The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Thirty Five

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[ CW: vomit ]


May awoke in a panic.

Her body was numb and, from what she could see in the dim light, she was in a small office-like room she didn’t recognize.

Where am I? she wondered, fear rising in her throat like bile. The last thing she remembered was being ambushed by the Loyals at Marina’s house. A vision of Em’s face contorted with rage flashed through her memory. Where is Em?

Without thinking, May sat bolt upright. In an instant the numbness in her body was replaced by a painful sensation of blood rushing back into her extremities. Her head pounded, her vision spun, and she barely had enough time to lean over the side of whatever makeshift bed she had been sleeping on before vomiting.

“Ugh, very nice,” said a disgusted voice she had never heard before.

“Leave her alone, Jun,” Em replied, her voice making May’s heart skip. “It’s not her fault.”

May felt the warmth of Em’s body as she sat next to her. Gentle fingers brushed the hair back from May’s face as Em crooned, “It’s okay, babe. Just take it slow.”

Embarrassed as she was, the purging seemed to be exactly what May needed. She sat back up weakly and swallowed one deep breath after another.

“Here,” she heard the voice Em had identified as Jun say. She peered up to find a man silhouetted in the doorway to the room. He tossed Em a towel before turning on his heel and disappearing again.

Em twisted to face May and used the corner of the towel to wipe at her mouth. She reached over to a nearby desk, and picked up a glass. “Here, drink this while I clean up.”

May did as she was told. Every sip of water was like a dose of medicine. She watched in silence as Em used the towel to mop up the mess on the floor. As her eyes adjusted to the gloom, May was able to make out scattered papers covering the surface of the desk, photos and newspaper clippings pinned to the wall above her, and a collection of dusty cardboard boxes precariously stacked in the corner. Em excused herself to discard the soiled towel and, from beyond the doorway, May could just make out a group of unfamiliar voices and the metallic clanging of tools.

Jun’s voice, closer than the others, was barely intelligible over the din. “Ew, just toss it in the burn barrel.”

When Em returned she smelled of cheap hand soap and motor oil.

“Close your eyes,” she said softly.

When May did, she flicked on a lamp sitting amid the mess on the desk. May hadn’t even had a chance to open her eyes before she felt herself encased in Em’s arms. “You had me so worried, babe. I’m so glad you’re awake. How do you feel?”

“Like I’ve been rocked by a massive wave,” May answered, her voice still hoarse from the attack. “Where are we?”

Em pulled back from their embrace and reached into her shirt, producing the folded paper from Priva she had hidden in her bra. “One of the rendezvous points from Priva’s list.”

“Right.” May grimaced, a headache throbbing behind her eyes. “What happens now?”

“I’m not sure,” Em admitted. “I suppose we just wait and see if they come for us.”

May looked to her. “And if the Loyals come for us instead?”

Em blanched. A fraught, uncomfortable silence fell between them.

When it became clear that May was waiting for her to say something, a sadness crept across Em’s face. She reached out to caress her cheek. “I’m so sorry, Maybe.”

Her apology could have been for anything at this point – their tenuous sense of safety, the violence May had endured, or the multitude of nightmarish things she had witnessed. Remembering the young agent as he was thrown against the ground and the sickening sound that followed, May had to swallow against another wave of nausea.

She pulled back.

“You’re sorry?” May trembled. “Em, you killed someone.”

Em flinched as though she had slapped her. “I didn’t mean – May, I was trying to protect you.”

“Not like that.” May’s voice shook but her piercing stare did not waver. “You can’t kill people because of me.”

“Are you kidding me?” Em balked, incredulous. Rising anger darkened her features. “What do you expect me to do when you’re in danger?”

May grabbed Em by the shoulders and gripped her tight. Emotion – fear, fury, and desperation – swelled inside her. She pulled Em to her so they were eye to eye and spoke slow and clear.

“Emanthy, you are not a killer.” She pressed into the word ‘you’ like a panic button. “I have heard enough about Audrey to know she was no angel. You tell me all the time that you and her are different people. I need that to be true.”

Em’s anger morphed into a look of horror as she processed what May was saying.

“Please, Em.” May jostled her, every word as urgent as they were pleading. “That ruthless, terrifying person you become when you’re protecting me is not who you are. It can’t be.”

“I…” Em’s hand covered her mouth. For a moment she was back in Omea, feeling Audrey’s rage and relentless thirst for justice overtaking her as she stood staring down a swaggering Kane on a moonlit patio. Yes, she wanted to protect May. But that violence, that anger – that was not hers.

Or perhaps, a small voice whispered at the back of her mind, she and Audrey weren’t as different as Em wanted to believe.

She sobbed.

“Maybe,” Em whispered fearfully. “What have I done?”


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Thirty Four

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CW: strong language, combat/violence, blood


May was almost at the end of the long, winding driveway before shame finally put an end to her fleeing.

“Why do I always run away?” she shouted, admonishing herself. Passersby on the street cast curious looks in her direction and whispered to one another before hustling away. But May was too caught up in herself to care about the scene she must have been making.

As she worked to catch her breath, May’s mind replayed Jeremy’s furious accusation on a loop.

This is all your fucking fault.

“Who am I kidding?” she groaned. “I know exactly why I ran this time.”

With only a few words, Jeremy struck the barely concealed nerve May had been nursing since the early days of her relationship with Em. She recalled the teary – on her part – confession she made to Em in the hospital room in Tenna; that she had always been on edge, waiting for Em to wake up one morning longing for the life she used to have.

Em reassured her then, but May couldn’t help wonder what would have happened if she hadn’t gotten in the way.

And what was going to happen now that the truth was out?

Stop, she thought, squeezing her eyes shut and pressing her palms over her ears as though that might shut out all her worries. Em loves you and you love her. You need to trust her right now. She needs you.

May’s eyes snapped open. “She needs me. What am I doing out here?”

Without another thought she turned on her dancer’s toes back toward the house.

She had barely taken her first stride when she heard a cold voice from behind her shout, “Stay right where you are.”

It was as though ice water had been released through May’s veins. She froze, petrified by the sound of a voice she recognized from her nightmares.

Peering over her shoulder, May’s fear was confirmed: Melanie, the Loyal agent who had first discovered them hiding in Tenna, stood at the mouth of the driveway. She held a device in her firm grip and had it trained right at May. Like an infestation, other equally menacing and armed people swarmed in from the other side of the hedges that lined the property. It was an ambush.

“May, wait!” Em’s voice came from around the bend in the driveway, blocked from view by a dense topiary. “Where did you go?”

Footsteps. She wasn’t alone. May’s breathing hitched; they were going to run straight into a waiting Loyal army.

Urgency sparked inside May, thawing her frozen limbs. She darted forward and cried, “Stop, it’s a-“

Without warning, pain the likes of being doused in boiling water ripped through May’s body. Every muscle in her body seized, tightening like stone, and refused to respond to anything her brain begged for. Vision jittering with the current of whatever force assaulted her, May saw Em round the edge of the bushes.

“May!” Em screamed, her eyes round with terror.

The current stopped. May felt as though she had been pushed down the rocky slope of a ravine. Her knees buckled, muscles screaming for rest, but before she could fall a hand grabbed her roughly by the shoulder and pulled her back. May barely registered it was Melanie who pinned her, an arm wrapped tightly across May’s chest. She was too distracted by the sight of Connor throwing his own arms around Em just as she tried to lunge forward.

It was all happening so fast and yet seemed to play out in slow motion. May’s ears were ringing but she saw Connor’s lips move in Em’s ear as he tightened his crushing grip around her.

Em’s face twisted. She threw her head back, howling at the sky.

When she looked forward again, Em had changed. The brilliance of her starlit skin faded to the cold pallor of corpse, and through her wild and snapping silver hair, May could see the whites of her eyes darkening like a storm-threatened sky. May’s heart clenched. She had only seen Em is such a state once before: the night Kane broke into the tree house and attacked May. Em’s fury had been absolute, and she had sent Kane crashing down to the beach below to prove it.

It was May’s threatened safety that hit a dangerously primal switch somewhere in Em. As May gazed fearfully at Em’s animalesque transformation, she wondered if there were any lengths Em wouldn’t go to keep her safe.

Hunching, Em let out a wild scream before sending a shockwave out from her center with a wide sweeping of her arms. Connor couldn’t maintain his hold and rocketted backward into Jeremy and Priva. This time when Em lunged forward, no one was able to stop her. She shot across a span of several spaces, making a beeline for May before anyone could think to react. As she moved, a sparking mass of energy gathered in her open fist.

Just as Em reached her arm back for the momentum to sling the manifested orb at the line of Loyal agents who had darted toward her, one of them drew his weapon – the same current-producing device Melanie had used on May – and fired. Em released the ball of energy and the two forces collided mid air and exploded. The impact sent Loyals careening backward.

Another agent stormed forward as the others scattered away from her. The agent carried what looked to be an arm-mounted cannon that sizzled and snapped as it charged. She squeezed her hand into a fist and the weapon fired a burst of energy not unlike Em’s own. The attack seemed to take Em by surprise, her locked and furious gaze faltering for the slightest of moments. She only had enough time to throw up a quick protective barrier before the mass hit, blasting her in the opposite direction. A raspy gasp escaped May’s scorched throat as she watched Em’s body hit the pavement and roll.

But rather than skidding to a stop, Em leaned into the momentum of her body and used it to windmill onto her feet, all while gathering another cluster of energy in her fist. A prideful look of satisfaction was still plastered on the cannon wielder’s face when Em landed, rolled on the outer edge of her left foot, heel to toe, and pivoted. She launched her assault as she turned, nailing the Loyal agent in the chest. Shrieking in agony as she was flung back, the agent caught Melanie’s shoulder with her elbow.

Melanie swore as she lost her grip on May, who had just enough energy to surge out of her hold to freedom. Once her full weight was back on her feet however, May didn’t have the strength to stand. She collapse in a tangle of limbs still wracked by lingering aftershocks from the current she had endured.

The ringing in her ears subsided just enough that May could hear the members of WIND screaming at Em to stop – Em, who was again barreling toward May with frightening speed. Yet another agent, this one looking so young with his cheeks flushed and eyes wide, reached down to haul May back to her feet.

His hand had almost closed around her upper arm when his entire body froze in place, limbs splayed in a pantomime of ducking downward. Em hovered in the expanse between WIND and the Loyals, toes skimming the ground with one arm outstretched, hand clutched as though she had caught something in her grasp.

Jerking her arm up, the young agent shot into the sky and dangled helplessly above them all.

“Stop!” Melanie cried, hands out and eyes darting rapidly between Em and her airborne hostage.

“Leave us alone,” Em demanded, her voice like deep and rolling thunder.

Melanie raised her weapon.

Em snarled and wrenched her arm down so fast that the young agent hurtled back to earth and hit the ground with a gut-curdling crunch. May clamped her eyes shut so she didn’t have to see the man’s collapsed skull or the spray of blood that painted the driveway only a few feet from where she still lay crumpled in a heap.

People on both sides of the stand-off screamed. Em didn’t pause to consider what she had done. Instead she used the distraction of her violence to dive forward and scoop May into her arms. With a powerful, no doubt adrenaline-aided jump, Em vaulted into the air and flew off.

May only caught a bleary glimpse of the chaos as it shrank beneath them before she passed out.


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Thirty Three

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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.

“Fuck you.”

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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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Thirty Two

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[ CW: strong language, sexual content ]

Marina’s big house was fairly quiet for the rest of the day, especially considering how many people were in it. The party spent most of the afternoon napping and getting cleaned up.

Some time after three o’clock, Em jolted awake and glanced groggily around the room until she remembered where she was. It came back to her slowly: the memory of crawling along the couch and flopping down onto her stomach between May’s splayed legs. May had been lounging there, reading the computer reference book Marina had loaned her; Em fell asleep with her arms wrapped around May’s middle and her face resting on her stomach as it rose and fell with each gentle breath May took.

“How long was I asleep?” Em asked. She peered up at May, who lifted the book she was still reading to peek back at her.

“Not sure,” May admitted. “Maybe an hour?”

Connor strode into the room carrying a basket full of fresh laundry.

“Do you guys mind if I fold in here?” he asked. “Rue’s sleeping upstairs.”

“Knock yourself out,” Em replied with a yawn, snuggling back down onto May who set the book aside and began combing her fingers lightly through Em’s hair.

Connor was almost finished his chore when a sleepy-eyed Rue wandered downstairs.

“Feeling better, love?” he asked when she walked up for a quick kiss and to survey his progress.

“Much better.” She smiled warmly.

Marina breezed into the room and grinned when she saw them. “Everyone’s surfacing! Who’s up for a drink or two?”

Without waiting for a response she unlocked a magnificent liquor cabinet and pulled out glasses. She then went to retrieve wine from the kitchen as everyone made their drink selection. Before striding back into the room she called up the stairs to the stragglers. “We’re getting drunk without you!”

Soon Jeremy and Priva joined them. They were disheveled, but it didn’t appear to have been from sleep. Em and May exchanged knowing looks when the pair passed them on their way to make their drinks, but they kept their teasing remarks to themselves.

“Oh, man.” Marina sighed happily, settling back with a very full glass of wine. “I can’t remember the last time I got drunk. I think I’m overdue.”

“We’re not getting drunk,” Connor laughed. “But don’t let us stop you.”

“For those prepared to party,” Em raised her glass of whiskey to Marina. “We salute you.”

They all clinked their glasses, a chaotic moment of reaching arms trying to make sure no one was missed, and toasted to being together, regardless of the circumstances.

For everyone but May and Em, the conversation flowed naturally, especially once the alcohol started to lighten the mood in the room. No one wanted to talk about the present and so those who shared a history dipped into the wells of nostalgia. They rehashed memories, retelling increasingly funnier stories until they gasped for breath between their laughter.

May and Em sat on the far end of the couch, edging closer with every sip from their glasses. At first they tried to stay cognisant that Jeremy was right there, regardless of the fact that he hadn’t looked at them once since entering the room. But as the whiskey worked its magic, they seemed to forget that anyone else was in the room. Em coiled an arm around May’s slender waist and nuzzled into the curve of her neck. She planted kiss after kiss – playful in the beginning, then slower and seductive as they worked through their second and third drinks – along May’s jawline and shoulder. Between kisses she’d whisper things in May’s ear that left her crimson-cheeked and giggling.

“One day I’m gonna buy us a big house like this one,” Em told May in a matter-of-fact, whisper-yell. “And you can just spend all day lounging around in fancy lingerie like the fucking queen you are.”

“Shhh, everyone can hear you.” May grinned and kissed Em to silence her.

Em replied by mumbling something against May’s lips that sounded a bit like, “I worship you.”

The only sign that Jeremy heard any of this was the subtle bouncing of his knee.

It wasn’t long after that May excused herself, slipping upstairs to use the washroom.

***

Jeremy didn’t realize Em had crept away too until he rose to fix another drink and found her missing. Squaring his jaw, he tried to focus on the promises he had made; one to Rue to try harder to be pleasant to the girls, made in the throes of gratitude that came with having survived his beating in the alley, the other to Priva. That afternoon she had made him promise to stop obsessing over the past – to see her, the one standing right in front of him. He had promised to try and it must have been enough for her; they made love for the first time in ages.

He thought of the sex, imagining the feeling of Priva’s silky skin under his and the look on her face as he moved between her thighs. Her moans of pleasure, her nails digging into his shoulders, the genuine happiness she radiated as they laid together afterward.

He reached out and took her hand. He could try.

“I know what we’re missing,” Marina announced, sitting up quickly. “Music!”

Priva snapped her fingers. “Didn’t you say Myles plays guitar now?”

“Yes!” Marina pointed at her, clearly into the direction Priva’s train of thought was headed. “It’s in his room!”

Priva looked to Jeremy expectedly. “Go get it, boo! Play for us!”

Jeremy blinked up at Marina. “Where’s his room?”

“Third floor. First door on your left.”

Without arguing – he was trying to be better, after all – he got to his feet and made for the stairs. He hadn’t realized just how much he’d had to drink until standing; his head swam with the early stages of his buzz.

As he stepped onto the second floor, Jeremy paused. To his right the staircase continued upwards. But to his left he saw the bathroom, open and dark. Across the hall was Em and May’s room, the door open just a crack. Everything was quiet.

That’s weird, he thought with a frown. He had been sure they had sneaked up here to fuck. A slight flurry of concern rose in his stomach.

Against his better judgement, he tiptoed toward the room. Perhaps they had simply passed out like a couple of lightweights. But what if they weren’t in there? He tried to push down the paranoid voice in his head, honed from years of fighting and fleeing, that screamed something might be wrong.

He held his breath as he peered through the miniscule opening in the door. From there he could see the bed, made and empty.

A sudden rush of movement took him by surprise as a pair of bodies tumbled into his line of vision from somewhere hidden by the door. Jeremy had to bite his bottom lip to keep from gasping out loud.

A tangle of peaches and cream; May had pushed Em up against the wall, kissing her fiercely. Their shirts had already been discarded, their hands were everywhere.

To Jeremy, the world seemed to fall away. He stood, paralyzed; knowing he needed to walk away but helpless to do so.

May dragged her teeth lightly against the tender flesh of Em’s throat. Head back, Em welcomed May’s assault with a breathy moan.

Kisses were peppered across Em’s collarbone as May groped under her lover’s bra with one hand and worked the button of her jeans with the other.

Get out of here, Jeremy’s brain shouted at him.

But he couldn’t. He was transfixed by the ecstacy on Em’s face as May’s hand plunged down the front of her pants and pressed into her warmth.

He knew that look, he remembered it perfectly. Her quiet noises of passion were exactly the same.

All at once, memories of when he was the one in May’s place came back to him like a crashing wave.

It didn’t matter what she looked like or what she called herself: Jeremy knew Audrey when he saw her.

At last he was able to tear himself away from the door. He staggered to the staircase and heaved a few deep and rocky breaths.

Go upstairs, he coached himself. Get the guitar. Go downstairs. Figure your shit out.

From down the hall, Em cried out softly.

Figure your shit out.

***

By the time the girls slunk back downstairs, the sitting room was filled with the sound of guitar strings and drunken singing.

“Welcome back, ladies,” Priva announced loudly, drawing everyone’s attention to the blushing pair as they slid back into their spot on the couch.

“Look,” May laughed, trying to come up with an excuse and failing.

“Listen,” Em said, with just as much success.

From his chair, Jeremy fiddled with the guitar pegs, adjusting the tuning. He didn’t look up as he launched into another song.

The notes were familiar. May recognized it as the song she and Em had performed at the flat in Luxton; the first song she learned to play herself.

“Hey!” She turned to Em, smiling. “It’s the song you’re always singing!”

But Em didn’t answer. She wasn’t smiling either.

Instead her gaze was fixed on Jeremy’s hands as they danced over the strings.

“Wait,” Em muttered, squinting. “How do you…”

Her eyes grew wide. “Oh, fuck.”

“What’s wrong?” Connor asked, glancing between Em and Jeremy.

“Imagine how surprised I was when you two started playing this song,” Jeremy said, his eyes still trained on his instrument as he finished the melody. “This, the song I wrote for Audrey.”

The final note reverberated itself into silence. No one spoke.

“She’s the only person I ever played it for.” Now he looked up. His eyes were cold.

“Isn’t that interesting?”


[ Next ]

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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Thirty One

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When May finally made her way upstairs she found Em lingering outside the half-closed kitchen door, listening to the excited chatter on the other side of it. Her eyes – glassy, bottom lashes glittering – turned to May and the corners of her mouth twitched into the smallest of smiles.

“I thought I’d give them a bit of privacy,” Em whispered, hitching a thumb toward the voices. “Sounds like it’s been a long time since they’ve seen each other, right?”

May frowned, knowing she was lying.

“Em,” May breathed her name and took Em’s hand in both of hers. “You don’t have to-“

They jumped as the door swung open.

Rue stood on the threshold, her face splitting into a delighted grin. “There you two are! It’s so good to see you safe and sound! Come on now.”

She pulled the girls into the kitchen, cutting the conversation like a switch. Every face turned to them and, just like Rue, everyone lit up.

“You’re alive!” Priva cheered, pulling Em into a tight bear hug.

Em laughed. “Of course we’re alive, dork.”

“Are you both alright?” Connor asked from the other end of the kitchen island. “No one’s hurt?”

“We’re fine,” May answered, watching Em squirm and struggle against Priva’s boa constrictor grip and giggling.

She turned to ask Connor the same question just as Jeremy stepped up to her, startling her.

“Relax.” Jeremy lifted his hands. “I come in peace.”

His voice was soft and friendly and made May realize he had never spoken to her like that before. Her eyes searched his face and regarded the blooms of purple and yellow around his eyes and across his already-delicate looking cheekbones. His split lip looked painful, but he grinned at her anyway. “Don’t worry; it’s not as bad as it looks.”

A well of emotion swelled in May’s chest as she remembered every blow that had left those bruises on Jeremy’s face. “It looked pretty bad when it was happening. I’m so glad you’re okay – I can’t believe I just left you there.”

“You did exactly what you should have done,” he insisted with a tight shake of his head. “Thanks to you the team was able to act. They would have been fucked if you hadn’t warned them. Which is why I, uh…” his casual air slipped and suddenly he seemed awkward. Clearing his throat, Jeremy thrust his hand forward. “Thank you.”

It took a second for May to realize he was serious. Surprise turned to happy relief, and she smiled and took his hand, shaking it firmly. “You’re welcome, Jeremy.”

“On that note, I should probably check in,” Connor announced, pulling a nondescript cell phone from his pocket. He turned and made his way to the breakfast nook on the far side of the room and spoke under his breath to a voice on the other end. Knowing that he was communicating with a Loyal agent made May shudder.

“While he’s doing that, is anyone hungry?” Marina asked, surveying the group. The remaining members of WIND looked ragged and wilted with exhaustion. “I’ll make us something to eat.”

Jeremy, moving gingerly, started to make his way over to her. “I’ll help.”

“I don’t think so,” Rue clucked, pulling a chair over and waving Jeremy into it. “Your job right now is to rest. Marina, I’ll give you a hand.”

As the two women got to work, Connor finished his call. He gave Jeremy the slightest of nods and the battered redhead relaxed back into his seat.

Smiling softly, Connor gazed around the room, taking in what he could gleam of his sister’s life from the details. His eyes landed on the fridge and class photo of Myles held beneath a magnet made from a pinecone with plastic googly eyes.

“He’s gotten so big, Rini,”

Marina glanced over her shoulder. “Tell me about it. I feel like he was still in diapers a couple weeks ago.”

“He sure looks like dad.” There was so much heartache in Connor’s eyes, but he kept smiling anyway.

“He does,” Marina agreed. “He’s playing soccer now. He’s pretty good at it too. Oh, and he started taking music lessons a few years ago. Plays the guitar. He does not get musical talent from our side of the family, that’s for sure.”

“Must be from Marcus’ side.” Connor grinned.

A phone rang, making Marina jump.

She pulled her phone out from her back pocket and squinted at the name on her caller I.D.

“Speaking of Marcus. I’ll be back in a sec,” she said, stepping out of the room to answer the call.

“Oh, I need to give you this before I forget.” Priva dug through her pockets, unearthing a folded sheet of notebook paper. She handed it to Em. “This is a list of meet-up locations for the rest of our route, in order. If we get split up again, head to the closest address. These are the only places and people we can trust.”

“Don’t lose it,” Jeremy said, miming the action of putting something in his pocket. “One of you should always have it on you.”

“Got it,” Em confirmed, reaching down her collar and stashing the list in her bra. She gave May a wink, who responded with a deep blush and a playful shove.

“So, Jeremy,” May said, trying out this tentative new friendship that seemed to have settled between them. “Marina showed us a security camera picture you sent her so she knew which train we’d be on. How did you do that?”

“It’s called a screen cap,” he teased, smirking – playfully this time – as May put her hands on her hips and shook her head at him.

“Did you hack their security system?” she asked. “How did you learn to do that?”

Jeremy shrugged, then winced. “It’s just one of the surprisingly useful skills I managed to pick up over the years.”

“Who just ‘picks up’ hacking?” Then, as soon as she asked, May remembered. “Does it have anything to do with your ability?”

“Ha, no.” Jeremy chuckled. “It would be cool if I could actually do everything I’ve ever seen or read about, but that’s not how it works.”

The kitchen door opened and Marina hurried back into the kitchen.

“Sorry about that,” she said, fussing around the counter as she spoke. “That took longer than I expected.”

“Did they make it okay?” May asked, noting Marina’s far-off expression. “Marcus and Myles?”

“Oh, they’re still driving.” Marina gave her head a shake. “They were just calling to check in. Myles got carsick, poor kid.”

“Ew.” Jeremy pulled a face. Marina ignored him.

“So, how long do you guys plan on staying?” she asked, glancing around the room.

Rue sighed. “Not long, I’m afraid.”

“Will you at least be spending the night?” Marina looked hopefully at her brother. “It’s been so long since the last time we were together.”

Connor ran his fingers along the tight line of his lips.

“It would be nice to have a short break,” he agreed. The others nodded and shrugged their shoulders. “But only if you’re sure. I don’t want you to feel obligated to put yourself at risk any more than you already have”

“Not at all.” Marina grinned.

“One night off and then we’ll get back at it,” Em announced, as though her words were absolute. No one disagreed.

Em absentmindedly placed a hand lightly on the center of her chest and imagined the hammering of her heart.

“We have important work to do.”


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Thirty

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Marina opened a door off the main foyer – a door May had assumed opened to a coat closet – to reveal an unlit set of stairs. She gestured for the girls to follow as she descended into the darkness. A chill chased its way up May’s body as the air grew cooler and she faltered when the light from upstairs was no longer bright enough to illuminate what was ahead of her. All she could see was a light sprinkling of tiny green, blue, and orange lights glowing like faint stars against the blackness.

“Lights, please,” Marina spoke from somewhere in the void. On command the room brightened – gradually like a time-lapsed sunrise – leaving May and Em wide-eyed and gaping.

The basement was home to a large and open-concept workshop. May marvelled at an assortment of half-finished projects surrounded by halos of tools and schematics, blank monitors that reflected her own astonished expression, and juxtaposing workbenches – one pristine and the other cluttered. Marina slumped into a worn office chair at the latter and sighed. Em motioned to a high stool, offering it to May while she leaned back against a massive tool cabinet and folded her arms across her chest.

“This place is cool,” May remarked, eyes still scanning the room and its many impressive details. “Is all this work yours?”

Marina nodded. “Some of the messes my own pet projects and research but I also work on contract commissions from clients.”

“What kind of work do you do exactly?” May eyed what looked to be a dismantled computer on a table to her left. Wires and circuitry spilled from the casing like the entrails of a slain prey animal.

“The specifics are private,” Marina explained, an air of routine to her answer. “But I create advanced security programs and surveillance systems for corporate clients. I also like to dabble in A.I. and robotics when I have spare time.”

May blinked. “That barely made sense to me.” Her eyes flicked to the row of well-read reference books lining a shelf behind Marina’s workstation, landing on a sizeable volume about advanced computer architecture. She pointed at it. “Do you mind?”

Marina swiveled to see what May was pointing at and looked back at her with a raised eyebrow and a laugh. “Uh, why?”

Em laughed too, giving May’s shoulder a squeeze. “The woman has an insatiable brain.”

At this, May flushed. “I’m just curious! Your work sounds really impressive – you must be brilliant.”

“Well, before you follow that train any further down the track, no: I’m not a Wish.”

Marina’s words – her completely unsolicited response to a question May had only just begun to entertain – took both women by surprise. They shared an uneasy glance.

Em cleared her throat. “Good to know.”

“This brilliance was earned the old fashioned way,” Marina said, waving a hand at the room around them. She reached up and slid the book from the shelf, handing it to May. “A spark of passion coupled with years of hard work and diligent study.”

She paused for a moment, taking May and Em in one at a time. “I’m also smart enough to know that if you two are tangled up with my brother and his friends, then you probably know a thing or two about the Wishes and the Loyals.”

May swallowed; her mouth was suddenly extremely dry. Em replied with a curt nod.

“That’s why I sent Marcus and Myles away,” Marina continued. “It’s also why I don’t speak to Connor very often. His cause is noble but I need to keep my family safe. The Loyals are capable of some pretty terrible things.” Her eyes dropped to her hands, which she had folded tightly in her lap.

“That’s fair,” Em agreed. “We appreciate what you’re doing for us.”

“I can’t imagine this is easy for you,” May said.

Marina turned her back to them. “You’re right.”

She stood on her toes and reached behind the row of books, rifling around for something on the shelf they sat on. When she pulled back, Marina held aloft a small, dusty photo album.

“I should really clean that shelf more often,” she muttered as she sat back down. She blew at the cobwebs and wiped the cover with the sleeve of her shirt before flipping through the album’s pages. With a faint smile, Marina paused on a family portrait and turned the book so the girls could see it clearly.

“That’s our family,” she said. “Connor isn’t even a year old in this picture.”

Connor, like his own son, was a big-eyed child brimming with delight. In the photo he sat perched in the protective arms of his big sister who grinned over his head at the camera. The two were cradled between a mother and father who could not have looked prouder.

“You all look so happy,” May said as she absentmindedly traced a finger around the border of the photo. But she knew all too well how deceptive pictures like these – the only surviving relics of a time before tragedy – could be. She too had posed happily with her adoptive family for portraits back before her scandal shook their foundations. Looking at those photos after the fact had always left an ache in May’s heart; pity for the smiling faces, frozen in time, completely unaware of the terrible things to come.

“I was ten years old when the wishing star fell.” Marina’s eyes were hazy with recollection. “My mom had just found out she was pregnant with Connor. They had been trying for years to have a second baby and we were over the moon it was finally happening. But then mom got sick and, when the doctors told my parents Connor wasn’t going to make it to term, my dad got desperate.”

She paused, inhaling a slow and shaky breath. “My parents were the first to misuse the star when it was initially recovered. Dad actually led the search party that found it. They weren’t trying to start a war; they just wanted to save my brother.”

Shocked, May looked up at Em to find her frowning. There was confusion in her eyes that made May wonder if this was one of the memories from Audrey’s life Em had forgotten over time.

“I often wonder what things would be like if that fucking star hadn’t been stolen.” Marina’s voice shook with barely concealed anger. “The Loyals wouldn’t have a leg to stand on if that thing had just gone back to where it came from like it was supposed to.” She drew another uneven breath and gave her head a shake.

Gently Marina lifted the top corners of the photo and slid something out from behind it. Hidden beneath the family portrait was another photograph, which she flipped over and laid flat on the album page.

The snapshot was much newer and featured three laughing teenagers out in the summer sunshine. Two of the faces May recognized immediately, despite the years that had passed since the picture had been taken. Even so, she was slightly taken aback to see Connor and Jeremy looking so happy. Not once had she witnessed such genuine smiles from either of them.

May had never seen the third person before, but she didn’t need to ask to know who she was.

Glossy chestnut hair. Stunning golden eyes. Audrey was smaller than Em, her features differing ever so slightly. But if May focused she could imagine Em looking like her former self if only she were splashed with colour.

“This was taken before Myles was born,” Marina explained, tapping the photo with a finger. “Before the treaty. Have they told you about that?” May nodded and she continued. “This is the most recent photo I have of them.”

She moved her finger to the girl wrapped in Jeremy’s arms. “This is Audrey.”

“We’ve heard about her too,” Em said in a quiet voice, her eyes – pale and diamond-like now – glued to the visage of the person she used to be.

May struggled to remind herself that the person in the photo was not the woman she had fallen in love with, particularly given how obviously involved Jeremy and Audrey were in the photo. His arms were wrapped around Audrey’s waist, his chin resting on her shoulder. With one hand, Audrey cupped Jeremy’s cheek, pressing his face into hers. Her other hand rested atop his forearms.

Until this moment, May had never been able to imagine the two of them together.

Now she just felt small and out of place.

“What was she like?” May asked, tearing her eyes from the once-happy couple to focus on Marina, who shrugged at the question.

“I have complicated feelings about her,” Marina admitted, squirming with discomfort. “I will always love her for getting my brother away from our uncle. That was such a terrible situation. She was a good person – a brave person. Really adventurous and full of life, if not a bit too scrappy for my liking. But it was also her idea to form WIND and I know they mean well but…”

Marina trailed off, her eyes shining as they bored down into the photo of her teenage brother. “Things would be so different if they had just laid low instead of becoming some rogue group of vigilantes.”

Em tensed imperceptibly.

“How did she die, Marina?”

Tension flooded the room, leaving the hairs on the back of May’s neck standing on end. For a moment Marina shielded her eyes with a hand to her brow. Then she dropped the hand to her chest.

“Do you know about the-” Her voice cracked, so instead she tapped her palm lightly over her heart.

“The device implants?” May asked, trying to be helpful. “Because of the treaty.”

Marina nodded sadly. “Audrey and Jeremy ran away together. This was probably about a year or so after the treaty. They were trying to get the devices removed so the Loyals wouldn’t be able to find them. They wanted to start a new life.”

“But the Loyals found them.” Em surmised.

“They found out.” Fat, silent tears escaped from Marina’s lashes and traced down her cheeks. “But they wouldn’t even do their dirty work themselves. The Loyals had never told them that they had a failsafe built into the devices. Audrey’s was detonated remotely; a prolonged shock directly to her heart. They didn’t even give her a chance to redeem herself. They just made an example of her to scare the others into playing by their rules.”

While Marina wiped at her eyes, May looked to Em once more and found her stunned into silence.

May had always assumed Em hadn’t told her how Audrey died because it was too painful a memory. Only now was she realizing that it was because Em herself had never known the truth in the first place.

A cheerful chime sounded, making May jump and bursting the moment like a bubble. A screen above Marina’s workstation blinked to life showing, a live view from the front door. Four figures, limp with fatigue, huddled on the step.

It was WIND.

“It’s about damn time,” Marina said with a weak laugh. She hurried past the girls without so much as a backwards glance.

Before May even had a chance to rise from the stool, Em had already taken a few strides forward, following in Marina’s wake.

“Em.” May reached for her hand, just managing to catch her fingers as she swept by.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Em said without looking back. “Please, I’m not…”

May released her. “Okay. I’ll be here when you’re ready.”

Em nodded, shoulders trembling, and kept walking.

May hung back and cried alone.


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Twenty Nine

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Later that evening, Marina showed May and Em to a spare bedroom and told them to make themselves comfortable.

“I’m going to make sure Myles is actually in bed,” she said, watching as the girls surveyed the room. “Marcus and I are at the end of the hall – last door on the left. Knock if you need anything.”

She pulled the door closed behind her with a soft click. May listened to her retreating footsteps until they disappeared up the stairs to the floor Myles’ bedroom was on. Down the hall Marcus, Marina’s husband, had already retired for the night. In the quiet, the house felt like a trap and May’s unease resurfaced once more.

Though Em had already collapsed into a full sprawl on the bed, May felt too restless to join her. She began to pace, pausing at the window. Her hand hovered at the closed curtains. A paranoid, anxious part of her brain begged her to peek out, but she was stopped by the memory of Marina asking them to stay out of sight. Reluctantly she pulled away and wandered back to the door. She checked for a lock and, when she didn’t find one, dragged an old wooden chair from the writing desk in the corner and wedged its back beneath the handle.

It wasn’t that she didn’t trust Marina or her family; May had simply learned not to get too comfortable.

“I wonder how much longer the others will be,” May wondered aloud, examining her makeshift blockade with a satisfied nod.

It took her a beat to realize Em wasn’t listening.

When she glanced over, May saw Em’s gaze trained on the ceiling. Her expression was one of deep and troubled thought. May sank gently onto the mattress beside her and laid a soft hand on Em’s shoulder.

“Babe?” she inquired quietly. “Are you sure everything’s okay?”

Em blinked, looking at May as though she had forgotten she was in the room. “What?”

“I asked if everything was alright.”

Biting her lip, Em rolled her face onto May’s hand and pressed her cheek into its warmth. “I don’t know. I guess so.”

But May knew her better than that. She laid down next to Em so they were face to face.

“Talk to me.”

Em cringed; she knew it was pointless to protest.

“It’s about Audrey,” she admitted without looking May in the eyes. She had never been comfortable talking about her past life with May more than was absolutely necessary.

“What about her?” May hoped the inquisitive cadence of her voice didn’t give away the flutter of panic in her stomach.

“I think…” Em squinted, thinking hard about what she wanted to say next. “I think I’m starting to forget her. Well, not her exactly, but her memories. Her feelings. I didn’t realize it until we got here and now I’m wondering how long it’s been going on.”

“What kind of things are you forgetting?” May asked. She had a hard enough time reconciling the fact that Em was host to two lives worth of memories.

Em frowned. “I forgot Marina has a kid. And yet I remembered she’s a computer engineer. It’s weird.”

“That’s awful,” May said, stroking Em’s silver strands back from her face. She combed her fingertips gently along Em’s scalp and watched her features relax into the sensation. “What do you think is causing it?”

“Probably just time to be honest,” Em admitted, closing her eyes. “When they first brought me back, Welkin told me it would take a while to settle into being me. But even they had no idea what that would look like. Maybe in time I’ll forget about Audrey altogether.”

May let the idea roll around in her mind. As much as Em’s past had left her feeling troubled, the idea of her losing that identity somehow felt worse to her.

“Or maybe two sets of memories is just too much for one brain to hold on to,” she offered. “I have a hard enough time remembering people’s names and I’ve just got my own memories to deal with.”

Em chuckled quietly. “I guess that makes sense. It makes me wonder what else I’ve forgotten though.”

“Are you worried?”

“Not exactly. A little sad, a little relieved.”

May was surprised. “Relieved?”

“It’s like you said, two sets of memories aren’t easy to juggle. It’s not like it’s been peaceful or anything.” Em shrugged into the mattress. “Besides, there’s a lot about Audrey I’d rather not have to live with.”

“Hey.” May touched her forehead to Em’s, staring resolutely into her eyes. “No matter what happens, you’re still you.”

“Thanks, love.” Em smiled. “What about you? How are you handling all of this?”

“It’s a little weird,” May admitted. “Being here with Connor’s family while everyone else is out there somewhere. I feel like I can’t relax. Do you trust Marina? Are we safe?”

Em’s arms circled around May and pulled her close, burying her face into the soft curls of May’s hair. “Connor and the rest of WIND are so careful; if they trust Marina right now, I think we’re fine.” May nestled into every nook and curve of her body until she could imagine their edges blurring into one. “As far as whether or not we’re safe, I’m not going to let anything happen to you.”

May smiled into the softness of Em’s neck. She wasn’t naive enough to let the burden of their safety fall solely on Em’s shoulders, but her girlfriend’s conviction was enough to let her relax just enough to drift off to sleep.

*

The following morning, May awoke to Em crawling out of bed.

“Don’t get up,” Em whispered, planting a soft kiss on May’s forehead. “I’m just going to have a shower.”

With a groggy nod, May snuggled into the warm place Em left behind and tried to recapture the last wisps of slumber. She hovered in that hazy threshold between wakefulness and sleep for a few minutes, but the sound of running in the halls pulled her fully into the morning. Yawning, she dragged herself from beneath the covers and pulled Em’s hoodie over her shoulders.

May wandered out into the hallway, the air still with the chill of morning. She craned her head and followed the sound of the footsteps bounding down the hallway above and onto the stairs. When the offending feet came into view she discovered it was Myles racing toward her. His duffle bag, overstuffed into a bulging mass, bounced against his back with every step.

“Hi,” Myles said, jumping over the last stair and landing with a heavy thump on both feet. He smiled up at May with the confidence she recalled coming easy at that age.

“Good morning,” May replied, returning the smile. “Are you off to another game?” She gestured to his bag.

“Nope.” Myles hitched the strap so the bag sat higher on his back. “Dad and I are going to visit my aunt Eliza for a few days. He and mom are letting me skip school and everything. Cool, huh?”

“Wow, sure is,” May marvelled, genuinely surprised. No one in the family had said anything about a trip when they had sat around with their bowls of ice cream the night before. She followed Myles as he thundered down the final flight of stairs, her soft footsteps nothing more than a whisper by comparison.

“Have you got everything?” She heard Marina ask from the garage entrance way.

May stepped into the room just as Marina wrapped her arms around Myles and held him long and tight. She didn’t let go until her son started to squirm.

“Mom! You’re squishing me!”

“Sorry, baby.” Marina reached for her husband and gave him a kiss. “Call me when you get there, okay?”

“It’ll be the first thing I do,” Marcus promised, holding a hand over his heart. “I won’t even stop to say hello to my sister.” He winked as Marina snorted, then turned his attention to May. She froze; she didn’t think they had noticed she was there. ”It was nice to meet you, May.”

“Likewise,” she replied, her cheeks flushing involuntarily. Marina wouldn’t look at her.

Once Marcus and Myles were loaded into the vehicle, Marina watched and waved, smiling brightly until they turned onto the road and disappeared behind the hedges. Her smile faded, and she closed the garage with the tap of a button.

“Did you send them away because of us?” May asked when Marina shut the side door, locking it behind her. She gave May a critical look, and then sighed.

“No offence.” She breezed past May and motioned for her to follow. “I couldn’t risk them getting caught up in whatever my brother is up to. Listen, I want to talk to you two. Where’s-”

Em came trotting down the stairs, shaking out her damp hair. “Did I just hear the garage? Are they here?”

“No.” Marina frowned. She opened a door to a set of stairs that descended into the basement. She nodded, gesturing downstairs. “Come on, I have something to show you.”


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#SciFi Women Interview – Maggie Derrick — Natacha Guyot’s Nexus

I was recently interviewed by Natacha Guyot for her super cool #SciFi Women series. You can read the Q & A over on her blog below!

Welcome to the February 2018 #SciFi Women Interview! I am delighted to welcome Maggie Derrick as this month’s guest! I met this talented creative lady thanks to Twitter (I believe a year-ish ago) and was happy when she accepted to do this interview. 759 more words

via #SciFi Women Interview – Maggie Derrick — Natacha Guyot’s Nexus