Chapter Forty

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The day May met Em, the world ceased to exist.

Even if for only a second, when Em first spoke May's name, everything else faded until all that remained was the two of them: Em, locked in May's star-struck gaze. May had been afraid of Em then, and in awe, and if she believed in love at first sight then maybe she was feeling that too. But the only thing May remembered thinking in that moment was that this—they, them, together—was important.

That nothing was ever going to be the same again.

She felt the same way now. Jeremy, Dom, the car, the farmhouse — everything fell away until there was nothing else but her and Em, drawn to one another like the waves to the shore.

For her part, Em looked terrible. Dark shadows hung beneath her eyes and her pearlescent skin lacked its usual luster. She looked tired — defeated even. She looked about as awful as May had felt for weeks after Em had sent her away.

But as Em stepped forward, taking one small step and then another, something began to change. The air around her rustled, then swirled, catching her silver hair and lifting it around her head like a halo. Her pale eyes glowed, casting flashes of light the way a polished opal catches the sun, and her skin hummed with electricity. May stood transfixed in Em's brilliance, unable to feel anything and yet, somehow, feeling everything all at once. She didn't even realize Em's feet were no longer touching the ground until she hovered a mere pace before her, transcendent like the demi-god she was.

Without a word, Em reached out both hands, her palms offered toward the sky between them. But before May could decide what to do with the gesture, Em's light imploded inward until she was herself again—just a woman standing there on her own two feet. It happened so quickly that May had to blink against the dazzling spots in her vision left in the absence of Em's brilliance.

And then Em fell to her knees.

Her hands remained raised like a beggar's. Her eyes glistened and her features were stricken.

May had to remind herself to breathe. After all, wasn't it the ocean that was meant to worship at the feet of the stars, not the other way around?

"You deserve a lot of things in this life, May. But what I did to you isn't one of them." Em's voice was like a favorite song, rediscovered after years of being forgotten. But the song was a sad one; sorrowful and heavy with heartache. "I swear, dying hurt less than losing you and I am so unbelievably sorry."

Lip quivering, May took in a shaky breath. "I'm tempted to say it serves you right."

"You'd be right," Em said. Her fingers stretched ever so slightly, imploringly. "And if you'll give me another chance, I swear I'll spend every moment making it up to you. From now until forever — I'll never take us for granted again."

"Why don't you spend every moment trusting me instead? Trusting us."

Em blinked, setting free the tears that had been waiting on her lashes. She swallowed hard and nodded her head in quick, desperate bobs. "I promise. I can do that, I swear."

May laid her hands in Em's waiting palms. She wrapped her fingers around them tight.

"Good, now get up here."

She pulled and Em rose like a bird, sweeping May up in her arms as she went. May wrapped herself around Em, feeling her feet leave the earth beneath her. Her heart pounded, jubilant in her chest. For the first time in far too long, she felt like she was home.

When their feet touched the ground again, Em pulled back and gave May a small smile.

"Does this mean you forgive me?"

"I'm still angry with you," May admitted, jabbing an admonishing finger into Em's chest. But then she smiled too. "But I'm not going to stand here and pretend I don't love you."

Em lit up. A wide, beaming smile stretched across her face and she made to lean in, but stopped. May blinked at her, wondering why she was hesitating.

"Maybe, if you're not too angry..." Em said, sounding like an awkward teenager on a first date. She paused to clear her throat before continuing. "Would it be okay if I kissed you?"

A flush bloomed across May's cheeks. Yes, there was a bit of childlike bashfulness that being asked for a kiss brought on, but it was so much more than that. She thought first of Lety, and then of Mila — both of whom had taken what they wanted from her without a second thought. And then there was Em—the love of her life and the only person in this whole world she wanted to kiss now and forever—asking for permission.

Feeling alight with love, May tipped her face forward and gently touched her forehead to Em's.

"I really wish you would."

And so Em did. She moved with purpose, pressing her lips to May's and holding them for one beat, then another, while May's heart thrilled. How a kiss could be firm and tender at the same time, May didn't know, but she didn't care, either. Despite everything that had happened, she and Em still fit together perfectly.

"Listen, I don't mean to break up this lovely reunion but, what's going on?" Priva's voice cut in, bringing reality crashing back. "Why are you all here?"

"I'm wondering the same thing," Connor said, his eyes cutting from one point to another, searching. "But maybe we should move this party inside before we attract any unwanted attention." 

The small part of May's mind that was able to process anything beyond Em wondered who, in all the vast nothingness surrounding the farmhouse, was going to notice them, but she couldn't be bothered to ask. Reluctantly, she pulled back from Em without letting go.

Jeremy let out a low whistle and shoved his hands into his pockets. "Have we got a story for you."

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