped up the envelope. Flipping it open, May found a one-way ticket to Mondova and a modest stack of cash.
“Shut up and go away money,” she grumbled under her breath. “Classy.”
She checked the ticket time, and then the station clock that loomed over the lobby like a full moon. Her train left in three hours. It would be the dead of night when she arrived in Mondova.
Outside, Lety had pulled up to the curb of the drop-off zone. She hung one strong arm out the window and pretended not to notice when people ogled the custom work she had done to the roadster. May stepped up to her and forced a small smile.
“I got it,” she said, holding up the envelope. “Train leaves in three hours.”
“You gonna be okay until then?” Lety asked. “I don’t mind waiting with you.”
“I’ll be fine,” May assured her. “You’ve done enough already. Thank you. For everything.”
Lety surveyed her for a moment, holding May in an inscrutable gaze.
“You’re going to be better than fine,” she said at last. “No matter what happens next, you’ve got this. Just keep moving forward and take no shit. Okay?”
May nodded. “Okay.”
They shared an awkward hug through the window and parted ways. May didn’t watch her drive away; she couldn’t stand to watch someone leave her for the second time in one day.
“I’ve got this,” May whispered to herself as she turned back to the station doors.
She didn’t really believe it, but she was going to have to fake it until she did.
Given where she was going next, she was going to need all the confidence she could get.
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