“Bastian,” Gemma said, remembering the story that Thea had told her. Penn had apparently been deeply infatuated with him, and Gemma suspected that Thea had had feelings for him, too, though she denied it.
“Bastian was the name he was going by at the time, but Orpheus was his given name, the one I knew him by,” Diana said. “I sent him to her.”
“What? Why?” Harper asked.
“To break her heart, of course,” Diana said, and smiled like this delighted her. “He was immortal, immune to her song, and that novelty intrigued her. I’d known him for some time, and he was a very attractive man, renowned for making the ladies swoon. With a little flirtation on his part, I thought he might finally be the one to make Penn feel something.”
“And he did,” Gemma said.
“And then he left her. Just as I asked him to.” Her smile faded a bit as she thought. “Though I’m not sure what became of him since I’ve never heard from him again. Once he left, he disappeared, presumably going into hiding before Penn found him and wreaked her vengeance on him.”
“But Penn didn’t really love him,” Gemma reminded Diana. “She’s not even capable of it.”
“She’s not, at least not the way most living creatures are,” Diana admitted. “But what she felt for him was more than she’d felt before. He never loved her, it was just a trick. I’d sent him on the mission to fool the selfish girl. She would never feel his love in return, no matter what she did or how she lusted after him. And then he left, and she was devastated.”
“Why? If she didn’t really love him?” Marcy asked.
“This was as close to love as she could feel,” Diana clarified. “For her, this was everything. And she was a girl who’d gotten everything she wanted for so long. When she finally lost something, something that really mattered to her, she had no idea what to do.”
“So you’ve won then. She hurt the way you hurt,” Gemma said.
“No.” Diana was appalled by the idea. “It’s not enough to lose someone, to hurt. It’s the pain, day in and day out. It’s the constant reminder. This is why I gave her immortality. I wanted her to feel this way forever.”
“But she doesn’t seem that devastated anymore. She seems fine,” Harper said. “She even has her sights set on another guy.”
“Oh?” Diana raised an eyebrow but didn’t seem that ruffled. “Is he mortal?”
“Yes, he’s my boyfriend.” Harper shook her head and lowered her eyes. “Or ex-boyfriend, maybe.”
“Good,” Diana said. “He’ll be dead soon, and she’ll feel the pain anew.”
“No, not good.” Harper glared at her. “I don’t want him to be dead soon.”
“I don’t mean to say that she’ll kill him, or that I hope she does, although she probably will,” Diana expounded on her earlier statement without any hint of apology or sympathy for Harper’s pain. “Human life is very short compared to ours, and too soon, you’ll all be gone.”
“She’s happy. She’s with someone again,” Gemma persisted. “How do you even know she was devastated? Penn still gets everything she wants and does anything she pleases. It’s not a curse you’ve given her.”
“For centuries, the sirens lived rather quietly and inconspicuously among people,” Diana said. “Then, after her love left, she went on a mad rampage. Thousands of people were killed at the sirens’ hands, with Penn leading the wave, of course.”
“That’s your proof that she was devastated?” Marcy asked. “Penn strikes me as the kind of girl who enjoys killing people, so that sounds like it was a big, ol’, happy, fun-time party for her.”
“This was different,” Diana insisted. “And she killed her father.”
“She killed Achelous?” Gemma asked, but that didn’t come as much of a shock to her. She’d suspected he was dead, and Penn killed her sisters without hesitation.
“So many had died, both mortal and immortal, and finally, Achelous had enough,” Diana said. “He knew something must be done about his daughter, but she wanted nothing to do with him. No matter how hard he tried to reach out to her, his invitations went unanswered.
“Finally, to summon her, he built her a town,” she went on. “He named it after her favorite place, the island she’d grown up on. He wanted to create a paradise for her and his other daughters. The girls were right to be angry with him. He had been a very neglectful father, but he’d decided to change his ways, mend fences, and stop the bloodshed.”
“Wait, wait.” Marcy held her hands up in the shape of a T for timeout. “You’re talking about Capri, Maryland, aren’t you? Achelous was Thomas Thermopolis?”
And as soon as Marcy said it, it all made sense. Capri, Anthemusa Bay, Achelous River—these were all named after the places the sirens had lived according to Greek historians. It did seem a bit too coincidental that they would just happen onto a place that fit perfectly into their own mythology.
Diana nodded. “Yes. He told me of his plans, and I tried to talk him out of it, but he was insistent. He told me I was jealous and blinded by the loss of my own daughter, and maybe there was truth to that. But Penn had always been evil and always would be. So when she finally did come, it came as no surprise to me that within a few weeks, the sirens had killed him.”
“They killed their own father?” Harper asked. “Why? After all this time?”
“Because for the first time, Penn hurt, truly hurt, and she blamed him for it, for not protecting her,” Diana said. “She blamed me, too, and maybe he wouldn’t tell them where I was hiding. He never truly believed they would kill him. He wasn’t afraid of them, and that was his undoing.”
“Nope.” Marcy shook her head. “I can’t move past that. He built Capri for Penn and her sisters?”
“He wanted to set things right, but I knew that could never be,” Diana said. “Penn will never be anything but evil.”
“So you granted her immortality and horrific powers,” Gemma said. “That seems reasonable and really fair to every other creature living on the earth.”
“I don’t care if she destroys the entire planet, as long as she’s miserable,” Diana said.
“But you lost your daughter!” Harper shouted, unable to hide her anger and frustration any longer. “You know how badly that hurts! And how many other people will have to lose their daughters because of something you created? I will have to lose my sister, my father his daughter, because of a vendetta that’s thousands of years old? Hasn’t there been enough bloodshed? Haven’t enough people hurt and died for Persephone yet?”