The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Forty Two

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[ CW: NSFW – on-page sexy times. To read the SFW censored version, check out the chapter on Wattpad ]

May waited a long time for Em to finish her call with Jeremy.

For hours she sat, folded up on the car bench couch. She was trying not to worry about what kind of plan could possibly take so long to discuss, and failing miserably.

How much trouble were they in? How risky was it going to be to reunite with the others?

From there her mind wandered to the tension between Em and Jeremy. What was bound to happen now that he knew her truth?

No wonder they’ve been on the phone forever, May thought as she picked at the worn upholstery. They have a lot to talk about.

She didn’t want to think about what it would be like to face Jeremy again. To May, their situation – two people in love with sort of the same person – felt insurmountable; a towering mountain range with no discernible safe way through.

Eventually, she drifted off, her sleep marred by anxiety and filled with a long procession of dreams tinted by Jeremy’s rage toward her.

When she jolted awake, chased from sleep by some nightmare that scurried back into the gloom as soon as her eyes opened, it took her a moment to get her bearings. The office was dark and the only light came from a sliver of where the door had been left open a crack. May blinked and stretched – someone had covered her with a blanket.

As wakefulness set in, she caught the sound of low voices in conversation outside the office. She could make out the familiar lilt of Em’s voice and Grant’s gruff replies, but not what they were saying. May sat up, relieved that Em was finally off the phone, and padded across the room.

She hadn’t intended to eavesdrop, but when May heard the tears in Em’s voice, she froze.

“I love her so much, Grant,” Em sobbed quietly. Every word was weighed down with heartache. “I don’t know how I’m going to do this.”

“You’re just going to do it,” Grant replied in a voice that was gentler than May had ever heard from him. “And you’re going to do it because you love her.”

May forgot how to breathe. She stood in petrified silence, unable to think or react. What in the world was Em talking about, and what did it have to do with her?

Whatever it was, it was going to be bad. May vaulted back to the bench and curled up under the blanket. She took deep gulping breaths and willed her heart to stop hammering in her chest. Without wanting or willing them, visions of every horrible scenario that might happen when Em walked through that office door ambushed her thoughts.

But there was only one thing it could be; she knew it as instinctively as she knew how to breathe.

Out on the walkway, Grant bid Em goodbye with blunt words of encouragement. Em’s footsteps made their way toward the door, then stopped. May wished she could fall asleep on command; she wanted nothing more than to avoid what was coming.

The door creaked and then clicked shut. Em stepped lightly to the bench. May felt the gentle warmth of her hand on her shoulder, the tenderness made her want to cry.

“Maybe?” Em whispered, giving her a nudge. “Baby, wake up. I need to talk to you.”

May waited, pretending to sleep even though her eyes were clenched far too tight for it to be believable. She felt Em lean over her body, her face moving in closer.

“Please, May.” Em pressed a kiss to her temple. “Wake up, love.”

Turning her face, May kissed Em before she had a chance to react. Then she kissed her again, harder and more ardently. She kept kissing Em, each movement of her lips more passionate than the last, in a bid to put the inevitable off a little longer.

It seemed Em was of the same mind. Without breaking their embrace, she crawled on top of May and pressed their bodies together. Her hand slid behind May’s head, fingers twisting in her hair as she crushed in closer. Intensity bloomed between them and their bodies responded in writhing motion. The heat of their proximity set May ablaze; she squirmed to free herself from the tangled blanket before Em pulled it aside and got to work on her clothes. She shoved May’s shirt up, leaving a trail of greedy kisses up her body along the way. May finished the job, wrestling the shirt over her head while Em got rid of her own.

Drunk with desire, Em’s hands fumbled with the button on May’s jeans before pulling them and her panties down her legs with a hard, impatient tug. Before they hit the ground, Em had yanked May’s splayed body closer, kneeling in worship between her legs.

“Em,” May breathed, reaching for her with needy hands. Em replied by scooping up her body so May straddled her lap. She shifted, pivoting on the bench so she could shove May against the seat back, eliciting a gasp of surprise from her lithe lover.

They devoured one another in kisses. Em pinned May’s hands back against the seat, rendering her helpless and exposed. Being unable to act drove May into a bucking, whimpering frenzy. But Em was too engrossed in leaving bruising kisses down her throat and collarbone to notice. Her hips rolled, grinding delicious friction against May’s inner thighs. May pleaded in Em’s ear, begging for her touch where she needed it most.

It felt like an eternity of teasing before Em finally hitched May’s hips, her fingertips possessively digging into the flesh of her legs. There was no gentleness in how she took May, driving her fingers deep into her soaked and tender entrance with force enough to rock May’s entire body. May yelped as Em skipped the slow build-up; her fingers pistoned inside of May with a savage and desperate rhythm. Em twisted her hand, curling her fingertips and pressing her knuckles into all of May’s most pleasurable places. May’s body pitched with every movement, her nails scrambling for purchase against Em’s bare shoulders and carving angry red lines across her pale flesh in the process.

The sex was rough and urgent; May’s didn’t even realize she was screaming until she came, arching and shuddering like a woman possessed.

As May gasped for breath, Em collapsed against her. She pressed her skin into the heat and sweat of May’s, imagining they could melt together if she stayed there long enough. Slowly she circled her arms around May’s lower back and held her tight, nuzzling her face into her hair. May listened to Em’s slow and deliberate breathing. She knew that shallow cadence well; it was the way a person breathes when they’re trying not to cry.

May let the moment settle around them, cold and quiet like falling snow. Her fingers trailed along Em’s scored shoulder, down her arm and back again. They clung to this delicate hush and to each other, neither speaking a word and lost in thought.

But they couldn’t stay like this forever.

May swallowed down the lump in her throat and shifted so she could turn her face to Em. Reluctantly, Em pulled back. She kept her face cast down as she peered back at May through damp, glittering lashes.

With feathery softness, May tucked a lock of silver hair behind Em’s ear, smiling sadly.

“Go on and say it,” May said, her voice wavering.

“You’re leaving me, aren’t you?”


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Forty One

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[ CW: Strong language ]


May and Em shared an incredulous look between them.

“A phone call?” May repeated Grant’s words like they couldn’t possibly be true.

Grant closed the office door behind him, drowning out the noise of the garage. He held up the cell phone in his hand and pressed a button.

“I’ve got them right here,” he said, speaking loudly. “You’re on speaker phone.”

“Em?” Connor’s voice rang from the cell’s speakers. “May? Can you hear me?”

“Connor!” Em cried. “Holy shit!”

“Are you guys alright?” May asked.

“We’re okay.” There was a hint of hesitation in his answer. “I’m sorry we’ve left you hanging for so long. We’ve had to do a bit of damage control.”

“I’ll say.” Em’s expression turned sour. “What the fuck happened? I thought the reason you check in with the Loyals is to avoid making them suspicious. Why did they show up armed to the teeth?”

A beat of painfully uncomfortable silence passed before Connor answered in a small voice.

“It was Marina.”

“What?” May yelped, so shocked she felt as though someone had pinched her. She and Em looked to one another with the same wide-eyed look of disbelief.

“It turned out the Loyals have had her in their pocket for quite some time.” He sounded so defeated. “She traded her compliance to keep Myles safe. I can’t say I blame her to be honest.”

“They threatened to hurt Myles?” Em rubbed her temples. “Nevermind, I don’t know why I’m asking. Of course they did.”

Connor’s hum across the speakers told them Em was right.

“I’m so, so sorry, Connor,” May said. For all the struggles she had with her own family, they had never sold her out, no matter how disappointed they had been in her. A betrayal like this would have ruined her.

“I should have seen it coming,” Connor replied, unable to hide his hurt.

“Don’t beat yourself up for trusting your sister.” Em’s voice wasn’t exactly tender. From the fists balled at her sides to the pinch of her features, the rage she felt was written all over her, but she was trying to rise above it.

“So, what now?” May changed the subject, driving them away from such sensitive territory.

“It took a lot of work to convince Melanie we’re still on the Loyals’ side,” Connor admitted. “We told them we had convinced you both that we could offer you safety, but that we were really planning to hand deliver you to them instead.”

A shiver of fear raced up May’s spine. She had spent plenty of time worrying if that very scenario was true.

“That’s why it’s taken so long to reach out,” Connor continued. “We had to be sure we were in the clear. Things are going to be very delicate moving forward. That is assuming you’re still in, of course.”

Em pursed her lips and met May’s eyes. This was their chance; if they were going to back out, now was the time to do it.

May broke the silence.

“I think we’re in too deep to back out now.”

Em nodded. “What’s the plan, Connor?”

“Okay,” Connor did little to hide his relief. “Hang on a second.”

There was a shuffling on the other end, the sounds of the phone being handed off to someone else.

“Hey,” Jeremy grunted from the other end of the line.

Em froze and May held her breath. The only person who was happy to hear Jeremy’s voice was Grant, who smirked – the closest thing to a smile May had seen from him.

“Hey yourself, boy,” he said. “It’s good to hear your voice. You behaving yourself?”

“Never.” Jeremy’s smile, however small, came across in his single word reply. “How’s the Rookery?”

“Always surviving,” Grant replied. His eyes darted to the girls. “But this call isn’t about me. We’ll catch up another time.”

He handed the phone off to Em who handled it like it might bite her.

“What’s the plan?” she asked, jumping right to the point.

“I need to talk to you,” was his blunt response.

Em gave the phone a cutting look. “You are talking to me.”

“No.” He growled. May could sense him rolling his eyes. “Just you. Alone.”

Em looked to May, both of them gaping.

“Nah, you’re talking to both- “

“Babe,” May waved for her to stop. “It’s fine.”

“But- “

“It’s alright,” May insisted. This was the first time since discovering Em’s truth that she and Jeremy would have the chance to talk – May wanted to do the mature thing and give them the chance to decompress.

Reluctantly, Em gave in.

“Okay,” she spoke into the phone’s speaker. “Give me a second.”

She leaned in and gave May a quick kiss before slinking out of the room.

“You okay, Tiny?” Grant asked, giving May a stern stare.

“I’m fine,” May smiled. “Everything’s fine.”

Grant frowned, but he didn’t push. Instead he nodded and closed the door behind him.

May sat. She folded her hands in her lap and took a deep breath. Despite the phone call that she was no longer privy to, she felt better than she had in days. Getting back on the same page as Em had made her feel grounded after spending so long adrift. Whatever the plan was moving forward, they would be ready for it together.

She wasn’t sure how long she had sat there, staring off into nothing, when a soft knock came from the door. May jumped up and rushed to open it.

“Oh,” she said, breathless. “Hi, Lety.”

The shifter mechanic watched her carefully, dark eyes raking over her and seeing more than they let on.

She cocked her head. “The client just left. I thought I’d come see if you wanted to come back down to the floor.”

Biting her lip, May glanced down the walkway. Em and the phone had disappeared from sight.

“Actually, Em and I are just in the middle of something,” she remarked. “She had to step out to take a call, but I’d like to be here when she gets back.”

Lety grinned. “Is she your ride or die?”

May could only blink, uncertain what was being asked of her. “Huh?”

“You know, the person you’d do anything for,” Lety explained. “You and this Em girl – you’re tight?”

“Very,” May replied with a smile. “We’re an “us”.”

“Sure.” Lety shoved her hands into the pockets of her coveralls, the ones she always wore with the top half unzipped and tied around her waist. “Well, if you change your mind, you know where to find me.”

Leaning against the doorframe, May watched her disappear down the stairs before retreating back into the office. She kept the door open, just in case Em came back.


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Thirty Nine

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[ CW: Strong language, men being garbage: the sequel ]


Em insisted everything was fine.

“I feel like I owe it to everyone to stay out of sight,” she mumbled over the box of greasy fried chicken Grant brought them for dinner. “Besides, I don’t have a knack for fixing cars like you do.”

But that didn’t explain the sadness she wore like a shroud or the way she avoided meeting May’s eyes.

May didn’t buy the excuse, but she didn’t pry either. If she were being honest with herself, she was glad Em was punishing herself. It was a cruel way to think, so she tried not to dwell on it, but selfishly it helped May to know that Em was feeling remorse for what she had done.

Days wore on without word from WIND. Eventually, May stopped wondering how long they would wait, choosing instead to lose herself in the busy work on the garage floor. By now no one doubted her vehicular proficiency, and while she was only allowed to work on genuine client vehicles – as opposed to the “specialty product” the crew moved through on the regular – she had unquestionably earned the Murder’s respect.

She stuck close by Lety, who offered to share her station after surveying May’s handiwork with her timing belt.

“Not bad, Tiny,” she had said with a sharp-toothed grin. “Glad to see you can earn your keep.”

Those sharp teeth, May discovered, were due to how Lety earned her own keep in the Rookery. Aside from being a skilled mechanic, she was also a shifter.

“It’s kinda like being a werewolf,” Lety explained one morning as they worked a stubborn set of tires off some hipster’s van. “Minus the whole full moon business.”

“So you can control it?” May asked as she stood on the rod of her tire iron and bounced until the lug nut turned. What she lacked in Lety’s strength she made up with clever ingenuity.

“Pretty much,” Lety grunted, hauling off a liberated tire from the opposite end of the vehicle and rolling it aside. “Oh, and it’s not like I was bitten or anything. I was born this way.”

“So how did you wind up here?” May knew she was walking a fine line by asking the question; It bordered on “digging” territory, which she had discovered was not appreciated in the Rookery.

But Lety didn’t seem to mind. “It’s good money.”

May pursed her lips but stayed quiet. It was a bullshit answer but she knew it wasn’t her place to push.

After a few beats of silence, Lety relented.

“Shifters tend to have a lot of rules,” she explained as she rounded to the other side of the van. “They stick together, listen to the alpha, all that shit.” Her head popped up over the van’s stubby nose. “I wasn’t really into it.”

“But why a gang?” May knew Lety was tough – she could fend for herself. But this life didn’t strike her as something a person would choose if they didn’t have to.

“Why not?” Lety countered. “It’s like a pack I got to choose. I get to work on cars all day, which I love, and being a shifter makes me a pretty invaluable part of the team. I’ve got a particular set of skills you humans could only wish for. Besides, Grant’s a good boss. There are worse places I could be.”

“I suppose so,” May muttered. She had become distracted by the feeling of eyes boring into her and it was taking everything in her to ignore them. It was nothing new – the more time she spent on the floor, the bolder some of the guys on the crew had become. But one guy, Sid – the youngest on the team who worked at the station across from May and Lety – had become increasingly uncomfortable to be around. He had a thing for leering too long and standing too close; It made May’s head spin with bad memories.

“I see him,” Lety said quietly. “Don’t let him get away with being a creep.”

May snorted. “Yeah, easy for you to say.”

Lety gave her a pointed look. “Why?”

“These guys aren’t afraid of me,” May replied, discomfort prickling up her neck and making her squirm. “But you’re tough. They don’t mess with you.”

“First of all, you had no trouble putting Memphis in his place so I don’t know what the problem is.” Lety straightened up and looked May straight in the eye. “Second, they don’t mess with me because I don’t let them. There are two kinds of people, Tiny: people who dominate and people who are dominated. You think I didn’t have shit to put up with when I first got here? You’d be amazed by how many crude dog jokes a group of guys can come up with when they put their heads together. But I wasn’t interested in living my life by their rules, so I put a stop to it.”

May wished Lety would give her a play-by-play of exactly how she had put a stop to it, but instead Lety just nodded in Sid’s direction.

“You gotta show him who’s boss.”

As they finished with the van’s tires, May tried to imagine what she could be like with Lety’s confidence and Em’s mouth. She imagined carrying herself tall, like an ancient sturdy tree, and strung together all manner of insults she had ever heard Em fling at people who pissed her off. In her mind she imagined telling off Kane, saying all the things she wished she’d had the courage to tell him to his face.

By the time Lety asked her to fetch some clean rags from the sink at the other side of the shop floor, May was high on the adrenaline she churned up through sheer willpower alone. The sink was in the corner closest to Sid’s station; she’d have to walk by him to get there.

Buzzing, she strode across the room without sparing Sid a look, even when she felt his eyes following her. She clutched a pair of pliers in her fist like a talisman, gripping their rubber coated handles as though they would keep her steady. At the sink, May took a few moments to wash her hands, watching the dirty water circle the stained drain until it ran clear. She exhaled and dried her fingers on her shirt front before picking up the rags and pliers.

The warmth of a body standing too close brought her back to her senses. She whirled around to find Sid smirking barely a foot behind her.

“What?” she snapped.

“Woah, easy there,” he laughed, staying planted in her space. “I’m just waiting for my turn.”

“Well, do it over there,” May waved him back but he didn’t budge. “I don’t need a chaperone.”

“What’s your problem?” His tone was accusatory but there was a glint in his eyes that made May’s stomach turn. How many times had Kane looked at her that very same way?

“You are.” Anger burned up from May’s core. She could feel herself going red and she knew he could see it, but she didn’t want him to have the satisfaction of getting the wrong idea. “Where do you get off leering at me all the time? Get out of my bubble, jerk.”

Sid’s eyes narrowed.

“Learn to take a compliment.” His voice was so condescending, May’s fist clenched the pliers, her anger boiling over.

“That’s not a compliment,” she retorted, fast and cutting. “A compliment would be Grant saying, ‘Wow, May! You got those pliers pretty far up Sid’s nose. I’m impressed!’” She snapped them inches from his face to make her point, relishing the way he flinched back. “You’re just a pig. Now, leave me the fuck alone.”

“Whatever, bitch,” he grumbled, his shoulders tensing as he stalked back to his station.

Some of the guys were watching the exchange – they chuckled and elbowed each other as Sid slunk off. May’s eyes flicked to Lety, whose face was painted with delight as she mouthed ‘fuck yeah’ back at her. The knot in May’s chest unwound, her breath coming easier.

But before she could take her first step, Jun’s voice came over the garage’s intercom.

“Tiny, call for you on line two,” his words – the code for an incoming client and May’s cue to hide – echoed through the shop. “Tiny, line two.”

“Dammit,” she hissed, jogging over to Lety and tossing her the fresh rags before racing up the stairs to her office bedroom.

Without pausing, she turned the handle and shoved, crumpling into the door when it only inched open a nudge.

“Ow, what the- ” This time she shouldered the door and it opened wider, still impeded by something that had been pushed up against it. From behind her, May heard the garage doors rolling open. She didn’t have time to think, so she squeezed in and slammed the door behind her.

With the light of the shop cut off, May gasped.

There, at the center of the otherwise pitch black room was a swirling nebula of light.

At its center, Em was suspended, glowing ghostly in a close-eyed trance.

“Em,” May choked on a mixture of awe and fear.

“What’s happening to you?”


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Thirty Eight

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CW: Strong language, men being garbage ]


May learned a lot in the days following their arrival at Grant’s garage.

She found out the garage itself was named “The Crow’s Nest” but the crew preferred to call it the Rookery. This, Jun explained after he warmed up to her a little, was to help distinguish between those who knew what they really were from those who believed the front. May tried not to think about how this line of taxonomy collectively made the crew a murder.

She learned making herself useful was a better use of her time than skulking in corners, no matter what Grant said about laying low. At first, she hung around upstairs off the shop floor, tidying the command center. She won Jun’s favor by making him tea.

“I always get as far as steeping it before I completely forget about it,” he admitted, taking the steaming mug from her with grateful hands.

Jun was the team’s resident hacker and programmer. Between rounds of coding, he was happy to banter with May about most things – namely himself – so long as she didn’t ask questions about what he was working on or the Murder’s operation.

“Can you show me how it’s done?” May ventured one afternoon. She had just listened to a story about how Jun first taught himself hacking to change a couple abysmal grades on his transcript back in high school. It turns out he had a knack for it, unlike biology and phys ed. “Just the basics!”

His glare pierced her from over his monitors. “No.”

But he was willing to let her tinker with a few of his old machines. She did her best to recall the things she had learned from Marina’s reference book, but she wasn’t Jeremy; her memory was far from perfect, and soon enough she had gone as far as she could without Jun’s help.

When Jun eventually kicked her out so he could focus on some particularly tricky code he was writing, May wandered downstairs. She earned admission to the shop floor by offering to help, which relegated her to grunt work.

“What are you doing down there?” Em laughed softly one evening as they settled in for the night. Grant gave them the cluttered office May had woken up in as a private space, and their “bed” was nothing more than an wide bench seat from an old car that had been serving its second life as a couch, but it was better than nothing.

“I’m helping,” May balked, as though it should have been obvious. “Remember when we finally made it to that hostel in Sanatos only for the roof to cave in?”

Em smiled at the memory. “What a fucking mess that was.”

“Right. And what did we do?”

“We helped them fix it.” Em reached out to brush a lock of hair from May’s face, but stopped herself with the self-conscious uncertainty that plagued her since their first day at the garage. “But helping to repair a hostel isn’t quite the same thing as helping a criminal organization maintain their front. Are you sure it doesn’t bother you?”

May shrugged and laid down beside her. “I’ll draw the line at robbing banks and running drugs.”

For the most part, the crew ignored May as she ghosted her way around them, rolling tires and collecting grease-stained rags. She could feel lingering gazes and hear chuckles echo after her when she passed, but she had dealt with worse. The only person to address her directly was a woman named Lety.

“Hey, Tiny,” she called to May from underneath a raised sedan. “Can you grab me an oil pan?”

May did as she was asked, crouching next to the chassis and watching as Lety wrenched off the car’s filter with her bare hands, releasing a stream of filthy black oil that spilled into the pan.

Lety’s warm brown skin was always splotched with grease up to her elbows. She was a woman built strong and sturdy, rounded out with generous curves. May had never seen her without a full face of fierce make-up, which stood out against her shaved head. But nothing about her stood out quite like her ears, which rose into pointed tips. May did her best not to stare.

One morning, May was sweeping near Lety’s station, careful not to interrupt the work she was doing, when someone called from across the garage.

“Lety! We need a hand with this lift.”

“Cool story,” Lety shouted back, her head still buried under the hood of a slick refurbished roadster she had been babying for the better part of the past two hours. “I’m a little busy.”

“Business before pleasure,” the crew member retorted. “You can work on your own shit when the work is done.”

Lety lifted her head and snarled, the sharp fangs she had instead of eye teeth just visible beneath her sapphire-painted lips. May peeked around to see what she had been working on.

“I can help if you want,” she offered, motioning toward the exposed engine.

“You know how to change a timing belt?” Lety asked, raising a doubtful eyebrow.

“Done it a bunch of times,” May answered with only a touch of indignance.

Lety regarded her critically before handing over the socket wrench she was wielding. “Fuck up my ride and I’ll kick your scrawny ass, yeah?”

“Maybe when you’re finished over there you can crawl up into my cab and give me a hand,” joked Memphis, the guy at the next station over. He waggled his eyebrows suggestively, to the snickers of his pals.

“I like my men the way I like my coffee,” May replied, inspecting the wrench in her hands. Then, flicking her eyes to him, she finished, “And I hate coffee.”

The rest of the crew howled, Memphis included. “Fair enough, girl.” He gave her a nod. “Fair enough.”

“‘Atta girl, Tiny,” Lety said as she sauntered across the garage. “Take no shit. Kick him in the balls if you have to.”

Flushed with self-satisfaction, May got to work. But before ducking under the hood, she glanced up to the walkway where Em often sat watching, her feet swinging idly over the edge. She wondered if Em had caught her sassy come-back.

When May’s eyes found her, Em was in the doorway to their office-turned-bedroom.

She gave May a sad smile, and closed the door between them.


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Thirty Six

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May’s heart twisted and tore as she watched Em crumble in her arms.

She refused to believe the violent spectre Em had become was anything more than remnants of Audrey breaking through. May knew Em’s love – its strength and its light. Anyone who loved as strongly as Em couldn’t be so cold hearted, May was as sure of it as she was sure she was still breathing.

But none of that could erase what Em had done.

I need you to be stronger than that, May wanted to tell her. I need you to stay who you are.

She released her grip on Em’s shoulders and wrapped her arms around her instead. Just thinking those words made May feel selfish. It was so easy for her to forget how much Em was already suffering just by being here.

“Just… tell me something like this won’t ever happen again,” May pleaded quietly.

Em took a shaky breath in. She opened her mouth to answer, but a different voice spoke instead.

“I take it this is a bad time?”

May gasped and Em sat up with a start. The stranger’s voice was like a flood light snapping on, chasing the moment from the room as though it were darkness.

Standing in the doorway was a man in his early fifties, built like a stone with shoulder-length greying hair and a beard that made him look even older than he likely was. Inscrutable hazel eyes watched them from beneath thick eyebrows.

“Shit, Grant.” Em wiped at her eyes. “I didn’t hear you coming.”

“I figured,” the man called Grant gunted in reply. He gave a pointed look to May. “How’re you feeling? You’ve been out for a while.”

“I’ve been better,” May admitted.

The man nodded and turned, motioning for the girls to follow.

“Do you think you can walk?” Em asked quietly, not quite meeting May’s eyes.

She helped May to her feet and held her hand tightly through those first tentative steps. The ache in May’s legs gave way to tingling that faded by the time they made it out of the office. Blinking, May’s eyes swept over a surprisingly bright warehouse below the grated walkway on which they stood. Warm afternoon sunlight pressed in through greasy windows that lined the top half of the walls, reflecting a lazy cloud of dust motes. The ground floor was busy; two neat rows of vehicles lined either wall and pairs of legs protruded from beneath their hoods and chassis.

“A garage?” May asked. The sounds and smells made sense now, but she was still surprised. “What kind of safehouse is this?”

“The safest kind,” answered Grant.

He led them into a room at the end of the metal walkway. The room, perhaps originally intended to be a breakroom, half-served its original purpose while doubling as a command center of sorts. A long card table filled the middle of the room, surrounded by mismatched chairs and littered with sheafs of paper, empty beer bottles, and stained coffee mugs. Blinking computer servers and monitors lined the far wall in a set-up not unlike Marina’s workshop.

“What is this place?” May marvelled quietly. The equipment seemed far more advanced than a garage required.

“Woah, hey!”

May spun to find Jun in an opposite corner, hunched over his own workstation. He jumped to his feet and stood so his body shielded his monitor from view. “What are you doing in here?”

“Relax, Jun,” Grant grumbled from the other side of the room. He busied himself by pouring a deep amber colored brew from a mason jar into a mug.

“I’m workin’ on something here.” Jun sounded scandalized. “What if they see?”

The man turned to Jun, a single eyebrow raised. Frowning, Jun sank back into his chair without another word.

“I already told you – these two are friends of the kid.” Grant screwed the cap back on the jar and slid it onto a shelf. He carried the mug back to May and held it out to her. “Drink this. Throw it back. If you try to sip it you’ll never finish it. It’ll make you feel better.”

May had her doubts but took the mug anyway. With a curious look at Em, who only offered a shrug, May did as she was told and tossed the drink back in one searing swallow. It lit a fire in her belly that burned in a flash and then sizzled out, filling the rest of her body with a comfortable fuzziness. She shook her head and coughed.

“There’s no medicine on earth that cures quite like a strong shot of hooch,” Grant said, taking back May’s mug as she hacked out another couple of ragged coughs. “Better?”

Coughing aside, when May stopped to consider herself she was surprised to find she did feel better. Grant took the surprised look on her face for confirmation and nodded, satisfied.

“May, is it?” he asked. Clearly Em had already filled him in on a few details.

“Yeah,” May replied, shaking his hand. “Thanks for taking us in.”

“Yo, Parker!” a voice shouted from the floor below. “Whaddaya think of this?”

Grant turned to Jun. “Go tell them I’m gonna need a minute.”

Jun didn’t argue, shuffling from the room and closing the door behind him.

“Who’s Parker?” May turned the name over in her mind, wondering why it sounded familiar.

“Me.” Grant gestured at himself. “Last name.”

A memory clicked into place sending a wave of realization washing over May.

“Grant Parker?” she asked. “Are you related to Jeremy?” Her eyes lingered on his greying hair, searching for a hint of Jeremy’s signature fiery red.

His strong arms were crossed, but May caught the slightest hint of a smile tug at the corner of Grant’s mouth.

“No, but he and I go way back.”

As he turned and walked away, May shot Em a quizzical look.

“It’s a long story,” Em whispered.

“Ladies, come over here a minute,” Grant called over from the command-center wall. “There’s something I need to show you.”

Everything about his words sounded like bad news. May followed Em to join him, both wary and weary at the thought of how things could possibly get worse than they already were.

He stood in front of a monitor featuring the image of a man’s serious face, frozen mid-sentence. The name Wyndam Aviar hovered at the bottom of the screen and below that, the word aldermember. Em bristled when she saw him, but said nothing. Grant tapped a few keys and the image – a paused video – jumped back and played from the beginning. Shaky cellphone footage showed dark vans parked along a hedged street and a swarm of people in uniforms lining the end of a private driveway. Between their shoulders, May could make out the unmistakable rosy shade of her own hair. She felt the blood drain from her face as the person shooting the video made a foolhardy dash across the street and continued recording from behind one of the vans.

Explosions of light and energy filled the screen and distorted the feeds. May relived the horror of Em being blasted back by the Loyals’ arm cannon and her miraculous recovery. The cameraperson swore as Loyal agents were knocked back by another one of Em’s assaults and then the picture zoomed in. The screen was filled with Em’s dark and dangerous face. The view pulled back, shaking as the person directing it tried to capture exactly what they were seeing: a young man, jerked high into the air.

Screaming and pleading.

Em, unflinching as she snapped her arm downward.

The video cut off just before the young Loyal agent hit the ground.

Beside her, May felt Em tremble.

The video moved on to the talking head of Wyndam Aviar as he addressed the viewing audience.

“It doesn’t matter if it is by magical or mythological might: any supernatural being who uses their abilities to harm the defenseless is a criminal. Whomever this woman is, she is dangerous and must be apprehended. Please use extreme caution when-”

Grant paused the video, frozen on the aldermember’s face like when they first found it.

Em clasped a hand over her mouth, breathing fast and hard.

May’s mind raced through all the things this video meant for them.

Grant turned and surveyed them both, his expression unreadable.

“Well, ladies.” His gruff voice broke the heavy silence.

“Looks to me like you’re in a whole lot of trouble.”


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Thirty Five

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[ CW: vomit ]


May awoke in a panic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Close your eyes,” she said softly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She pulled back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She sobbed.

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


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Thirty 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 Twenty Two

[ Start from the Beginning | Previous Chapter ]


Starborn.

“I don’t…”

May wasn’t sure what she wanted to say in response to Rue’s casual confession. Her mind whirled; hadn’t Em just told her that she was the last known Starborn?

“Do you know what a Starborn is?” Rue asked as if she were broaching a sensitive subject. Her eyes flicked almost imperceptibly to Em, but May caught it and understood. They knew – or at least they suspected – what Em was. This was their chance to confirm it.

Up until that point, May had avoided looking to Em for fear it give them away when they lied. But now she didn’t know what else to do, and so she cast an uneasy glance at her girlfriend, whose crystal eyes were already waiting for her.

Em exhaled slowly. “People like me, you mean?”

Even the flickering shadows of the fire couldn’t mask the fact that everyone was frozen in place. Jeremy held his breath. Everyone waited.

“Come on, don’t act like you’re surprised.” Em laughed off everyone’s tension with an ease May wished she could master. While the others gaped, fish-like and equally wordless, Em eased back onto her palms and gazed around the circle, her expression aloof.

“Who?” Connor blurted at last. “Your parents – who are they?”

“A Star and one of the Emandi,” Em replied with ease.

“What?” Rue gasped.

“Why?” Jeremy demanded.

May balled her hands into tight fists, her nails digging into the soft flesh of her palms. She was lost – she had no idea what an Emandi was – but the others clearly did. May knew if she asked about it now she would blow Em’s story, so she bit her tongue and tried not to let her uncertainty swallow her whole.

“Why would a Star and an Emandi choose to create a life together?” Jeremy scoffed.

Em raised an eyebrow; her stare firm and challenging. “That’s a pretty personal question, don’t you think?”

Her tone was dangerous. May was so overwhelmingly curious she worried her questions would bubble over in a scream.

“Is that why…” Rue looked at Em but pointed to her own eyes. Whatever was implied in Em’s nod seemed to satisfy Rue. “How interesting.”

“Anyway,” Em drawled, draping an arm around May’s shoulders and squeezing in a way May knew was meant to be reassuring. “You were about to tell us about your people?”

“Right.” Rue shook off her daze and forced a smile. “Seeing as you performed the story of the Moon and the Ocean, I’m guessing you’re both already familiar with the legends?”

“The Moon fell in love with the Ocean and the Sun fell in love with the Earth,” May answered, reciting the summary of the creation myths she had grown up listening to on the island of Hoku. “One pair gave birth to all flora and the other to all fauna.”

Rue nodded. “Because the lovers so adored for their new children, they asked the ancients to write them into the story of the universe; to give them destinies and help guide them.”

At this point May could no longer hide her confusion. That she was floundering in new information was clear to Em, who smiled and gave her shoulder another gentle squeeze.

“The Stars,” she explained quietly. “They’re the ancients.”

“Okay, but what does any of this have to do with your people?” May asked, trying to get to the crux of the story – to figure out what the Starborn had to do with any of this. Her brain felt as foggy as it had the night Em had shared her secret and admitted to being part Star.

“For as long as the universe has existed, the Stars have played a part in creating the life within it,” Rue said. “But because they had nothing to do with the new life on this planet, they had to find a new way to write them into their great Story; their plan for all life in the universe.”

Sudden comprehension blew out the fog in May’s mind; something Em had said on the bus came back to her.

‘We were a bit more common thousands of years ago…’

“The Stars parented children so they could have a part in the new life.” May hadn’t grown up with this part of the legends; she was dazzled by how much she still had to learn. “Those children were the first of the Starborn.”

Rue smiled. “And they were supposed to be the only ones, but…” she motioned to Em, who shrugged.

“Wow,” was all May could manage in response.

“As you can imagine, most of that Starborn blood has been significantly diluted over the many millennia between then and now,” Rue continued. “My people are the only group who have managed to keep the lineage strong.”

“Does that mean you have abilities like mine?” Em asked, playing up her supposed ignorance.

Rue’s smile hinted at something she wasn’t sharing. “The only thing my people can do is commune with the Stars.”

“Seriously?” May was awe-struck. “How?”

Rather than answer, Rue stood and stretched. “That is a long story better saved for another night. I don’t know about the rest of you but I’m exhausted.”

“Not to mention we’ve got another long day ahead of us.” Priva rose, dusting off her pants. She looked down at Jeremy and held out her hand. “Bed?”

“Yeah, I’ll come,” he answered, accepting her help and getting to his feet.

“You guys go ahead,” Em said. “May and I will clean up here.”

“There’s a river to the north,” Priva instructed, pointing in the right direction. “It’s not far. You can use it to douse the fire.”

As the others disappeared into their tents, May and Em collected the discarded bowls and cleared up the site in silence. When she was satisfied with their work, Em grabbed a waterproof sack and beckoned for May to follow.

The woods were cold and cloaked in a haunting darkness that kept May huddled close as they walked.

“Can Rue really talk to the Stars?” she asked as the sound of the river swept through the trees to greet them.

“She can’t talk to them the way we’re talking now,” Em replied, her voice betraying something like exhaustion. “But she’s able to create a connection with them. Her people are the only humans who can communicate directly with the Stars, so they act kind of like the liaisons between us mere mortals and the powers that be.”

May laughed. “‘Mere mortals’; that’s funny coming from you.”

The sound of rushing water grew louder. May swept her flashlight along the ground until the trees gave way and the riverbank came into view through the gloom.

“I feel like every time I learn something new about your world – Audrey’s life – I end up with more questions than I started with,” she admitted, stepping lightly through the tall lush grass at the water’s edge. “It’s a little overwhelming. But at the same time, it’s kind of exciting. I guess, in a way, it’s kind of part of my history too, you know?”

Carefully she tip-toed across smoothed river stones until she was as far as she could get and waited for Em. It took a moment, watching the dark water rush past her feet in the white glow of her flashlight, before May realized Em wasn’t coming. She turned.

“Em?”

Back on dry land, Em stood transfixed, gazing up at the glittering dome of stars above. Her skin glimmered, emitting a gentle, dreamlike light. But the expression on her face was one of sorrow and remorse; her eyes shimmered with tears.

Slowly, Em’s feet rose from the earth and she hovered, suspended in her trance.

“I’m sorry,” she wept through a cracking voice. “I’m sorry for everything.”

Frozen in place, May watched in a mix of fearful curiosity. She wasn’t sure what was happening, but it didn’t seem as though Em was talking to her.

“I know you were trying to do what you thought was best for me.” Em’s arms were outstretched in an welcoming, hopeful gesture. “You were always doing the best you could. I didn’t mean to be so hard on you all the time.”

May looked up – up at the millions of winking stars – and blinked away new tears of her own.

She knew who Em was talking to now.

This was the first time she had witnessed Em’s attempts to reach Welkin first-hand. Until now, Em had waited until May was asleep or sought privacy; the ritual was all at once mesmerizing and heartbreaking.

Em let out a tragic wail.

“Please,” she cried. “Please talk to me. Where are you? Why won’t you answer me?”

Her light faded. The great, swirling magic that kept Em aloft dissipated into the night. She landed heavily on her feet before collapsing onto her knees.

May rushed forward and wrapped her arms around Em as tightly as she could.

“Why won’t they answer me?” Em asked, her tears soaking through the shoulder of May’s shirt. Her sadness gripped May’s heart and twisted mercilessly.

“I don’t know, love,” May whispered, stroking Em’s back with a tender hand. “But we’re going to find them, I promise.”

She didn’t know how she was going to keep that promise. All May knew was she’d do whatever she could to bring Em peace.

For now, she hoped being there for Em would be enough.


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Twenty One

[ Start from the Beginning | Previous Chapter ]


By the time May, Em, and Priva returned to the campsite, Connor already had the fire blazing with a satisfying crackle. Rue busied herself with food prep while Jeremy had been tasked with creating small tin foil bowls for everyone. They took turns layering their bowls with meat, potatoes, and eggs, positioning them delicately on a camp grill once the coals were hot enough.

The snapping fire was the only sound as the group sat wordlessly, waiting for their meals to cook. May watched spits of ash pop from the flames and drift skyward into the darkening sky. The sherbet colours of twilight gave way to night by the time Connor inspected his bowl and deemed dinner to be ready.

May wondered if the tension around the fire had been in some part the result of empty stomachs. As she collected her meal, she felt the mood lighten as everyone tucked into their food, and decided now might be a good time for casual conversation.

“Back to camping,” she said with a sigh, dropping back down beside Em, the edges of her foil plate pinched between her fingers.

“Hey,” Em remarked, looking mildly scandalized. “I thought you liked camping.”

“I like some parts of camping more than others,” May replied with a wink.

Em rolled her eyes dramatically.

“Kids these days,” she grumbled, earning her playful kick in the ankle from May.

The comment raised curiosity in Rue.

“How old are you two, anyway?” she asked.

“Twenty-five,” May answered, distracted. She leaned over to survey what was in Em’s plate. “Yours is cooked better than mine.”

“That’s because I’m a pro,” Em teased. Then, turning her attention back to Rue, “I’m, uh, a bit older.”

At this, Priva laughed loudly.

“You saying you’re a cradle robber?” She grinned at Em who mirrored her expression.

“Ha! Not quite that bad.” Em scooped a hearty forkful from May’s plate and shoved it in her mouth. After swallowing, she continued, “Still, I almost passed out when I realized my girlfriend was just a wee babe.” She turned to look at May. “Yours is fine, by the way.”

“You’re not that much older than me,” May defended, digging her own fork into Em’s plate. The utensil pierced the foil bottom, catching in a way that May hadn’t expected. Her hand slipped, sending the plastic handle snapping backwards and striking Em’s breast with a sharp thwap.

“My boob!” Em cried, choking on laughter and clutching at her chest. “You got me right in the tit!”

May doubled over, breathless in a fit of gasping laughter and tears, unable to reply.

Everyone but Jeremy succumbed to the first true bout of laughter since the two groups met, a moment of pure weightlessness that made the night feel a little less dark and the stakes a little less dire.

“So, how’d you two meet, anyway?” Jeremy asked, his question stopping the laughter dead.

May’s heartbeat stumbled. When she and Em decided to lie, they hadn’t taken the time to fill in the blanks of their cover story. Hoping her own panic wasn’t showing, May glanced at Em and found her to be a picture of calm.

“Maybe’s a dancer,” Em said, a goofy lovesick smile on her face that left May flushing. “I was in the audience one night when she was performing and I was instantly smitten.” She gave May a wink. “I’ve been her biggest fan ever since.”

That night in Omea’s community theatre – the night everything changed between them – flashed through May’s mind. She could still see Em standing in the wings, wide-eyed and marveling, watching her take the stage for her final performance of the night. Was this what Em was thinking of as she spun her tale? May had never asked Em what it was that pushed her over the delicate line between friends and lovers; that there might have been some truth to Em’s story made May giddy.

“Of course!” Rue’s face lit up. “We saw you dance at the circus. How long have you been performing?”

“Since I was in school,” May replied, delighted by Rue’s interest. “I’m self-taught though, so sometimes it feels like I’m making it up as I go.”

“She’s selling herself short,” Em insisted.

“Self-taught?” Connor look gob-smacked. “I’m impressed.”

“Me too,” Rue agreed brightly.

“Thank you,” May gushed. But elated as she was to have a chance to talk about one of her truest passions, she wanted to steer the conversation away from her and Em. “What about all of you? I’ve been so curious to know more about Wishes. I mean, I know what Wishes are but…” she shrugged, struggling to find the right words. “What does that mean for you? Is it different than being human?”

Sure, she was playing dumb to a certain extent. But this was the first time she had ever met other Wishes; she was curious about what she might have been missing. Em’s attempts at distancing herself from her past had often made her answers to May’s questions vague or indifferent. May figured this was a chance to learn more about herself as much as the others.

Connor rubbed his chin, mulling over her question. He looked to his friends. Priva shrugged.

“I guess for the most part it’s not that different,” he admitted. “We’re born to our mothers and, if we’re lucky, we live our lives and die when we’re old. The only difference we’ve noticed – aside from how we come to be, of course – is that every Wish has their own unique ability.”

May blinked in a way she hoped conveyed naive confusion. “What kind of abilities?”

“Something we’re naturally very good at,” Connor replied. “Think of it like a talent on steroids. Everyone’s is different. Mine is my strength.” He gestured back to the massive dead tree they were using as firewood and May picked up on the implication that he had felled it singlehandedly. “Nothing too fancy here.”

“Mine, on the other hand, is very fancy,” Priva said, sounding rather proud of herself. She leaned forward and grinned. “I don’t have to sleep.”

“That’s only partially true,” Rue quipped, giving Priva a cutting look. “She can live on very little sleep. One night’s worth for every three or four days awake.”

“Killjoy,” Priva pouted.

If this was a reason to be any less impressed, May didn’t see why.

She looked to Jeremy expectantly. “What’s your ability?”

Arms crossed, Jeremy studied her for a moment before answering.

“Perfect memory.” He tapped his temple, his expression impossible to read. “I don’t forget anything.”

“Oh.” May smiled. “I’ll bet that comes in handy.”

Jeremy didn’t reply.

“What about you, Rue?” Em cut in on the awkward silence filling the space between May and Jeremy.

Rue laughed. “Oh, I’m not a Wish.”

May looked at her in surprise. “Really?”

“Yep.” Rue set her bowl down and settled back beside Connor, leaning gently into his side. “My place in this little family is kind of different than the others. I come from an ancient line of astromantic druids.”

Now genuinely confused, May frowned. “What does that mean? Are you human?”

“For the most part. But way back, in the beginning of human history, my people came to be specifically because of the Stars.”

The firelight danced, reflected in Rue’s magnificent golden eyes. May’s breath caught as she remembered why they had seemed so familiar.

“Were they Wishes?” May asked.

“No.” Rue’s eyes – the same otherworldly gold as the Star called Welkin – creased in the corners as she smiled. “They were Starborn.”


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Ko-Fi May