Chapter Nine

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It was a small creek, glacier cold even on the hottest of summer days, that put an end to May's escape. As if she had splashed into the icy water, the sight of it seemed to shock her back to the moment. Now, with an interruption at her feet, embarrassment crept in.

"Why do I always run?"

She lowered herself onto a cluster of water-smoothed stones and stared into the crystal clear creek. At its deepest point, it likely only came up to her chest. But in that moment it felt like a chasm, and May wasn't sure she cared what was on the other side.

More of the same, May thought, closing her eyes. She wrapped her arms around her knees and pulled her legs in close. Her head bowed until her brow touched her knees. Curled into a tight ball – as small as she could make herself – May willed herself to disappear.

She felt finished; used up and done. Disappointment crawled through her veins and poisoned her heart until self-pity was the only thing on her mind.

"Interesting you'd wind up here."

May didn't start at the sound of Dom's voice behind her. She didn't care enough to be scared anymore.

"I wasn't going anywhere in particular," she replied without raising her head. "I just needed to be alone."

Dom ignored her less than subtle hint and sat down beside her. "This is where Em used to come when she needed to be alone too."

Now May looked at him, peeking out over her arm. She hadn't known that. Mentally she added it to the growing list of things she had never known about the woman she loved.

"I remember the first time I found her down here," Dom continued, his unfocused gaze skimming the water. "We'd had our first argument. Nothing major – I was trying to get her to open up, tell me what was bothering her. She took off and when I finally tracked her down, I found her in there." He picked up a pebble and flicked it into the creek, like a potshot. "It was late autumn, snow was about to fly any day, and there she was crouched in the middle of a freezing cold creek. I thought she was trying to kill herself."

At this, May lifted her head. She looked back at the creek and imagined it – Em, already the color of frigid ice, rising from the water like a ghost.

"I thought the same thing the first time I saw her do that too," May admitted in a quiet murmur. She could still see it just as clearly as the day it happened, the memory of Em – wild and unreachable – throwing herself into the ocean to drown out the energies of the universe and the memories of a past life. It was a day burned into May's memory. "That was the first time I met Welkin."

Dom held a pebble to May. "Tell me what's going on, Mabes."

May unraveled and accepted the small stone, rolling its cold smooth surface between her fingers. "The last 24 hours have been a bit much."

"I'm sorry. I really didn't want to spring this all on you, but I didn't–"

May cut him off with a dismissive wave of her hand. She flicked her wrist and cast the stone into the icy water. "Don't apologize, Dom. I get it."

Dom didn't respond. He let the silence hang between them, the rushing, gurgling of the water the only sound. May sighed.

"This is going to sound stupid."

"Try me."

May's thumb traced the base of her middle finger, a remnant of when she would fiddle with her ring when she was nervous. "All my life I've been treated like a mistake. Like I wasn't enough. In school, kids would tease me because my parents were mainlanders. Because they left me behind. Because I'm so small. Then everyone turned on me because they thought I was fucking half the village. And thenit was because they found out I'm gay, on top of everything else. It was just one thing after another. It felt so unfair. But everything happens for a reason, right? We're all here for some greater purpose we can't possibly understand and everything that happens to us is just part of the story meant to bring us to where we're meant to be."

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