Harper studied her and shook her head. “I just can’t tell anymore.”
“What do you mean?” Gemma asked.
“I don’t know if this is you-pretty or siren-pretty.”
Gemma smirked. “I’ll just take that as a compliment.”
The doorbell rang, so Harper got up to get it. When she left the kitchen, Brian was trying to talk Gemma into eating some of the extra sausage he’d made, but she was declining.
“Wow,” Alex said when Harper answered the door and found him standing on the doorstep. “Penn really did a number on you.”
“Yeah, Penn was pissed. But she’s dead now.” Harper couldn’t help but smile when she said it.
Penn had been torturing her and the people she loved for so long, and now it was like a giant, monstrous weight had been lifted. She hadn’t felt this happy in a very long time.
“You actually look perfectly fine,” Harper told Alex. He had a bruise on his arm, but that was about all she could see, and he was wearing a T-shirt and shorts.
“I know. Most of the blood just washed off, and there wasn’t much underneath,” he said.
“Come on in.” Harper opened the door wider. “Gemma’s in the kitchen eating breakfast. I think there’s some leftover sausage if you wanna join us.”
“Sure.” He shrugged and followed her into the kitchen.
When Gemma saw him, she smiled, and her whole face lit up. “Hey.”
“Hey.” Alex went over and kissed her, until Brian cleared his throat loudly. Then Alex straightened up and smiled politely at him. “Morning, Mr. Fisher.”
“Morning, Alex,” Brian said gruffly, making Harper laugh a little as she sat back down.
Alex pulled up a chair closer to Gemma. “How are you feeling?”
“Pretty good. Just sleepy.” She yawned again, as if to emphasize it, and she reached over, holding Alex’s hand under the table.
“So after breakfast, I was thinking I would go out to visit Marcy,” Harper said. “You wanna join me?”
Gemma shook her head. “No. I think I’m gonna take a nap.”
“You just woke up,” Harper said, dubious.
“I’m tired,” she insisted. “Losing my powers is exhausting.”
“Okay.” Harper shrugged and turned to Alex. “What about you, Alex?”
“If Gemma’s just gonna be napping…” He trailed off and looked to Gemma to see if it was okay.
“You go ahead,” Gemma told him. “Marcy’s always liked you, and she could use some cheering up.”
He looked perplexed. “I thought Marcy hated me.”
“No, that’s just her personality,” Harper said.
“Do you guys mind if I go lie down?” Gemma let go of Alex’s hand and pushed herself back from the table. “I think I woke up too early, actually.”
“You sure you’re okay?” Brian asked, concerned. “You didn’t eat any breakfast.”
“Yeah. I’m fine. I’ll feel better if I sleep some more.” Gemma stood up. “Tell Marcy that I’m sorry and thanks for everything.”
“Will do,” Harper said.
Alex stood, so Gemma leaned up and kissed him. She made sure to keep it short enough so her dad wouldn’t have to clear his throat again, then she waved ’bye to everyone and headed to her room.
“She’s acting strange, right?” Harper asked once she heard Gemma’s feet on the stairs. “You all agree with me.”
“Yeah, but after last night, can you really blame her?” Brian asked.
“And if she’s losing all her siren powers, that has to feel really draining,” Alex agreed, and sat back down. “Going from superstrong to, you know, mortal again has to feel strange.”
Harper considered it, then nodded. Physically, going from an immortal creature back to a normal teenage girl had to be a crazy feeling. Not to mention all the stress and fighting last night.
“Yeah. That’s probably it,” Harper agreed.
“Alex,” Brian said, making Alex sit up straighter. “I don’t want you to think that since you helped save my daughters’ lives that I’m gonna let you do what you want now. The old rules still apply. If I catch you in Gemma’s bedroom, I will feel absolutely no guilt in cutting off whatever appendages you’re touching her with.”
Alex gulped. “That sounds fair, Mr. Fisher.”
Marcy lived in a tiny apartment above a souvenir shop two blocks from the beach. All summer, she hated it because of the tourists, but in the winter, when no one was around, she loved it.
Harper and Alex stood on the landing outside her apartment door. Between the buildings, she could see Anthemusa Bay, and she could hear the sounds of people laughing and music playing.
“Hello.” Lydia opened the door, smiling brightly.
“Hey, Lydia, I didn’t know you were here,” Harper said.
“Since Marcy lives alone, I thought I would come play nursemaid.” And that explained Lydia’s tiny white hat with a red cross on it.
“That’s really nice of you,” Harper said, and she gestured to Alex. “I’m not sure if you’ve been properly introduced, but this is Alex Lane. He’s Gemma’s boyfriend.”
“No, we haven’t met, but it’s nice to meet you.” She shook his hand. “I’m Lydia Panning.”
“I’ve heard a lot about you,” he said.
Lydia did a small curtsy in the fluffy pink skirt she was wearing. “I hope I live up to your expectations.”
“How is she doing?” Harper asked, hoping to get an update before they went inside the apartment.
“Okay. She’s spent most of the morning on the couch, cuddling with her ferret Bruce and watching old Scooby Doo episodes.” Lydia lowered her voice. “She’s been crying some, but I think that’s more about Kirby than any physical pain.”
Harper nodded. Marcy had always had a terrible time expressing normal emotions, even when she was grieving. When Lydia came inside, Marcy was sitting on her couch with her injured leg propped up on a beanbag chair.
On the wall behind her was a huge, framed, black-and-white photo that was supposedly of the Loch Ness Monster, but really it just looked like a stick to Harper.
“Hey.” Harper smiled and sat down on the couch next to her. “How are you holding up, sweetie?”