Liv scoffed. “He wishes. I woke up thirsty and hungry, so I went down to the commons to get a soda out of the machine, and I picked him up, too.”
“Oh.” Harper leaned back against her desk. She thought about straightening up the mess she’d made, but she didn’t want to take her eyes off Liv. “Do you think you’ll see him again?”
“Just because I said you could stay doesn’t mean we have to talk,” Liv said, pulling her shirt on over her head.
Harper sighed and considered leaving, but she knew she’d have to talk to Liv eventually. She might as well get it out of the way now.
“Actually, um, I have been wanting to talk to you,” Harper said, plunging into the conversation.
Liv narrowed her eyes. “About what?”
“Just life.” Harper shrugged and tried to keep her tone casual. “I haven’t really been able to talk to you much, so I thought we could check in with each other.”
“Why? It’s not like we need to be besties or something.” Liv snickered.
“No, but you said that you wanted to be friends, and I thought we could be.”
Liv tilted her head, as if she had no idea what Harper was talking about. “Did I say that?”
“Yeah.” Harper nodded. “You said it a few times, actually.”
“Oh.” Liv sounded utterly bored with the conversation and picked at a loose thread on her pajama pants. “Was that last week? It seems like a lifetime ago.”
Liv turned back around to go through her dresser again. Harper could only gape at her, astounded by the change.
“Did something happen?” Harper asked, as Liv pulled a jean skirt out of a drawer.
“Why? What do you mean?” Liv kept her back to her as she slipped out of the pajama pants and pulled on the skirt.
“I don’t know. You just seem … different.”
When Liv turned back to her, Harper noticed that same darkness in her eyes, like a shadow had been pulled down to mask a new malevolence, and Liv smirked. “So that’s what this is about?”
“I’m going out and having fun, and you’re jealous?” Liv stepped toward her, and instinctively Harper tried to take a step back, but she had nowhere to go. The desk was right behind her, so she just straightened up.
“What? No.” Harper shook her head. “I’m glad you’re having fun with college. But I was wondering if you could keep it down when you come in at night.” There was no point in making small talk anymore. “You’ve been waking me up, and I can’t sleep.”
“You don’t even want to be my friend, do you?” Liv kept walking toward her, and all the silk in her voice had been replaced with an icy edge. “You just wanted to tell me to shut up.”
“No, that’s not what I’m saying,” Harper hurried to correct herself. “I think that you’re a really nice girl—”
Liv cut her off with a laugh that sent an unpleasant chill down Harper’s spine. “Oh, I am not a nice girl.”
She was actually shorter than Harper, but it felt like she towered over her. There was something so imposing about her presence that Harper couldn’t explain, and she swallowed back her fear.
It was at that moment, with Liv staring up at her with her wide, cold eyes, that Harper realized Liv was insane. That was the only way to explain Liv’s dramatic and violent mood changes.
“Whatever. I have no idea what you’re talking about, and I need to get to class,” Harper said. “You went from zero to crazy in like three seconds, and I don’t have time for this.”
“I’m not crazy!” Liv shouted in her face, spittle landing on her cheeks. “And I’m not done with you yet.”
“I’ll talk to you later, okay, Liv?” Harper tried to keep her words soothing and even. “I have to go, and if you were smart, you’d get ready and go to class soon. Or else it’s not going to matter if we get along or not because you won’t be here much longer.”
“Was that a threat? Are you threatening me?” Liv demanded.
“No.” Harper leaned over to get her backpack, taking her eyes off Liv for only a second. “If you don’t go to class, you won’t—”
Liv was a flicker of motion in Harper’s peripheral vision, then Harper felt a hand tighten around her throat. Liv slammed Harper back against the wall hard enough to make a mirror fall off and shatter on the floor.
With Liv’s hand clamped around her neck, Harper was pinned to the wall. Liv’s fingers were surprisingly long, and her grip was inescapable. Harper could barely breathe and clawed vainly at Liv’s arm.
“Liv,” Harper croaked out as she continued to struggle.
“Don’t ever mess with me, Harper,” Liv commanded in a low growl. “If you ever threaten or talk down to me again, I will totes destroy you, you dumb bitch.”
She let go of Harper then and stepped back. Harper gasped for breath and rubbed her neck. Her throat burned, and she bent over coughing.
“What the hell, Liv?” Harper asked between coughs. She was still hunched over and looked up at Liv. “I wasn’t threatening you! I was saying that if you want to stay in school, you have to go to class.”
A wide smile spread across Liv’s face. “You’re right. If I want to stay, I’d have to go to class. But I don’t want to stay. And I don’t care what anybody says or thinks. I’m not going to live with a shrew like you any longer than I have to. I’m out of here.”
Liv slipped on her shoes, grabbed her purse, and left the room, humming a tune under her breath as she did. Harper couldn’t place the song, but she was certain she’d heard it before.
It was the same dream she’d been having every night since Lexi had been killed. Gemma was out in the ocean. The water was cold, and the waves crashed around her, crushing her.
It was the night Penn had given Gemma the potion to change her into a siren and then tossed her into the ocean wrapped in Persephone’s shawl. Gemma felt like a fish in a net, trying to claw her way out of it before she drowned.
Then she felt the change happening, the siren monster taking hold somewhere deep inside her, filling her with an angry hunger. But her body didn’t shift. Her legs wouldn’t turn into fins, and she couldn’t fight her way to the surface.
Her wings broke painfully through her back and tore through the fabric, freeing Gemma. But they flapped uselessly underwater, and just when Gemma was certain she would drown, she surfaced. The relief at being able to breathe again was short-lived, though.