“You would’ve talked me out of it!” Daniel shouted, as if that would convince her somehow. “What else was I supposed to do?”
“You were supposed to talk to me!” Harper yelled back. “And if it would’ve been so easy for me to talk you out of, then it wasn’t the right thing to do, Daniel! Because if it was the right thing, I would’ve let you do it, even if it hurt.”
With a stricken expression on his face, he said, “I’m sorry.”
“No. Stop. I can’t hear that anymore. I think I’m gonna be sick.” She ran over and grabbed her iPod and book bag from where they sat next to the fireplace. “I have to get out of here.”
“No, Harper, wait.” He moved toward her, like he meant to touch her, and she pulled back away from him.
“I can’t. I can’t talk to you right now. I can’t even look at you.”
“I don’t want to leave things like this.”
She started toward the door, pushing by him. “I don’t care what you want.”
“Harper. I love you,” he said, and she stopped to look back at him.
“I don’t believe you,” she said with tears in her eyes, then she turned away and left.
Harper arrived at her house just before midnight, and she’d somehow managed not to cry the whole way home. It was completely dark, so she crept up the stairs to her old room, hoping not to disturb anyone. She’d just reached the top of the stairs when Gemma emerged from the bathroom with a towel wrapped around her hair.
“Harper. What are you doing here?” Gemma asked.
“Um, I just…” She ran a hand through her hair and took a deep breath.
“What happened? Are you okay?”
Harper was still only wearing Daniel’s flannel shirt and her new lingerie. Fortunately, she’d buttoned up the shirt, and it was too big for her, so it covered up a lot. She’d been in such a hurry to leave the island that she hadn’t bothered to put anything else on.
“I think I may have just broken up with Daniel,” Harper said finally, and she started to cry.
“Oh, Harper. Come on.” Gemma put her arm around her and ushered her into Harper’s bedroom. She made sure to close the door behind them so they wouldn’t awaken Brian, and Harper sat down on the bed.
“Did you know that he was sleeping with Penn?” Harper asked her.
Gemma had been standing in front of her, and she sighed before sitting down on the bed next to her.
“No,” Gemma said at length. “I mean, I thought something might be going on, but Daniel insisted he had it under control. Then tonight, he kinda confirmed my worst suspicions, and I told him he that he needed to tell you what was going on.”
Harper laughed to keep from crying. “Well, he did.”
“So did he … actually have sex with her?” Gemma asked carefully.
“He says he didn’t, but I don’t know if I believe him.” She shrugged. “I don’t know if I can believe anything he says.”
“Did he say why he was doing it?”
“For you and me. He didn’t elaborate too much on it, but I guess Penn told him he either sleeps with her, or she kills us.” Harper chewed the inside of her cheek. “So he was doing it to protect me.”
“He loves you, Harper.” Gemma put her hand on her back, rubbing it. “And I’m not saying that you should forgive him or that he was right. But anything he’s done, he’s done for you.”
“He may have done the wrong thing for the right reason, but that doesn’t make it okay. It’s still the wrong thing,” Harper said. “As soon as Penn came to him and gave him the ultimatum, he should’ve come to me, and said, ‘This is what’s going on. This is what I need to do.’”
“I know. He should’ve talked to you,” Gemma agreed.
“That’s what hurts me the most. I don’t know if I could ever be okay with his sleeping with another woman, especially one as vile and twisted as Penn. But I understand why he wanted to go through with it, and if it was for you, too, not just my own life, and maybe…”
“You don’t need to sacrifice your relationship for me, Harper,” Gemma told her resolutely. “I can take care of myself.”
“If he’d talked to me about it, I honestly don’t know what I would’ve said,” Harper indicated. “If I could really agree to it. Because I love him so much, and I would never want him to be with someone else or whore himself out like that. And I know that sounds selfish, like my sister’s life versus sharing him, so maybe I would’ve said yes.”
Harper shook her head. “But that’s not even the point.”
“What do you mean?” Gemma asked.
“It doesn’t matter if I would’ve agreed with his choices or not,” she explained. “It’s that he made such a drastic choice, one that really affected him and me and our relationship, and he didn’t consult me at all. He snuck around.”
“I think he just didn’t want to worry you,” Gemma said.
Harper scoffed. “You do that, and he does that, and it’s ridiculous. I am eighteen years old. I am your older sister, and his girlfriend. You don’t need to treat me like a little kid and keep hiding things from me. Stop trying to spare my feelings. I’m with you in all of this.”
“I know. And I’m trying to include you in everything,” Gemma said, allowing a defensive note in her tone. “I just don’t want to interfere with your life more than I have to.”
“You’re not interfering!” Harper was nearly shouting, and she hurried to lower her voice so as not to wake her dad. “You are my life. You and Mom and Dad. And Daniel. You’re the most important things in my life.”
Gemma smiled at her. “I’m sorry, and I’ll do better. I promise.”
“Thank you.” Harper ran a hand through her hair and tried to shake off her feelings. “And I’m sorry for being all teen angst right now.”
When there was so much going on, so many things that were vastly more important than her and her relationships, Harper felt selfish and ridiculous getting so upset over them. Losing Daniel felt immense to her, but there were bigger problems at hand. Like the fact that the sirens had killed someone tonight.
“Liv killed Aiden Crawford,” Harper said, and her sister lowered her eyes.