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?”

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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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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Twenty Eight

[ Beginning | Previous ]

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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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Twenty Seven

[ Start at the Beginning | Previous Chapter ]

The only visible reaction Em had to May’s announcement was the tension pulling at her shoulders.

“Where?” she whispered, throwing quick, surreptitious glances to her right and then left. She didn’t want to tip whoever was following them that they had noticed.

“A few feet behind us,” May whispered back, knowing that breaking into a run would have been the worst decision she could make but desperately wishing she could anyway.


The memory of the relentless Loyal woman who had pursued them more than a year ago in Tenna, flipping their whole world upside down, flashed through May’s mind. Her stomach clenched.

“No.” Thank goodness.

Em licked her lips and May could tell what she was thinking – they were sitting ducks out in the open like this; they needed to lose the agent.

Based on the amount of people milling through the massive main hall of York Central Station, it was clear the city was a busy and popular place to be. Everyday commuters wove expertly through swarms of gawking and disoriented tourists. May noticed a rather large gathering – a tour group from the looks of things – congregating close to a coffee stop built into the smooth limestone. She nodded discreetly in their direction.

“Good call,” Em muttered. Without another word they crisscrossed through a stream of people heading in the opposite direction, splitting up just enough to make it harder to keep an eye on both of them without wandering out of sight of each other.

May got to the tour group first and wedged her way into the cluster as if she belonged there. She kept her head down and, rather than stopping in the false sense of security the densely packed crowd provided, continued through to the other side. The tourists themselves were in such a state of disorganization they didn’t spare her a second glance. She emerged in time to see Em skirting around the far side of the group, the hood of her sweatshirt up and ducking low.

Moving faster now, they scurried into the coffee stop and around the line. Em scanned the room.

“If there’s a way out of here,” she said. “It’s going to be through their back room.”

Behind the counter and the three hectic baristas hung a curtain that blocked the back from sight. May homed in on the solitary woman working the bar – young, pretty, with plenty of black eyeliner – and leaned over the counter to get her attention.

“Do you need the bathroom key?” the barista asked, sounding not unfriendly but certainly distracted.

May shook her head. Em watched her carefully, wondering what her girlfriend was up to with the frightened look she had pulled over her face like a mask.

“Is there a way outside through the back?” she asked in a hushed, hurried voice. “There’s a creep who was on our train and now he’s following us around.”

For the first time the girl stopped moving, her expression dropping in an instant. Her dark-lidded eyes flicked up to the buzzing line of customers as if she might be able to pick the guy out without knowing more than what May had told her.

May was banking on the chance that the barista probably could have, had their pursuer been real.

“Shit,” Em hissed, turning sharply away from the crowd and tugging on the drawstrings of her hood. “I just saw him lurking in the hall.”

“Okay.” The barista glanced quickly at her co-workers before nodding toward the curtain. “Come with me.”

She waved May and Em around the counter and held back the curtain so they could slip through.

“Right there.” She pointed to a heavy-looking metal door against a back wall. “It will let you out in the alley.”

“You’re a lifesaver,” May whispered in gratitude.

“The world needs more sisterly solidarity,” Em said, giving the barista a salute. “Thanks for leading the charge.”

The girl smirked. “Good luck out there.”

Out in the alley, May let herself smile.

“That was brilliant, babe,” Em said with a laugh. “Quick thinking.”

“I feel a little guilty about lying to her now,” May admitted.

“Don’t. Women can be creeps too. Now which way should-”

Mid-turn, Em stopped dead and stared open-mouthed at the entrance to the alley. May looked over her shoulder. It was as if the world itself ground to a halt; the Loyal woman was already there.

May grabbed Em’s arm and tried to pull her in the opposite direction, but she stood solid, transfixed.

“Please stop running,” the woman pleaded, hustling up to them while throwing anxious glances behind her. “You’re going to draw attention to us if you keep this up.”

Em was still gaping. “You’re…”

“Marina,” the woman finished, looking flustered. “Connor’s sister.”

And just like that, the world resumed spinning, leaving May feeling nauseous.

“All that freaking out for nothing.” She doubled over, hands on her knees. “There had to be a better way to get our attention without scaring us like that!”

“Consider it a compliment to your evading skills,” Marina said, still fidgeting. She shifted her weight from foot to foot, twitching at every sound. “I had a hard enough time following you as it was. But we’re not out of the woods just yet. Come on, we’ve got to get you two out of the open.”

Silently May and Em followed Marina as she sprinted down the alley and to a curb in front of the building. As soon as she stepped out into the open a white SUV tore out from a row in the sprawling parking lot and lurched to a stop in front of her. They piled in, the vehicle speeding away before the girls even had a chance to sit down.

May wrestled off her pack and pulled it onto her lap as she sat back. Eyes closed, she let out a sigh of relief. When she opened them again, she looked to the driver’s seat, wondering who their getaway driver might be.

But the driver’s seat was empty.

“What’s going on?” May shrieked, fresh terror flashing through her like a flood. “Where’s the driver?”

Em looked up from the seatbelt she was trying to stretch around her, pack and all.

“Holy shit!”

“Please stop yelling,” Marina begged. She was focused on her phone, typing rapidly as the vehicle sped along, driverless.

“This car is driving itself.” May felt like she was dreaming. “You can’t blame me for freaking out!”

At a stop light, Marina crawled into the driver’s seat and buckled herself in. She pressed her thumb into the screen embedded in the dash. The lights illuminating the dashboard features faded from green to blue and suddenly it was clear that Marina was in control.

“You know,” she remarked, meeting May’s wide eyes in the rearview mirror. “Most people are impressed when they see my auto-valet program in action.”

“Yours?” Em leaned forward between the seats. “As in, you invented it?”

“Concept, code, and fabrication,” Marina replied, her eyes firmly trained on the road. “Now sit back, the windows aren’t tinted up here.”

May looked to Em who whispered.

“She always was a smart cookie.”

She gave up on struggling and buckled the seatbelt around herself, pack still on her back.

Marina steered them down a winding series of side streets, through sleepy neighbourhoods and passed bustling mom and pop shops selling produce and home furniture, far away from the chaos of the downtown core. The space between houses grew wider, the homes set farther back from the road, and eventually Marina slowed and turned the vehicle down a tree lined drive. May pressed her face to her window, peering through the trees at the expansive, lush grounds leading up to an impressive home that looked like it could have housed three families comfortably.

“Woah,” she muttered, awestruck. Not even Mr. Anoki – the well-to-do theatre director back home in Omea with all his glamorous galas – had a home like this one; May had never seen anything like it in her life. “Do you live here?”

“I do,” Marina answered. “With my family.”

Em’s gaze was intense as she scanned the front of the house. “Are the others already here?”

In the driver’s seat, Marina shifted, her lips pressed into a tight line and tapped a button on the dash screen. She didn’t say anything, acting as if steering her SUV into the yawning mouth of the garage ahead took every ounce of her concentration.

“Marina,” Em pressed, louder and impatient.

The garage door clunked into reverse as Marina shut off the engine.

“No, they’re not,” she answered without glancing back. Her tone sent a shock of cold racing through May’s veins. “Let’s talk inside.”

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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Twenty Six

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May’s heart threatened to hammer its way out of her chest.

In the first light of morning, it was impossible to tell who was standing there, blocking the shelter’s exit.

“Can we help you?” Em demanded but did not rise.

Once May’s eyes adjusted, she saw the intruder was a boy, only fourteen or fifteen-years old. He didn’t speak. He didn’t smile. He simply looked between the two women huddled in the corner and, without acknowledging it, dropped a tightly folded piece of paper on the ground and left. The sound of a bike being righted from the ground and peddling off was the last they heard from him.

“Who was that?” May asked, hushed but panicked.

“I have no idea.” Em’s head was cocked, listening.

May crept forward, stiff body aching in protest, and reached for what the boy had dropped.

“No,” Em pulled her back. “Leave it. Just wait.”

Too nervous to argue, May did as she was told. In motionless silence, they waited. They waited for what felt to May like forever.

Em nodded. “Okay, I think we’re good.”

This time when May reached for the paper, Em didn’t stop her. Instead, she peered over the shelter’s half-wall, scanning the picnic area around them. A couple runners plodded along a trail skirting the grove. Otherwise they were alone.

Licking her dry lips, May shot Em an anxious look and unfolded the paper.

We’ll meet you there.

“That’s Priva’s handwriting.” Em crouched back down beside May. She studied the note with a frown. “Meet us where?”

May searched her memory; Priva had told her where they were going, that day in the woods when she opened up about her family’s history of exploration. The memory was fuzzy now.

“Priva told me once,” she groaned, closing her eyes and trying to remember where Priva had pointed on the map. “We were going to get there by train. Ugh, it was a city, had a short name… I think it started with a y?”



Em looked surprised but didn’t say anything.

“What’s wrong?” May asked, fresh panic making her heartbeat quicken. “What’s in York?”

“Connor’s sister.” Em answered. “Or at least, that’s where she used to live.”

It was May’s turn to be surprised; this was the first she’d heard of Connor having a sibling.

Em recommended they get a move on before it got much later. It was still early enough that the streets were quiet, but they kept to sleepy side streets and alleys until they eventually found the train station. When they arrived, May donned both Em’s wig and hat before heading into the station alone.

“You just missed the morning train, sweetheart,” the smiling, grey-haired woman at the wicket told her. “But there’s one heading that way around 5:30 if you’re willing to wait.”

May glanced around the station. Morning commuters and travellers milled about, but she didn’t spot any familiar faces – friendly or otherwise. “I’ll take two tickets, please.”

A few minutes later, May sat alone at the cafe across the street. She was too anxious to eat but forced herself anyway. Em, she knew, was perched on the roof of the building, keeping an eye out from a safe distance.

One day I’m going to look back on all of this and think it was really exciting, she thought. She figured if she told herself that enough, she might start to believe it.

When she was sure no one was watching, May tucked the other half of her breakfast sandwich into her hoodie pocket for Em, slinked into the washroom, and shoved open the window.

“Good thing you’re so tiny. That window isn’t very big.”

May gasped. “Emmy! Don’t do that. I’m too freaked out for surprises right now.”

Em hovered just outside the window, which mercifully faced the alley behind the building. She kept her eyes trained on the sidewalk.

“Yell at me later. We’ve gotta hustle.”

She helped May shimmy out the window and carried her up to the roof where she had set up a spot near the edge. From there they could keep an eye on the station. The building was five storeys – the tallest on the street. May collapsed onto the little nest-like space Em set up, feeling safe for the first time since she went looking for Jeremy the day before.

“The next train to York doesn’t leave until 5:30,” she said to Em, who settled down beside her. “I brought you breakfast.”

Em took the sandwich and smiled softly. “You’re amazing. You know that right?”

“Because I brought you food?” May gave her a teasing look. “I didn’t realize the bar was set so low.”

“First of all,” Em chuckled, laying down beside her. “Don’t underestimate the importance of food. Second, that’s not what I meant. I’m proud of you and how you’re handling all of this.”

May sighed and covered her eyes with her forearm. “If by ‘how I’m handling this’ you mean ‘not well at all’ then you would be right.”

She felt Em’s lips press into hers in a loving kiss. “You’re stronger than you give yourself credit for, babe.”

Relenting, May let herself smile. “Thanks, Emmy. You’re pretty amazing too.”

“How about you take a nap?” Em offered. “We’ve got nothing but time. I’ll take the first watch.”

This time, May kissed her. “Have I ever told you how much I love you?”

Em grinned. “Once or twice.”

May wriggled into the sleeping bag Em pulled from her pack and fell asleep to the sound of her love unwrapping her breakfast.

They were unmoored, separated from the others and uncertain of where the Loyals might be lurking next. But they were together.

This time when May slept, it was deep and it was dreamless.

By the time their train was ready to board, May was convinced there was nothing worse than waiting.

Save for the blissful hours she spent sleeping, every moment left her plagued with worry.

Where were the others? Were they safe? How long before they found each other again?

Though Em never would have admitted it, May knew she was worried too. She could see it in the way Em dipped her head forward to hide behind the hair of her wig. May let her board the train first while she hung back, scanning the platform for suspicious faces and doing what she could to avoid drawing the attention of anyone who might have been searching for a couple of young women travelling together.

She found Em again a few minutes later, crouched low in her seat.

“Everything okay?”

Em twitched, startled. “Sorry. Yeah, I’m fine. Just trying to keep my head down.”

May slid into her seat and adjusted her cap to cover her surreptitious glance around the train car.

“I think we’re all clear,” she said, forcing a smile for Em’s sake. “Now we just need to figure out what to do once we get there.”

“I don’t suppose P had a chance to choose an assembly point in York, did she?”

May shook her head. “I’m not sure she thought that far ahead.”

“I figured as much.” Em gave May’s hand a firm squeeze. “Don’t worry, babe. We’ll figure it out.”

The pair dozed in and out for most of the trip to York. It wasn’t until the train was pulling into the station that they made the hushed decision to find a motel to hole up in until they figured out what to do next.

“Shouldn’t we go find Connor’s sister?” May asked, heaving her pack onto her shoulders. Its weight was beginning to wear on her.

“How would we explain to the others how we knew where to go?” Em replied over her shoulder.

“We could always lie and say that one of them told us.”

“Are you suggesting we gaslight them? Lie until they believe our bullshit?”

May shrugged. “Aren’t we already kind of doing that?”


Down on the platform, Em found an information stand and pulled various brochures. She didn’t remember York well enough to know where to search for a place to stay. While she researched, May kept a lookout.

She scanned the crowds of bustling travellers from beneath the brim of her hat. Between the weary faces and scurrying bodies, May spotted a happy reunion between a pair of lovers. The laughter and smiles struck a chord of envy in her; what she wouldn’t give for a carefree welcome like that right now.

As she stared off, imagining a different timeline in which she and Em hadn’t made this trip alone – one in which WIND was with them and everything was going according to plan – May’s eyes focused in on a different face in the crowd. A face that, unlike the other bodies on the platform, stood still.

The face of a woman who staring right at her.

Unnerved by the stranger’s intense gaze, May shivered.

“Find anything yet?” She glanced at Em, who was absorbed in a brochure for a quaint bed and breakfast. When May looked back, the woman had moved on.

“I think so,” Em muttered, flipping the paper over to read the inn’s address.

“Let’s go find a cab then.”

They wove between the other travellers, pressing through the crowd in search of the station exit. May glanced around and her heart stopped; the woman was trailing just behind them.

“Em,” she hissed, sounding far more calm than she felt. “We need to run.

We’re being followed.”

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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Twenty Five

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Content warning: Strong language

May crashed through the door and raced into the living room of the flat, breathless and frantic.

Everyone else was there, their faces falling when they saw the state she was in.

“May, what happened?” Em was on her feet in an instant. Since meeting WIND she had been reluctant to use her abilities in front of them, but now she didn’t think twice about bounding airborne across the room just to pull May to her faster. “Are you hurt?”

“It’s Jeremy,” May choked. “The Loyals. Two guys have him in the alley. I think they know we’re here.”

“Em, May, we’ve got to get you out of here,” Connor barked.

Without another word he, Rue, and Priva jumped up and began re-packing their belongings in haste.

Em looked at May with wide eyes. “Babe, are you okay?”

May wasn’t sure how to answer.

“I don’t know. Jeremy was the only one who saw me but…” she trailed off, the grisly images of Jeremy’s assault flickering through her mind in rapid succession.

Priva rushed up to her, eyes full of panic.

“These Loyals,” she said, her voice cracking. “Did they hurt him?”

May couldn’t find words so she nodded instead, wrapping Priva in a tight hug when she sobbed.

Connor strode back into the room, a pack in each hand.

“I know it must have been awful but you did the right thing, May.” He handed the packs off to Em. “We’ll take care of Jeremy. Do you two remember what to do?”

It had been one of the many, many things the group had discussed before leaving the motel on that first day, and yet May still remembered the rule with perfect clarity. For every stop along the way, Priva would choose an assembly point somewhere a safe distance away. In the event of an emergency or separation, the group was to find one another again at that point.

“We remember,” Em assured him, slinging her pack over her shoulders.

“Good,” he said. “Now go.”

For the second time in their relationship, May found herself escaping out a window in Em’s arms. Together they soared in the direction of the assembly point, moving as quickly as Em could before the added weight of May and both packs forced her to find a discreet place to land.

“Good thing it’s dark out.” Em panted as she brought them carefully to the ground behind a row of dark houses a few blocks away.

“Are you going to be alright?” May asked. “Do you need me to carry your pack?”

“No, I’m good. Do you know which way we’re headed?”

“I think so.”

Hand-in-hand, the pair took off, avoiding busy roads and streetlights, speaking only when absolutely necessary. Every flash of a vehicle’s headlights or shout in the night made them jump; May’s hand was sweating in Em’s but she didn’t dare let go.

It took hours of sneaking around and getting lost before the pair finally found their way to Still Water Park. They followed a winding trail into a wooded grove in the heart of the park to where a lonely rain shelter stood like a shepherd amid its flock of picnic tables. Everything was still and quiet – they had beaten the others there, but at least they were alone.

“I feel like I’m in one of those hokey haunted houses and I’m just waiting for some actor to jump out and scare me,” Em whispered as they picked their way blindly into the shelter.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about but I can still tell it’s not funny,” May hissed. She reached the far corner and settled onto the poured concrete floor, pressing her back to it so she could still see the opening.

“Right,” Em mumbled, joining her on the ground. “You probably didn’t have those on Hoku. When this is all over, remind me to take you to one.”

The shelter wasn’t much more than a raised roof and three half-walls, but it would do for the night. May shivered, partly from the chill but also from the adrenaline still coursing through her, but she didn’t want to risk taking out her sleeping bag in case they needed to make another hasty retreat. Em wrapped an arm around her and pulled her close.

“Do you think they’ll be okay?” May asked, her eyes fixed on the shadowy shelter entrance.

Em gave her a squeeze. “I do. Trust me, they’ve prepared for every scenario. If anyone can figure a way out of this, it’s those guys.”

“How long do you think it will take before they can meet up with us?”

“I’m not sure. They’ll want to wait until they’re confident they won’t be followed. We have to be patient.”

A quiet breeze swept through the park, rattling the leaves on the trees above. May nestled in closer to Em.

“They really hurt him,” she whispered, so softly she wasn’t even sure Em would hear her.

For a moment, it seemed she hadn’t. But then she sighed and rested her head against May’s.

“He’s tough.” Em sounded as if she was trying to convince herself as much as May. “Incredibly tough. Believe it or not, he’s been through worse. He’ll be alright.” She planted a kiss on her lover’s temple. “Still, I’m sorry you had to see that.”

“I wish I could have done something.” May felt dangerously close to crying. “He was in trouble and I just froze. If he hadn’t spotted me and signaled for me to run I probably would have just sat there like a useless lump.”

“Do not do that to yourself.” Em was gentle with her scolding. “You did exactly what you were supposed to. Thanks to you, we got out of there in time. You saved us, May.”

Unable to accept her accolade, May merely hummed vaguely and wrapped her arm around Em’s middle.

“I know it’s probably asking a lot right now, but you should try to get some sleep.” Em stroked May’s hair. “No matter what happens, we’re going to need our energy in the morning.”

May wasn’t sure if she managed to reply. As uncomfortable and frightened as she was, Em’s simple suggestion was like permission, and in moments May was asleep.

But it didn’t feel like sleep, and if the intention was to wake up refreshed, May’s subconscious was doing its best to sabotage her. Nightmares and night noises kept her flickering in and out of wakefulness.

Sill, she must have drifted off eventually, because the sun was rising when she felt Em jolt beside her.

“Holy shit!”

May scrambled.

A silhouette stood at the entrance of the shelter.

They had been discovered.

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TWATH Update News and a New Way to Support my Work

Happy December, everyone! To kick off a new month (and the last one of 2017, whaaaaaaat??) I’ve got two pieces of news to share:

The Wind and the Horizon is taking the month off

I’m want to refrain from using the dreaded h-word here, so I’ll use the happier h-word instead: I’m going to take a holiday from updating TWATH in December.

This month is going to be a shit show for me. My day job is about to get ridiculously busy, my brother is visiting for the holidays, and I have a few projects I still need to wrap up (two outstanding commissions and editing an anthology submission, if you’re curious). Plus my lovely editor is going to be travelling for half the month anyway.

On top of finishing my outstanding projects, I want to use what little free time I’m going to have this month to keep padding the buffer of TWATH chapters I’ve already written. Not only do I want to start 2018 strong, there’s another reason I’m going to need that healthy buffer…

Segue to piece of news #2:

I’ve officially launched a Patreon

For the past two years I’ve been producing a metric buttload of content and giving it away for free on the internet. As an author and artist of queer work, I’ve been ridiculously lucky to connect with friends and fans all over the world. Up until now I’ve relied on donations, merchandise profits, and commissions to support my creative projects. Unfortunately, I’m no longer in a place where I can maintain my aggressive production schedule completely free of charge.

Enter, Patreon.

My patrons will get early access to all future chapters of The Wind and the Horizon as well as the final yet-to-be-named instalment of The Starborn Series. How early, you ask? Patrons will get to read new weekly chapters a full month before they go public, beginning in 2018.

I will also offer exclusive art and short stories, as well as discounted commission rates to Patrons (all perks that were previously only offered to members of my mailing list. Yes, that means mailing list perks will be changing). Once I figure out how the goal/reward system works, I’ll begin offering free art and other exciting stuff for higher tiers.

Your support makes everything I do possible.

I work full-time, I help my parents financially, and I have a beautiful old dog who needs expensive meds on the regular. Patron support will provide the financial incentive I need to justify continuing to create and share content.

To everyone who chooses to support my work: THANK YOU! I LOVE YOU SO MUCH!

To support me on Patreon, click here

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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Twenty Four

[ Beginning | Previous Chapter ]

Content warning: Strong language

The party reached the town of Luxton by mid-afternoon the following day. As the one least likely to find her face on a wanted poster, May volunteered to source out accommodations, and came back with keys to a rented flat shortly before dinner.

After days in the woods, everyone was more than eager for access to clean running water and soft places to sleep. They took turns showering and crammed the washing machine to bursting with dirty clothes. After making a stealth grocery run, May dropped onto the plush living room couch and immediately declared it her favourite place in the world.

While Connor took to preparing dinner, the others explored the flat, calling dibs on different bedrooms and making themselves more comfortable than they had been in days.

“Hey, Maybe!” Em called from another room. “Guess what I found?”

Before May could venture a guess, Em sauntered into the living room holding a well-loved acoustic guitar. “Do you think you remember everything from the crash course that hippie gave you?”

Of course she remembered; it was a cheeky remark that May had to stop herself from chirping back at lest she accidentally mention her own special Wish ability. In only a couple of hours she had all but mastered the basics of strumming and fingerpicking. Em handed her the instrument and with a little bit of messing around she was able to recall the chords she had learned in that first and only lesson.

She strummed and plucked until the notes for a song Em often sang came back to her. With fingers as nimble as her feet when she danced, May strummed the familiar tune just to make Em smile. In return, Em curled at the floor at May’s feet and sang along in a voice she normally reserved for moments when she thought she was alone and – somewhat surprisingly – for drunken karaoke.

Rue and Priva applauded when they finished.

“You two have great harmony,” Rue said with a wink.

May blushed but Em was quick to accept the compliment. “Yeah, we’re pretty cute.”

From his seat across the room, Jeremy grumbled something beneath his breath. Just as Connor stepped into the room to announce that dinner was ready, Jeremy maneuvered passed him and disappeared into the flat.

Connor looked at Priva, who rolled her eyes.

“Anyway,” he drawled, gesturing toward the kitchen. “Who’s hungry?”

May, Em, and Rue followed him but Priva hung back. The four hadn’t even finished dishing out when the sound of raised, angry voices erupted in another room.

“Oh shit,” Em said, casting a wide-eyed glance at the rest of the group. “Should we do something about that?”

Rue and Connor frowned at each other, but before either could respond, Jeremy stormed through the flat and out the door.

“Should we stop him?” May asked, unnerved.

“Let him go,” Priva growled as she stalked into the kitchen. “Can’t talk any sense into him right now anyway.”

Nobody asked what happened, nor did the press the issue. Together they settled in and ate their dinner in a silence reminiscent of their first day together.

When everyone had finished, Connor and Rue chased the others from the kitchen, swearing they hand clean-up under control. Priva retired to a bedroom, leaving May and Em alone to whisper.

“That was about us, wasn’t it?” May asked, eyeing the door to the hallway down which Priva had cloistered herself.

“Most definitely.”

“Do you think we should go talk to her?”

“And say what?”

May sighed. “I don’t know but personally, I’m kind of sick of everyone being cagey about Jeremy’s attitude problem. Let’s just see what she says. Even if she isn’t honest about anything at least we can say we tried.”

Em thought about it for a moment and nodded. “You know what? Yes, let’s. I want to hear what she has to say about all this.”

They crept down the hallway, pausing to listen at the door before knocking.

“I’m good,” Priva called.

May looked at Em.

Em’s expression was determined.

“Glad to hear it, P,” she replied. “But we’re not. Can we talk about what happened?

There was a groan, the sound of creaking bedsprings. Priva opened the door with a scowl.

“What’s wrong?”

“That’s what we were wondering.” Em raised an eyebrow, a sure sign that she wasn’t about to back down.

“That fight,” May said in a tone far less confrontational than Em’s. “Was it about us?”

Priva licked her lips and glanced between the pair. “Honestly, you don’t need to worry about it. It’s just J being J.”

Em wasn’t having it.

“Cut the bullshit, Priva.”

Emanthy,” May hissed.

“This isn’t the first time he’s gotten pissy at or because of us,” Em barrelled on. “And quite frankly, it’s making an already tense situations worse than it needs to be. What are we doing wrong?”

“You’re not…” Priva looked past them, brow furrowed and gaze unfocused. “It’s complicated.”

“It always is.” Em folded her arms. “But resentful members of this little family we may be, I think we deserve to know if we’re doing something to rock the boat.”

Priva gave a resigned sigh and retreated back into the bedroom, motioning for the girls to follow. She collapsed on the bed, miserable, and May and Em tentatively took posts on either side of her”

“Jeremy and I are dating,” Priva told the ceiling. She didn’t seem ready to look at either of the girls. “Sort of.”

“Sort of?” May questioned, careful to make sure her tone didn’t come across as judgemental.

“If I’m being honest, I think it’s pretty one-sided.” Priva twisted at one of the coils from the half of her hair that hadn’t been carefully braided into tight rows across her scalp. “Honestly, I don’t know why I’m still trying with that boy. He’s never going to love me back.”

“Why do you say that?” Em asked, trying to keep her expression neutral.

“For starters, I’m not fucking stupid.” Priva grumbled. “But also because he’s still in love with someone else.”

There it was; a massive truth dropped so casually that May almost wondered if Priva might have been talking about someone else.

“Who?” Em pushed, waiting for more.

Priva sat up. “This is the worst part – and honestly, just thinking about admitting this makes me feel like a bitch: he’s in love with a dead woman.”

Em nodded at the duvet she had been picking at to avoid looking Priva in the face. “That’s rough, buddy.”

“Ha, that’s putting it lightly.” Priva agreed.

“So, why are you with him then?” May asked. “Has he always been this angry?” And, when Priva raised an eyebrow at her, added, “Or, uh, maybe it’s just me.”

Priva massaged the back of her neck with both hands and sighed.

“No,” she admitted sadly. “He used to laugh. He’s smart and fun and even dangerous in a way that’s so hot. But… thing have changed.”

“Since we showed up.” Em wasn’t asking.

There was a moment when nobody spoke, though the air was heavy with words waiting to be said.

“What does all of this have to do with us, Priva?” May asked gently.

Priva looked at them each in turn, awkward discomfort colouring her expression.

“The woman he loved – the one he still loves – was one of us. She was one of the original members of WIND. Honestly, she was such a badass and I really don’t blame him for being hung up on her. But she was a Starborn, like you.” She gestured to Em, who pursed her lips to keep herself quiet.

“I don’t know why he thought this,” Priva continued, looking flustered. “And believe me, I know how nuts this is going to sound, but… he had it in his mind that you were her. Maybe he thought her death was a cover up or something but he was really convinced that that you were her.”

“But he knows that I’m not, right?” Em insisted. “I mean, I can appreciate his disappointment but why’s he mad at us?”

“Girl, I wish I knew,” Priva said, tossing her hands up in defeat. “I think maybe he built it up so much in his mind that he can’t seem to separate you from her now. And you -” she pointed to May. “- you’re just caught in the middle of all this bullshit and I’m sorry. That’s what we were arguing about; he needs to stop getting pissed off over you two. He needs to stop taking out the fact that he was wrong on you.”

“Maybe he just needs a bit more time?” May ventured.

Priva shook her head. “I don’t know. I think I’ve given him enough time. I feel like such a fool.”

May and Em exchanged sad looks.

“You’re not a fool.” Em put a hand on Priva’s shoulder. “You’re fucking brilliant. We couldn’t have asked for a better navigator. You just need to keep looking forward. Come on, let’s get the maps out and you can show us where we’re headed next.”

“Actually…” Priva glanced out the window with a frown. “I think I should go look for Jeremy. He’s been out there sulking for a while and it’s starting to get dark.”

“Let me go,” May said, earning equally befuddled looks from both Em and Priva. “What? Maybe he just needs to get to know me. I am determined to get this guy to like me. Besides, out of all of us, no one will really be looking for me, remember?”

Priva still seemed reluctant but couldn’t argue with May’s logic. “I guess so…”

Please be careful out there, love,” Em said with a pointed look. “If you’re not back in five minutes, I’m coming to get you.”

“Sure thing, mom,”

“Ew, stop.”

Dusk had settled by the time May got down to the streets. Jeremy wasn’t anywhere in view. Pulling her hat low, she set off, figuring she’d start by circling the block before getting more creative in her search.

Aside from an occasional vehicle passing, the streets were deserted. May shivered involuntarily and tried not to fixate on how alone she was.

“Maybe I should have let Priva go after all,” she mumbled, folding her arms and pinning them tightly against her body. “I have clue where Jeremy might -”

A voice, gruff and indistinct echoed down an alleyway. Another voice followed; it sounded threatening. May was immediately filled with a sense of dread. Self-preservation told her to keep walking but a third, familiar voice stopped her dead.

“I told you, we haven’t found anything yet. Why would I lie about this?”

It was Jeremy.

“That’s what we’re trying to figure out.”

Holding her breath, May crept into the alley. Taking shelter behind a row of garbage bins, she carefully peered out to find Jeremy being interrogated by a pair of men. The bigger of the two had a tight grip around the collar of Jeremy’s shirt and used it to keep him pinned against the wall. The man’s other hand was raised in a first, and based on the bruises blooming across Jeremy’s cheek, it was clear he had already put it to use.

“We did some digging when you didn’t check in. Sounds like you went sniffing around some circus.”

“We were following up on a lead,” Jeremy spat, feisty even in the face of danger. “It was a dead end.”

The men gave one another knowing looks. One nodded, the other struck. His fist hit Jeremy’s face with a loud crack.

“Don’t fucking lie to us, Parker.”

“Why would I lie?” Jeremy shouted.

The man who held him in place rattled him, slamming his small frame back against the wall. “Keep your voice down, man.”

“Why don’t I believe you?” The other man growled.

Jeremy glared at him through swelling lids. “We’re not stupid, you fucking neanderthals; we know what’s at stake here.”

His captor leaned in. “Don’t you forget that.”

“I won’t.”

“Oh, I think we’re going to need a bit more assurance than that,” the other man said, giving another nod to his partner who took the cue and threw Jeremy down at their feet.

Jeremy winced. When his eyes opened again, his new vantage point revealed May, crouched and terrified in her hiding spot. Fear flashed quickly across his face.

The world slowed to a crawl.

May watched one of the men swing his foot, aiming for Jeremy’s stomach.

In the split-second before impact Jeremy held May’s eyes with his and mouthed one word.


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