The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Fifty Six

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The sun was rising as the Rocket rumbled into a parking lot at the north shore shipyards. May carefully lifted her pack onto her shoulders, locked the van, and tucked the key up in the wheel well.

“Thank you,” she whispered to the old junker of a vehicle with a light pat on the hood. How many times had this decrepit van gotten her exactly where she needed to be? “Kai will be here for you tomorrow.”

In the ticketing office a tired man eyed May warily as he took her money for the fare.

“What happened to your face, kid?”

May fidgeted. As if on cue, a car honked outside, giving her a story.

“Car accident.”

The man whistled between his teeth. “Musta been a bad one.”

“Could have been worse, I guess,” May said without looking him in the eye.

With her boarding pass tucked safely away, May considered her options. She had 24 hours to kill until her sailing; too much, in her opinion. As easy as it would have been to wait with the Rocket, she didn’t want to risk it in case her family decided to ignore her note and came looking for her. Besides, the idea of being alone didn’t sit well with her. She had kept her mind busy for the past week and a half by obsessing over her plans but now that she was here, there was nothing to stop the fear from creeping in.

Her brain fixated on how truly alone she was, and the thought made her feel vulnerable. Casting anxious, furtive glances over her shoulders, May sought out a place to wile away the hours – a place with people, but also one where no one could come up on her unexpectedly. Jittery and suspicious of every face that passed her, May wondered how long it would take to feel safe again.

Maybe this was a bad idea, she thought. Melanie might still be following me. She could be anywhere.

As strangers filtered around her on the sidewalk, May shrank into herself. Everyone felt too close. Her breath quickened; she needed to find a safe place.

She walked until she spotted a restaurant up ahead. But the relief she felt was short lived: there was someone behind her. May didn’t dare risk looking back, but she could feel a body following too closely. Her heartbeat thudded so hard she felt it in her ears. Panic rose and she picked up her pace – faster and faster until she broke into a full sprint to the restaurant’s door.

From the threshold she chanced a glance back only to find a teenaged boy wearing an oversized pair of headphones, completely engrossed in whatever was happening on his phone; he hadn’t even noticed her take off.

“Get a grip, May,” she admonished herself under her breath.

“Table for one?”

May let out a yelp as she spun to face a startled waitress.

“Is everything okay?” the waitress asked, glancing over May’s shoulder as if she might find something lurking there.

“Yes, sorry. I wasn’t paying attention and didn’t notice you standing there. A table for one would be great. Somewhere in the back if possible.”

The waitress lead May to the back of the restaurant and gestured to a small table.

Too exposed, May fretted. Her fingers twitched, longing for rings to fidget with the way she always had when she found herself overcome with nervous energy.

“What about there?” May pointed to an empty horseshoe booth in the corner that was clearly meant for at least four people. The waitress scowled but her eyes lingered over the bruises on May’s face and she gave a resigned shrug.

“Sure, whatever.”

With a feeble mumble of thanks, May scooted to the furthest end of the booth and drew up her hood. From here she had a good view of the entire restaurant but knew she was tucked away enough to be relatively out of sight. She let out a slow, calming breath and pulled the laminated menu foreward.

Her eyes trailed over the food and drink offerings with disinterest. Though nothing appealed to her, May knew she had to order something if she didn’t want to piss off her already grumpy waitress. She flipped the menu to find a full page of wine, beer, and cocktail options and something inside her ached. The idea of drinking away her anxiety felt like the perfect antidote, and May was startled by how badly she wanted it. Thankfully it was far too early; the restaurant wouldn’t be serving alcohol for hours. When the waitress returned, May ordered a light breakfast and tea. She privately resolved to ignore the booze menu for the rest of the day.

The day passed at an excruciating pace. To fill the time, May pulled out the curling notepad she had been using to keep her thoughts and plans for her solo mission. Multiple pages were dedicated to the litany of questions that continued to come to her as she tried to imagine how she was going to find a missing wishing star that an entire army’s worth of Loyals hadn’t been able to locate for over two decades.

What do I do if the Murder can’t help me?

Where did the Loyals take Dawn and Oliver?

What does a wishing star even look like???

She kept lists of places she could look and other people she might be able to turn to for help.

Former criminals from the cirque (pretty sure Lenore did time for murder)

Sean and wife (former cops) – would they be allowed to help?

Lunch time rolled around and the waitress hovered around the booth, watching May with a mix of curiosity and bitterness. May ordered a sandwich and more tea, settling up her tab with a better than fair tip that seemed to brighten the waitress’ mood and bought May a couple more hours in her vinyl formica fortress.

Eventually a new waiter – or perhaps the manager – stepped up to the table.

“I’m sorry, miss. We’ve got a bigger party that needs a table and you haven’t ordered anything in a while. Would you mind if I moved you to the bar?”

May couldn’t blame him for wanting to move her, and she appreciated that he wasn’t simply kicking her out. But as she eyed the bar, the idea of sitting with her back to the room and in such tantalizing proximity to four icy draught taps made her shake her head. With a word of thanks, she gathered her things and slipped out of the booth. It felt as if every pair of eyes in the restaurant followed her as she wove toward the door, through the waiting party, and out into the blinding afternoon sunlight.

“Now what?” May murmured to herself. All around her obliviously happy or distracted people came and went without sparing her so much as a sideways glance. She checked the time – perhaps she’d be able to find a hotel that would let her check into a room early. Her mind conjured up an image of a neat and seemingly empty room. Would it be secure enough? She played with the idea of dragging the bedding into the bathroom and sleeping in the tub just for the sake of having an extra locking door between herself and the rest of the world.

She meandered through the streets so fixated on finding a place to stay that she only vaguely noticed the faces she saw along the way. An old couple toddling arm in arm and bickering about what to make for dinner, a gaggle of school-aged kids jostling one another as they made their way to the beach, a beauty with dark features whose eyes flicked to May’s as they passed each other.

A light of familiarity sparked in the back of May’s mind; a twinge of nostalgia tainted by heartbreak.

“May?” asked a voice from her past. “Is that you?”

Her body seized in place. There was no way the owner of that velvety voice could really be the person May’s mind jumped to… could it?

Slowly, May turned. The woman had stopped too. She stood stock still, staring back at May with disbelief.

It was her after all: a touch older but with the same entrancing black eyes May had once spent countless hours gazing into and dreaming of.

Her first love.

May could barely find her voice.

“Mila?

What are you doing here?”


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Forty Six

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Where Lety had been comfortable with driving in silence, Lenaia couldn’t stand the quiet. Unfortunately for her, May didn’t have it in her to answer the litany of questions she threw her way. So to fill the void, Lenaia simply talked.

“I am so glad it was my turn to pick up this month’s shipment for the bar,” she said, talking loudly over the incessant growl of the truck’s engine. “I mean, what are the chances we’d find each other like that?”

May offered a small smile. “I really appreciate you giving me a lift.”

“Of course!” Lenaia replied. “Let’s see, what’ve you missed over the last… year? Have you already been gone a year?”

May nodded, feeling just as amazed as Lenaia sounded. The fact that she was actually back on Hoku after all this time still hadn’t sunk in.

Lenaia eased the truck onto the narrow, two-lane road that connected the north and south halves of the island before continuing. “Your brother moved into your treehouse. Not, like, took it over or anything like that. He just wanted to keep the kids in town from rooting around in it. You know how kids are – they can’t resist the siren song of a treehouse, especially one as badass as yours.”

“I’m glad,” May said, watching the north shore fade in the rearview mirror. “There’s no one else I’d rather have it to be honest.”

“Seriously,” Lenaia agreed with a grin. “Kai’s such a good dude. I’m telling you, if I were even remotely interested in dating, I’d make a move.”

At this, May actually managed to laugh. “I don’t think he’d know what to do with himself.” She peered at Lenaia out of the corner of her eye. “Have your parents finally given up on trying to get you to settle down?”

It was no secret Lenaia’s family had long been exasperated by their daughter’s complete disinterest in finding love. They expected her – like most parents in Omea did of their own children – to get married and bring them grandchildren. But May had known Lenaia her entire life and, as the story went, Lenaia had been kissed once and promptly swore the whole thing off. She didn’t date or pine for romance, and it frustrated her parents to no end.

There was a twinkle of delight in Lenaia’s eyes as she snuck a quick glance back at May.

“Actually, I decided to take a page from your book.”

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

“You standing up to your parents and deciding to run off with Em inspired me.” For a split-second Lenaia looked as close to bashful as she could get. “I told my family to lay off. I have no interest in being in a relationship or makin’ babies and shit. I said if they really loved me, they were just going to have to accept that.”

“You did?” May couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “How’d they handle that?”

“Not great at first, but…” Lenaia hesitated, licking her lips and shooting May another look. “Well, to be honest, after you left I think they were worried I might get a little too inspired, if you know what I mean. I think they realized accepting me as I am was better than losing me altogether.”

Her words wrapped around May’s heart like a vice. She thought of her own parents and wondered if they were regretting how they’d handled things.

“I guess I’ve always been a bit of a cautionary tale, haven’t I?”

“Actually, you’ve become a bit of a legend since you left.”

May raised a doubtful eyebrow. “I have?”

“Oh yeah.” Lenaia was grinning again, her perfectly painted coral lips stretching tall in the corners. “After the spectacular way you disappeared? And what happened to Kane? I gave up on keeping up with all the rumors.”

“What kind of rumors?” May asked, her stomach twisting. Between memories of Kane and the idea of being the subject of gossip once more, she was starting to regret accepting the ride back to Omea.

“All kinds of wild stuff,” Lenaia admitted. “Most people didn’t even realize you had come back at all, but then all the shit with Kane went down.”

The memory of Kane – forcing his way into her home at first and then, when the mental slideshow flicked, the image of him broken and mangled on the beach – made May’s stomach churn. She cracked the window to cool the sweat beading on her brow.

Lenaia pursed her lips, waiting for May to say something. When the silence stretched on, she cleared her throat and continued.

“His buddy, Bilo threw him under the bus.” Her voice took on a softer quality as she spoke. “He told everyone what happened – that Kane made him drive him out to your place and keep watch. People weren’t quite as sympathetic once they knew the truth.”

May let out a bitter scoff. “It figures they’d believe him but not me.”

“No kidding,” Lenaia agreed. “Kane was pretty fucked up though. He still walks with a limp. Some people think it was you who threw him.”

“I wish.”

“After you disappeared, your family was pretty tight-lipped about whatever went down.” The darting glances Lenaia kept throwing May’s way gave away how desperately she hoped to learn the truth. “Some people think you ran away again. Others think Em kidnapped you. There are even some people who think you’re dead.”

“They wish.”

Lenaia shook her head. “No, I don’t believe that.”

“I guess we’ll find out,” May mumbled. They were deep into the interior forest now. The dense foliage reached skyward, blotting out the sun and cooling the air. Between the dim light and the motion of the truck, May felt herself drifting off.

She awoke to the truck coming to a stop. Eyes closed, she listened as Lenaia climbed out, leaving her door open rather than risk waking May when she closed it.

Once May was sure she was alone, she lifted her head and peered out the window. They were at a pull-out off the highway; a rest stop for weary travellers.

“Hey, Kai. It’s Lenaia. You’re not going to believe this.”

May held her breath and eavesdropped on Lenaia’s phone call with her brother. Quietly, Lenaia let Kai know she had found May wandering alone on the north shore.

“I don’t know,” Lenaia whispered. “She’s not saying very much… Huh? Oh, she’s sleeping and I’m trying not to wake her. She looks like she needs the rest to be honest. What do you want me to do?” A pause. “Sure, that’s no problem… Probably another hour? Cool, see you then.”

The door swung open and May clamped her eyes closed again. Gently, Lenaia pulled herself back behind the wheel, clicked her seat belt, and put the truck into drive. Despite the thoughts swirling in her mind, May was quick to slip back into the lull of sleep.

She slept the rest of the drive. The next time the truck came to a stop, May sat up and blinked groggily in the bright sunshine. A fresh, salty breeze wafted in through her open window – in the distance May could hear the ocean rolling up the surf.

“We’re here,” Lenaia announced in a musical tone.

May turned to look out her window. Lenaia had brought her to her parents’ house. Her eyes trailed up the front steps and found Kai staring back. His mouth hung open and his brow was knitted with concern.

Slowly, May slid from the truck. She stood on the sidewalk feeling small and awkward. As she opened her mouth to say something, the door behind Kai swung open and out rushed her parents.

The world seemed to freeze. A rush began somewhere in the pit of May’s stomach and worked its way up to a roar in her ears. Her breaths came shallow and quick, panic gripping her like hands that squeezed far too tight.

May watched, paralyzed by uncertainty, as her mother stepped carefully toward her without breaking eye contact. The woman looked as though she were staring at a ghost and, if she so much as blinked, May might vanish into vapor.

“Baby,” she whispered, stopping an arm’s length from where May still stood rooted in place. “Baby, are you okay?”

The question, asked with so much tenderness, brought back a flood of memories. Young May sick with the flu, teenaged May locked in her room after having been teased by classmates over her boyish figure. Her mother’s concern – before things had fallen apart so dramatically five years earlier – always had a way of coaxing May down from the ledge.

May’s lip trembled. She tried to answer but her voice betrayed her.

No, she thought. I’m not okay. I don’t even remember what okay feels like.

She shook her head, collapsed into her mother’s outstretched arms, and burst into tears.


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Thirty Five

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[ CW: vomit ]


May awoke in a panic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Close your eyes,” she said softly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She pulled back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She sobbed.

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


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter 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 Eleven

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Content Warning: Strong language


For a heartbeat no one spoke.

Em’s wide eyes, filled with surprise, flickered from one face to the next, her grip tightening reflexively around May’s shoulder.

“Dom, what the fuck?” she demanded. She looked ready to run or fight, whichever was necessary first.

Holding his palms up in surrender, Dom kept his focus locked on her. He could sense her mix of fear and anger from where he stood. A part of him wanted to bridge that gap, to coax her down to a peaceful place with a compassionate touch. He knew her well enough to stay back. His heart ached, reflecting on how he had hoped his first reunion with these friends would go; so different from the scenario he found himself in now.

“Please, Em,” he begged. “These people need your help. You’ve got to know I wouldn’t have lead them to you if I didn’t believe that.”

And that was the problem – Em did know Dom believed he was doing the right thing. He was so good, and helping people was in his nature. For the first time she regretted not being more honest with him, for waiting so long to tell him her truth in what wound up being just a hastily abridged version anyway. She didn’t know what these people told him but there was no way he could have realized just how far away from them she had hoped to stay. For that she had no one to blame but herself.

Despite having tried to avoid it, Em eventually let herself look at the man gaping at her from the centre of the room. His dark eyes were troubled beneath a mess of unruly red hair, his expression that of someone who had just been slapped – hard. His companions glanced uncomfortably between him and Em, none of them speaking until the blond man with sad green eyes cleared his throat.

“We aren’t here to hurt you,” he said, his voice gentle and low. “But he’s right, we need your help. We’ve been trying to find you for a long time and we hope you’ll hear us out.”

Em licked her lips and let out a shaky exhale. It took her a moment to reply.

“Why us? Why me?”

The man opened his mouth to answer but it was his redheaded friend that stepped forward.

“It’s a long story, so we should probably start from the beginning.” He offered his hand for her to shake. He didn’t smile. “My name is Jeremy.”

May let out a barely audible gasp, flinching imperceptibly to everyone but Em, whose arm was still draped protectively around her. Instead of acknowledging May’s surprise, Em took Jeremy’s hand and gave it a single, firm shake.

“Emanthy.”

The moment between the two seem to hang, but around them their friends exchanged wide-eyed glances. Everyone was tense.

At last Jeremy pulled back his hand and gestured to his companions.

“This is Connor,” he said of his blond friend. “His wife, Rue. And that’s Priva.”

Jeremy watched Em’s face carefully as he spoke, looking for something he didn’t seem to find as she nodded curtly in turn from Connor, to the golden-eyed Rue, and finally at Priva, who at least gave a slight wave back. In response, Jeremy frowned deeper and looked away, missing the way Em’s knuckles faded to white as she gripped at the loose edges of May’s shirt – the only hint she was reeling.

Another deep breath. Em slid her hand – clammy with nerves – to the small of May’s back and rolled her shoulders so she stood a little taller.

“I see you’ve already met my girlfriend, May.”

A person would have to be dead to miss the shockwave that shot through the room. May forced a small smile and resisted the urge to press tighter into the protection of Em’s side. She wasn’t sure what had happened but she knew the mood had gone from bad to worse. With anxiety swelling inside her she watched as Connor, Rue, and Priva glanced at one another but said nothing. Between them, May could see Dom holding his breath.

Jeremy remained locked on Em, his jaw tight and his expression stiff.

“It’s nice to meet you both,” he said at last, turning away as he did so.

May met Em’s eyes.

She wondered if Em could tell he was lying, too.


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The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter Ten

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Content Warning: Strong language


It didn’t take long for May’s cheerful excitement to give way to unease.

“As much as I’d like to believe you just wanted to surprise us, something -” she glanced back at Dom’s unfamiliar travelling companions “- tells me this isn’t a social visit.”

Dom’s jaw tightened. He gave May’s hand a quick squeeze.

“I wish, Maybe. I really do.”

“What’s going on?” Worry settled heavy across her brow. “Who are-”

“Let’s wait until we’re somewhere more private before we get into it, okay?” Dom cut her off. May didn’t argue.

They made their way out the back of the tent and into an open lot teeming with activity. May waved and exchanged quick words with the fellow cast and crew milling around. The last remnants of the night’s props were being locked away in the shipping crates and boisterous laughter drifted from an inviting-look dining tent. Beyond that, a sea of mobile trailers clustered just out of the tent’s circle of light.

“You’ve gotta tell me what this “Ginger” thing is all about,” Dom remarked after a fourth person referred to May by the name.

May laughed quietly. “We’re on the run, Dominic. It wouldn’t make much sense to go by our real names, now would it?”

“Fair enough.” He gestured at the scene around them. “Nice work hiding in plain sight by the way.”

At this, May beamed. “Yeah, we’re pretty proud of ourselves.”

“You must be happy to be dancing again.”

“I really am. I didn’t realize how much I missed it, to be honest.”

A voice was cleared from behind the pair, who looked over their shoulders in unison.

“Your performance was very lovely,” said one of the two women who followed them with a soft smile. “You’re very talented.”

May flushed; for someone who loved to perform, she was still getting accustomed to praise.

“Thank you! That’s very sweet of you to say.”

Her gaze lingered on the woman a moment longer. She was striking; warm brown skin that was etched with painstakingly detailed tattoos on her face and forearms. But it was her brilliant golden eyes that held May’s attention the most, their familiarity causing her to shiver involuntarily.

Giving her head a slight shake, May hoped she hadn’t been staring too long and changed the subject.

“Rose was in the shower when Bertram came to find us,” she said, speaking Rose’s name slowly as though she were still getting used to it herself. “But she should be done by now.”

They made their way through the small village of trailers to one with fairy lights framing the door. May skipped up the steps and poked her head inside.

“Babe?” she called and listened for a reply. Jeremy tensed and shot Dom a look who pretended not to notice. “Huh. Maybe she went looking for me. Would you like to wait inside?”

The troupe filed into the cramped trailer – a space not suited for quite so many bodies – and clustered in the awkward silence that followed.

“Sorry it’s so small,” May murmured, bashfully shoving stray laundry out of sight. “The other trailers have more room but we took this one so we wouldn’t have to share with anyone else.”

“Smooth,” Dom replied with a chuckle. He nudged at her with his elbow, bringing the blush back to her cheeks. She gave him a swat.

“So what’s going on?” She gave the group of strangers her full attention for the first time. She tried to ignore the anxiety that gnawed at her gut under the intense stare of the man with fiery hair. He had been fixated on her from the very first moment – the entire walk to the trailer she had felt his dark eyes boring into her, but now she couldn’t avoid them. “Is everything okay?”

Before Dom could reply, the red-haired man reached into his pocket and produced a tattered, folded piece of paper. Opening it carefully he stepped forward and handed it to her without a word.

Panic gripped May’s insides when she saw the photo – herself and Em, caught on a security camera in Tenna nearly a year ago. She could pinpoint the moment precisely, her shoulder wedged under Em’s arm as the two wove through alleys to escape a Loyal agent named Melanie.

“Why do you have this?” May’s voice hitched, her breathing shallow. Her eyes darted fearfully from the man to her friend. “Dom, what is this?”

“May, listen,” he tried to sound reassuring but there was grief in his expression that filled May with dread. “You’ve got to hear them out.”

But her mind was already racing.

“We trusted you.” May felt as though she were looking at a stranger. She couldn’t imagine anyone who knew about that day in the photo having anything but bad reasons for wanting to find her and Em – surely Dom realized that. “Dom, how could you bring them here?”

With her heartbeat thundering in her ears, May could see that the others were talking to her but she was too busy scouring the room for a way out. The strangers blocked her path – would she be able to fight her way through?

“We’re not here to hurt you,” insisted another one of the strangers; the other man, beautiful and earnest. He reached tenderly to her as though she were a wounded, frightened animal and she jerked away only to back into Dom.

“C’mon, Maybe,” he pleaded. “Just list-”

Panic overcame her and she screamed. Aliases be damned, she screamed Em’s name and lunged for the door just as it swung open. Dom and the strangers pulled back in surprise, leaving room for May to stumble into the arms of a woman with pearlescent skin. Hair like polished silver poked out from where it had been hastily tucked beneath the ragged ball cap Dom has often seen her wearing in the photos she sent him. She clutched May close while her haunting diamond-blue eyes took in the scene.

The room went silent and she spoke.

“What the fuck is going on?”


[ Read Next Chapter ]

Ko-Fi May

The Wind and the Horizon: Chapter One

[ Star at the Beginning Read Next Chapter ]

Content Warning: Brief, non-explicit insinuation of past sexual assault 


May should not have been standing at that door.

There was a foggy sense of purpose egging her on from a dark corner of her mind. Her hand trembled as she raised it to knock weakly. If someone had asked her in that moment why she was there, she wouldn’t have been able to answer, aside from insisting it was something she needed to do.

It wasn’t until she heard the lock click that the bottom of her stomach gave out. Her extremities tingled and a roaring filled her ears.

No. This isn’t right.

From across the threshold, Kane smiled down at her with cruel satisfaction. Dim light from his apartment framed him in the night; a dark and dangerous silhouette.

Wait, no.

He didn’t touch her – didn’t say a word – just stood back to let her in.

As if under a spell, she stepped past him and listened in dread at the sound of the door closing, the deadlock clicking into place.

Stop. Stop, what are you doing? Go back.

He was on her in an instant, his hands rough and unforgiving. She cried out of fear. She cried out of shame and pain. But he didn’t stop.

He never stopped.

It was only while she was in the thick of reliving one of her worst memories that May would realize that’s all it was – a memory. A dream.

She’d wake up in a cold sweat, often in tears, shaking and confused. It didn’t happen as often as it once did – before Em had washed up into her life – but that didn’t make it any less terrifying when the nightmares came.

Tonight’s dream was no different. May fought for wakefulness to escape it.

“Hey,” a soft voice came from beside her in the darkness of the room. “Hey, it’s okay. You’re alright, babe.”

May felt Em’s arms encircle her, strong and warm. She collapsed into her and took a few deep breaths. Em’s familiar, airy scent filled her senses and grounded her in the present.

“The dream again?” Em squeezed May’s shoulders gently. May nodded against the crook of her neck.

“I’m sorry, babe.”

Pulling back, May brushed away a stray tear and exhaled. Her eyes adjusted to the darkness. Moonlight streamed in through the open window and lit Em’s pale diamond eyes; her gaze was full of loving concern.

“It’s alright,” May mumbled, trying to bury the fading visions from her mind with a light shake of her head. “I woke up a lot sooner than last time.”

Em frowned. “It’s been such a long time since the last one. Is everything okay?”

It was a difficult question to answer given the circumstances.

The pair had been travelling for months; so many May long since lost count. They moved frequently but made their stops memorable. May had done more since she and Em fled Hoku than she had in the rest of her life combined. The rich, earthy scent of the vineyards they were working on wafted in from the window; it must have just rained.

But for all the amazing experiences and wonderful people they met along the way, it was never far from May’s mind that they were on the run. They had only come to this vineyard a few weeks ago, making money by working the vines by day and enjoying free wine and each other by night. Yet they were already making plans to leave. Where to head next had been the last thing the two  talked about before falling asleep that night.

May bit her lip. She didn’t want Em to worry – to think she was having regrets about leaving her home behind. But Em was giving her that look and she knew dancing around the truth wouldn’t get her very far.

“I think…” May swallowed. “I think I might be a little tired.”

It took a moment for Em to catch on. “Is this about the move?”

With a shrug, May nodded sheepishly.

“It might be. I can’t say for sure. But…” she let out a sigh. “I don’t know. It’s not like I’m not happy or enjoying seeing the world. I just-”

“No, I get it.” Em gently brushed a rosy curl from May’s forehead. “You’re right – this way of life can be exhausting. Being on the lam is stressful. Maybe we can find a place to settle for a while. A bit of routine couldn’t hurt as long as we don’t get sloppy.”

May smiled in appreciation; Em always found the words when she couldn’t. She took Em’s hand in hers and pressed it to her lips.

It was only then May realized Em was sitting on the edge of the bed.

“Were you already up?” She glanced back at Em’s side of the tiny bed they shared. The blankets were tossed aside, the pillow was on the floor.

“Couldn’t sleep.” Em’s eyes flitted to the window and at once May understood.

“Still nothing?

“Not a thing.”

Try as she might, Em hadn’t been able to make contact with Welkin. She spent long nights casting her vibrations into the sky and receiving nothing back but the regular noise bouncing around the universe. Em tried her best to downplay her concern, but May could tell not knowing what had become of the Star was wearing on her. Her gaze was unfocused, her thoughts far, far away.

“They’ll find their way back to us sooner or later,” May assured softly, trailing her fingers up and down Em’s forearm.

Em blinked, bringing herself back to the moment. She smiled at May. “Yeah. I’ll try again some other night.”

Still far from being ready to go back to sleep, May returned Em’s smile before leaning in, letting their lips meet in a soft, slow kiss.

“Want to make out until we fall asleep?” she asked in a honey-soaked voice. She trailed her fingers all the way up Em’s arm this time and used them to trace her jawline with a feather-light touch.

Em raised an eyebrow. “I would hope making out with me wouldn’t put you to sleep.”

A playful look settled across May’s face.

“Maybe we can keep each other awake instead.”

With a sly grin of her own, Em crawled up May’s lap and crushed another more urgent kiss against her lips.

“Now that I can do,” she murmured, her voice low, mouth still grazing May’s with tantalizing proximity.

They fell into one another, letting the softness of skin on skin and the heat of desire drown out all the worries and fears. Both knew they were only putting off the inevitable; neither could shake the sinking sensation that the gap between them and danger was quietly closing.

And while they couldn’t have known it for sure, they were right to worry.


[ Read Next Chapter ]

Ko-Fi May

 

 

The Wind and the Horizon: Prologue

Read Book One | Read Next Chapter ]


Welkin was in trouble.

Not that the Star was unfamiliar with punishment from their own kin. Bestowing a human child to an ailing woman in secret had been bad enough.

But this was different. There would be no redemption this time.

The Star was a prisoner. Their unrelenting need to visit Earth and dabble in the lives of humans had long since been a source of anger and frustration amongst their peers. But this latest trespass had the entire celestial council responsible for Earth in an uproar.

<<It was unthinkable for you to befriend that human girl and grant her an unauthorized wish,>> scolded one incensed Star. <<But to circumvent her daughter’s death? Tensions are high enough among our faithful without your foolhardy meddling.>>

Welkin remained silent. It had only been a matter of time before the council – the Stars responsible for Earth and its place in the greater Plan of the Universe – found out about Emanthy. Welkin didn’t need to exacerbate the situation by admitting that, given the chance, they’d do it all again if they had to.

<<The fallen wishing star and its ill-gotten wishes are still causing problems,>> said another of Welkin’s peers, this one more fretful. <<We’re having a challenging enough time containing the disruptions they’ve caused to the Plan without one of our own creating more. Why would you do something so asinine?>>

<<You wouldn’t understand,>> Welkin replied, unable to hold their opinions close any longer.

The other Stars crackled at Welkin’s defiance. What they said was true – despite their close link to life on Earth, none of them had connected with it the way Welkin had. All these Stars knew was how each living thing fit into the Plan, how the planet’s existence was meant to unfold over a dizzying number of millennia.

While these celestial beings saw the planet’s story as one great tapestry, the minutiae of its creatures were lost on them. They didn’t understand grief. They didn’t understand love.

Welkin did.

Yet not every human experience was unfathomable to the Stars. They were all familiar with notions of loyalty and duty. There was a kind of beauty in the order they kept, and Welkin had all but set it all ablaze.

<<We understand your selfishness jeopardized the Plan yet again,>> came the booming reprimand of a Star best described as a leader within the council. They were sympathetic to Welkin’s misguided affinity for life on Earth, but it was no longer prudent to turn a blind eye. <<We serve at the pleasure of the Universe, not our own desires.>>

Rebellious indifference swirled within Welkin, reminding them of Emanthy. The memory of their daughter – the knowledge they would likely never see her again – stung. They imagined this was how Jeremy, Connor, and the rest had felt when they lost Audrey.

If there was one thing the Star had learned, it was the worst part about love was the inevitable pain that came with it. The humans Welkin loved taught them that.

<<What’s it going to be?>> Welkin wanted nothing more than to get the trial over with. <<Will you snuff my light and be done with me once and for all?>>

It was a bold thing to say – to goad a Star into ending another’s existence. But Welkin was tired and haunted by their many mistakes. To be done with it all hardly seemed the worst option.

<<No,>> rumbled the leader. <<We will not take on the burden of relieving you of yours. You have a choice: stay among your kind and never return to Earth again, or fall.>>

If Welkin had need to draw breath, they would have found theirs stolen away.

This ultimatum was worse than being snuffed out.

<<What kind of choice is that?>> Welkin asked.

<<A fair one, given the circumstances,>> the leader replied. <<We hope you’ll choose wisely.>>

Welkin observed their kin. The decision held colossal weight, but the answer came easily.

<<You should know my answer without posing the question,>> they stated.

<<I fell a long time ago.>>


Read Next Chapter ]

Ko-Fi May

Reads vs Readership in a Book Club World

No new WWW Wednesday this week. I mean, unless you’re interested in reading basically the same post but with a progress report on where I’m at with “About a Girl” (update: it’s growing on me!)

With that in mind this seemed like a good time to write about something that’s been rolling around in my brain a bit lately. Specifically: Wattpad book clubs and reads vs readership.

I’ll be upfront about this: I have a love-hate relationship with Wattpad book clubs (as it seems I do about most things related to Wattpad). When you’re new to the community and looking for tips and tricks about how to gain traction, joining one of these clubs is generally high on lists of recommended advice. It’s easy to see why: members get assigned to read and comment on chapters (generally the first three to five) of a selected book from one of their peers. Each club takes its own liberties with the model but the idea is always pretty much the same. Not only does being a part of a book club force you to participate and be social (great ways to connect with other writers, obviously) but the system will eventually force people to read and comment on your book too.

And, let’s be real: that’s what everyone really wants.

When I was originally planning to write this post, I anticipated it being about commenting etiquette in Wattpad book clubs. I’m a member of three clubs right now and The Star and the Ocean has been featured in all of them. While I’ve definitely received some of the nicest comments and most helpful feedback via book clubs, I’ve also seen some… Less than impressive examples of compulsory participation…

“But this just isn’t my type of book I’m just reading it because of book club. But I can tell you did a great job on a lot of things.”

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Like, this person realizes that I will inevitably have to read and comment on their work too, right?

In general, comments like this aren’t constructive. What they are is dismissive to the author’s efforts. I get that book clubs force you to read things you may not have touched otherwise but this isn’t how you should deal with it (and given the anecdotal feedback I got on Twitter, it sounds like this is a fairly common problem). Moral of the story: don’t be a dick when you’re leaving comments on your book club assignments because every writer looks forward to when they get to be featured and your half-assed better-than-this bullshit isn’t helping anyone.

But I digress.

My actual concern with book clubs is whether or not the time invested actually does anything to help gain you a dedicated readership.

Without a doubt, if you participate in book clubs, you’re going to get reads. You have to if people want to complete their assignments. But as thrilling as that may be at first, it doesn’t take long to see your first five chapters become saturated with reads and comments while the rest of your story just sort of… Tapers off (I think this is the case for Wattpad in general but it’s especially pronounced among book club-submitted stories).

There are no bad guys in this scenario: we’re all guilty of abandoning book club books after our assignments are over. Out of everything I’ve read so far, I think I’ve only found one or two I’m interested in reading all the way through. It’s the nature of the beast.

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Books: you’re not gonna love ’em all.

But, I’ll be honest: I’d rather have a handful of dedicated repeat readers that are committed to the story and eager to follow it to completion than a bunch of random reads.

So, are book clubs helping me?

My first inclination was to say no. I can plainly see the stats, and my book is definitely bottom-heavy (or top-heavy, depending on which way you’re looking at it). Most book club readers drop off the moment their commitment is over, which disappointing but not surprising.

But I can’t deny that I’ve seen exponential growth in my reads since joining the book clubs – too many to have just come from assigned readers too. In the last week and a half alone I’ve seen well over 200 new reads; not bad considering it took me over two months to get to my first 200! Pleasant side effects have included slow but steady increases in votes, followers and being added to reading lists. And, if I’m being honest, I am seeing a handful of readers who have been legitimately following the story.

So, are book clubs a time consuming, imperfect and occasionally disheartening system? Yes. Do they get the job done? Yeah, I suppose, but you’ve gotta commit to the long game if you’re after sustained readership.

What are your thoughts on Wattpad book clubs? Have you found participating in them to be beneficial or have you just wound up disappointed?

Even if you’re not part of a book club, tell me what matters more to you as an author: reads or readers?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one!