“You’re still here, aren’t you?” She looked up at him, smiling.
“I am. But only ’cause you tricked me into falling in love with you first. Now I’m stuck with you forever.”
“Oh, rough life.” She laughed, and he sat up a little so he could kiss her.
Her phone began ringing loudly in the pocket of her jeans, which were still discarded on the floor from when she’d removed them as she got in bed with Daniel. That was before they’d had sex, and before she decided to venture into more first-date questions and got into the argument about her favorite movie.
“You should not get that,” Daniel said.
She sat up, glancing at his alarm clock. “It’s late, so it’s probably important.” She pulled away from him, and he sighed and flopped back down in bed.
Harper crawled to the edge of the bed and leaned over so she could fish her phone out of her pocket. She managed to grab it and answer it a second before it went to voice mail. “Hello?”
“Hey, Harper, it’s me, Professor Pine. I know it’s kinda late. I hope I’m not bothering you.”
“No, not at all.” She ran her hand through her hair and grimaced. They were supposed to have a meeting to talk about the scroll tomorrow, but with everything having changed so fast, it had slipped her mind. “Now’s a good time.”
“Oh, you are such a liar,” Daniel said from behind her, and she shot him a look.
“I just got back from Macedonia, and I was thinking about what you’d said.”
“You mean about the ink?” she asked.
“It seems to repeat the same phrase a lot—‘blood of a siren, blood of a mortal, blood of the sea’ over and over,” Pine explained. “I think that’s what the ink is made out of. Blood and ocean water. It also mentions the phrase ‘wash it away’ once, right after the ‘blood of a siren, blood of a mortal, blood of the sea.’”
“Maybe. But um, I should tell you that we kinda sorted everything out, and we don’t need the translations anymore,” Harper said sheepishly. “Sorry for bothering you so much.”
“No, you didn’t bother me at all, and I’m glad you got whatever sorted out that you needed to get sorted. But do you mind if I keep checking into this?” Pine asked. “It’s still fascinating stuff to me.”
“Yeah, of course, if you want to,” she said, relieved that he wasn’t upset. “I think my sister planned on giving Lydia the scroll, in case you want to see it.”
“Thanks. Awesome. I think I will.”
“And thank you again. I really appreciate it.” And she did, even if they hadn’t ended up using his help. He’d done a lot of work for them.
“No problem. And if you ever come across any other weird scrolls, don’t hesitate to give me a call.”
“Will do,” Harper said, and ended the call.
“What was that about?” Daniel asked.
“It was Pine.” She pulled her knees up to her chest and leaned on them as she twirled her phone in her hand. “He was calling me about the scroll.”
“Did he find anything out?”
Harper shook her head. “Not really, I guess. He was just saying the curse talks about blood a lot. Which is interesting because the ink did react to blood, but it didn’t do anything. Like the curse didn’t break, the ink didn’t wash away…”
“So why’d he call?”
She chewed her thumbnail, thinking. Then she furrowed her brow, suddenly remembering something her mother had said. “He said the scroll said something about ‘wash it away.’ You know what’s strange? I went to visit my mom last week, and she kept saying that Bernie told her to ‘wash it away.’”
“Wash what away?”
“I don’t know.” She looked over him. “Do you think she knew something?”
“How would she know?”
She shrugged. “She talked to Bernie a lot all those years ago, and she knew when Gemma was in trouble before, when she ran away. Mom’s brain doesn’t work like it should anymore, but she still seems to sense things.”
“Like the way you and Gemma can sense each other?” Daniel asked.
Harper nodded. “Kinda.”
“Do you wanna call your sister?” Daniel asked. “She should hear about this, even if the curse is broken.”
She considered it, then shook her head. “I’ll call her in the morning. I think she said she’s going over to Alex’s tonight, and I want to give them some alone time together, after everything they’ve been through.”
“Are you sure?” Daniel asked, and there was something in his voice that made her look back at him. An uneasiness, and his hazel eyes were conflicted.
She turned around, sitting on her knees, so she faced him. “You’re freaking me out a little.”
“I’m not trying to. I just wonder if Gemma’s telling us everything, about the curse being broken and all.”
Harper considered it, then shook her head. “I think it’s just hard for us to wrap our minds around the fact that it’s all actually over—we have our lives back. And see the change in Gemma. She seems happier now, more at ease. I’m sure she’ll keep changing a little bit every day as her siren powers drain away. But it’s all over now, Daniel, and I want to learn to let go for once and not worry about everything.”
Harper lay back down, but Daniel stayed sitting up for a few more seconds. When he did lie back, she curled up next to him, resting her head on his chest, and he put his arm around her. “Just make sure you call her tomorrow morning, even if what Pine said is nothing. You can never be too safe.”
For a while, she only sat on the roof outside Alex’s window. The curtains were closed, but through a gap in the middle, she was able to see into his room just fine. He was in bed, but he was reading a book and didn’t notice her right away.
In a way, Gemma hoped he never noticed her. She’d come here to say good-bye, but maybe this would be better. It would be much easier on both of them. No tears, no pleading, just slipping away.
And maybe that’s what would’ve happened, but she couldn’t bring herself to leave. Even with the full moon shining brightly above her, and the water calling to her, she couldn’t make herself walk away from Alex.
Then he looked up from his book, and he saw her. She could’ve run away then, but she didn’t. She just smiled at him as he walked over and opened the window.