The Star and the Ocean – Chapter Sixteen

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The Star and the Ocean underwent structural revisions in September 2016. This particular chapter can now be found as the new chapters 31 and 32. I highly encourage you to read from these new chapters instead!

Chapter Sixteen – Try to understand

“I can picture it.” Em’s eyes were closed and she was sitting cross-legged on the deck. “You surrounded by all these little kids in leotards. It’s fucking adorable.”

From behind her, May giggled. Legs hanging over the edge of the hammock, she played with Em’s long hair while the two of them enjoyed the morning sunshine.

“I think it would be fun,” May said, deftly twisting the strands into an elaborate braid. “I love kids and I love to dance. Teaching seems like the best of both worlds. But who knows. There’s a lot I’d like to try.”

Em tilted her head back to look up at May. “Do you-”

“Don’t move your head.”

“Sorry.” She dropped it back again. “Do you want kids? Like, in life?”

May leaned down and grinned in Em’s peripheral vision. “Don’t you think it’s a bit premature to be talking about kids? Pass me the elastic.”

“That’s not what I meant!” Em forced a laughed, doing as she was told. She was prepared to joke her way out of the awkward corner she had backed herself into when a sound in the distance caught her attention. “Do you hear that?”

“No.” May looked down the beach. She waited in silence, knowing Em’s hearing was far better than hers. If there was indeed something out there, she would be able to hear it herself soon enough.

Within moments, the rumble of a struggling engine gradually filled the air. May caught sight of a van making its way down the beach like a shimmering mirage in the heat. She squinted through the sunlight.

“It’s Kai.”

“Really?” Em sat up and followed May’s line of sight. “Shit. Should I hide or something?”

May shook her head. “He knows you’re still here. The rest of the family isn’t thrilled but Kai’s pretty laid back.”

Through everything that happened over the years, May’s family had stuck by her. Yes, her parents had been everything from mortified to furious at the height of the scandal, but blood or otherwise, they cared about their children unconditionally. Ora hadn’t spoken to May for months after the truth about her and Mila had come out, but even she had come back around in time, although May nursed the wound of knowing their relationship hadn’t been the same since.

But Kai had always been gentle with her. The pair of them were less than a year apart in age, and had grown up as one another’s closest allies. He believed every word May had told him about what happened – a fact not even their parents could lay claim to. He believed to the point that he had taken matters into his own hands, confronting Kane one evening shortly after the photo had gone public. The confrontation hadn’t ended well for either of them, but May had been touched by his valor nonetheless.

Devotion to her sister aside, Kai was also a good son. He had never been one to defy their parents, a fact May kept in mind as she watched his van roll up and come to park at the base of the tree.

“Yo, Maybe!” Kai called from the sand. “Can I come up?”

“Door’s open!” May shouted back.

Em watched quietly as Kai stepped through the door and called out a hello. Physically he was May’s opposite in virtually every way; tall, broad and dark to her slight and pale. He wore his wavy dark hair to his shoulders, framing his round face and carefree smile like a halo. Just like the first time they met, Em watched that smile falter when he caught sight of her at his sister’s side.

“Oh,” he said, trying to regain his composure. “Hey. How’s it?”

“Pretty great, dude.” Em smiled as warmly as she could. “Good to see you again.”

It was in a quick glance to May for reassurance that Em caught sight of something that made her stomach drop. How either of them managed to forget the fresh bruise blossoming across the side of May’s neck, she did not know. What she did know was that there was no way Kai wasn’t going to see it.

As was typical of most couples in the early stages of newfound intimacy, not a day had passed since that night in the woods where Em and May hadn’t found an opportunity to be close. It took virtually nothing – a sassy comment, a suggestive glance – for them to throw themselves into one another. The bed, the couch, the hammock – it didn’t matter where they were; clothes would vanish and the pair would lose themselves to pleasure. They had grown confident, trusting each other in a way that left May more than happy to explore somewhat new things including rougher, more intense ways of being passionate with Em.

The bruise on her neck was the incriminating evidence of what had been a night of just such exploration. Other parts of May’s body were littered with similar marks left by both kisses and teeth. They had been laughing about it only hours earlier. Now, Em was kicking herself for not thinking of it before Kai walked in.

Unluckily for both of them, the wide-eyed look of terror on Em’s face got Kai’s attention immediately. His eyes looked to where she did, his face twisting the instant he noticed the mark.

May, however, did not pick up on what was going on between Em and her brother right away. She frowned in confusion.

“What are you look-” Her hand touched her neck. “Oh, no.”

Kai’s head snapped to Em, his face transformed by rage.

“What the fuck did you do to my sister?” he bellowed, making both of them jump.

“Shit!” Em scrambled to her feet just as Kai lunged in her direction.

“Kai, NO!” May cried, leaping up from the hammock just in time to plant herself between her brother and Em.

Kai took her by the shoulders, concern etched across his brow. “Did she hurt you, May?”

“What? No!”

“You can tell me,” he pressed, shooting a murderous look at Em over May’s shoulder. “How did you get that bruise?”

The idea of giving her brother an honest answer to that question made May feel sick to her stomach, but she knew he wasn’t the type to back down. “For goodness sake, Kai! It’s a hickie, alright?”

A heavy air of awkwardness settled between the trio. Kai’s face fell as he looked between his sister and Em and back again.

“A…” Slowly he released his hold on May’s shoulders. “Oh, for fucks sake! Are you serious, May? You told mama and papa that’s not what this was about!” He kept his eyes firmly locked on his sister as he gestured wildly at Em.

May looked deflated. “Well, it wasn’t then. But…” She turned to look helplessly at Em, who stepped forward and wordlessly took her hand.

Kai groaned and buried his face in his massive palms. “Maybe, you know I love you and if this…” He raised his face to give a pointed look at Em, who was starting to squirm at being spoken about as if she couldn’t understand what was being said, “If this is who you are, then fine. But is this really the right time? Things were just starting to turn around for you.”

“When is it ever going to be the ‘right time’, Kai?” May asked sharply, her eyes narrowing. “What am I supposed to do? Just wait for everyone to change their minds about me? Is that what needs to happen before I’m allowed to be happy?”

“That’s not what I meant,” Kai grumbled. “What about the rest of the family? You’re not the only one who had to deal with what happened.”

May let out a strangled, incredulous noise, but it was Em who cut in.

“Okay, I’m going to stop you right there.”

“No, you’re not.” Kai stared her down. “This is between family.”

“Right,” she barreled onward, emboldened. “This is you implying that a member of your family – someone I think you care very much about, I might add – should hide who she is and deny herself a chance at being happy just so other people don’t have to feel uncomfortable.”

“It’s not that simple,” he huffed, heat rising behind the rich bronze of his cheeks.

“I’m sure in a lot of ways it isn’t.” She wrapped an arm protectively around May’s shoulder. “But at the same time, it is.”

Kai crossed his arms and eyed the two of them quietly for a moment. He mulled over what Em had said thoughtfully, carefully considering his next move. But May gave a small, hopeful smile and Kai knew it didn’t matter how much he wanted to act stern with her – he wanted to see her happy.

“Please, Kai,” she said softly. “Try to understand.”

“Oh, I doubt I’ll ever really understand,” Kai rubbed his chin absentmindedly. “But if you say you’re happy then you know I’m going to have your back.”

May beamed and opened her mouth to speak, but before she could, Kai continued. “Are you sure you’re ready for how people are going to react, though?”

“Ready?” May replied. “Kai, it’s not like people stopped believing it in the first place. If anything it would just confirm what they’re all still whispering about. Pretending to be something I’m not hasn’t done much to sway public opinion, has it?”

Sighing, Kai didn’t bother to reply. She was right and they both knew it. Instead, he looked to Em.

“And you,” he growled, pointing at her for emphasis. “I don’t care if you’re a chick. If you fuck with my sister I will hunt you down.”

Em frowned and calmly pushed his finger out of her face. “You can ease up on the protective brother bit. I’m not here to mess with May. Of course, if you were implying something else then I-”

“Okay!” May stepped in. “That’s enough, you two. Emmy, please don’t push our luck. And, Kai… Are we good?”

Kai groaned again, dropping into the old folding chair in defeat. “Sure, May. We’re good. Although you’re totally going to have to cover that thing up when you look after Omi tomorrow. Ora would lose her damn mind if she saw it and you know she’ll tell mama.”

May flushed and covered the bruise with her hand as if it would somehow help.

Em eased into the hammock, rocking on her heels and staring off into nothing. For a moment no one spoke. The silence made May antsy.

“So,” she ventured. “Did you just come out to visit or did you need something?”

“Oh, right.” Kai smiled at last, running a hand through his unkempt hair. “The Rocket’s been running a little funny lately. I was hoping you could take a look at it with me. I feel like there’s something I’m not seeing.”

Em raised an eyebrow. “The Rocket?”

“His van,” May explained.

Em did a visible double-take. “You know how to fix engines and stuff?”

“Sister, she knows how to do everything,” Kai grinned at the dumbfounded look on Em’s face.Turning his attention back to May, he added, “But if you have to dance today we can do it some other time.”

May waved him off. “It’s okay, the concert is wrapped up now.”

“Is Anoki throwing another one of his fancy parties then?” Kai asked. “You gonna go?”

“Oh, shoot!” May jolted. “I completely forgot!” She hustled inside.

Once she was out of earshot, Em leaned forward and whispered. “Does she really know how to fix cars? How does know how to do things like build conveyance systems and design houses and stuff?”

“She picks up on things super fast. Always has. She’s a genius or something. It’s almost freaky sometimes.”

Before Em could reply, May rushed back out onto the deck clutching an envelope in her hand.

“The gala’s next weekend.” She handed the invitation to Em. “But I’ll be honest; I haven’t given it a lot of thought.”

“You should go, May,” Kai insisted. “Everyone in town is talking about what a good job you did. Go capitalize on all this good mojo for a change! You deserve it.”

May lit up. Until this moment she hadn’t been sure if showing up at the gala would have been a smart move. But with her brother’s encouragement she finally felt it was safe to entertain the idea. The very thought of it made her giddy.

She glanced back to Em who had just finished reading the invitation.

“Would you like to come with me?” she asked quietly, suddenly sheepish at the idea of asking Em on what was essentially a date.

“If you’re going to let the world know you two are a thing I can’t think of a better place to make it official,” Kai jibed.

Em could tell he was taking a swing at them, probably more out of concern for his sister than anything else. But Em didn’t care. Turning her attention back to May, she smiled brightly.

“It would be my pleasure.”

[Read Next Chapter]


“Oh, I doubt I’ll ever understand.” – The Star and the Ocean, Chapter Seventeen



The Star and the Ocean – Chapter Fifteen

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The Star and the Ocean underwent structural revisions in September 2016. This particular chapter can now be found as the new chapters 29 and 30. I highly encourage you to read from these new chapters instead!

Content warning: This chapter contains explicit sexual content and is very much NSFW. An edited, SFW edition is available on Wattpad.

Chapter Fifteen – Are you sure?

May stepped carefully over a mess of underbrush and checked the map again as yet another question came to mind.

“What does being reborn feel like?”

From a few paces behind, Em laughed. “Thankfully, nothing like what I imagine being born normally feels like.” She paused to consider a more serious answer. “It’s like waking up from anesthesia after surgery. You’re groggy and slow and it takes a while for things to start making sense.”

“Does it hurt?”


This was how it had been in the days that followed their conversation on the cliff. May didn’t want to ask her laundry list of questions all at once; she didn’t want to be overbearing. Instead, she posed each one gradually, making her way through the muddled puzzle that was Em’s story one piece at a time.

The only question she didn’t have the stomach to ask was how it happened – how the woman once known as Audrey died in the first place, giving way to the person Em was now. Murder seemed self-explanatory enough, and given that Em wasn’t offering up anything on the subject, May figured she made the right call keeping that question to herself.

Em had been happy to field every other query tossed her way. When May asked what she had been doing on the beach that night, Em did her best to explain.

“Remember when I told you my abilities are related to feeling and manipulating the energy around us? Sometimes being constantly connected to everything gets a bit overwhelming and I need a way to turn it all off. Have you heard of sensory deprivation?”

“No,” May admitted, but she thought it sounded frightening.

“I sometimes use water as a crude means of blocking out my senses. It helps cut me off from the constantly bombardment of energy. I’m sure it’s not easy to understand, but being submerged helps block the push and pull of the universe. It quiets all the noise just enough that it almost feels tranquil by comparison.”

May hesitated before asking her next question, casting a furtive glance at Em before speaking.

“Welkin said something about your old memories… That sometimes Audrey’s memories stir and it bothers you.”

“Hmm.” Em furrowed her brow. “It doesn’t happen as much as it used to but sometimes I kind of… forget who I am for a second. It all comes screaming back to me for a moment or two and it throws me off.” She looked guilty, squirming with discomfort. “Sometimes I wonder if it happens because they’re thinking about her. Missing her.”

“Who?” May asked, one part curious and another part horrified.

Em looked away. “Her friends. The people who loved her.”

Of course. In a way it made sense that Em – hypersensitive to unseen forces as she was – might feel shockwaves of grief from Audrey’s loved ones as they mourned her passing. The idea that Em could still feel the pangs from some shared broken heart made May’s stomach lurch. Knowing that she so selfishly clung to someone others had no option but to miss…

But Em wasn’t Audrey, that much she made clear. Audrey had been another person, and whomever had loved her once were nothing but memories to Em now. She didn’t want to talk about them. In truth, neither did May, so she steered the conversation elsewhere.

“What’s it like to be dead?”

“Ridiculously boring. And frustrating as fuck. I didn’t have a body; I was just a thought, stuck in the same space for who knows how long.”

“Do you like the body Welkin made for you?”

“More or less. I would have chosen something a bit more colorful if I’d had a say in it though. Can I ask you a question for a change?” Em asked, coming up behind May and peering over her shoulder at the map in her hands. “How come you’ve never been camping before?”

May laughed. “I don’t know, it’s just not something my family does.”

Together the pair made their way deep into the forest, looking for a place near a spring they found on the map May borrowed from her father.

May still wasn’t sure if she was ready to make the trip to Tenna. In a stroke of what she called genius, Em suggested they go camping. Shaking out her backpacking gear, she had described each piece of equipment excitedly, painting a peaceful mental picture of sleeping by a fire with only the night noises for company.

“That sounds creepy,” May had frowned. “People actually do this for fun?”

“Listen, at best you’ll come out of it with a brand new skill set that would totally impress, say, a group of mountain dwelling locals.” Em reasoned. May raised an eyebrow. “At worse, you’ll have a character-building experience.”

So far building character had entailed learning how to navigate using only a map and compass, something May had never done before but found herself picking up quickly enough.

“You know, it would be a lot faster if you just flew us out to the spot,” May huffed as she checked her map against Em’s compass. It had been a gift the team back in Tenna gave Em when she decided to leave – the same one May had pulled from her pack on the night they first met. In the light of day, May could at last read the inscription carved into the compass’ leather sleeve.

If it is adventure you seek, the needle will always point to home.

“There is no satisfaction to be gained in supernatural shortcuts, Navigator!” Em called over her shoulder as she forged ahead. “Besides, you may be a tiny thing but I still couldn’t carry you and the gear all that way.”

“Is there satisfaction to be gained in getting lost?” May shouted back. “Because I’m ninety-nine per cent sure you’re going the wrong way.”

May figured Em would tease her if she admitted it, but as they relaxed by the fire later that night she was feeling satisfied with everything she had accomplished. They found the spring without any trouble, and after a quick tutorial she was able to raise the tent all on her own while Em tended to the fire. Now, as they lounged on a blanket and watched the flames stretching up into the dark, May actually found the night noises surprisingly soothing.

“Oh!” she chirped, a new thought coming to her. “I haven’t asked you the most important question of all.”

“What’s that?” Em looked a little uneasy but waivered when she caught sight of May’s cheeky grin.

“Is your full name really Emanthy?”

Em laughed, a bright and bubbling sound rising up in the night. “I was hoping you missed that. Isn’t it the worst?”

“No!” May replied earnestly. “I think it’s pretty!”

“Yeah? Well, I think you’re pretty.”

May let out an exaggerated groan. “Super smooth, Emanthy.”

“Whatever,” Em stole a quick kiss that left May giggling. “I made you blush so I must have done something right.”

“That’s just from the fire,” May muttered, patting her cheeks to hide the wild grin she couldn’t seem to suppress.

The two leaned in close, hands finding one another in the flickering shadows. May stole quick glances at Em, heat of a different kind rising inside her. She was mesmerized by the way firelight danced off Em’s alabaster skin, like sunlight reflecting off the waves. All at once she was overcome by a desire – a need, even – to feel that skin against her own.

Out of the corner of her eye, Em caught May watching her.

“Something the matter, Maybe?

May cast her eyes downward, too embarrassed to watch the look on Em’s face while she spoke.

“Remember that morning when you told me it was okay for me to change my mind?”

She could feel Em’s grip on her fingers tighten for a fraction of a second.

“Yeah, of course. Why?”

May swallowed and forced herself to meet Em’s gaze. She found it wide and still, as if Em was afraid to so much as blink lest she spoil the moment. “Can I change it back?”

It was as if they had each been unwittingly holding their breath, and in a moment they exhaled, unrealized tension dissipating like fire smoke from their lungs. Em closed the small gap between them – what may as well have been a chasm only a heartbeat before – and kissed May fiercely.

“Are you sure?” she whispered, her hands gently clutching around May’s face, her neck, keeping her close.

May nodded and kissed Em back with confidence and need. Yes, she was sure.

Em pulled back just enough to speak again. “I want to make sure you feel good.” Her hands itched to explore May’s body. She restrained herself, needing to make sure May heard her first. “But if you want to stop, just let me know.”

May bit her lip, not to be seductive but out of excitement. It drove Em wild anyway and May noticed. In one sultry motion she crawled atop Em, straddling her lap and pressing herself in close.

She had no intention of stopping this time.

Layers of clothing were discarded in a flurry of groping hands and desperate kisses. Anything from the waist up was tossed aside until May and Em found themselves nearly stripped bare and breathless, pausing for a moment to take one another in.

May beheld Em’s nakedness with a mix of aching desire and a self-consciousness that made her raise her arms instinctively to clutch across her chest.

“Wow,” May breathed, shamelessly eyeing the curves of Em’s hips and fullness of her breasts. “You’re so beautiful.” She let out a small, flustered laugh. “I feel kind of inadequate next to you.”

“Don’t you dare,” Em replied with a coy smile. Gently she took May’s tightly balled fists and planted a light kiss atop each before pulling them aside, leaving May exposed with nothing between them but the night.

May shuddered as Em leaned close, skin and breasts pressed tightly together in a way that sent her mind spinning. Em kissed her way up May’s neck and to her ear where she whispered in a low and husky voice, “You have nothing to be ashamed of.”

Before May could respond, Em tugged her closer, hoisting her up so she could trail her mouth across May’s collarbone and down to the modest swell of her breasts. Em flicked her tongue across one of May’s nipples before pulling it between her lips, mouthing and sucking eagerly. May moaned despite her best efforts to keep quiet, an unmistakeable sound of pleasure punctuating the the singing of crickets and the crackling fire.

While Em’s mouth worked from one breast to the next, her hand slipped beneath the band of May’s shorts and pressed into the warm space between her legs. May gasped, her surprise quickly overcome by need as she arched into the touch.

Em’s fingers searched slick folds, teasing along May’s entrance before moving on to circle and massage her clit. She started slowly, but May’s petite frame squirmed against her hand until she picked up the pace.

“Will you lay back for me?” Em asked and May, flushed and half-delirious with pleasure, could only nod and let Em’s steady hand guide her gently onto the blanket beneath them.

On her back, the tiny part of May’s mind still able to form a coherent thought became aware that she was lying bare while an equally naked woman fucked her in the middle of the forest. That part of her brain briefly started to fret, the memory of a single incriminating photo flashing in front of her mind’s eye. But, oh, Em was peeling May’s underwear down her long legs, pushing her knees apart to crawl between her thighs and, in that moment, May realized she didn’t care. This was all that mattered now.

Em teased her way along the inside of May’s thighs, peppering the soft flesh with small kisses and light, playful bites as she went. May marvelled at how much she enjoyed those small bursts of pain. To her, the wait was excruciating and she let slip a small whine when Em finally made her way up only to pause when she was so tantalizingly close.

“I’m sorry.” Em’s eyes sparkled mischievously at May from between her legs. “Did you want me to keep going?”

“Please,” May begged, the anticipation almost too much for her.

Em dragged her teeth along the delicate crease where May’s leg met her body with just enough force to make her gasp. Then, so, so slowly, she pressed a smiling open mouthed kiss to May’s pussy.

May cried out as Em’s tongue slid and explored before establishing a satisfying tempo across her clit. Panting and grasping desperately at the shimmering silver of her lover’s hair, May rolled her hips in time with Em’s rhythm, grinding blissfully into her face. Anything to bring them closer, anything to feel everything.

Sooner than she would have liked, May felt pressure grow deep inside like the swirling beginnings of a storm. Then, all at once, the tempest flared violently, shaking May to her core and leaving her trembling in the wake of release.

Em sat up, dragging her thumb languidly across her proud smile. She crawled up to face May who was flushed and still trying to catch her breath.

“How do you feel?” Em traced delicate patterns up May’s body, leaving her shivering.

“Good,” May replied, giggling weakly. “Can I return the favor?”


Neither Em nor May noticed the fire dying down. Locked together tightly, the heat of the night was nothing compared to the warmth trapped between their bodies. They laid still, quiet and content in a hazy afterglow.

May stroked her fingers along Em’s scalp and through her hair, wanting nothing more than to stay exactly as they were for as long as they possibly could. Em’s face nuzzled peacefully into May’s bare chest, her breath so calm May figured she had fallen asleep.

“What are you smiling about down there?” May asked as she suddenly felt Em grin against her skin.

Em peered up, the fading firelight dancing in her pale blue eyes. “I was just thinking you’re like the ocean, only better.”

“What do you mean?” May replied, confused.

“I can’t remember the last time I felt this steady above water.” Em looked a little sheepish. “When I’m focused on you, everything else gets quiet. There’s no buzz of energy pulling my brain in every direction. With you I feel like I’m breathing underwater, and it’s amazing.”

May wasn’t sure how that worked, but knowing she could somehow bring Em that level of peace made her heart soar. Smiling brightly, she gave Em’s forehead a gentle kiss.

“The Star and the ocean,” she mused quietly. “How poetic.”

[Thanks for reading! As I will be travelling over the next couple of weeks, TSATO will only be updating once a week until October. Chapter 16 will be posted on Tuesday, September 20th!]

“Can I change it back?” – The Star and the Ocean, Chapter Fifteen

The Star and the Ocean – Chapter Thirteen

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The Star and the Ocean underwent structural revisions in September 2016. This particular chapter can now be found as the new chapter 26. I highly encourage you to read from this new chapter instead!

Chapter Thirteen – Do you feel safe here?

You want the same thing…

The words repeated like a chant, swirling and rearranging until they wove together like a veil between sleep and wakefulness. Beyond the veil was a light that grew stronger with each passing beat of a pounding rhythm.

Bang, bang, bang.

You want the same thing you want the same thing…

Bang, bang, BANG.

May sat up with a jolt.

The slamming rhythm was not, as it turned out, some disembodied beat keeping time in a dream. Someone was knocking on the door. May peered around with sleepy eyes; she was still on the couch, under a blanket she didn’t remember retrieving, and she was very much alone. Giving her head a shake, she stood slowly and made her way to the door.

“I was starting to think you weren’t here!” smiled one of Omea’s only two mail carriers. May pretended she didn’t notice the way his eyes scanned the inside of her home.

He’s checking to see if I’m alone, she realized, her heart sinking. The local rumour mill was clearly still alive and well.

Since moving to the treehouse, May had never once received mail. The only reason she recognized the face in front of her was because of the time she spent at Ora’s house taking care of her nephew. She wasn’t sure she liked him very much.

“It would have been disappointing if I had come all this way for nothing.”

Whatever, I’m sure you’re wishing you had just left this with my sister now that you don’t have any gossip to bring back with you, May thought coldly.

The carrier handed May a single envelope and left with a wave. May said a word of thanks before retreating back inside to inspect her mail.

To Miss May Alana
At the Treehouse on the Beach

Ripping the seal on the envelope, May slid out an invitation to the end-of-show gala Mr. Anoki, owner and director of the Omea Theatre Company, always threw for everyone who had participated in his productions. In truth, these weren’t galas in the traditional sense so much as they were dinner parties held at his gorgeous home, but the word made everyone feel important and the parties were always a high-end affair.

May half-read the card, her mind distracted by the memory of the last time she had been invited to one of Anoki’s galas. Her life had been so different back then.

Memories flashed through her mind like a film in fast-forward. In an instant she relived every horrible moment and lonely night until at last the reel landed on Em and paused.

Glancing around the empty room, May sighed. There was never going to be a good time to tell Em the truth, but she was as ready as she’d ever be.


May had no idea where Em disappeared to, but she was fairly confident she would have stayed away from town. With this in mind, she followed the shoreline west to where the beach grew rocky and rose from the sea in a wall of cliffs. May scaled the craggy surface carefully.

She found Em sulking at the top. With arms wrapped tightly around her knees, her bloodshot eyes were fixed darkly on the horizon. The wind blew noisily up here, and Em didn’t hear May approaching until she was almost at her side.

“Do you mind if I join you?” May asked gently. She tucked her hair behind her ears to keep it out of her face and smiled in the way that secretly made Em feel weak. All brooding aside, she knew she couldn’t turn May away, so she relaxed and scooted over to make room instead.

For a few moments, the pair sat side by side and stared out at the ocean in silence. May didn’t want to push. She would wait until Em was ready.

It took a while, but at last Em sighed and, keeping her eyes averted, she spoke.

“I’m really sorry.”

“For what?”

“I don’t know.” Em shrugged in defeat. “For everything, I guess.”

“I don’t think you have anything to apologize for,” May replied. It was true, even though she had briefly wrestled with feelings of betrayal the night before. “I’m sure he meant well, but Welkin shouldn’t have done that.”

Em gave a smile smile.

“They,” she said.

Confused, May cocked her head in reply.

“Welkin goes by they, not him,” Em explained, her tone gentle. “They’re a Star, and believe me when I tell you the Stars have no use for the imaginary human concept of gender.”

“Oh, I’m sorry!” May replied with a wince. She wasn’t quite sure what Em meant, but she also didn’t want to be rude. “I’ve never thought of things that way before. I guess that’s why you don’t like calling… them?” Em nodded encouragingly. “Why you don’t call them ‘dad’, huh?”

“Among other reasons,” Em smirked. “Anyway, they’re pretty good at meddling in the name of good intentions. I swear I was going to tell you I just… Wasn’t ready.” She paused to take a few deep breaths. “I’m sure you have a lot of questions.”

May considered this for a moment. She did have a lot of questions: What does it feel like to die? How did it happen? What were you trying to do on the beach and what happens now?

But she would be patient.

“I do,” she said softly, tucking an escaped curl back behind her ear. “But most of them can wait until you’re ready.”

Em instantly relaxed at her words.

“Thank you.” Her voice cracked. “I really appreciate that.”

May nodded, but her look grew serious. “I do need to know though… Are you okay?”

Em laughed and rubbed her eyes. “I’m mortified, but I’m sure I’ll get over it.”

May frowned. “Are you in some kind of trouble?” The question reminded her of her parents. In her mind she saw their faces looking back at her with concern.

“No.” Em shook her head. “Not anymore. Now I’m just supposed to stay out of it, really. These days I’m trying to find a safe place.”

Biting her lip, May rolled this and all of its implications around in her mind. She reached out and gently laid a hand over Em’s.

“Do you feel safe here?” she asked. “With me?”

Their eyes locked and for a moment they searched each other quietly. Then Em smiled, moving her hand so she could link her fingers with May’s.

“With you? Absolutely.”

Relief flowed through May like the tide washing against the cliffs below. She leaned in and kissed Em deeply, a gesture her partner accepted eagerly.

“I feel safe with you too,” May said after she pulled away. “Which is why I have something I want to tell you.”

[Read Chapter 14]

If you’re an artist who’s interested in doing an illustration for a future chapter of The Star and the Ocean, please contact me about commission opportunities!

"Can you keep a secret, May?" - The Star and the Ocean, Chapter Twelve by Maggie Derrick

The Star and the Ocean – Chapter Twelve

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The Star and the Ocean underwent structural revisions in September 2016. This particular chapter can now be found as the new chapters 24 and 25. I highly encourage you to read from these new chapters instead!

Chapter Twelve – Why do you think I brought her to you?

Welkin gently deposited Em’s unconscious body on the couch before moving into the kitchen. May didn’t bother asking what they were looking for.

Instead, she sat on the floor next to Em’s head and watched her numbly. A part of May wanted to reach out and softly stroke the side of Em’s pallid face until she woke up. Another, much stronger part, willed her to keep her hands to herself.

Despite all the time they had spent getting to know one another, Em still kept something from May. Something that, with what little Welkin had let slip, was somehow just as devastating as her being part Star. May swallowed dryly and tried to tell herself she wasn’t hurt by the secrecy.

It wasn’t as if she had been completely honest with Em either, after all.

“Don’t be angry with her.”

May jolted violently as Welkin’s voice cut through her reverie. The Star stood above her, holding out a steaming teacup. May had been so caught up that she hadn’t even heard to water come to a boil.

“No.” She shook her head and looked away. She knew she was being rude but she was too upset to care.

Welkin pressed, undeterred. “Please, May.”

A slave to her manners, May relented with a sigh. She took the cup with a slight nod of thanks and sipped at the tea politely. Instantly she felt the drink swirl through her belly and chase away the chill that had settled in her bones.

“Again, I ask you to not be angry with her,” Welkin said, still standing close beside her. “I begged her to keep her secrets to herself. As it is, she has already told you more than she’s told anyone else. I hope that fact can provide you with some degree of solace.”

May pondered this for a moment before she spoke. Was it really supposed to make her feel better?

“Tell me everything,” she said without looking up from her teacup. “After what just happened, I think I deserve to know.”

Welkin hummed thoughtfully, circling slowly behind the couch and trailing a thin hand along its edges. They paused across from where May was crouched, the three of them in line like planets in orbit.

“On this island, your people follow the legends of the Moon and the Ocean and the Earth and the Sun, correct?”

May tensed, uncertain where they were going with this question. “Sort of, I guess. Some people more than others.”

Welkin nodded sagely, continuing their circuit until they came to a delicate perch on the far arm of the couch. “And you know something of the Stars now, I presume?”

With her mouth shut tight, May opted to nod in reply. She worried she’d say something stupid about how the legends of the Stars weren’t as important in the local lore – that she herself had hardly given them a second thought before Em came along – and how horrible it might be to admit that to Welkin’s face. She reasoned they probably already knew, but still…

“In some parts of this world there are people who worship the Stars as devoutly as someone from the islands might revere the Ocean,” the Star said as if they had just peeked in on May’s thoughts, making her shudder. “They follow our legends and rules as their law. Does this make sense?”

May nodded again. “I suppose so.”

Welkin turned their beautiful face toward the still-open sliding door. “Many years ago a piece of a wishing star fell to Earth in error.”

Frowning, May couldn’t help but interrupt. “But Em told me the Stars don’t grant wishes.”

“If that were true, she wouldn’t be here,” Welkin replied, their tone akin to that of a schoolteacher gently correcting a student. “It is a rare thing, but we do grant the occasional wish when it makes sense. May I continue?”

Embarrassed, May averted her eyes and mumbled an apology, which Welkin ignored.

“The Star council responsible for this Earth turned to a particularly devout group of followers to help find the missing star piece.” Welkin continued. “And find it they did. But instead of informing the Stars, the followers chose instead to harbour it selfishly for their own gain.”

Welkin paused, drumming their long fingers along the back of the couch. Their face was impassive, and May found it disconcerting that she couldn’t get a read on them.

“While the group had always intended to eventually return the wishing star, greed proved to be an exceptionally powerful motivator. The followers soon became at odds with one another; some wanting to do their duty and return it, others wanting to make use of its power. Any human in possession of a wishing star has the ability to make a single wish of it, something I’m sure you can imagine would be quite attractive to the average person.”

“Despite the wishing star’s potential, those who remained loyal to the Stars informed us of the others’ transgressions. But before the wishing star could be retrieved, it was stolen. The council was furious.”

Fascinating as Welkin’s story was, May was growing impatient. She screwed up her courage to interrupt a second time.

“I’m sorry,” she said, peering up at the Star from her place on the floor. “What does this all have to do with Em and bringing people back from the dead?”

Welkin hesitated, pressing their lips into a thin line and looking anywhere but at May. Then, with a sigh, they spoke again.

“The woman you know as Em is not the same person who was born to Astrid. You see, after the wishing star went missing, the followers who had remained loyal to the Stars went to desperate measures to stay in our favour. As they searched for the star they also hunted down and destroyed any trace of the selfish wishes that had been made on it. In most cases these wishes had been for material wealth, power, beauty; the standard objects of human desire. But, like Astrid, a few of the wishes had been for children.”

Fear settled in the pit of May’s stomach. She knew where this story was going but she didn’t want to believe it.

“But Em was different! You helped Astrid have her. She had nothing to do with the wishing star. ”

“No,” Welkin agreed. “But she also made no secret of what she was, and these followers are not in the habit of taking chances. Humans have a great capacity to do terrible things out of fear and anger.”

Shaken, May took up Em’s hand and held it tight. “What did they…”

She wasn’t sure how to ask for the answer hanging between them.

“Audrey,” Welkin replied, an answer to a different question.

May blinked. “What?”

At last, Welkin’s golden gaze landed on Em. Their face was etched with sadness as they watched her sleep.

“Her name was Audrey then. In the beginning, before they found her.”

The feeling drained from May’s extremities, the way it did when she found herself looking down from a great height. Her mouth dry, she could only muster a whisper.

“Did they kill her?”

Welkin nodded solemnly.

A heavy breath escaped May’s lips as she tried to comprehend what the Star was telling her. “But then, how is she not dead?”

“By virtue of a very unorthodox and imperfect process that involved harvesting what was left of Audrey’s life force and providing her with a new vessel in which to reside.”

May knitted her brow as she deciphered Welkin’s words. “A vessel? As in, a new body?”

“Of course,” the Star replied. “Although building a new body is a skill I myself do not possess. I had to call in a debt owed by an acquaintance of the earthbound and, shall we say, mythical persuasion for that.”

Welkin continued. “But as I said before, there is no perfect way to bring someone back from the dead. Em is Audrey, as best as I could salvage her. You need to understand there is no easy way to collect an evanescent soul, but I did the best I could. Even with assistance, there was still need to fill in blank spaces with pieces of myself and ultimately, of another, to make her strong enough to live again. Em as you know her is as much of Audrey as possible, while at once someone entirely new.”

Welkin paused, collecting their thoughts as they watched May carefully.

“I never did right by her,” they admitted quietly. “I wasn’t there for Audrey the way I should have been. This, I thought, would be my way of of making up for that. She still thinks I did it for Astrid. That it was because I loved her mother that I brought her back. I did not realize how much I hurt her.”

Confused, May met Welkin’s gaze and held it. “Hurt her how?”

“I gave her a new life without once considering whether or not she would want it,” Welkin replied as though this should have been clear.

“How could she not want a second chance at life?” May asked, incredulous at the thought.

Welkin’s face was heavy with sadness. “I felt the same. I thought I was giving her a chance to live without fear of persecution. I had no idea how terrible it would be to wake up as a new person; with feelings and memories you can’t connect to, friends and family you can’t return to because, even if you did feel the same way about them, people aren’t supposed to come back from the dead. She is not who she once was.”

May mulled this over. If she had been asked to imagine what it would mean to cheat death, she never would have fathomed it looking like this. But of course the sacrifices would be devastating. A gift like this could never come cheap.

“I asked her to be careful,” Welkin said. “Once she was finally through being angry with me, I asked her to keep her abilities a secret. I did not want her to draw attention to herself a second time. But I had no idea how much loneliness I was damning her to by asking her to hide. Settling in to this new life has been… challenging for her, to say the least.”

Without warning, Em sat up, startling May and Welkin both. She said nothing, pulling her hand from May’s gentle grasp and hovering her way to the door as quickly as she could.

“Emanthy, wait.” Welkin stood. It took May a moment to realize they were saying Em’s name in full; not once had she mentioned it was short for anything.

“Don’t let me interrupt,” Em snapped without looking at either of them. “You’ve been doing a fine job of airing my dirty laundry all on your own.” Em threw open the door and escaped across the threshold into the night. The door slammed shut behind her.

May made to stand – she wasn’t about to lose Em to the ocean again – but Welkin’s firm grip held her in place. From their hand radiated a calming warmth that wrapped around her pounding heart and lulled her into passivity.

“Just let her go,” Welkin said softly, guiding her to sit on the now-empty couch. “Everything will be fine.”

A drowsy sensation crept along the edges of May’s mind.

“But, I want to help her.” Her words came out slowly.

Welkin smiled at her kindly. “You already are. She trusts you, after all. And I would not say it if it were not true.” Those long, warm fingers pushed May’s hair from her face. Her eyes grew heavy. “Can you keep a secret, May?”

“Mhmm,” she replied weakly.

“I’m so tired of hiding and I’m tired of being alone. I just want to live my own life with someone who understands me.”

Outwardly, the only sign that May understood was the quickening of her breath. Inside, her mind reeled with the horror of having her own secret wish – the same one she had whispered up at the night sky for years until Em had told her someone was probably listening – being recited back to her verbatim. She was mortified.  

“You want the same thing,” Welkin whispered as they clasped her face gently between their palms.

May pushed her mind through the encroaching cloud of sleep. “We do?”

Welkin leaned close, their forehead pressing into May’s. Her vision flared white as the Star began to glow.

“Why do you think I brought her to you?”

Before she could answer, May’s mind gave way to the weight of fatigue. She fell into a deep sleep.

[Read Chapter 13]

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“Can you keep a secret, May?” – The Star and the Ocean, Chapter Twelve


"Do you know who I am?" - The Star and the Ocean, Chapter Eleven

The Star and the Ocean – Chapter Eleven

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The Star and the Ocean underwent structural revisions in September 2016. This particular chapter can now be found as the new chapters 21 and 22. I highly encourage you to read from these new chapters instead!

Chapter Eleven – It would seem we have much to discuss

May woke up to darkness. Groping blindly around the bed, she wasn’t surprised when she came up empty handed. It had only been a handful of nights since she started sharing her bed with Em, but already the feeling of being alone was enough to rouse her from a deep sleep.

This wasn’t the first time she had awoken unexpectedly to find the space beside her empty. When it happened a couple of nights ago, she had made her way gingerly through the night and out onto the deck where she found Em hovering peacefully, staring up at the night’s sky.

Em had apologized for waking her.

“I know you can’t feel it,” she said. “But the Stars are sending out such good vibes tonight. It’s like the feeling you get when you listen to your favorite song.”

That night, when Em had extended her hand, May swallowed her fear of heights and took it. With her arms wrapped tightly around Em’s shoulders, May experienced the closest thing to weightlessness. Suspended between the ocean and the stars, with the gentle swirling of displaced air rustling around her, she imagined she was without a body – just a mind, completely at peace and seamlessly a part of the universe around her.

Remembering how it felt – and how romantic it had been to share a long, slow kiss with Em while they drifted untethered in the night air – May smiled and slid out of bed. Perhaps tonight would bring more of the same.

The night was still and calm. An oppressive heat pressed down, signalling the arrival of summer on the island. May stepped through the sliding doors and out onto the deck, hoping for even a hint of a cool breeze rolling in off the ocean.

If Em was outside, she wasn’t hovering like last time. The only light on the beach came from the stars and the moon in its last quarter. It wasn’t much to go on, but as May scanned the shoreline, she caught Em’s silhouette framed in the meager light down by the water.

She must have been too warm, May thought, watching Em in silence.

The last thing May wanted to do was disturb the moment. Smiling, she was struck by how content she was, sharing both this moment and her days with someone she found so enchanting. For the first time in years, she felt lucky.

Out on the shore, Em stood very still. Arms at her sides, she stared out across the ocean as the surf broke at her bare feet.

May had just made up her mind to head down and join her when Em moved, slow at first, shoulders rising and falling in deep breaths. She took one step forward into the water, then another. May noticed how unsteady she looked. Before May could call out, Em scrambled forward, pitching herself wildly into the ocean.

“Em? What are you doing?” May yelled, taken aback by the violence in Em’s motion. She didn’t look like someone out for a casual midnight swim. May fumbled her way down the stairs and across the sand, continuing to call out to Em.

May heard Em crying out over the sound of the waves as they crashed over her. The words were unclear but her voice was heavy with anguish.

May’s heart dropped – she didn’t know what was happening but she knew what it looked like.

“Em!” May screamed desperately, hoping to snap Em out of whatever delirious spell dragged her out into the waves. “What are you doing? Come back!”

Em wasn’t even trying to stay afloat as the water beat down over her. Without pausing, May threw herself in, swimming against the tide. Tiny as she was, island life made a good swimmer out of May. She reached Em in a matter of moments.

As May tried to wrap her arm around a flailing and floundering Em, the frantic woman kicked and reached forward, trying to drag herself below the surface. It took some struggle, but at last May had a decent grip and, in a surge of adrenaline-induced strength, she hauled Em back to shore and onto the sand.

“What are you doing?” May shouted, throwing herself on top of Em to keep her pinned. Breathless and exhausted as they both were, Em still put up a fight, mindlessly thrashing and sobbing unintelligibly. “Please, just stop and talk to me. Tell me what’s wrong!”

The sky filled with a bright moving light. May ducked low over Em as a shrill whistling shot past them, erupting in a blinding flash on the sand.

“No,” Em groaned, her first coherent words since the ordeal had begun. “Not now. Go away! Leave me alone!”

Startled and confused, May crouched protectively over Em, watching breathlessly as the light swirled and manifested itself in a human-like figure. The brightness receded inward leaving behind the form of a person draped in a traveling cloak, glowing dimly with residual light.

May didn’t need to ask. She knew who it was.

Without a word, the figure stepped forward, reaching out a thin-fingered hand to gently ease May back. So resigned was she to her own futile efforts, May wasn’t surprised when she felt herself lifted upward, as if she had been picked up around her middle, and placed softly one pace to her right.

The figure knelt next to Em and, despite her growling protests, placed their hand along her cheek.

“That’s enough.” They spoke in a lilting voice. “It’s time to rest.” With an almost imperceptible transfer of light from their palm to her face, Em’s eyes rolled back in sleep.

Only the rolling of the ocean filled the space between May and the figure. She was afraid to draw attention to herself. May watched the figure gaze sadly down at Em, fingers twitching just above her face and hair as if they couldn’t quite will themself to touch her again.

“You were doing so well,” they muttered.

A pair of heavy-lidded golden eyes slid up to meet May’s. Her breath caught in her throat.

“Do you know who I am?” the figure asked quietly in a melodic voice that made May shiver.

“I think so,” she replied, a tremble in her words. “But I don’t know what to call you.”

The figure considered this for a moment before nodding slowly. “Your human tongue can’t pronounce my true name, but Astrid called me Welkin. It’s withstood the years. You may call me the same.”

May cocked her head, “Who is Astrid?”

Welkin looked back down at Em, their brow furrowing ever so slightly.

“Her birth mother.”

May’s assumption had been correct. Welkin: the Star who had fallen for a human. The Star who had helped bring Em into the world.

She glanced from Em to the Star and back again, concern replacing awe. “Is she going to be okay?”

“She will be,” they replied, fingers tracing lightly through Em’s wet hair and pushing a few stray tresses from her face. “Do not worry; this will pass. She has been steadier since you came along.”

May’s eyes narrowed skeptically; she had no idea what Welkin was talking about. Crawling closer, she took Em’s hand up in hers and held it tightly. She couldn’t begin to compare her feelings for Em to the parental bond Welkin had claim to, but she also wasn’t about to accept the Star’s vague half-answers.

“What do you mean?” she asked as firmly as she could muster.

Welkin tugged the cloak away from their face, revealing gently swooping lines and sharp angles. A long narrow face was home to soulful eyes, with a thin pointed nose and a mouth pulled into a tight crease. A pair of dark markings etched from their eyes and down their face. Every one of their features were tinged with gold. Androgynous and beautiful, Welkin left May momentarily dazzled.

“She may not be the same person she used to be, but the memories are still there, simmering below the surface,” Welkin explained matter-of-factly. “Sometimes they stir, although it happens less the more she settles into this new life. I only wish it weren’t so upsetting to her. We’re learning as we go. Giving the dead a second chance at life is hardly a perfect science.”

Blood thundered through May’s ears. She felt like she was about to fall, dizzy with dread.

“I don’t understand,” she whispered in a panic.

Welkin’s gaze filled with uncertainty.

“What has she told you?”

May searched her memories frantically, trying to remember anything Em might have told her that lined up with the confusing things Welkin said.

“She said you were friends with her mother,” May replied, speaking fast. “Her mother was sick and wished for a baby and you helped her. She told me she’s half Star and that’s why she can do the things she does. She says she…”

There was something sympathetic in Welkin’s eyes that made her trail off. May realized then they hadn’t been dismissive with her – May was simply in the dark.

“Ah, so she hasn’t told you everything afterall,” The Star’s voice was hushed, their gaze downcast. “Well, come along then. It would seem we have much to discuss.”

May sat, rooted and numb as Welkin gathered Em’s body into their arms, standing effortlessly to make their way back to the tree house. She watched them leave – almost considered staying right where she was – until an involuntary shudder shook her back to mindfulness.

Weakly, May dragged herself to her feet and followed the Star as they carried the woman she thought she knew back into the house.

[Read Chapter 12]

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"Do you know who I am?" - The Star and the Ocean, Chapter Eleven

“Do you know who I am?” – The Star and the Ocean, Chapter Eleven

The Star and the Ocean – Chapter Nine

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The Star and the Ocean underwent structural revisions in September 2016. This particular chapter can now be found as the new chapter 18. I highly encourage you to read from the new chapter instead!

Chapter Nine – Pleasantly surprised

May fidgeted with the hems of her sleeves. Casting anxious glances, she tried to avoid making eye contact with anyone as she took in the crowd.

It had been years since she had gone to one of the theater’s after-parties on the beach. She wondered what people would say when they saw her there, with Em in tow no less.

When the two arrived on the beach, Lenaia – ever the hostess – got them both started with a beverage from a shanty-style beach bar before disappearing into the crowd to socialize.

May had been right about one thing: her peers were far more interested in Em than they were apprehensive.

The pair settled next to one of the bonfires dotting the shoreline. While people gave May plenty of space, curious strangers chatted with Em, who affably answered the same questions about where she was from and why she was in Omaea again and again.

May was relieved no one asked Em about her – why they were there together or how the two knew one another – even if it was clear they were whispering about it among themselves. They would rather indulge in the novelty of Em without letting the shadow of May’s involvement obscure the shiny newness of this mainland stanger.

The people of Omaea may have found themselves at a point where they tolerated May’s presence, but they clearly weren’t ready to forget.

For her part, Em was either enjoying being the centre of attention or aware enough not to bring May up on her own.

Em had learned certain subjects were off-limits with May. Who were her friends? Why did she live alone so far from town? Each time Em ventured to ask, May shot the conversation down.

“It’s complicated,” she had responded when Em asked why May’s family had been so upset that morning. She had winced in such a way that told Em it was better not to push. May had been very gracious with her hospitality – Em figured the least she could do in return was respect her privacy.

A band from the theatre began playing and, between flaming torches and colourful paper lanterns, people danced. As May finished off her drink, Em stood.

“C’mon,” she said, reaching a hand down to May. “Let’s have some fun.”

Thrilled as she was at the prospect of dancing with Em, May kept a respectful distance. She felt people watching them and didn’t want to give more ammunition for gossip than they had just by being there.

Still, she couldn’t pretend she wasn’t having a good time

A second round of drinks later found May laughing loudly at Em, who was enjoying herself rather enthusiastically, dancing to every song the band played.

“Where were these moves when I was trying to teach you to dance?” May shouted over the music.

“You’re giving me way too much credit,” Em grinned, swinging her hips with exaggerated gusto. “I’m just twitching to the beat!”

The rest of the party unfolded in much the same way. They drank and they danced, drifting closer and closer as the night wore on. They laughed with people as if there was absolutely nothing uncomfortable about them being there, until finally it came time to wave goodbye and begin the long stagger back to the treehouse.

At some point along the beach, well away from the lights and sounds of the party, May sang a purposefully exaggerated rendition of a song someone had sang on stage. Em doubled over in laughter.

“Stop!” She wheezed, clutching at her sides, “I have to pee and if you make me wet myself I swear I’ll throw you in the water!”

May howled, drawing in deep, gasping breaths. “You wouldn’t dare,” she replied, wiping tears from the corners of her eyes. She casually linked arms with Em, half because her inhibitions were low and half because she was a little wobbly on her feet.

“Don’t tempt me, woman.”

May shoved her shoulder into Em with just enough force to make them both teeter slightly.

“That’s it,” Em cried, ducking down to heave May, startled but cackling, over her shoulder with surprising, otherworldly strength. “In you go!”

“Em!” May shrieked, trying to squirm her way to freedom. “Em, NO! Don’t you dare!”

After letting her struggle for a moment longer, Em set May down on the edge of the surf. May, wasting no time while Em’s guard was down, lunged back after her. They wrestled, trying to shove each other into the water until they wore themselves out.

May and Em fell into each other, giggling and breathless, their limbs still locked defensively. The night was warm and it made the heat in their closeness smolder. Their eyes met. The moment seemed to hang.

Half drunk and dizzy at the proximity between them, May saw her chance. Casting caution and fear of consequence aside, she took it.

Pressing her body tightly against Em’s, May leaned in and kissed her – hard. She felt greedy and selfish, savouring the heat trapped between them, knowing she only had one shot at this.

Em pulled back with a small gasp. May fumbled after her, confidence washing away with the tide.

“I’m sorry,” she apologized. The weight of what she had done had an instantly sobering effect. “I just-”

Em gazed back with such an indecipherable look, May lost track of what she was saying.

In a swift and wordless motion, Em took May by the waist, pulling her in roughly and kissing her back. It started slow and deep but May, elated, moved into it. Again and again their lips met, each kiss growing with desperation.

They consumed each other feverishly. Em pressed a firm hand into the small of May’s back, pinning the small body against her own while May clutched and pulled at whatever part of Em she could get her hands on.

At last they broke away, panting and tangled tightly in each other’s arms. For a moment they simply took each other in, lips hovering as close as they could without touching.

“This isn’t how I thought you’d react,” May admitted in a breathless whisper.

Em searched May’s face questioningly. “Are you disappointed?”

“No. Just surprised.” May smiled, bringing her face in close so her lips grazed Em’s cheek while she spoke. “Pleasantly surprised.”

Minutes later the pair crashed into the treehouse. May hardly had a chance to work the lock before Em was upon her, pushing her through the door and kicking it closed behind them.

They kissed each other fiercely. May draped her arms around Em’s neck, hands tangling in the long, silvery strands. Em steered her toward the couch and pushed her onto her back before crawling to kneel between her legs.

All May could hear was the sound of her own heart thundering in her ears.

This was actually happening.

A coy grin crept across Em’s face as she grasped May’s hips and dragged her closer. May gasped, Em’s boldness taking her by surprise.

Hungrily, Em kissed her way down May’s neck, tasting the soft skin of her throat as she went. She roamed a hand freely down the side of May’s body, her fingers teasing a trail along the hem of her shirt.

Caught up in the spark she felt when her hands touched May, in the excitement of what they were doing, Em didn’t notice they were no longer in sync. Somewhere in the moment, May stopped moving.

“May,” Em whispered between kisses. “May, is this okay?”

When May didn’t reply, Em stopped, looking up in alarm.

Even in the moonlight, Em could see the glassy sheen of tears in May’s eyes, the quiver of her lip. The magic of the moment vanished like a dream at sunrise. May let out a soft sob.

“I’m sorry,” she wept, face ashen with distress. “I can’t.”

[Read Chapter Ten]

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“This isn’t how I thought you’d react.” – The Star and the Ocean, Chapter 9

"I usually dance alone." - The Star and the Ocean, Chapter Eight | Maggie Derrick

The Star and the Ocean – Chapter Eight

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The Star and the Ocean underwent structural revisions in September 2016. This particular chapter can now be found as the new chapters 16 and 17. I highly encourage you to read from these new chapters instead!

Chapter Eight – I don’t think she deserved it

May did her best to prepare Em for the staring.

“We don’t get many visitors, let alone mainlanders,” she explained as the two of them made their way to Omaea,. “They’re going to stare.”

People did stare. Some even glowered – and whisper and pointed when they thought the girls weren’t looking. Em watched them with a knot in her stomach.

“How can they tell I’m from the mainland?” she whispered to May without looking away from streets and people around them.

May motioned to the milk-white skin of Em’s bare arm. “Something tells me you stand out wherever you go. And even if you didn’t, this is a small community. When there aren’t many people coming or going, it’s easy to spot a new face.”

“But the people here look like they come from all over the place.”

The way May spoke about the town of Omea, with its small population, conservative traditions, and resistance to outside influence, Em envisioned the locals as a homogeneous group. She hadn’t expected the diversity in skin tone and accents milling around her.

May gave a small wave to a merchant she knew as he tended to some sidewalk produce stands. “I already told you; things used to be different here.”

May had spent plenty of time telling Em about the island of Hoku and her hometown of Omaea. Hoku was populated by different groups of people that had landed there seeking respite and refuge over the course of many centuries. For a long time it had been a safe haven of sorts, and its international reputation was one of peace and order.

Despite never being big enough or interested in hosting a tourist economy like some other island towns, Omaea had always been receptive to visitors. That is, until a group of aggressive mainlanders terrorized their way across the island. What they had been looking for differed depending on who told the story, but there was one consistent detail: Those people relentlessly harassed local families and looted businesses while they hunted for treasure unknown.

For reasons no one understood, the group focused much of its violence on Omea. In its wake, the town collectively closed itself off for years until it eventually gained a reputation for being inhospitable to strangers.

“We’re more bark than bite,” May admitted with a shrug. “It’s not like anyone has ever been particularly awful to the backpackers, not even when they’re mainlanders. Most people my age and younger don’t even remember what happened, so we’re more curious than anything. If you can handle the gawking, I’m sure you’ll be fine.”

Em kept this in mind as she homed in on a single seat in the far back of the theater when they arrived.

May smiled as she watched Em settle in.

“I guess I should go get ready,” she said. “I’ll see you after-”

“Wait!” Em lurched forward as May turned to leave, grabbing her by the wrist. “You haven’t told anyone, right?”

May frowned, a little hurt she felt the need to ask. After confiding in her, Em begged May not to tell a soul about her secret. May had joked, saying no one believe her if she did, but Em insisted. This was serious – this was important – but she wouldn’t say why.

“Of course I haven’t,” May replied, placing a reassuring hand over Em’s and giving it a squeeze. “You said you felt like you can trust me, and you can. Your secret’s safe with me, I promise.”

May disappeared to get ready for the show. Em sank low into her seat. She hadn’t expected this first trip into town to stir up so much anxiety, but the staring and whispering made her jumpy.

They’re looking at you because they don’t know you, she reminded herself. No one knows who you are. You’re safe here.

The theater was unlike any Em had ever seen. Strings of lights and long, sheltering sheets of canvas draped between pillars lining either side of the outdoor venue. The stage was a large and elaborately decorated bandshell with a hodgepodge of small tables, lounges, and chairs packed onto the audience floor.

This was the place to be, it seemed; by the time the show started there was hardly an empty seat to be found.

The show itself was something of a variety showcase: single and group acts took turns bringing the stage to life with song, dance, and music. May had told Em she would perform three times, the first of which was a group performance she was filling in for (“The fourth girl broke her foot a week before the run,” May had explained. “I usually dance alone.”) Each member of the group wore a similar costume in bright, vibrant colors and the dance was lively.

Em enjoyed the swirling colors and quickly came to appreciate the unfamiliar but festive music. Pulled in by the audience’s enthusiastic participation, she clapped along with the song everyone else seemed to know by heart.

But it was May’s second time on stage that truly captured Em’s attention. A solo act, May had choreographed the performance herself. Dressed in flowing, gauzy skirts, her lithe limbs moved gracefully, translating the mournful instrumentals into a language anyone could understand. Em couldn’t venture a guess as to the style. She just knew it was beautiful. May was a dream in motion.

Enthralled as she was, Em couldn’t help be distracted by hushed murmuring. From her shady spot in the back she saw different pockets of men bend their heads in close to whisper. They grinned salaciously, trading remarks with their friends as they nodded toward the stage. It turned her stomach. Em saw the way their eyes feasted shamelessly on May’s long, bare legs, her thin frame shielded only by the shimmering fabric of her costume.

Em’s protective instincts flared up, coursing from somewhere deep inside her. The surface of her skin prickled as if receiving round after round of static shocks. She forced herself to stay seated, willing the fury, and the lack of control that came with it, to pass.

While she managed to avoid  making a scene, Em was still seething many acts later. Fixated on glaring at one group of half-drunk young men, she didn’t see someone trying to get her attention until they stepped into her line of view.

Between acts, a small contingent of smartly dressed hosts and hostesses roamed the floor, taking orders and dropping off drinks to people in the audience. Em watched them work, wishing she had cash on hand to order something. A strong drink seemed like just the thing to soothe her nerves. When the hostess offered her a glass full to its brim, Em resisted the urge to snatch it up.

“Sorry, I think that’s for someone else.”

“Nope,” the hostess replied with a grin. “May asked me to make sure you were being taken care of.”

Em was surprised but didn’t argue. Taking the glass tentatively, she gave the colorless drink a sniff – whatever it was, it smelled strong. “If the lady insists.”

“She does,” the hostess grinned. “I’m Lenaia, by the way. Let’s get you a better seat.”

Em opened her mouth to protest but Lenaia had already turned on her heel, sashaying toward the stage. Em tossed back an ample swig of her drink before hurrying to catch up.

“Are you performing tonight too?” Em asked, trying to friendly.

“Me?” Lenaia laughed. “Not a chance. My uncle runs the theatre company. I’m a server at a restaurant in town, so when he’s running a show I like to help him out on the floor. It’s really just an excuse to hang out with some friends from one of the bands backstage between acts but it makes him happy.”

Em raised an eyebrow. “You hang out with them when you’re working?”

“Hey, I earn my breaks,” she replied, feigning offense, but offsetting it with a wink.

Lenaia’s idea of a “better seat” turned out to be stage left. From the shadows of the velvet curtains, Em had a perfect view of the stage without the distraction of an audience.

Hovering at Em’s shoulder, Lenaia lingered. “So, you’re a friend of May’s?”

Em hadn’t given much thought to the nature of her relationship with May before now. They just… were.

“Sure,” she replied casually, keeping her gaze locked across the stage. She didn’t need to look at Lenaia to know she was staring intently.

“Good,” Lenaia broke at last, joining Em in gazing beyond the curtains. “She’s a nice girl. People still say awful things but I don’t think she deserves it.”

Em glanced at her quickly, a shadow blending in with the darkness backstage. “What do you mean?”

Lenaia hesitated before answering.

“You’ll probably hear some rumours if you stick around long enough. But they’re not true.”

As if on cue, May stepped out onto stage and struck a pose. The spotlight was lit. Em beheld her in a single breathless moment: all black lace and skin, glitter and red lips. Rose gold waves were pinned up and an ornate mask framed dark blue eyes. Moments before the music started, May turned a heavy-lidded gaze in Em’s direction and smiled.

It was May as Em had never seen her before. She was electric.

Em wasn’t blind; she had always known May was cute. But this – this was something else altogether. As May drew her eyes away, the memory of every fleeting touch and lingering gaze came rushing back to Em in an overwhelming instant.

Blind she was not, but oblivious?

Not anymore.

Lenaia, watched Em gape while she grinned knowingly. “Most of the rumors aren’t, anyway.”


After the show, Em loitered backstage near a large cork board plastered with layers of photos. The collection seemed to be a long-standing tradition; an instant film camera hung by its wrist strap from a tack on the board, ready to capture spontaneous memories of life behind the theater’s velvet curtain.

Em hunted until she found one of May. Between the faded colors and May’s long hair, Em figured the photo was fairly dated. In it, May beamed at the camera, grinning cheek-to-cheek with another equally happy girl with dark features and a brilliant smile. Both were dressed in similar sparkling dance costumes.

Em leaned in to take a better look and was startled by a tap on the shoulder. May smiled at her when she turned, almost as widely as she had in her photo.

“Well? What did you think?”

For a split second, Em found the disconnect between the alluring character May played on stage and the sweet, unassuming person standing before her to be jarring. Gone were the shimmering costumes and dark make-up; May was herself again, skin covered by leggings and long loose sleeves. Her smile was anxious as she waited to hear Em’s verdict.

She was the same and yet, all at once, somehow different. It hadn’t just been the form-fitting outfits or the seductive glance – Em had glimpsed another side of May through the passion she poured into her craft. Em was intrigued. She wondered if she had ever really seen May before this moment.

The unflinching confidence she had shown onstage was like a secret May kept hidden beneath layers of quiet and awkwardness. Now that Em had seen it, all she wanted to do was drag it out into the daylight. Even in the afterglow of her performance, May shone with infectious happiness and excitement. Em wanted to find a way to bask in that light a little longer – to see May smile like she had on that stage again. She wanted May to smile at her that way.

“You were wonderful!” Em exclaimed. Without thinking, she reached out as if to… What? Embrace her? She paused awkwardly before pulling her arms back to her sides and cramming her hands into her pockets.

May flushed and bobbed a tiny curtsey. “Thank you!”

“She was wonderful, wasn’t she?” Lenaia materialized unexpectedly beside them both, placing a firm hand on each of their shoulders. “Now hurry up or you’re going to miss the rest of the crew.”

Em and May exchanged a bewildered look.

“Where are we hurrying to?” Em asked.

“We’re going dancing, my pale friend.” Lenaia patted her on the cheek. She pointed to May, “You promised you’d come out next time. Well, welcome to next time. I don’t want to hear any excuses!”

Before either one could say a word, she whirled away to rally more party-goers,

“I vaguely remember making that promise,” May cringed apologetically.

Em lit up. “Then we’d better hurry!”

[Read Chapter 9]

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"Did you hear that?" - The Star and the Ocean, Chapter Seven

The Star and the Ocean – Chapter Seven

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The Star and the Ocean underwent structural revisions in September 2016. This particular chapter can now be found as the new chapters 14 and 15. I highly encourage you to read from these new chapters instead!

Chapter Seven – They didn’t even give you a chance


The following Wednesday, May was at Ora’s house and completely distracted.

“May, are you listening to me?”

She wasn’t.

May was going back and forth, trying to decide whether or not she should have turned down Em’s offer to feel what it was like to float. She had a small fear of heights (“How can that be?” Em had laughed. “You live in a tree!”) and the idea of being held aloft by a hovering half-human hadn’t struck her as a good idea at the time, but now she was regretting saying no.

I’ll bet she’d let me try again if I asked, May thought.


After two failed attempts at getting her sister’s attention, Ora resorted to raising her voice, breaking May from her reverie.

May gave her head a shake with a small sound of surprise. “I’m sorry, what were you saying? I was miles away.”

“Apparently!” Ora laughed but May was all too familiar with the many ways her sister masked annoyance. From the breakfast table, Omi looked up to watch their exchange; he clearly recognized it too. “I asked if you were still planning on coming to dinner on Saturday. We missed you last weekend.”

May tensed. She and her siblings usually gathered at the family home for dinner with their parents every weekend. The tradition had started when Ora – the eldest of the three – first moved out. It was a rare thing to miss it, and the fact that she was now going to have to cancel two in a row made May’s insides squirm.

“I don’t know,” she cringed, unable to look Ora in the eyes as she lied. “The show is taking up more time than I was expecting. They might call me in early for rehearsals again.”

May hated lying to her sister, but what else could she do? She didn’t want to leave Em alone more than she already had to, and she couldn’t tell anyone about her either; at least not yet. Many people in Omaea were still wary about mainlanders. If her family knew May had opened her home to some unknown woman? She shuddered just thinking about it.

The first day after Em’s confession had been a tense one. Still, May had been willing to try and understand. When she removed Star-powered magic from the equation, Em was still the charming stranger May found herself so inexplicably drawn to. That certainly made it easier to suspend her disbelief.

Not that it was fair to call either of them strangers now. Opening up to May brought out a whole new side of Em – a side that was more confident and talkative than before. After a brief warming period, she won May over with her eagerness to share anything and everything.

Many of the days following Em’s big reveal involved sharing from both sides. Em had watched with genuine admiration as May showed her the conveyance system she had developed for harvesting and moving fresh water around her tree-top home. She had been just as impressed when May offhandedly mentioned that she knew how to surf.

“That is so cool,” Em had marvelled. “You’re so damn talented, May!”

“No, I’m not,” May demurred, acting humble despite being thoroughly flattered. “This is an island; you either learn to live with water or you drown.”

For her part, Em demonstrated the scope of her otherworldly abilities with the zeal of a stage performer.

“What other magic tricks can you do?” May had asked, watching in awe as Em twisted gracefully mid-air for what had to be the dozenth time. It was a mesmerizing thing to behold: almost like dancing.

Em pulled a face. “Calling it magic makes me sound like some kind of hokey birthday party magician.”

“What do you call it then?” May laughed, waving a hand in the space beneath Em’s feet as she hovered.

Em tapped the top of May’s head with her toes before gently bringing herself back down to the ground. “I call it an ability. There’s nothing mystical about it as far as I’m concerned – I’m just able to manipulate the energy around me in a way that other people can’t.”

“What does that even mean?” May cocked her head with curiosity. She had never heard of such a thing before.

“I’m not sure how to explain it,” Em admitted with a shrug. “All I know is, I experience the world differently than you. There is energy everywhere – everything has it. I feel it very clearly and I can interact with it in the same way.”

“Well, aren’t you special,” May teased.

“I know, right?” Em grinned.

Without saying any more, she had brought her hands together until a blue flash of glowing light ignited between her palms. She let it expand before tossing it into the air. An unseen shockwave fired after it, forcing the orb to explode into a fireworks-esque display. May had watched in delight as the residual energy gradually dispersed back into the atmosphere like stars flickering out at daybreak.

And so went their days together. Any waking moment May wasn’t taking care of Omi or dancing, she spent with Em. May tried teaching Em to dance (Em, as it turned out, was woefully bereft of any sense of rhythm – a fact they both found incredibly entertaining) and Em taught May how to throw a punch (“The key is to use your shoulder,” she instructed, holding up a couch cushion for May to practice on. “That’s where the power comes from.”)

They cooked meals, swam in the ocean, and talked. For hours, well into the night, the two would talk about anything and everything. They were an odd pair, but each truly enjoyed the time they spent together.

The following Saturday, the day of May’s second cancelled family dinner, the two finished cleaning up from a late breakfast before settling onto the couch to watch a movie.

The day was overcast and gloomy; perfect for holing up indoors. At Em’s suggestion, May chose one of her favorite old black and white films where the actors both sang and danced. May hesitated; in the wake of Em’s personal revelation, she had become self-conscious of her more mundane interests.

But Em insisted.

“I’m sure they’re considered classics for a reason,” she concluded, filling a bowl full of berries leftover from their morning meal.

They sat close together on the couch. May tried not to burst with nervous excitement as they shared a blanket draped across both their laps.

A dramatic meltdown from the film’s leading lady made Em snort.

“Stop!” May laughed. Not for the first time, she nudged at Em playfully with her elbow.

“Oh, c’mon,” Em grinned, not looking away from the screen. “It’s meant to be funny! I’m supposed to laugh.”

May gave her an exasperated look, but couldn’t suppress her smile.

“Okay, give me another,” Em said after a moment.

May chose a plump berry from the bowl and flipped it skyward. Em skillfully caught the flung fruit in her mouth and went back to watching the movie as if nothing had happened, making May giggle.

Thoroughly satisfied with herself (she’d had May tossing her berries since the movie started) Em slumped comfortably deeper into the soft couch. Perhaps it was unintentional, but her shoulder settled gently into May’s.

A kaleidoscope of butterflies collided against the ceiling of May’s stomach. She tried her best not to react. What would happen if she relaxed back into the cushions too, just enough to bring them a little closer together? Would it be too obvious? She’d have to move slowly; make it look natural…

Just as she steeled the courage to make her move, Em sat up with a jolt.

“What is it?” May asked, flustered.

“Did you hear that?” Em cocked her head, straining to hear over the swelling movie soundtrack.

May reached for the remote and hit the mute button. The quiet revealed the sound of many pairs of feet stomping up the spiral staircase.

“Oh, no,” she gasped.

As if in reply, a deep voice boomed cheerfully from the other side of the door.

“Oh, Maayyyybe!” it called, loud despite being muffled by the door. “If you’re not going to have dinner with us, then we’re going to have lunch with you!”

The door swung open to reveal a large man, looking as upbeat as he sounded. His long, sea-swept hair was held back by a bandana and he carried a paper bag filled to bursting with groceries in the crook of one thick, bronzed arm.

His dark, shining eyes fell on May and Em. The smile slid from his face.

May leaped up, sending the bowl clattering to the floor, berries skittering in every direction.

“Kai!” A woman’s voice sounded from behind the stunned man in the doorway. “Don’t just stand there! Let us in!”

May groaned, dragging her hands through her hair in dismay. Em shifted a puzzled stare between the two as more people piled into the small entry.

Two women – one old, the other younger – were followed by a man carrying a young boy. The chattering group was brought up by a stout older man who shepherded them all inside.

“Don’t leave me out here,” he barked. “The rain is coming.”

One by one they fell silent at the sight of May and Em. For a moment the world stopped; no one said a word. Then, as if on cue, the clouds split open, dropping the first of many fat raindrops loudly onto the treehouse roof.

“Who -” the elder woman gasped, only to be cut off by a squeal from the little boy. He was the only person in the room who seemed happy to be there.


Taking advantage of his father’s slack-jawed surprise, the boy wriggled down to the floor and darted to May, wrapping her knees in a tight hug.

Sinking down to the the boy’s level, May forced an unsteady smile across her face, trying to shake off the mortification. “Hello, Omi.”

“Oh,” Em whispered, comprehension washing over her.

The younger of the two women rushed down from the doorway and snatched the boy back just as May stood with him in her arms.

“What is going on?” She hissed with wide-eyed fury.

May sighed.

“Everyone, this is Em,” she croaked.

Glancing back at Em over her shoulder, May smiled weakly. “Em, this is my family.”


“What in the world were you thinking?” May’s mother wagged an accusatory finger in her daughter’s face. Small but mighty, she was a matriarch not to be trifled with even on the best of days.

May winced, shrinking back from her mother’s rage. This was exactly what she had been worried about; the very reason she had kept Em a secret.

“She was sick, mama,” May lied. “She got lost while she was backpacking around the island and she needed help. What was I supposed to do?”

Ora, who had been leaning back against the counter with her arms crossed, scoffed loudly.

“Help her, sure. But did you need to let her live with you?” Ora stalked forward, stooping down so as to force her sister to look her in the eyes. “Do you have any idea what this looks like?”

May flushed a deep and violent crimson.

“That’s not what this is,” she shot back in a harsh whisper, desperate to lower the volume of the conversation. She glanced miserably toward the deck where Em sat alone in the hammock, exiled by May’s family so that they could all speak privately.

Yes, this was exactly what she had been hoping to avoid.

Her father sighed.

“Then what is it, May?” he asked.

Her heart clenched at the disappointment in his voice. She hated the look that strained his face whenever she let him down. She could only shrug in response lest her voice give away her facade of indifference.

“You have come so far, Maybe,” her mother said, stern but steady. “And we have been trying so hard to make things easier for you. But this?” – she gestured across the kitchen and toward the deck – “This isn’t going to help.”

May took a deep breath, trying to remain calm. She may have hated disappointing her family, but something about being interrogated like this struck a nerve. After four years of being on her best behaviour, she was tired of the constant scrutiny.

This isn’t fair, her mind burned furiously. I am not a bad person.

Stalling, May evaded the accusatory stares of her parents and sister by watching as her brother, Kai, edged closer to the sliding doors. In hushed tones, he started a conversation with Em, and she engaged him with a genuine smile.

“I’m not just going to turn away someone who needs help,” May huffed, crossing her arms.

Her mother’s eyes narrowed ominously.

“Well, she looks like she’s feeling better to me.”

“I don’t know,” commented May’s brother-in-law, Grey, as he hopped up the few short steps into the kitchen. Omi squirmed in his arms, on the verge of a tantrum. “She’s awfully pale, don’t you think? What’s wrong with her?”

“Kai!” their mother shouted, making everyone jump. “Time to go.”

May watched as her brother shot Em an apologetic look before moving toward the door, scooping up the bag of groceries as he went.

With little else said, May’s family left just as quickly as they arrived. She stood still and tightly drawn well after the door closed and the sound of Kai’s loud junker of a van dissipated down the beach. She was numb from the onslaught of emotion. Embarrassment, anger and defiance mixed, lingering somewhere just below the surface.

“May?” Em called gently, climbing the steps from the living room to the kitchen. “Is everything okay?”

May shook her head, rubbing her eyes hard.

“I’m so sorry,” she replied weakly. “I promise they’re good people. That was so…” She trailed off, unsure how to explain away her family’s behavior.

“It’s okay,” Em smiled, trying to lighten the mood with a playful swing at May’s arm. “I’m sure they’re just worried I’m an escaped convict or something.”

“No.” May couldn’t even bring herself to humor Em’s joke. “That’s not it. Besides, they treated me like a child and they didn’t even give you a chance.”

For a moment, neither spoke. Em bit her lip, watching nervously as May took a series of deep, calming breaths.

“Is there something I can do?” Em asked quietly.

May blinked as a thought crossed her mind. She didn’t have much to lose now. The damage was done and she found herself past the point of caring.

She looked to Em and smiled.

“Yes, actually. Do you want to come to my show tonight?”

[Read Chapter Eight]

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"Did you hear that?" - The Star and the Ocean, Chapter Seven

“Did you hear that?” – The Star and the Ocean, Chapter Seven

"I'm going to tell you a story." - The Star and the Ocean, Chapter Six | Em tells May what she really is

The Star and the Ocean – Chapter Six

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The Star and the Ocean underwent structural revisions in September 2016. This particular chapter can now be found as the new chapters 12 and 13 . I highly encourage you to read from these new chapters instead!

Chapter Six – I felt like you might understand

It took a moment for May to realize Em was absolutely serious.

“Em,” she said, voice stern. “This isn’t funny.”

“I’m not trying to be funny,” Em was exasperated. “You wanted to know what I am, right? I’m trying to tell you.”

“A Star, Em?” The octave of May’s voice was growing steadily higher. “I thought you were going to say your were a witch or possessed or something!”

Em gaped. “And that would have been easier to believe?”

“I don’t know!” May was mentally hovering somewhere between panicked and furious.

Rubbing her hands down her face, Em groaned loudly. “I know it sounds crazy but I wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true.”

Against all logic, there was something inside of May that believed her.


“May, I’m trying really hard to be honest with you. Please, just hear me out.”

Anxiously, May chewed at the edge of her thumbnail as she considered her options.

“Fine.” She huffed at last, dropping to take a seat in the sand.

Em pursed her lips and considered her next steps carefully. She glanced at the pile of wood she had been collecting and got an idea.

“I’m going to tell you a story.” She crouched next to the fire pit. “But first, let me set the mood a little.”

Under May’s skeptical watch, Em hovered her hands over the wood pile. She concentrated silently, slowly bringing her hands closer together.

May wondered if she was imagining the heat emanating from the small space between Em’s palms when a spark flashed, taking to the dry driftwood hungrily. May let out a small yelp and quickly pulled her legs up to her chest.

“Sorry,” Em laughed. “I wasn’t trying to scare you. That trick’s a bit harder to control but, shit, it sure comes in handy when you’re backpacking.”

In stunned silence, May watched Em settle down on the other side of the fire. After a moment or two, a comforting warmth bathed her limbs and face. Despite her fear and confusion, May couldn’t help but relax a little.

“How did you do that?” she asked quietly.

“That might be easier to explain if I start at the beginning,” Em replied gently, not wanting to disrupt the waters now that May had calmed.

May shifted, gradually letting herself get comfortable. When she was ready, she nodded. Em began.

“Once upon a time there was a little girl.”

“Really?” May interrupted, her brow furrowed. “‘Once upon a time’? That’s what you’re going with?”

Em’s eyes narrowed. “I thought you wanted to hear this.”

May threw her hands up in mock surrender. “I’m sorry, please continue.”

“Right,” Em grumbled. “This little girl. She was a sweet kid but she had a bad heart. Since the day she was born, she had been sick. People weren’t sure if she would get to grow up, that’s how bad it was.”

May frowned. “Didn’t you say your mom had been sick?”

“Are you going to let me tell the story or what?” Em asked.

May winced. “Sorry, I’ll stop.”

“Transposition of the great arteries.” Em barrelled onward, ignoring the apology. “It’s when the arteries that bring blood to and from the heart are backwards. She had to have surgery right after she was born. Usually kids with this condition have a pretty decent chance of living a long life but things are never really normal for them.”

She paused to give May a chance to add in a quip, but there was only silence so she continued.

“Being sick meant she couldn’t do most things kids get to do growing up. She was always meeting with doctors and had to take it easy because her heart was so weak. She spent a lot of time alone.”

Em paused for a moment to stare up at the sky. May wanted her to continue but was afraid to interrupt again. She could relate to a childhood spent mostly alone. She wanted to say so without making this about her.

“That’s a hard way to grow up,” she offered gently.

Em nodded, distracted. She brought her eyes back down to meet May’s, blinking to regain focus.

“Her grandmother liked to tell stories to keep her mind off things. When the girl was really young, her grandmother told her the legend of the Stars. It made the little girl think if the Stars could hear when people made wishes on them, then maybe they could hear her if she just talked to them instead. After that she would talk to them every single night before bed. It made her feel less lonely.”

“Is that true?” May asked. “About the wishes?”

“It’s true they can hear you,” Em said with a shrug. “But the part about granting wishes is just a human fantasy. I mean, they can, they just generally choose not to.”

May squirmed, remembering her own wish, cast to the stars the night before. “Why not?”

“Because they have everything planned out.” Em said this as if it was perfectly common knowledge.

She continued.

“As it turns out, she was right: someone was listening,” she said, words spilling out faster, as if she was just as enthralled with the twist in her own story. “One Star in particular had become fascinated with the girl. They listened to her stories every single night.”

“After years of listening to the girl talk and watching her grow up, the Star decided they had to meet. It was risky and the Star knew they shouldn’t, but they had made up their mind. After meeting, the two became close friends. The girl – at this point a young woman – would whisper her stories at night and, when the Star could get down to Earth, the two would spend time together. They were as inseparable as two beings living on two different planes of existence could be.”

At this, Em paused again, rubbing her hands together slowly and staring aimlessly at the fire for a moment before swallowing hard.

“Eventually, the woman was grown,” she continued without looking away from the fire. “To celebrate her coming of age, the Star gave her a gift. Even though they weren’t supposed to, the Star offered her a wish – anything she wanted, as long as it was just for her.”

May frowned. “But what about the plan?”

Em shook her head.

“That’s how much the Star cared for her; they kind of went rogue. I think they were probably hoping that she’d wish for health – or that she might at least be able to live a long life without fear.”

May was captivated. The flickering of the firelight and the soothing sound of Em’s voice lured her in, wrapping her in a blanket of comfort so that she had all but forgotten to be afraid. The Star, the woman – May wanted to know everything.

“What did she wish for instead?” she whispered softly, holding the sight of Em through the dancing flames until the other finally looked up and their eyes locked.

“She wished for a baby,” Em replied.

She let the answer hang between them, waiting for May to catch on.

It only took a heartbeat for what Em was implying to settle in.

“It was you!” she gasped. “You were the baby, weren’t you?”

Em just smiled in reply, a hint of sadness behind her eyes.

“Oh my gosh,” May babbled. “What happened to your mother?”

“The woman and her daughter had thirteen awesome years together. She made a great mom and raised her little girl to be feisty and independent.”

At this May couldn’t help but smile.

“But she was still sick. One of the complications of her condition were arrhythmias. Her heart wasn’t beating right. She died of a heart attack when she was thirty-two.”

Even though she had gone into it knowing that the story wasn’t going to end well, May was still shaken by the truth. “I’m so, so sorry.”

“Don’t be.” Em shrugged. “They both knew that it was a possibility. The woman made sure her daughter was as prepared as she could be.”

May knit her brows. “Why are you talking about yourself in the third person like that? You are talking about you and your mother, aren’t you?”

Again, Em shrugged, dropping her gaze to her hands which she was nervously twisting into knots.

“It’s in the past.” A vague answer.

May wanted to push her on it – Em had said she would tell her anything she wanted to know – but seeing Em so downtrodden made her lose her edge. She opted to drop it for now.

“What about the Star?” she tried instead. “Is this the ‘dad’ you were talking about last night?”

“Ah, the ol’ celestial baby-daddy.” Em laughed, her spirits improving slightly. “I said ‘dad’ because I wasn’t sure what else to call them, but that’s probably not the best way to describe our relationship.” She tapped at her lips thoughtfully. “They’re still around, sort of.”

May wasn’t quite sure how to talk about Em’s heavenly parent. “Do you think they know how you wound up here?”

“Oh, probably,” Em huffed, leaning back on her elbows and staring up into space. “But they’ve been conveniently difficult to get in touch with lately.” She yelled the last part skyward, as if hoping to get their attention.

“You’ve tried?” May wasn’t sure why this surprised her, but it did.

“Last night after you went to bed, again when I was out running and once more after you left for the day. Haven’t heard a damn thing.”

“Oh…” May wondered what trying to get in touch with a Star entailed.

The two were quiet then, minutes stretching out before them with only the crackling of the fire and the rushing of the waves to fill the silence. May absentmindedly patted at her cheeks, warm and rosy from the flames, as she mulled over everything Em had told her.

Did she believe her? It was all so fantastic and unreal – how could she possibly? But still, Em was right – how else was she supposed to explain what she had seen?

May glanced quickly toward Em and was surprised to see her staring back. A weak smile tugged at the corners of Em’s mouth.

“You must think I’m fucking crazy, don’t you?” There was a melancholy in Em’s voice that May hadn’t noticed before.

May didn’t answer right away. She tugged gently at one of her curls, staring off into nothing and trying to think of the right thing to say.

“No,” she answered at last. “I don’t think you’re crazy, I just…” She hesitated, forcing herself to look Em in the eyes. “Why did you decide to tell me all of this?”

“Because you asked?” Em offered. May shook her head.

“No, I’m serious,” she demanded as gently as she could.

“I don’t know, May.” Em threw her hands up in defeat. “I guess I just felt like I could trust you. Having to pretend to be normal is…” She paused, “It’s lonely when nobody really knows you.”

“Normal?” May was confused. “Why would you want to pretend to be normal when you’re…” She grasped for something to say, gesturing vaguely at Em, “When you’re so special.”

Em laughed bitterly.

“Special is just another way of saying different, and being different isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.”

“What do you mean?”

Em rubbed her forehead. She looked so tired.

“I don’t know,” she muttered. “I just thought – I thought after what you said last night about not being able to fit in because of something you can’t change… I felt like you might understand.”

The flush in May’s cheeks deepened, but this time it had nothing to do with the fire’s heat.

Never in her life had what made her different – what made her most insecure about herself – been something anyone tried to bond with her over. She was completely out of her element, and yet…

For the first time since Em stepped off the deck and turned everything upside down, May felt like things were going to be okay.

Still, she struggled to find the words. Nothing felt like the right thing to say and so instead she stood, shuffled over, and brought herself back down to the sand beside Em.

May couldn’t quite bring herself to look at Em yet, but even from the corner of her eye she could tell Em was surprised by the move.

They let the moments slip by, May watching the fire burn down and Em sitting stock still as if even the slightest movement might shatter the peaceful calm they seemed to have found.

May eventually spoke first.

“I’m not going to pretend I completely understand what’s going on. There’s a part of me that feels like I’m going to wake up tomorrow and this will have all been a dream.”

Beside her, Em chuckled softly.

“But,” May turned to face her finally. “I just wanted you to know that the offer still stands.”

Em blinked. “What offer?”

May let out a long breath, steeling her courage. Here I go again

“To stay. With me.”

[Read Chapter Seven]

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"I'm going to tell you a story." - The Star and the Ocean, Chapter Six | Em tells May what she really is

“I’m going to tell you a story.” – The Star and the Ocean, Chapter Six

Chapter illustration by a friend

The Star and the Ocean – Chapter Five

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The Star and the Ocean underwent structural revisions in September 2016. This particular chapter can now be found as the new chapters 10 and 11. I highly encourage you to read from these new chapters instead!

Chapter Five – What do you know about the Stars?

“I’ve been trying to figure out how to explain this to you all day. I realized it was easier to just show you.” Em grinned widely as if being airborne was the funniest thing that could be happening. “If you can handle this, the rest should be easy.”

But May wasn’t handling anything very well at the moment.

Em wasn’t sure what she had been expecting. Wonder? Excitement, perhaps? Whatever it was, she certainly hadn’t expected the look of terror on May’s face. The fear was so real, so visceral. Em quickly realized her approach perhaps hadn’t been as clever as she had first presumed.

Of course she’s afraid, Em thought, the weight of her miscalculation dropping like an anchor in her stomach. What the fuck was I thinking?

“What’s going on?” May’s voice was strained with confusion and panic.

Em was overcome with guilt; guilt for being the reason the light and playful curiosity in May’s eyes had been replaced with dread. It was stupid of her to think this virtual stranger would somehow easily accept a truth so surreal it would seem out of place even in a dream.

But she had felt something, hadn’t she? Something inside told Em she could be honest with this awkward little recluse of a woman. Besides, it was too late now. She would have to trust that May would come around. If not… Well, in that case her unexpected island vacation was about to be cut short.

“May,” Em spoke, coaxing gently for the second time in as many days. “I’m so sorry. Believe it or not, this seemed like a good idea at the time.”

“How are you doing that?” was May’s strangled reply. She covered her eyes, breathing rapidly. “I’m dreaming again, aren’t I?”

“Again? Have you been dreaming about me?” Em pried playfully, desperately hoping for a distraction.

But May didn’t speak again. She lowered her hands in front of her mouth, her eyes still wide and staring right into Em’s, but she didn’t say anything.

Em felt awful. Nothing was going according to plan.

“Okay,” she sighed. “I’ll tell you what. I’m going to go down here” – she motioned to the sandy beach beneath her – “and if you want to talk, I promise I’ll tell you anything you want to know. And if you don’t come down… Well, if you don’t come down I’ll take the hint. You won’t see me again, I swear.”

May clenched her hands in a white-knuckled knot in front of her chest. Still she said nothing.

Not good. Em was growing anxious.

Pushing back carefully, Em floated away from the deck. Her hair swirled around her. She held back as much of it as she could with one arm so it wouldn’t obscure the eye contact she held with May. Was it her imagination or had May’s gaze softened a bit? Em could have sworn she saw a spark of curiosity flare up amid the fear still swimming in the dark pools of May’s eyes.

It could have been wishful thinking, but it could have also been a step in the right direction.

Em gave May a weak smile before drifting downward Iike a stone cast into the ocean.

Once on the sand, Em breathed deeply until her glow dimmed. Hugging her arms around her middle she turned her eyes toward the deck and waited. Nervous as she was, that feeling of hope – trust, it whispered like a friend in her ear – still lingered.


May held it together better than most might. For starters, she didn’t scream. She also didn’t run back inside and lock the doors, although it was debatable whether or not that was due to bravery or simply because she was too scared to move.

Yes, she was scared. Terrified, even. How else was she supposed to feel at the sight of a human being suspended mid-air? Floating and glowing like some kind of ghost…

May paced tight little laps in her living room.

“What do I do?” she whispered to herself. “What is she?”

She wondered if she should run. It would be hard, but maybe she could climb out a window and into the branches of the tree. Could she get down to the ground without Em noticing?

“No, no, no!” She clutched at her head desperately.

There was no running from this.

She could wait. She could leave Em down on the sand until she realized that May wasn’t coming and left.

May looked toward the door. She imagined Em walking (or would she fly?) away and an absurd thought crossed her mind: would she keep her promise?

Would she still say goodbye?

Crazy as the circumstances were, May couldn’t suppress a small laugh as it bubbled to the surface.

“What is wrong with me?”

Again, she looked to the door. As her heart rate finally began to settle so did her thoughts.

When she told Em she wanted to get to know her better, she’d had a feeling there was something different – something Em wasn’t saying. A small, unrealized part of May had dared to imagine that this haunting vagabond might have some fantastic story to tell, but she never could have imagined it would be… Well, whatever this was.

But she had asked. And, if May was being honest with herself, she still wanted to know.


Down on the sand, Em looked for a way to calm her nerves.

“Great,” she muttered. “Guess I fucked this one up.”

She wandered, looking for a way to occupy herself while waiting. A stray branch of driftwood inspired her; she’d build a fire.

Collecting bits and pieces of wood and branches, Em made trips back and forth to deposit the spoils of her labor in a pile a few paces from beneath May’s deck. She figured she’d set up a small camp and let a bit of light burn in the night; wondering subconsciously if it might make the beach more inviting.

Each trip back and forth brought her further and further into the forested perimeter beyond the beach. She didn’t think she had wandered that long or far, but on her last trip it took her a while to get back to the sand. When she finally came back into the open, the sight of a figure in the moonlight made her jump.

“May?” she called softly. “Is that you?”

The figure shifted slightly and waited a moment before saying anything.

“Yeah,” May answered. “It’s me.”

Breathing a sigh of relief, Em hurried out to meet her, stopping short on the opposite side of her makeshift fire pit. May still looked frightened, but her arms were folded tightly in front of her and there was a sternness in her face that made Em think fear wasn’t the only thing she was feeling.

Em set the wood in her arms down gently and cleared her throat.

“Thank you,” she smiled. “For coming down. I -”

May raised her hand sharply. Em stopped. The action was firm, but Em saw a slight tremble.

“You said you’d tell me anything I wanted to know.” May’s voice was low but steadier than her hand.

Em nodded slowly. “That’s right.”

May looked over her shoulder and out across the ocean. Shuffling her toes in the sand, she spoke without looking at Em.

“How…” Her voice cracked slightly. “What…”

Em shifted uncomfortably. She felt awful watching May struggle to articulate what was clearly an awkward question – likely one she never imagined having to ask anyone. It probably wasn’t much different than when she had saved Em from having to ask about her family. Em decided to return the favour.

“It’s kind of a long story. Do you wanna sit maybe?”

“No,” May tensed up. “And I’d appreciate it if you didn’t call me that.”

Em blinked. “Call you what?”

Even in the dark, Em could tell that May was blushing.

“Sorry,” she muttered down at the sand. “I thought you were calling me Maybe. It’s what my family calls me. I just – nevermind.”

“Aw, that’s cute!” Em cooed in spite of herself.

May glared.

Em took the hint. Clearing her throat, she straightened herself and tried again.

“What do you know about the Stars?”

May raised her eyebrows. “The stars?” She peered up at the glittering canopy above them.

“Not the flaming-orbs-burning-out-in-space stars. The Stars. Capital S.” Em felt like she was floundering. Why did everything sound better in her head? “You know… Mythologically speaking?”

May frowned. “On Hoku, legends say all natural beings are entities in their own right. There’s the story of the Moon and how she fell in love with the Ocean, and the Sun with the Earth. And one couple brought about the flora and the other the fauna. But the Stars…” she looked up again, “they control fate and destiny.”

“Right!” Em snapped her fingers and pointed at May excitedly. “Yes, pretty much. I mean, I don’t know about the Sun and the Moon or anything like that, but the Stars – that’s something I know a little bit about.”

May hesitated. “Okay, but what does that have to do with anything?”

Em rolled her eyes and shrugged. “Well, considering their job is to maintain order in the universe I’d say it has a lot to do with everything.”

“That’s not what I mean, Em.” May growled through clenched teeth. “You said you would tell me anything I wanted to know. I want to know what you are, not hear some bedtime story! Why are we talking about the Stars?”

“Because it’s true,” Em blurted, startled by May’s sudden hostility. “It’s all real.”

It was such a ludicrous thing to say that May laughed, loud and hard. “Let’s say that’s true -”

“It is!” Em insisted. “Believe me, I should know!”

“Oh?” There was a dangerous look in May’s narrowed eyes. “And why is that?”

“Because I am one, May.” Em snapped. She was done with being delicate.

“I am a Star.”

[Read Chapter Six]

"If you can handle this, the rest should be easy." - The Star and the Ocean, Chapter 5 | art by Olivia Moy

“If you can handle this, the rest should be easy.” – The Star and the Ocean, Chapter 5 | art by Olivia Moy

The artwork for Chapter Five of “The Star and the Ocean” was created by the very talented Olivia Moy. If you would like to work with Olivia on a custom piece of art (digital or traditional) please check out her commission information!

Interested in producing a chapter illustration for “The Star and the Ocean”? Send me an e-mail!