[ CW: Strong language, alcoholism and sexual abuse mentions ]
May’s original plan had been to head to the bar and spitefully drink herself into oblivion.
Fuck Kai. Fuck him and his humiliating assumptions. She was an adult – she could handle her grief however she damn well wanted.
She made it to the bar just fine, but it wasn’t until she was seated at a small table on the oceanfront patio that she realized she had stormed off without any money.
Her stomach grumbled as if to punctuate her poorly considered temper tantrum.
“Great,” she grumbled, dropping her forehead into the cradle of her hands.
After a minute or two she heard the chair across from her scrape back.
“Hey, sister,” said Lenaia’s voice in the soft, pitying tone May was growing tired of hearing from everyone. “How’re you holding up?”
Lenaia usually didn’t cross the bar, but when she spotted May blow in like a typhoon, rage etched across her features, she waved off the regular waitress and went to investigate for herself.
“Kai and I had a fight,” May answered without lifting her head. “I’m here to cool off.”
“Ah,” Lenaia acknowledged. “Do you wanna talk about it?”
“He thinks I have a drinking problem.”
“Well, that answers my next question. How does a glass of water sound?”
“That would be nice.”
The chair scraped again and Lenaia gave May’s shoulder a squeeze as she walked away.
May nursed that glass of water for a long time. The ice cubes melted as she took her time, thinking long and hard about the messy state of her life between sips. The longer she sat, drawing patterns on the table with the condensation skimmed off the glass, the more foolish she felt.
She was rubbing her eyes and considering her options when she heard the chair across from her pull out a second time.
“Sorry for hogging the table,” she mumbled, dropping her hand from her eyes. “I appre-“
The words froze on May’s tongue.
It was not Lenaia who had sat down across from her.
It was Kane.
Leaning back leisurely in his seat, May saw the only things about him that had changed were his hair, which he now wore shaved close to his skull, and a scar above his eyebrow. He looked at her the same way he always had: a mix of predatory pleasure and disgust, somehow playing out at the same time. May’s stomach rolled, her extremities tingling with the basic urge to flee.
Countless restless nightmares filled with this man and the things he had done to her had haunted her since leaving this place. Beads of sweat formed on her brow and, as the weight of her aloneness started to drag her down, she mentally reached for some kind of lifeline. What she found was a memory of Connor in the dark, draping a blanket over her shoulders. His soft voice coaching her through the waking terror and confessing they two were very alike in an innately personal way. They were survivors.
May pretended she could feel that blanket now and Connor at her side – as invisible to her now as he had been that night. It made her feel less alone; it made her feel brave.
“Looks like the rumors are true after all,” Kane said with a lazy smile. “Mainland May came crawling back to the island, just like we knew she would.”
Something inside May flashed. She remembered this about him; the way he’d talk about her like she wasn’t sitting right in front of him. In her memories she could remember exactly how it used to make her feel; small and insignificant. Except this time – many months and what felt like a lifetime of experiences later – all it did was irritate her. This sensation, at first surprising, gifted her a sense of clarity. Now she saw it for exactly what it was: a power move designed to dominate, and she wasn’t interested. In much the same way that she didn’t care about winning back Omea’s favor, she also didn’t feel she owed this man anything.
“Hello to you too, Kane,” she drawled. She lifted her glass to take a sip but didn’t break eye contact with him once.
Kane narrowed his gaze. It was truly something how quickly he could switch from steady to vicious, but by now May had seen far worse.
“You have a lot of nerve coming back here,” he told her, his voice low and dangerous.
A laugh, sharp and unexpected, burst up from somewhere deep inside her, surprising them both.
“I don’t give a shit,” she said, and she meant it.
May revelled in the brief flicker of confusion she saw in Kane’s eyes. She wasn’t the same girl he once blackmailed and abused, and he knew it.
“Excuse me, miss?” said a large man as he sidled up to the table. May recognized him as the bar’s bouncer. “Is this man bothering you?”
His eyes flipped to Kane and watched him with unease. Perhaps he knew Kane, maybe they were even friends, and having to do his job was making him uncomfortable. May looked past Kane’s head and saw Lenaia’s horrified face peering from the doorway that lead inside. She must have sicced the bouncer when she realized what was happening.
Taking a deep breath, May sized up Kane as she eased back in her seat. “No, it’s alright.”
The surprise between the two men was palpable. But as a shark-like grin slid across Kane’s mouth, the bouncer took no time in hustling away without so much as a grunt in reply.
“Just a year abroad and you come back thinking you’re invincible, huh?” Kane sneered. He took May’s water glass and helped himself to two deep swallows, nearly draining it. Another power move. May made a point of rolling her eyes.
“You have no idea,” May said, locking his gaze with hers.
Kane considered her for a moment. “I’m sure you’ve heard the things people are saying about you, especially since you’ve been back.”
“I genuinely don’t care.”
“Really? I seem to recall you caring an awful lot. So much so that you were willing to do anything.” He smirked. “And I do mean anything.”
May’s heart hammered. She had to focus to keep the color from rising in her face and her vision from swimming. She took a beat to collect herself.
“How’s that limp treating you?” she asked, her voice cold.
Kane’s face twisted into a scowl. “You’re proud of that, huh?”
“I think karma finally caught up with you.”
“You believe in karma, do you?” He leaned as far forward as the table would allow. May had to steel herself not to flinch at his proximity. “I guess you’re getting yours too then. Everyone knows you came back alone.”
For a split second, May lost her composure. She barely felt it, but she knew it must have shown on her face because Kane smiled, satisfied.
“Your freak monster girlfriend dumped you so you had to come crawling back, tail between your legs.” Kane licked his lips, looking her over in the salacious the way he always used to. May felt like she had been doused in ice water. “It’s like you weren’t listening when I told you that the person you are is a mistake. No one can love you, not really.” He set his crossed forearms on the table and smirked at her. “That’s what you get for not letting me fix you.”
In an instant May was transported back years. She was intensely aware of her hair, the same length it had been when Kane would coil it around his fist and use it to press her face into the floor, immobilizing her for his pleasure. Face down, blind with tears, his voice was burned into her mind.
“Stop crying,” he had said then, just like every time. “I’m doing you a favor. I’m going to fix you, May. You’re going to learn to like it.”
Back in the present, different emotions hit May in waves. First came the fear. Bile rising in her throat from a stomach filled with molten lead.
But then came the anger, and compared to the surge of fear, this one hit her like a tidal wave. May could feel herself shaking. She took a deep breath in through her nose, exhaling through her mouth, and then repeated the motion. She let her furious glare burn into Kane’s self-satisfied smirk.
“What is it that you want, Kane?” she asked in a voice as steady as she could muster.
Kane shrugged, acting a part.
“Listen, thanks to you and that bitch, the last year of my life has sucked. I’m man enough to admit that. But if you think you’re gonna come back here all high and mighty, you’re in for a rude wake up call. I’m just reminding you of your place. Don’t forget who you are.”
“You have no idea who I am,” May replied, leaning in close enough to take back her space. “You didn’t then and you certain don’t now. Do you think I’m weak just because Em’s not here?” She stood, deeply aware that everyone who had been craning to eavesdrop was now gaping at them without even trying to be subtle. “Kane, I have been places and seen things you can’t even begin to imagine. I’ve also done things and squared off against people who make you and your bullshit mind games look like school yard bullying.”
She rounded the table so quickly Kane didn’t even have time to react before she was at his side, bearing down on him with unwavering presence. Every patron on the patio held their breath.
“I’ve got more important things to worry about than what you or anyone else in this town thinks of me. In fact, I’m going to let you in on a little secret.” She leaned down, one hand on the back of his chair and the other gripping the edge of the table, trapping him in his seat.
“You are nothing to me. You are nothing more than a single grain of sand in this whole big world and I am not afraid of you anymore.”
She turned and took a few steps away from the table, then paused. Glancing over her shoulder, she could see that Kane was stunned.
“You have no power over me,” she told him. “Now, get the fuck out of my life.”
[ Next ]