“She did. If things weren’t important, she’d write them in regular English, but if she needed to keep something especially private, she’d write in a code that only she could read,” Lydia elaborated.
“Nana’s code was a variation of Audra’s, so that helps,” Lydia said. “There’s no one linear code that we go by, again, to make it hard for strangers to break. My own expands on Nana’s, but Audra’s code has a mind of its own, just like her.
“This file right here”—Lydia rested her hand on the green folder—“this is all of Audra’s notes for the summer that Thalia came looking for her. So what I wanted to show is in here, and in fact—”
Lydia cut herself off and reached into the folder, digging around for something, and she pulled out two small black-and-white photos.
“I thought you might find this interesting.” Lydia reached across the desk and handed one of the photos to her.
It showed three people. A woman, probably in her early thirties, with her light hair pulled up in a tight bun. While she was attractive, there was a hardness to her smile, and an almost devious glint in her eyes. Like she was hiding something.
In front of her stood a young girl, no more than nine or ten. Her long hair was in two braids, and she wore overalls. Her smile was bright, and it actually looked just like Lydia’s.
The third woman, standing with her hand on the child’s shoulder, Harper recognized instantly. It was the same radiant blonde she’d seen in all the pictures she found at Bernie’s house.
“That’s Thalia,” Harper said, tapping the photo.
“I know. The other two people are Audra and my grandma,” Lydia explained.
Harper flipped it over, finding an inscription on the back that said just as much—Audra, Delia, and then simply the letter T. She turned it back over, searching the black-and-white photo for clues.
“Where was this taken?” Harper asked.
“I’m not sure,” Lydia said. “I don’t recognize the background, and I haven’t found anything in Audra’s notes.”
The picture was taken at fairly close range, so she couldn’t see much behind them. There appeared to be a flowerpot beside Thalia, overflowing with large roses. A building was behind them, but Harper couldn’t see anything of it, really, other than the peak of the roof.
“What’s the other picture of?” Harper asked as she handed the picture back to Lydia.
“It’s a nephilim that Audra helped that summer, too.” Lydia held it up for her, but Harper didn’t look that closely at it, only noticing that it was a black-and-white shot of a handsome young man.
“So Audra definitely helped Thalia,” Harper said.
“She did. From what I understand, she initially tried to free Thalia from being a muse … it’s not really a curse, but it wasn’t exactly a blessing, either. I don’t know what you’d call it.” Lydia wagged her head. “Anyway, Audra tried to help her but couldn’t.”
“You’ve been able to decipher that?” Harper asked.
“No, that part she just wrote out in regular English in her notes,” Lydia said. “She didn’t have anything to hide about trying to help someone. But then Audra went on to say that she needed to help Thalia find someone who needed her privacy respected.”
“And you think that’s Diana?” Harper asked.
“I think so.” Lydia nodded. “I don’t think that either Thalia or Audra knew exactly where Diana was, but working together, they found her.”
“So where is Diana?” Harper asked.
“She’s in the U.S. They drove to see her.”
Harper’s heart skipped a beat, and she asked, “Who are they?”
“Audra, Thalia, and I think even Nana went with them.” Lydia squinted down at the papers in front of her.
“But they drove. So it can’t be that far?” Harper asked. “Do you have any idea where?”
Lydia inhaled through her teeth. “I can’t say yet. But I’ll know soon. Very soon.” She rustled through the papers. “I’m sorry. I know you don’t have very much time, but I had to find Audra’s things and go through them all to find the right folder, and now I’m having problems because Audra’s being very cryptic to protect this Diana’s privacy.
“But that’s actually part of the good news,” Lydia said.
“What do you mean?” Harper asked.
“If Audra’s going through all the trouble to protect Diana, she has to be important. I’m not a gambler, but I’d put my money on Diana’s being a goddess,” Lydia said.
“And even if she wasn’t, she still knew how to set Thalia free,” Harper said. “So it stands to reason that she’d know how to set Gemma free.”
“I don’t want you getting your hopes up too high, but yes, I do think that Diana will know something that can help Gemma break the curse.” Lydia smiled at her. “And I’m struggling now with trying to find her, but I will find her. This is top priority for me. Which also brings me to my next question.”
“I’ve been focusing most of my attention on the journal and Audra’s notes,” Lydia said. “Which means I haven’t been working on the scroll translations. Is that how you wanted me to do it? Or would you rather me work more on the scroll?”
“Um…” Harper furrowed her brow as she weighed both the options. “I guess … let’s find Diana. Pine sent the scroll to some of his colleagues to translate, so since he’s already working on that, I’d rather have you looking for Diana.”
“That’s what I thought. I did have some thoughts on the scroll, but I can keep in touch with Pine,” Lydia said. “I’ll pass my notes along to him, too.”
When Harper left Cherry Lane, she felt an odd mixture of hope and trepidation. Lydia seemed to be on the right track, which meant they were closer to breaking the curse than they ever had been before.
After Liv’s theatrics the day before and Thea’s weary acceptance of their fate, Gemma felt more uneasy and restless than normal. Liv was nuts, and no one was going to do anything to stop her.
Gemma might have to resign herself to being a siren for the rest of her life, but that didn’t mean that everyone had to suffer. Or that anyone else had to get hurt. It was time that Gemma got a handle on her powers—no matter how evil and frightening they might be—and take care of Penn and Liv herself.