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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.
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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