Elegy / Page 20

Page 20


Writing covered the last section, written over the typed words, in the margins, sideways, to the ends of the pages and off them. Thalia had completely filled it … and all of it was written in symbols and shapes—a language that Gemma didn’t understand.

“Crap,” Gemma said. “It’s in Greek or something again.”

“Maybe it can help Lydia with the translation she’s working on,” Marcy suggested.

“We could bring it out to her tonight,” Gemma said. “See if she can make anything out of it.”

“You can’t,” Daniel said. He’d been reading over her shoulder, but he took a step back now.

“What? Why not?” Gemma asked.

“The Taming of the Shrew opens tonight. Remember?” he asked.

She waved him off. “No, I have an understudy or something. I need to stay and read this.”

“No, you need to go be in the play,” Daniel said.

“That’s insane.” Gemma shook her head. “This could be the piece we’ve been looking for.”

“You can’t even understand all of it,” Daniel said. “And if you skip the play, Thea and Penn will know something’s up, and that could be bad news. You don’t want them breathing down your neck while you’re trying to figure out this journal.”

Gemma sighed. “Good point.”

“Thank you,” Daniel said. “Now come on. I’ll take you guys back to the mainland.”

Gemma grumbled, but she did as she was told. On the boat ride back, she sat down in the sleeping quarters, safely away from the spray that might damage Thalia’s journal. She sat cross-legged on the bed and decided to read the parts she could decipher, and she started from the beginning.

In big letters in blotchy dark ink, Thalia had written an important inscription on the back of the front cover:

My dearest Bernard—if ANYTHING happens to me, you need to dispose of this. Nobody can ever find the secrets I’ve kept within these pages. It could be dangerous if in the wrong hands. For your safety, please destroy this.

NINE

Understudy

Behind the closed door emblazoned with a fallen starlet’s name, Gemma leaned in front of the mirror, applying thick eyeliner. Outside in the hall, she could hear people scrambling around to get ready for the first show, starting in twenty minutes.

In the reflection, Gemma glanced over at Thea. Like Gemma, Thea already had her costume on, but unlike Gemma, she already had all her makeup on, too. Her crimson hair was piled up in loose curls, and her lipstick was nearly the same shade.

“Are you nervous?” Thea asked when her emerald eyes met Gemma’s in the mirror.

“What?” Gemma lowered her eyes and pretended to dig around for her blush in the oversized makeup case that sat on the counter. “No. Not really.”

“Good.” Thea leaned forward, inspecting her reflection more closely, and tucked back a curl that had fallen loose. “You don’t need to be. Even if you forget a line or botch a scene, everyone will still love you.”

“How does that work?” Gemma asked. “Will the whole audience be completely enraptured with you and me?”

Thea shrugged and sat back in her chair. “If we were singing, maybe. But by now you have to understand it. We have a natural talent for attracting attention, but when you project and try, your charms are that much more charming.”

“Let’s say you were trying. Could you captivate the whole crowd?” Gemma asked as she applied her blush more heavily than she normally would. The lights from the stage required darker makeup to show up.

“If I wanted to, yes.” Thea’s eyes narrowed behind her long lashes. “What are you getting at? Are you planning on raising a small army?”

“No. I just don’t completely understand how the siren song works.” Gemma set aside her makeup and turned to face Thea directly, so they weren’t talking to each other through the mirror.

“It’s simple. You sing, you control whoever hears the song.”

“But for how long?” Gemma asked, trying to keep her words from sounding as desperate and hopeful as they felt.

Ever since her heated visit with Alex yesterday, Gemma hadn’t been able to stop thinking about what it meant. Why did kissing him seem to have a positive effect on him? And why wasn’t he angry and filled with hate anymore?

She’d assumed that once the siren song was in place, it would be that way forever. But with Alex, something else was going on.

Unless, of course, it was just as she’d feared, and Alex had fallen out of love with her on his own.

“It depends. The more you mean it, the more you project, the longer the effects of the song will be active,” Thea explained.

“But eventually they will fade?” Gemma pressed.

“Sorta.” Thea shook her head, like that wasn’t exactly how she would put it. “Like with Sawyer. Penn told him that he loved her, and he had to give us his house. If he hadn’t died, and she’d left him, eventually he would’ve stopped being infatuated and obsessed with her. But he would still believe the house was hers even if he lived to be ninety.”

Gemma leaned back in her seat, letting out a crestfallen breath. “I don’t understand. If he was still following her orders, and she ordered him to love her, how is he able to stop?”

“The siren song is all about giving orders. Do this, don’t do that, give me this, go there,” Thea elaborated. “But Demeter made it precisely so it had no effect over the heart. It can’t change who a person is. If you hate peach cobbler, the siren song can make you eat it, even smile as you chow it down, but you’ll never actually like it.”

“But what if you keep eating peach cobbler? Will you remember you hate it?” Gemma asked.

“If there’s not a siren constantly whispering in your ear, telling you that you love it, then yes, you probably would.” Thea paused, and when she spoke again, her voice was lower and huskier than normal. “Love and hate are very powerful emotions that sirens have no control over, no matter how much Penn likes to pretend we do.”

“So when Penn commanded Sawyer to love her, he never really did,” Gemma said, affirming what she’d always known. As soon as she’d been cursed, the sirens had told her that mortal men could never love them. “He just acted the way a person in love with her would act.”

“And Penn does know that. She just finds that people are easier to control when they believe they’re in love with her.”


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