That left Gemma impatiently waiting until the next afternoon.
Harper texted her to tell her about the newest developments with the scroll, and while Harper used lots of excited exclamation points, they didn’t seem that big to Gemma, who had already seen the words glow a bit with water. It sounded like the ink reacted even more strongly when mixed with Red Bull, so Harper had taken the scroll back to her room and tried spilling a few different liquids on it.
So far, Red Bull seemed to have the strongest effect, but water and orange juice both seemed to make it glow a bit. Milk apparently did nothing.
But other than glowing, nothing else happened. Harper concluded that further research was needed, but she was determined to get to the bottom of it. She asked if she could keep the scroll for a few more days, but Gemma didn’t like having it out of her sight for that long. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust Harper, but she wanted to experiment with the scroll herself. Marcy offered to go pick the scroll up for her, and Harper agreed to return it.
She hadn’t told Harper of her suspicions about Daniel, mostly because she’d told him that she wouldn’t. That, and she wasn’t exactly sure what he was up to. She didn’t want to ruin his and Harper’s relationship over nothing.
Besides, Daniel was a good guy. He was Gemma’s friend, too. She decided that she just had to trust him.
When Gemma went to the sirens’ house the next day, she had to ride her bike. Her car was still sitting dead in the driveway, like an especially large paperweight. The trek up there wasn’t pleasant. The sirens lived on the other side of town at the top of a cliff, and Gemma had to ride her bike up a long, winding road through the loblolly pines.
Even with her extra siren strength, the ride uphill wasn’t exactly easy, and it probably didn’t help that she needed to feed soon. By the time she reached the chic cabin, Gemma was winded.
“You’re all sweaty,” Thea greeted when she opened the door.
“Thanks,” Gemma said dryly. “I rode my bike.”
Gemma surveyed the house as she came inside, and she was surprised to see that not much had changed since the big battle nearly two weeks ago. They’d done basic cleanup, like righting the fridge and furniture, but they hadn’t fixed or replaced anything. Even the windows were still broken out, with plastic taped over them.
“Don’t you have a car or something?” Thea asked her.
“It needs a new starter,” Gemma said, wiping the sweat from her brow. “Do you have any water or something?”
“There’s bottled water in the fridge.” Thea motioned to the kitchen, but she walked over to the living room. “I’d let you use my car, but Penn doesn’t think I need one.”
Gemma got the water and guzzled it down before going into the living room to join Thea. Thea had sprawled out, taking up most of the couch, so Gemma sat in a chair with its stuffing gone.
“What’s that about?” Gemma asked as she tried to get comfortable on the uneven cushion. “How come Penn is the only one allowed to drive?”
“I don’t know.” Thea let out an exasperated sigh. “She comes up with bullshit reasons, but the truth is that Penn just wants to have control all the time. She doesn’t want me driving away.”
“Where would a car take you that your wings and fins already couldn’t?” Gemma asked.
Thea laughed a little at that. “I didn’t say it was logical. It’s just a power play. Everything’s a power play with her.”
“I don’t understand how she can tolerate Liv,” Gemma said, bringing up her reason for today’s visit. “Liv’s the most out-of-control thing I’ve ever seen.”
“I don’t completely get it. I’ve tried reasoning with her, but…” Thea shook her head. “Penn doesn’t want to admit she was wrong about Liv, but more than that, I think she just can’t have two ‘bad’ sirens.”
“She’s already trying to find a replacement for me,” Gemma filled in what Thea hadn’t said. “She can’t be troubled to find one for Liv on top of that.”
“I get that Penn hates me, and she’s planning to kill me, but objectively, I’m a lot less trouble than Liv.”
“You’re a different kind of trouble than Liv,” Thea said. “You undermine Penn in a different way. Liv may be extreme, but she’s an extreme version of Penn. They have a similar moral compass. So in Penn’s mind, if Liv could just tone her act down, they’d be totally simpatico.”
“And I may not terrorize the village or throw tantrums all the time, but Penn and I will never be on the same page,” Gemma surmised.
Thea slid back on the couch, so she was lying down. “And, secretly, I think she considers you my ally, and that pisses her off.”
“Why?” Gemma asked. “She doesn’t like you either?”
“No, I think Penn likes me about as much as Penn is capable of liking anyone. But she’s never really been close to anyone, not even when we were young. She always resented that I was close with Aggie and Gia.”
“Ligea. Our other sister. The one before Lexi.”
“Lexi and Penn seemed kinda close for a while.” Gemma had thought that Penn and Lexi were the closest, especially when Gemma first became involved with the sirens, but obviously, they couldn’t have been that tight.
“Well, Penn tore off Lexi’s wing before she murdered her,” Thea said. “They were allies, maybe, but they weren’t close. I don’t think they ever really enjoyed each other’s company.”
“So you’re saying that Penn has never had any friends?” Gemma asked.
“Not really. Well…” Thea seemed to think, and it was a minute before she went on, almost hesitantly. “There was someone, once. Bastian.”
“Bastian?” Gemma asked.
“Well, Orpheus was his given name.”
A few months ago, that name would’ve meant next to nothing to Gemma, but after she’d spent so much time researching Greek mythology, she instantly knew it. He hadn’t exactly been a god, but he’d been an important figure, renowned for his musical abilities and poetry.
“The musical guy?” Gemma asked. “Didn’t he play like a harp or something?”
“A lyre,” Thea corrected her. “You haven’t heard anything until you’ve heard him play. It was said his songs would make the heavens weep, and it wasn’t an exaggeration. The gods were so pleased with his musical abilities, they granted him eternal life.”