The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Thirty Two

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[ CW: strong language, sexual content ]

Marina’s big house was fairly quiet for the rest of the day, especially considering how many people were in it. The party spent most of the afternoon napping and getting cleaned up.

Some time after three o’clock, Em jolted awake and glanced groggily around the room until she remembered where she was. It came back to her slowly: the memory of crawling along the couch and flopping down onto her stomach between May’s splayed legs. May had been lounging there, reading the computer reference book Marina had loaned her; Em fell asleep with her arms wrapped around May’s middle and her face resting on her stomach as it rose and fell with each gentle breath May took.

“How long was I asleep?” Em asked. She peered up at May, who lifted the book she was still reading to peek back at her.

“Not sure,” May admitted. “Maybe an hour?”

Connor strode into the room carrying a basket full of fresh laundry.

“Do you guys mind if I fold in here?” he asked. “Rue’s sleeping upstairs.”

“Knock yourself out,” Em replied with a yawn, snuggling back down onto May who set the book aside and began combing her fingers lightly through Em’s hair.

Connor was almost finished his chore when a sleepy-eyed Rue wandered downstairs.

“Feeling better, love?” he asked when she walked up for a quick kiss and to survey his progress.

“Much better.” She smiled warmly.

Marina breezed into the room and grinned when she saw them. “Everyone’s surfacing! Who’s up for a drink or two?”

Without waiting for a response she unlocked a magnificent liquor cabinet and pulled out glasses. She then went to retrieve wine from the kitchen as everyone made their drink selection. Before striding back into the room she called up the stairs to the stragglers. “We’re getting drunk without you!”

Soon Jeremy and Priva joined them. They were disheveled, but it didn’t appear to have been from sleep. Em and May exchanged knowing looks when the pair passed them on their way to make their drinks, but they kept their teasing remarks to themselves.

“Oh, man.” Marina sighed happily, settling back with a very full glass of wine. “I can’t remember the last time I got drunk. I think I’m overdue.”

“We’re not getting drunk,” Connor laughed. “But don’t let us stop you.”

“For those prepared to party,” Em raised her glass of whiskey to Marina. “We salute you.”

They all clinked their glasses, a chaotic moment of reaching arms trying to make sure no one was missed, and toasted to being together, regardless of the circumstances.

For everyone but May and Em, the conversation flowed naturally, especially once the alcohol started to lighten the mood in the room. No one wanted to talk about the present and so those who shared a history dipped into the wells of nostalgia. They rehashed memories, retelling increasingly funnier stories until they gasped for breath between their laughter.

May and Em sat on the far end of the couch, edging closer with every sip from their glasses. At first they tried to stay cognisant that Jeremy was right there, regardless of the fact that he hadn’t looked at them once since entering the room. But as the whiskey worked its magic, they seemed to forget that anyone else was in the room. Em coiled an arm around May’s slender waist and nuzzled into the curve of her neck. She planted kiss after kiss – playful in the beginning, then slower and seductive as they worked through their second and third drinks – along May’s jawline and shoulder. Between kisses she’d whisper things in May’s ear that left her crimson-cheeked and giggling.

“One day I’m gonna buy us a big house like this one,” Em told May in a matter-of-fact, whisper-yell. “And you can just spend all day lounging around in fancy lingerie like the fucking queen you are.”

“Shhh, everyone can hear you.” May grinned and kissed Em to silence her.

Em replied by mumbling something against May’s lips that sounded a bit like, “I worship you.”

The only sign that Jeremy heard any of this was the subtle bouncing of his knee.

It wasn’t long after that May excused herself, slipping upstairs to use the washroom.


Jeremy didn’t realize Em had crept away too until he rose to fix another drink and found her missing. Squaring his jaw, he tried to focus on the promises he had made; one to Rue to try harder to be pleasant to the girls, made in the throes of gratitude that came with having survived his beating in the alley, the other to Priva. That afternoon she had made him promise to stop obsessing over the past – to see her, the one standing right in front of him. He had promised to try and it must have been enough for her; they made love for the first time in ages.

He thought of the sex, imagining the feeling of Priva’s silky skin under his and the look on her face as he moved between her thighs. Her moans of pleasure, her nails digging into his shoulders, the genuine happiness she radiated as they laid together afterward.

He reached out and took her hand. He could try.

“I know what we’re missing,” Marina announced, sitting up quickly. “Music!”

Priva snapped her fingers. “Didn’t you say Myles plays guitar now?”

“Yes!” Marina pointed at her, clearly into the direction Priva’s train of thought was headed. “It’s in his room!”

Priva looked to Jeremy expectedly. “Go get it, boo! Play for us!”

Jeremy blinked up at Marina. “Where’s his room?”

“Third floor. First door on your left.”

Without arguing – he was trying to be better, after all – he got to his feet and made for the stairs. He hadn’t realized just how much he’d had to drink until standing; his head swam with the early stages of his buzz.

As he stepped onto the second floor, Jeremy paused. To his right the staircase continued upwards. But to his left he saw the bathroom, open and dark. Across the hall was Em and May’s room, the door open just a crack. Everything was quiet.

That’s weird, he thought with a frown. He had been sure they had sneaked up here to fuck. A slight flurry of concern rose in his stomach.

Against his better judgement, he tiptoed toward the room. Perhaps they had simply passed out like a couple of lightweights. But what if they weren’t in there? He tried to push down the paranoid voice in his head, honed from years of fighting and fleeing, that screamed something might be wrong.

He held his breath as he peered through the miniscule opening in the door. From there he could see the bed, made and empty.

A sudden rush of movement took him by surprise as a pair of bodies tumbled into his line of vision from somewhere hidden by the door. Jeremy had to bite his bottom lip to keep from gasping out loud.

A tangle of peaches and cream; May had pushed Em up against the wall, kissing her fiercely. Their shirts had already been discarded, their hands were everywhere.

To Jeremy, the world seemed to fall away. He stood, paralyzed; knowing he needed to walk away but helpless to do so.

May dragged her teeth lightly against the tender flesh of Em’s throat. Head back, Em welcomed May’s assault with a breathy moan.

Kisses were peppered across Em’s collarbone as May groped under her lover’s bra with one hand and worked the button of her jeans with the other.

Get out of here, Jeremy’s brain shouted at him.

But he couldn’t. He was transfixed by the ecstacy on Em’s face as May’s hand plunged down the front of her pants and pressed into her warmth.

He knew that look, he remembered it perfectly. Her quiet noises of passion were exactly the same.

All at once, memories of when he was the one in May’s place came back to him like a crashing wave.

It didn’t matter what she looked like or what she called herself: Jeremy knew Audrey when he saw her.

At last he was able to tear himself away from the door. He staggered to the staircase and heaved a few deep and rocky breaths.

Go upstairs, he coached himself. Get the guitar. Go downstairs. Figure your shit out.

From down the hall, Em cried out softly.

Figure your shit out.


By the time the girls slunk back downstairs, the sitting room was filled with the sound of guitar strings and drunken singing.

“Welcome back, ladies,” Priva announced loudly, drawing everyone’s attention to the blushing pair as they slid back into their spot on the couch.

“Look,” May laughed, trying to come up with an excuse and failing.

“Listen,” Em said, with just as much success.

From his chair, Jeremy fiddled with the guitar pegs, adjusting the tuning. He didn’t look up as he launched into another song.

The notes were familiar. May recognized it as the song she and Em had performed at the flat in Luxton; the first song she learned to play herself.

“Hey!” She turned to Em, smiling. “It’s the song you’re always singing!”

But Em didn’t answer. She wasn’t smiling either.

Instead her gaze was fixed on Jeremy’s hands as they danced over the strings.

“Wait,” Em muttered, squinting. “How do you…”

Her eyes grew wide. “Oh, fuck.”

“What’s wrong?” Connor asked, glancing between Em and Jeremy.

“Imagine how surprised I was when you two started playing this song,” Jeremy said, his eyes still trained on his instrument as he finished the melody. “This, the song I wrote for Audrey.”

The final note reverberated itself into silence. No one spoke.

“She’s the only person I ever played it for.” Now he looked up. His eyes were cold.

“Isn’t that interesting?”

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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Thirty One

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When May finally made her way upstairs she found Em lingering outside the half-closed kitchen door, listening to the excited chatter on the other side of it. Her eyes – glassy, bottom lashes glittering – turned to May and the corners of her mouth twitched into the smallest of smiles.

“I thought I’d give them a bit of privacy,” Em whispered, hitching a thumb toward the voices. “Sounds like it’s been a long time since they’ve seen each other, right?”

May frowned, knowing she was lying.

“Em,” May breathed her name and took Em’s hand in both of hers. “You don’t have to-“

They jumped as the door swung open.

Rue stood on the threshold, her face splitting into a delighted grin. “There you two are! It’s so good to see you safe and sound! Come on now.”

She pulled the girls into the kitchen, cutting the conversation like a switch. Every face turned to them and, just like Rue, everyone lit up.

“You’re alive!” Priva cheered, pulling Em into a tight bear hug.

Em laughed. “Of course we’re alive, dork.”

“Are you both alright?” Connor asked from the other end of the kitchen island. “No one’s hurt?”

“We’re fine,” May answered, watching Em squirm and struggle against Priva’s boa constrictor grip and giggling.

She turned to ask Connor the same question just as Jeremy stepped up to her, startling her.

“Relax.” Jeremy lifted his hands. “I come in peace.”

His voice was soft and friendly and made May realize he had never spoken to her like that before. Her eyes searched his face and regarded the blooms of purple and yellow around his eyes and across his already-delicate looking cheekbones. His split lip looked painful, but he grinned at her anyway. “Don’t worry; it’s not as bad as it looks.”

A well of emotion swelled in May’s chest as she remembered every blow that had left those bruises on Jeremy’s face. “It looked pretty bad when it was happening. I’m so glad you’re okay – I can’t believe I just left you there.”

“You did exactly what you should have done,” he insisted with a tight shake of his head. “Thanks to you the team was able to act. They would have been fucked if you hadn’t warned them. Which is why I, uh…” his casual air slipped and suddenly he seemed awkward. Clearing his throat, Jeremy thrust his hand forward. “Thank you.”

It took a second for May to realize he was serious. Surprise turned to happy relief, and she smiled and took his hand, shaking it firmly. “You’re welcome, Jeremy.”

“On that note, I should probably check in,” Connor announced, pulling a nondescript cell phone from his pocket. He turned and made his way to the breakfast nook on the far side of the room and spoke under his breath to a voice on the other end. Knowing that he was communicating with a Loyal agent made May shudder.

“While he’s doing that, is anyone hungry?” Marina asked, surveying the group. The remaining members of WIND looked ragged and wilted with exhaustion. “I’ll make us something to eat.”

Jeremy, moving gingerly, started to make his way over to her. “I’ll help.”

“I don’t think so,” Rue clucked, pulling a chair over and waving Jeremy into it. “Your job right now is to rest. Marina, I’ll give you a hand.”

As the two women got to work, Connor finished his call. He gave Jeremy the slightest of nods and the battered redhead relaxed back into his seat.

Smiling softly, Connor gazed around the room, taking in what he could gleam of his sister’s life from the details. His eyes landed on the fridge and class photo of Myles held beneath a magnet made from a pinecone with plastic googly eyes.

“He’s gotten so big, Rini,”

Marina glanced over her shoulder. “Tell me about it. I feel like he was still in diapers a couple weeks ago.”

“He sure looks like dad.” There was so much heartache in Connor’s eyes, but he kept smiling anyway.

“He does,” Marina agreed. “He’s playing soccer now. He’s pretty good at it too. Oh, and he started taking music lessons a few years ago. Plays the guitar. He does not get musical talent from our side of the family, that’s for sure.”

“Must be from Marcus’ side.” Connor grinned.

A phone rang, making Marina jump.

She pulled her phone out from her back pocket and squinted at the name on her caller I.D.

“Speaking of Marcus. I’ll be back in a sec,” she said, stepping out of the room to answer the call.

“Oh, I need to give you this before I forget.” Priva dug through her pockets, unearthing a folded sheet of notebook paper. She handed it to Em. “This is a list of meet-up locations for the rest of our route, in order. If we get split up again, head to the closest address. These are the only places and people we can trust.”

“Don’t lose it,” Jeremy said, miming the action of putting something in his pocket. “One of you should always have it on you.”

“Got it,” Em confirmed, reaching down her collar and stashing the list in her bra. She gave May a wink, who responded with a deep blush and a playful shove.

“So, Jeremy,” May said, trying out this tentative new friendship that seemed to have settled between them. “Marina showed us a security camera picture you sent her so she knew which train we’d be on. How did you do that?”

“It’s called a screen cap,” he teased, smirking – playfully this time – as May put her hands on her hips and shook her head at him.

“Did you hack their security system?” she asked. “How did you learn to do that?”

Jeremy shrugged, then winced. “It’s just one of the surprisingly useful skills I managed to pick up over the years.”

“Who just ‘picks up’ hacking?” Then, as soon as she asked, May remembered. “Does it have anything to do with your ability?”

“Ha, no.” Jeremy chuckled. “It would be cool if I could actually do everything I’ve ever seen or read about, but that’s not how it works.”

The kitchen door opened and Marina hurried back into the kitchen.

“Sorry about that,” she said, fussing around the counter as she spoke. “That took longer than I expected.”

“Did they make it okay?” May asked, noting Marina’s far-off expression. “Marcus and Myles?”

“Oh, they’re still driving.” Marina gave her head a shake. “They were just calling to check in. Myles got carsick, poor kid.”

“Ew.” Jeremy pulled a face. Marina ignored him.

“So, how long do you guys plan on staying?” she asked, glancing around the room.

Rue sighed. “Not long, I’m afraid.”

“Will you at least be spending the night?” Marina looked hopefully at her brother. “It’s been so long since the last time we were together.”

Connor ran his fingers along the tight line of his lips.

“It would be nice to have a short break,” he agreed. The others nodded and shrugged their shoulders. “But only if you’re sure. I don’t want you to feel obligated to put yourself at risk any more than you already have”

“Not at all.” Marina grinned.

“One night off and then we’ll get back at it,” Em announced, as though her words were absolute. No one disagreed.

Em absentmindedly placed a hand lightly on the center of her chest and imagined the hammering of her heart.

“We have important work to do.”

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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Thirty

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Marina opened a door off the main foyer – a door May had assumed opened to a coat closet – to reveal an unlit set of stairs. She gestured for the girls to follow as she descended into the darkness. A chill chased its way up May’s body as the air grew cooler and she faltered when the light from upstairs was no longer bright enough to illuminate what was ahead of her. All she could see was a light sprinkling of tiny green, blue, and orange lights glowing like faint stars against the blackness.

“Lights, please,” Marina spoke from somewhere in the void. On command the room brightened – gradually like a time-lapsed sunrise – leaving May and Em wide-eyed and gaping.

The basement was home to a large and open-concept workshop. May marvelled at an assortment of half-finished projects surrounded by halos of tools and schematics, blank monitors that reflected her own astonished expression, and juxtaposing workbenches – one pristine and the other cluttered. Marina slumped into a worn office chair at the latter and sighed. Em motioned to a high stool, offering it to May while she leaned back against a massive tool cabinet and folded her arms across her chest.

“This place is cool,” May remarked, eyes still scanning the room and its many impressive details. “Is all this work yours?”

Marina nodded. “Some of the messes my own pet projects and research but I also work on contract commissions from clients.”

“What kind of work do you do exactly?” May eyed what looked to be a dismantled computer on a table to her left. Wires and circuitry spilled from the casing like the entrails of a slain prey animal.

“The specifics are private,” Marina explained, an air of routine to her answer. “But I create advanced security programs and surveillance systems for corporate clients. I also like to dabble in A.I. and robotics when I have spare time.”

May blinked. “That barely made sense to me.” Her eyes flicked to the row of well-read reference books lining a shelf behind Marina’s workstation, landing on a sizeable volume about advanced computer architecture. She pointed at it. “Do you mind?”

Marina swiveled to see what May was pointing at and looked back at her with a raised eyebrow and a laugh. “Uh, why?”

Em laughed too, giving May’s shoulder a squeeze. “The woman has an insatiable brain.”

At this, May flushed. “I’m just curious! Your work sounds really impressive – you must be brilliant.”

“Well, before you follow that train any further down the track, no: I’m not a Wish.”

Marina’s words – her completely unsolicited response to a question May had only just begun to entertain – took both women by surprise. They shared an uneasy glance.

Em cleared her throat. “Good to know.”

“This brilliance was earned the old fashioned way,” Marina said, waving a hand at the room around them. She reached up and slid the book from the shelf, handing it to May. “A spark of passion coupled with years of hard work and diligent study.”

She paused for a moment, taking May and Em in one at a time. “I’m also smart enough to know that if you two are tangled up with my brother and his friends, then you probably know a thing or two about the Wishes and the Loyals.”

May swallowed; her mouth was suddenly extremely dry. Em replied with a curt nod.

“That’s why I sent Marcus and Myles away,” Marina continued. “It’s also why I don’t speak to Connor very often. His cause is noble but I need to keep my family safe. The Loyals are capable of some pretty terrible things.” Her eyes dropped to her hands, which she had folded tightly in her lap.

“That’s fair,” Em agreed. “We appreciate what you’re doing for us.”

“I can’t imagine this is easy for you,” May said.

Marina turned her back to them. “You’re right.”

She stood on her toes and reached behind the row of books, rifling around for something on the shelf they sat on. When she pulled back, Marina held aloft a small, dusty photo album.

“I should really clean that shelf more often,” she muttered as she sat back down. She blew at the cobwebs and wiped the cover with the sleeve of her shirt before flipping through the album’s pages. With a faint smile, Marina paused on a family portrait and turned the book so the girls could see it clearly.

“That’s our family,” she said. “Connor isn’t even a year old in this picture.”

Connor, like his own son, was a big-eyed child brimming with delight. In the photo he sat perched in the protective arms of his big sister who grinned over his head at the camera. The two were cradled between a mother and father who could not have looked prouder.

“You all look so happy,” May said as she absentmindedly traced a finger around the border of the photo. But she knew all too well how deceptive pictures like these – the only surviving relics of a time before tragedy – could be. She too had posed happily with her adoptive family for portraits back before her scandal shook their foundations. Looking at those photos after the fact had always left an ache in May’s heart; pity for the smiling faces, frozen in time, completely unaware of the terrible things to come.

“I was ten years old when the wishing star fell.” Marina’s eyes were hazy with recollection. “My mom had just found out she was pregnant with Connor. They had been trying for years to have a second baby and we were over the moon it was finally happening. But then mom got sick and, when the doctors told my parents Connor wasn’t going to make it to term, my dad got desperate.”

She paused, inhaling a slow and shaky breath. “My parents were the first to misuse the star when it was initially recovered. Dad actually led the search party that found it. They weren’t trying to start a war; they just wanted to save my brother.”

Shocked, May looked up at Em to find her frowning. There was confusion in her eyes that made May wonder if this was one of the memories from Audrey’s life Em had forgotten over time.

“I often wonder what things would be like if that fucking star hadn’t been stolen.” Marina’s voice shook with barely concealed anger. “The Loyals wouldn’t have a leg to stand on if that thing had just gone back to where it came from like it was supposed to.” She drew another uneven breath and gave her head a shake.

Gently Marina lifted the top corners of the photo and slid something out from behind it. Hidden beneath the family portrait was another photograph, which she flipped over and laid flat on the album page.

The snapshot was much newer and featured three laughing teenagers out in the summer sunshine. Two of the faces May recognized immediately, despite the years that had passed since the picture had been taken. Even so, she was slightly taken aback to see Connor and Jeremy looking so happy. Not once had she witnessed such genuine smiles from either of them.

May had never seen the third person before, but she didn’t need to ask to know who she was.

Glossy chestnut hair. Stunning golden eyes. Audrey was smaller than Em, her features differing ever so slightly. But if May focused she could imagine Em looking like her former self if only she were splashed with colour.

“This was taken before Myles was born,” Marina explained, tapping the photo with a finger. “Before the treaty. Have they told you about that?” May nodded and she continued. “This is the most recent photo I have of them.”

She moved her finger to the girl wrapped in Jeremy’s arms. “This is Audrey.”

“We’ve heard about her too,” Em said in a quiet voice, her eyes – pale and diamond-like now – glued to the visage of the person she used to be.

May struggled to remind herself that the person in the photo was not the woman she had fallen in love with, particularly given how obviously involved Jeremy and Audrey were in the photo. His arms were wrapped around Audrey’s waist, his chin resting on her shoulder. With one hand, Audrey cupped Jeremy’s cheek, pressing his face into hers. Her other hand rested atop his forearms.

Until this moment, May had never been able to imagine the two of them together.

Now she just felt small and out of place.

“What was she like?” May asked, tearing her eyes from the once-happy couple to focus on Marina, who shrugged at the question.

“I have complicated feelings about her,” Marina admitted, squirming with discomfort. “I will always love her for getting my brother away from our uncle. That was such a terrible situation. She was a good person – a brave person. Really adventurous and full of life, if not a bit too scrappy for my liking. But it was also her idea to form WIND and I know they mean well but…”

Marina trailed off, her eyes shining as they bored down into the photo of her teenage brother. “Things would be so different if they had just laid low instead of becoming some rogue group of vigilantes.”

Em tensed imperceptibly.

“How did she die, Marina?”

Tension flooded the room, leaving the hairs on the back of May’s neck standing on end. For a moment Marina shielded her eyes with a hand to her brow. Then she dropped the hand to her chest.

“Do you know about the-” Her voice cracked, so instead she tapped her palm lightly over her heart.

“The device implants?” May asked, trying to be helpful. “Because of the treaty.”

Marina nodded sadly. “Audrey and Jeremy ran away together. This was probably about a year or so after the treaty. They were trying to get the devices removed so the Loyals wouldn’t be able to find them. They wanted to start a new life.”

“But the Loyals found them.” Em surmised.

“They found out.” Fat, silent tears escaped from Marina’s lashes and traced down her cheeks. “But they wouldn’t even do their dirty work themselves. The Loyals had never told them that they had a failsafe built into the devices. Audrey’s was detonated remotely; a prolonged shock directly to her heart. They didn’t even give her a chance to redeem herself. They just made an example of her to scare the others into playing by their rules.”

While Marina wiped at her eyes, May looked to Em once more and found her stunned into silence.

May had always assumed Em hadn’t told her how Audrey died because it was too painful a memory. Only now was she realizing that it was because Em herself had never known the truth in the first place.

A cheerful chime sounded, making May jump and bursting the moment like a bubble. A screen above Marina’s workstation blinked to life showing, a live view from the front door. Four figures, limp with fatigue, huddled on the step.

It was WIND.

“It’s about damn time,” Marina said with a weak laugh. She hurried past the girls without so much as a backwards glance.

Before May even had a chance to rise from the stool, Em had already taken a few strides forward, following in Marina’s wake.

“Em.” May reached for her hand, just managing to catch her fingers as she swept by.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Em said without looking back. “Please, I’m not…”

May released her. “Okay. I’ll be here when you’re ready.”

Em nodded, shoulders trembling, and kept walking.

May hung back and cried alone.

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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Twenty Eight

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Endless possibilities flashed through May’s mind, all of them bad.

Had the others been caught? Were they dead? Was all this a set-up?

Pulse pounding, she and Em followed Marina through a side door and into the house. As if she could read May’s anxious mind, Em reached over and took her hand tightly in her own.

Marina didn’t speak. They followed her through a series of rooms – an entryway littered with shoes and the debris of a busy life, a kitchen stocked with state-of-the-art appliances covered in grubby fingerprints – and into a dark sitting room. She closed a pair of frosted glass doors and drew the window curtains before turning to May and Em.

“Are you alright?” she asked, scanning the pair with worried eyes. The look of concern on her face reminded May of someone, but May couldn’t quite put her finger on it. “Are you hurt?”

Em shook her head. “No, just tired. Kind of hungry.”

On cue, May’s stomach let out a deep and embarrassing growl. She hadn’t realized how famished she was until Em had said something.

“I can imagine.” Marina dropped into an armchair, looking almost as exhausted as May and Em. She gestured to the couch and the pair sat tentatively.

“Where are the others?” May asked. Her brain was still shouting terrible what if’s at her. “Are they safe?”

Marina sighed deeply. “I have no idea. Connor would never tell me that, no matter how much trouble they were in.”

May’s stomach lurched. “Trouble?”

“They’re coming though, right?” Em asked. Her expression was one of calm but the grip she had on May’s hand gave her away. When her eyes flicked, May knew she was sizing up the room just in case they needed to run.

“They are,” Marina assured them. “I promise, they’ll meet you as soon as they’re able. I don’t know the details of what’s going on and, before you say anything, I don’t want to know either. But when my brother reached out to me I knew it had to be serious.”

“Why’s that?” May asked. She hadn’t known Connor had a sister until Em mentioned it back in Luxton. It dawned on her she didn’t know how involved in WIND and Wishes this woman was.

“Because I never hear from Connor,” Marina said. She smiled, but her eyes were sad. “Generally speaking, it’s always been safer that way. I didn’t pry when he asked me to find you, but I knew it was important.”

“How’d you know we’d be on that train?” May still didn’t feel as safe; she wasn’t convinced they were in the clear yet. Despite everything, it just felt too easy.

“Jeremy let me know.” Marina pulled out her phone, opened it to a glowing message, and handed it to May. “That asshole has eyes everywhere.”

The message was from an unknown number. All it said was “8:15”. Attached was a pixelated security camera photo of May purchasing tickets at the Luxton station. Under different circumstances, the image would have made May sick with fear. Instead it filled her with a rush of relief; if Jeremy was somehow hacking into security cameras, it meant he had made it out of that alley alive.

Having read the message over May’s shoulder, Em sat back. “So, now what?”

“If you’re caught up with my brother and his friends, you likely need a safe place to wait,” Marina said, taking her phone back. “You can stay here, but only on the condition that you both stay out of sight. I don’t want any trouble, got it?”

Somewhere in the house, a door slammed, making May jump.

“Well?” Marina’s intense gaze held them both.

There was a sound of shuffling, followed by footsteps coming their way.

May cut a wide-eyed glance to Em, panic rising back up with each thump of the incoming footsteps.

“Of course,” Em answered with a nod. “We could use a safe place to lay low.”

Marina smiled, warm and relieved.

“Mom?” A voice shouted from somewhere down the hall.

Something in May’s mind clicked into place. The mess in the entryway and the fingerprints in the kitchen suddenly made sense: Connor’s sister had a family of her own. May recognized Marina’s worried expression because she had seen her own mother and sister wear the same one over the years.

“In here, hun.”

The door squeaked open and through the crack peered a sandy-haired boy of about nine or ten. His eyes landed on May and Em, full of curiosity.

“Where’s dad?” Marina asked the boy as he took a cautious  step into the room.

“We stopped at the store on the way home,” he replied, glancing at his mother. “He’s putting the groceries away.” He wore a grass-stained soccer uniform. One of the knee-high socks had slid down his shin. May’s mind wandered back to Omi, the same way it usually did when she saw young boys who reminded her of all the things about her nephew’s life she was going to miss.

“Go give him a hand, please,” Marina said with the contrary gentle firmness only a mother can pull off. “We’ll be out in a second.”

“Who are they?”

“Myles, go please.”

The boy harrumphed but did as he was told, closing the door as he went.

“Like I said.” Marina was looking at May and Em again when they turned back to face her. “I won’t ask any questions. If you don’t cause any trouble, you can stay. Fair?”

It was May who nodded this time. The reality of what Marina was putting on the line for them was all the assurance she needed. “Very.”

Marina stood and smiled. “Good. I promised Myles ice cream after his soccer practice, but I’m sure I can find you something with a bit more substance first.” She winked.

May grinned. Something about the warmth of a family setting made her feel at ease.

But when she looked at Em, it was clear she didn’t share that feeling. Brows furrowed tightly, Em was so deep in thought she didn’t notice May stand up until she crouched down in front of her.

“Are you okay?” May asked quietly.

Em gave her head a shake and with it, her grimace faded. She forced a smile.

“Sure.” She took May’s hand. “Let’s go get that ice cream.”

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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Twenty Six

[ Beginning | Previous Chapter ]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’ll meet you there.

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

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

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



Em looked surprised but didn’t say anything.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Em grinned. “Once or twice.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Everything okay?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

The face of a woman who staring right at her.

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

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

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

“Let’s go find a cab then.”

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

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

We’re being followed.”

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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Twenty Four

[ Beginning | Previous Chapter ]

Content warning: Strong language

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rue and Priva applauded when they finished.

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

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

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

Connor looked at Priva, who rolled her eyes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Most definitely.”

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

“And say what?”

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

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

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

“I’m good,” Priva called.

May looked at Em.

Em’s expression was determined.

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

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

“What’s wrong?”

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

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

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

Em wasn’t having it.

“Cut the bullshit, Priva.”

Emanthy,” May hissed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who?” Em pushed, waiting for more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May and Em exchanged sad looks.

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

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

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

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

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

“Sure thing, mom,”

“Ew, stop.”

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

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

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

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

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

It was Jeremy.

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

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

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

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

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

“Don’t fucking lie to us, Parker.”

“Why would I lie?” Jeremy shouted.

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

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

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

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

“I won’t.”

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

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

The world slowed to a crawl.

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

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


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Twenty Three

[ Beginning | Previous Chapter ]

Content warning: sexual/physical assault mentions, PTSD trauma, sex

With each day that passed, the awkwardness and tension lifted. Though Jeremy remained cold toward May, she found herself warming up to the other members of WIND.

According to Priva, it would take three more days for the group to arrive at a small town called Luxton where they would be able to take a brief rest and resupply. The town was a stop along a train route that would take them to their next destination; the city of York.

“You’re amazing with these maps,” May remarked as she hunched beside Priva, watching her trace the path they would follow with the tip of her finger.

“I’d better be,” Priva laughed. “Cartography is in my blood.”

“How so?”

Priva pointed to a signature in the bottom corner of the map. It didn’t register as anything familiar to May, but Priva was clearly proud of it.

“My great granddaddy drew this map himself when he explored this range as a young man,” she explained. “People think we’ve found all that’s worth seeing in this world. But there are still so many remote places waiting to be understood. I even like to map out the places I’ve been, just in case I’ve seen something other explorers have missed.”

“That’s incredible!” May was so enthralled that she listened to Priva explain the finer points of cartography and tell stories about her great-grandfather for half a day out on the trail, hanging on every word.

After dinner the following evening, May was helping Rue clean up when she noticed the far off look in her eyes as she gazed into the dying fire.

“How are you holding up?” May asked kindly.

Rue started slightly. “I’m sorry. I was just…”

“Thinking of Gaten?”

There was a heartbeat of silence. “Yes.”

“I can’t even begin to imagine how you’re feeling,” May said. “I have a nephew back home and I love him like crazy. Don’t tell Em this, but when we first went into hiding I would wait for her to fall asleep and then I would cry because I missed him so much.”

“Oh, May.” Rue pressed a hand to her heart. “That’s awful. I’m so sorry.”

“No, don’t be!” May balked. “I only bring it up because I thought that was bad. I was a mess over it. And yet here you are, going what you’re going through, and you’re being so brave about it. Gaten is going to be so proud of you.”

Eyes glistening, Rue still managed to smile. “That’s a very sweet thing to say, May. Thank you.”

They worked for a couple more moments in a silence that was lighter than a moment earlier.

“So, you like kids then?” Rue asked, unexpectedly continuing the conversation.

May grinned. “Yeah. I mean, I spent a lot of time looking after my nephew and he just… I don’t know. I guess kids just have a way of giving you a whole new perspective on things.”

“They sure do,” Rue agreed, laughing.

The more May got to know these people, the better she felt about the dangerous journey they were on together.

She also felt like she was getting a better sense of who Audrey might have been. The person Em had once been often felt like a ghost to May, haunting just out of her line of sight. But the more she learned about the people Audrey had known and loved, the more that spectre seemed to take shape. While Jeremy’s thorny disposition had left May wondering what kind of person could love someone so perpetually hostile, the others gave Audrey more dimension. May could imagine being friends with these people. She could imagine Em being friends with them too, and although May recognized that she still had virtually nothing other than a notion to go on, she couldn’t help but wonder if Em and Audrey were quite as different as her lover insisted they were.

As for that lover, the pair did what they could to make sure the circumstances didn’t come between them. Long after the others fell asleep, May and Em would keep one another awake, rolling and rocking in the throes of love and lust as best they could while trying to stay as quiet as possible.

May loved crawling between Em’s legs, using her tongue to guide her in the darkness as she teased and tasted, feeling Em tremble and buck against her. Em preferred to use her hands. With one she would pin May down while the other worked its magic. The night was like a blindfold that kept May tense with anticipation; each touch was a surprise so overwhelming that it took every ounce of willpower May had not to shatter the silence of midnight with her passion.

On their last night in the woods, long after the lovers had exhausted themselves into sleep, May awoke with a violent, heat-pounding jolt. She sat up, breathless and terrified. Frantically she tried to remember where she was by reminding herself of where she wasn’t.

“It was a dream,” she whispered into the darkness, feeling hot tears slide down her face. “He’s not here. It’s not real.”

Beside her she could feel the softness of Em’s naked body and the gentle rhythm of her breath. She was, somehow, still asleep and May couldn’t bring herself to wake her.

But her nightmare – the feeling of Kane’s greedy mouth on hers, his hands in places they had no business being – refused to release her from its grip. Her lungs panicked for air and her heart wouldn’t stop racing. To May, the world seemed to be tipping, threatening to cast her off into a full fit of panic. Knowing she needed to move – to do something – she crawled, trembling from beneath the covers and pulled on her clothes before staggering out into the cold of the night.

Free of the tent, May doubled over, gasping for breath and pleading with herself to calm down.

“It’s not real,” she wept as quietly as she could. “He can’t hurt you anymore.”

“May, it’s Connor,” she heard in the darkness. “Don’t be frightened.”

Through tear-soaked eyes, May peered around but it was too black for her eyes to focus.

“Connor? Where are you?”

A match flared, illuminating him from where he sat beside the fire pit, a heavy blanket over his shoulders. “Would you like to sit?”

May’s flight instincts were still firing wildly in her mind. It was a struggle for her to overcome the impulse to shrink away, but slowly she shuffled to where Connor sat and lowered herself down beside him just as the match burnt out.

“I’m going to put the blanket on you. Is that okay?” Connor asked, his voice soft and steady.

“Yes,” May whispered back.

In the darkness she felt the full weight of the blanket gently drape across her shoulders. She clutched at its edges, drawing it closer around her body; she hadn’t realized just how cold she had been before now.

They sat in silence for a long time, until the blindness of night came to feel like a hiding place and May felt her heartbeat slow.

When her lungs were at last able to have their fill and her mind had ceased its noise, May looked into the void beside her where she knew Connor was sitting.

“Why are you out here?” she asked.

She heard him release a long, slow exhale. “The same reason you are, I’d imagine.”

“Did you have a nightmare too?”

“Is that what it was?” There was a hint of skepticism in his voice, so faint May wondered if she imagined it.

May considered his question in the privacy the night’s black shroud afforded her; she’d had plenty of nightmares before, but when she really thought about it, she knew this one was different.

“Maybe not,” she admitted finally. “It’s more like a… I don’t know…”

“A flashback?”

She ruminated on the word.

“Yes, I think so.”

Connor hummed. “Me too.”

Questions leapt to May’s mind at his subtle confession, but she wasn’t sure it was her place to ask them.

“We don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to,” Connor said as if reading her mind. “But if you’d like to, I’ve been told I’m a good listener.”

This made May smile despite herself. “I’m not sure why it happens. Something happened to me – was done to me – years ago. Sometimes I relive it in my sleep.”

“Trauma is like a ghost that way; sometimes it doesn’t like to be ignored.”

“What about you?” May asked. ”I mean, we don’t have to talk about it either but-”

“It’s okay,” Connor assured her. “I’ve had a lot of time to get familiar with my ghost. I’m not sure how much you know about the different Star worshipping groups; there are a lot of them out there. My uncle is part of a fairly conservative group that only acts on direct command from the Stars. They opted not to pursue Wishes because, technically, the Stars didn’t sanction the hunt in the first place. But they also frowned on the illegal Wishes.”

Connor paused to sigh. May waited in polite silence.

“I was still pretty young when the Loyals were formed and began hunting down Wishes. My parents thought the safest place for me was in hiding.”

“So they left you with your uncle?” May ventured.

“It was a good idea in theory; the Loyals didn’t suspect such a stringent group of harbouring a Wish. But, like I said, this group didn’t approve of the Wishes either, they just weren’t willing to destroy them. Needless to say, I wasn’t treated very well.”

“They didn’t… hurt you, did they?”

“Very much so.”

The wind passed, rattling the tree branches above them.

“Connor, I’m so sorry.” Already May was feeling terribly guilty for having asked.

“Don’t be,” Connor replied. ”Like I said, I’ve had plenty of time to learn to live with what’s happened to me.”

“But that doesn’t make it alright.”

“No, and it’s not always easy, but I’m doing better now than before. I’m proud of how far I’ve come.” Even in the darkness, May could tell he was looking at her now. “Besides, I’m not the only one out here with ghosts.”

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Ko-Fi May

The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Twenty One

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

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

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

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

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

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

Em rolled her eyes dramatically.

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

The comment raised curiosity in Rue.

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

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

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

At this, Priva laughed loudly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Me too,” Rue agreed brightly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Killjoy,” Priva pouted.

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

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

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

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

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

Jeremy didn’t reply.

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

Rue laughed. “Oh, I’m not a Wish.”

May looked at her in surprise. “Really?”

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

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

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

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

“Were they Wishes?” May asked.

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

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Ko-Fi May