“Oh, my god.” Alex grabbed the scroll before it floated out to sea. “Is this it? Is the curse breaking?”
She shook her head. “No, the words are still there.”
Alex shook his head, and she could see his mind racing, as he tried to put it together. “Blood of a siren, blood of a mortal, blood of the sea. That’s how a siren is made.”
“It doesn’t work, Alex,” she tried to tell him. “I already—”
“Please. Gemma. Just try it again. We have to try,” Alex insisted with such a fierce desperation, and she didn’t have the strength to argue with him.
So she bit into her finger, tearing out a chunk with sharp teeth, even though she had already tried this once before and it hadn’t worked. But as her blood dripped down, mixing with Alex’s and the saltwater, Gemma found herself hoping that this time it would be different.
Right before their eyes, the words burned up and disappeared. Anywhere the mixture touched, the ink vanished, and then quickly, even where Alex hadn’t spilled his blood, all the words were gone.
The scroll was blank. And Gemma held her breath, waiting for more changes to come. But they didn’t.
“It’s working.” Alex gave her a relieved smile. “The curse is breaking.”
“I don’t think so, Alex.” Her tail steadied her as she put her arms around him. Nothing had changed. She didn’t feel different, and her scales were pressed up against him. “Maybe it’s just too late.”
“No. It can’t be too late. No, Gemma.” Tears were in his eyes. “I love you.”
“I love you, Alex.”
He stared into her eyes, brushing her wet hair back from her forehead, then he kissed her, desperately, as though if he could just love her enough, then it would save her. He held her tightly, one arm pressed against the smooth scales of the tail that rose up the small of her back, and she could taste their tears with the saltwater.
The sun rose behind them, and as she felt the first rays hitting her, she closed her eyes and clung to Alex.
She hadn’t seen as much of the world as she’d wanted to. In fact, she’d hardly seen any of it. Thea had spent thousands of years roaming the planet, but she had hardly gone anywhere since so much of it was too far inland.
That, and Penn always dictated where they went. Penn couldn’t stand the call of the watersong, so she refused to go anywhere that caused her the slightest bit of pain. Thea had thought that with Penn gone, she’d finally be able to explore all the places that had been blocked off to her.
But as it turned out, Thea didn’t do so well against the watersong, either. She didn’t go very far, and she always seemed to end up back in the ocean.
Still, the last two days of her life couldn’t be called bad. In fact, they were some of the very best she’d had in a very long time. Without all of Penn’s demands and threats and constant tantrums, everything had felt so much nicer.
Though Thea wished that Aggie had been there to share it with her, and even Ligea. She had loved them, and she still missed them. Penn had all but forbidden her to talk about them anymore, and Thea wondered once again why she’d listened.
It wasn’t that she was scared of Penn, but Thea felt intrinsically that she’d failed her. Since the day Penn was born, she had felt unloved and abandoned, and she had been by her parents. Thea had always tried to make up for that, but all she’d ever done was make things worse.
The horrible truth was that the curse was her fault. If she’d yelled at Penn that day, the day they’d left Persephone alone, or if Thea had simply let Penn go off without her, then none of this would have happened. So she’d spent nearly her entire existence trying to make it up to Penn for allowing her to be cursed in the first place.
The real kicker at the end of all of this is that Demeter’s curse centered around their love of swimming, but Penn had never even cared for it that much. She’d been smitten with Poseidon, that was all. It had been Thea who loved the water, and, somehow, she loved it still today.
She waded out into the water, relishing the way her legs fluttered for the last time as they turned into a tail. The sky was lightening above her, so she swam out on her back, floating out farther into the ocean.
Her thoughts went back to her sisters, and all the fun they’d had when they were young, before all this madness with Demeter. Penn had claimed that everything had been a horrible struggle. Things were hard, but what Thea remembered most was how much she had loved them all.
She missed them terribly, and though she hoped she would see them again, she doubted she would. With everything she’d seen, Thea wasn’t completely sure she believed that there was a heaven, but even if there was, she most certainly wouldn’t be going there.
As she felt the rays of the sun warming her skin through the water, Thea closed her eyes. The tingling started first in her fingers, and she was relieved that it didn’t hurt. It actually felt good, like a whole new transformation, as her body slowly dissolved into ash.
Soon, there was nothing. The dust was lost in the sea. And Thea was gone.
The panic was so intense, Harper sat up straight in bed. She was covered in a cold sweat, and she put a hand to her heart. Something inside her had been severed.
“No,” she whispered.
Daniel, still groggy with sleep, sat up slowly. “What? What’s going on?”
“Something’s wrong. Something’s happened to Gemma.”
“What are you talking about?” he asked.
She pressed her hand more firmly to her chest, as if that would make the feeling change. “I can feel it. Something’s wrong.”
“Call her,” Daniel suggested.
She reached over and grabbed the phone, but Gemma never answered. That was about what she’d expected, though.
Harper dove out of bed and grabbed her jeans off the floor. “I have to go.”
“Go where?” He got out of bed much more slowly than she did, though it was clear he was trying to move fast. “Harper. Wait.”
She folded her arms across her chest, hugging herself as Daniel hurried to put on his jeans and a T-shirt.
“I can’t feel her,” Harper told him plaintively.
“It’s like she’s not there anymore.”
Daniel pursed his lips, but he didn’t say anything. Something about that frightened her, that he didn’t try to comfort her or convince her that everything would be okay. Instead, he just picked up the pace, and when they went down the path to his boat, they were both running.