The voice was soft, whispery, the same voice they'd heard the first time their necklaces bonded, the voice they'd heard on the phone. But so near, so fragile, light enough to ride the early morning breeze, to caress their cheeks, to brush their lips.
Tears burst from Alex's silver-gray eyes. Cam was hyperventilating. In slo-mo and in sync, they turned around.
Alex had pictured a sidelined super-woman, a fierce witch of wondrous powers.
Cam had visualized Miranda as gentle, calm and loving, nervous about meeting them.
The stranger who stood before them was all and none of that.
If this had been a movie, Alex found herself thinking, this would be the moment they ran toward one another, embraced tightly, cried profusely, forgave and forgot, then walked off into the sunset, arms around one another's shoulders.
But this was real life, and it was dawn, and their new beginning was unscripted.
Tentatively, they stepped toward each other.
Miranda's expression changed. Cam now a mixture of awe and relief on the face that belonged to a stranger, yet looked so much like her own. Awe and relief and a joy so profound it frightened both of them.
"Artemis?" the woman called out tentatively.
Cam shook her head. "I'm Camr - I'm Apolla," she said.
"I'm Artemis." The trapped words now escaped Alex's dry mouth.
"Oh." Miranda's eyes glimmered as they searched Alex's face. "I thought, maybe, because you were crying, I thought you were." She smiled now, at the memory etched in her brain. "When you were newborns, Artemis clutched her tiny fists and turned red with rage, but never cried. Apolla was placid and calm. I imagined she would become the more emotional one."
"I never cry." For some dumb reason, Alex needed to be sure this woman - Miranda - knew about her.
"But she still goes red with rage," Cam offered. "And I'm still the calm one."
Right, Alex silently contradicted, that's why you're shaking and sweating.
Miranda cocked her head; a faint smile played on her lips.
"You heard that?" Cam asked awestruck.
"It's one of the very few gifts I have left," she explained quietly. "And even that one is.undependable."