My muscles ached as I woke up from what had to be the most uncomfortable sleeping position ever. I rubbed the back of my neck and sat up, still half awake. The sun was just beginning to rise in the sky, allowing the slightest golden glow to bounce across ocean waves. I sighed to myself, the impending what ifs of leaving fully sinking in. A soft low breathing that I recognized as Maeve sleeping came from the back seat and I turned to see both her and Harvey asleep. I shouldn’t have trusted them to be the ones to stay up and keep watch, but we were okay and that was all that mattered. I stretched my arms out in front of me before looking back over the water again. In the real world, the sky would be telling me it was dawn. An early morning for a brand new day... but, time existed on a different plane in Eroda and I knew it seemed like one whole eternal day balled together. We’d probably been gone for two or three weeks on the outside, but there was no way to truly tell. A part of me was at peace with it. With not knowing. I rubbed my head before glancing back at Harvey and Maeve one last time. They looked happy even as they slept and I suddenly didn’t regret the decisions I’d made to get her here. It was all worth it just to see her like this.
I quietly pulled the door open and stepped out into the crisp air, allowing the coolness to wake me up even more. I needed a moment to myself- just a few seconds to sit alone with the sound of waves crashing and birds singing. I made my way to the other side of the road and sat near the edge of the cliff looking over the sea. The stars still hung in the sky by threads as the sun threatened to cut them down as it inched its way up further. The water was calm today with waves softly lapping against the rocks below unlike yesterdays violent crashes and sprays. The calm before the storm. They always say that. Why does there always have to be a storm after peacefulness? That’s what it always seems like at least. Nothing is truly calm or peaceful is it?
I thought I’d be scared right now- at least a little bit. I thought that maybe I’d feel nauseous or shaky or change my mind, but I didn’t. I was as firm and calm as the waves below me. Lilah was right when she said I knew how this would end. I knew how this would end when I met Maeve and yet I still kept pushing. Pushing myself into her world and her thoughts because I just couldn’t help myself. When I saw her hurting, it made my heart ache. I saw her grow right in front of my own eyes- not because of anything I did, but just because of who she was. A sorceress, that one. She had a way of putting words together that I’d never seen before. It was the way she spoke. The way she held herself. The way she knew this whole time that she was stronger than all of the things that could hurt her and even still she made herself seem small. But she wasn’t small. She was a garden of ideas and power and every good thing in the world and somehow, she took me in as her friend. Her confidant. She trusted me. This whole time, I’ve been lying to myself. I told myself I was the one that had to be there for her. I knew what she’d gone through. I knew what she’d lost and it only made sense for me to be her rock- for me to be the one that helped her heal but goddamnit she didn’t need my help. She never needed me. That was the biggest lie I’d ever told myself. I needed her... but I knew more than anything that he needed her more.
I pinched a blade of grass between my fingers and pulled it from the ground before letting it blow away in the breeze. And then the sun rose. The energy of something new, something unknown, a possible new beginning filled the air and I wasn’t scared. I knew what I had to do.
I heard footsteps tread across the road and I didn’t have to turn around to know who it was. She quietly sat down beside me and brought her knees to her chest before gingerly leaning her head on my shoulder.
“What are you doing over here?” she yawned, pulling a blanket around her shoulders.
“Just thinking,” I smiled.
“A little bit of everything,” I offered.
“Sounds about right,” she chuckled. “Are you ready to get back?”
We sat in silence for a minute, her hair blowing wild in the wind and I wondered if she knew. She was smart- smarter than me. Sure, I was the one that had an astrophysics degree and I knew numbers, but she knew people and had a razor sharp intuition. I tilted my head, resting it on top of hers and she wrapped the blanket around my shoulders. I’m the only boy awake now, gazing at the stars. An activity that I was very comfortable with... and it felt right with her beside me, looking at them in the same way I was.
This was one of my favorite sights in the sky- the moment when the sun and the moon existed at the same time. The sunset hadn’t happened just yet. It crept up, dimming the stars and pushing away the moon but she refused to budge just yet. This was the moment when they sat together. There were just a few minutes in the day that they got to say hello. They got to say good morning’s and I love you’s. Maybe it wasn’t the sun pushing the moon away after all. Maybe that was just the way the world worked and it had to be that way. And that was okay... because the sun would take any second he could with the moon. They sky threatened to turn pink in just a few minutes and I turned to Maeve, her eyes glistening in the soft light.
"La Luna," I whispered to her. She smiled.
"La Luna," she repeated. Silence. “So, where is Saturn from here?”
“From Eroda?” I asked. She nodded and I thought hard. “I don’t know... stay here. I’ll be right back.”
I stood up and quickly walked back to the car, unlocking the door and shuffling through my bag to find the space book that I so embarrassingly brought along. I quietly shut the door as to not wake a very peaceful Harvey and ran back to Maeve.
“Why’d you bring that?” she laughed when she saw the book in my hands.
“It’s kind of like my good luck charm. Don’t make fun of me, it’s rude,” I retorted, opening the book and flipping through pages.
I began pointing out constellations we could still see in Eroda- some of the same ones we could see on Earth. She asked me how far away Earth was and I told her I didn’t know. We talked for a few minutes in our usual way, maybe for the first time since we’d been in here. I flipped more pages until she stopped me.
“Hey,” she interrupted, gently placing her hand on mine. I looked to her and her eyes suddenly filled with tears. “What if... what if things aren’t the same when we go back?”
“What do you mean?” I asked... already knowing there was no way they would be the same.
“I mean what if I have to move back to America or what if... I don’t know I’m just being silly. This place is really getting to me. Things are just different now with... I don’t know. Everything feels like it’s changing.”
“It’s going to be different with Harvey you mean...” I spoke for her.
“Yeah...” she bit her lip before continuing. “I love him more than words. I’m going to have to ask him what he wants to do. We’d basically built a life together and then it got torn apart.”
“And then you made your own.”
“Exactly,” she folded her hands in her lap and looked out over the ocean as the sky began to become pink. “And I want him in it... I know that much. But I also don’t want to lose you or Serena or everything that’s made me who I am in London. I was someone completely different before I moved. It was the biggest thing I had ever done. The old Maeve who you never got to know would have never made a huge decision like that- she didn’t even believe that she deserved it. But Harvey did. I loved him and he was the only constant I’d ever known but we both got comfortable in our lives in Briar Creek and we stayed there. I think I secretly wanted something bigger but I didn’t want leave him or disappoint him. I blamed it on him, but it was never him. It was me. In losing him, I found myself in the worst and best way at the same time. I did everything I was scared of and I grew. And even talking to him now, I can tell he knows that and he’s proud of me. I can tell by the way he looks at me a little different than he did before... he’s proud of me.”
“Of course he is,” I smiled.
“I just- I don’t want to disappoint him. He shouldn’t have to be forced to live in my new life, you know?”
“Maeve, I hate to break it to you, but that boy loves you too hard to care about where he gets to love you. He just wants to love you... and you should let him. Everything else will sort itself out.”
“You’re right,” she sighed, allowing a grin to creep onto her face. “And you’re not going anywhere are you?”
“Of course not. I’m right here,” I took her hand in my own and she held it a little tighter than usual. “I’ll always be here.”
I pulled her into a hug and we stayed there as the sun finally made its full appearance above the ocean waves. They began crashing harder against the rocks below, allowing ocean spray to mist through the air. I stood to my feet and pulled Maeve up with me before handing her the space book.
“Ready to get out of this god forsaken place?” I asked.
“Let’s go!” she replied, skipping ahead of me to the car.
Harvey had just woken up and stretched in his seat before waving at us as we made our way back to him. I took a deep breath and started the car, preparing myself for any possibility the journey home would throw at us.