“I don’t think so,” Harper said. “I have so much going on, and I saw her on Wednesday.”
“You saw her this week?” Brian asked. “You didn’t tell me that.”
“Yeah, she’s been kinda anxious lately, so I just stopped in.” Harper tried to play it down since she didn’t want to worry them. “She calmed down some, but Becky says the doctors might have to reevaluate her meds if she doesn’t relax.”
Gemma’s eyes widened, and she sat up straighter. “Oh my gosh, Harper. Is she okay?”
“Yeah, she’ll be fine,” Harper tried to reassure her sister before she panicked. “She just needs some quiet and rest, so it’s actually probably better if we don’t visit today.”
“You will let me know if they have a team meeting, right?” Gemma asked sarcastically. “Or will you forget about that, too?”
“What were you gonna do today then?” Brian asked.
“There’s some dance down at the park for the At Summer’s End stuff,” Gemma said. “I was thinking of going down there with Alex and kinda do something normal for a change.”
“Daniel asked me to go to that tonight, too,” Harper said.
She hadn’t really wanted to go, and he’d all but insisted. If they didn’t have much time left together, he wanted to spend it with her doing something nice.
“Oh yeah? Well, that sounds good.” Brian clapped his hands together and grinned. “You’ve both been working so hard lately, and it’ll be good for you to have a break from it. I promise I will spend the night scouring the scroll. You take the night off. I’ll take over. I’m the dad. You’re the kids. Act like it for a change.”
Reluctantly, Harper went up to her room to get changed. She’d opened up her closet to start looking for something suitable to wear, but that was as far as she’d gotten before Gemma came into her room.
“Did you need something?” Harper asked.
Gemma shut the door and walked over to her. Her golden eyes were serious, and she folded her arms over her chest. “What’s going on with you?”
“What do you mean?”
“You are barely here today. Did something happen?” She lowered her voice. “How are things really going with Daniel?”
“Great.” Harper looked away from her sister and started flipping through the outfits hanging in her closet. “Good thing I didn’t bring that many clothes with me to college. I think I left all my dresses here.”
“Is Daniel still…” Gemma trailed off.
Harper swallowed hard as she pulled out a flowered dress. “We’ve come to an understanding.” She held up the dress. “What do you think of this?”
“He is,” Gemma surmised. “Harper, he doesn’t need to do that. Tell him not to.”
She sighed and hung the dress back, and finally turned to face her sister. “Gemma. It’s between me and Daniel, and we’ve got it all figured out.”
“Everything is fine, okay?” Harper reached out and squeezed Gemma’s arm reassuringly. “Now just go get ready.”
Gemma wanted to argue more, but Harper wouldn’t hear of it. She shooed her sister out of her room and closed the door behind her. Leaning forward, she rested her forehead against the door and took deep breaths until the urge to cry finally passed.
To help her mood, she put Metric on the stereo and turned it up loud. She picked out a light summer dress that landed right at the knee, so her scar would be well hidden. Then, as she sang along with the music, she used the curling iron to add loose curls to her hair and carefully applied her makeup.
When she was done, she stood in front of the mirror for a few minutes. Not so much admiring herself or even making sure that she looked good. Just trying to convince herself that everything would be okay and that she could make it through the night.
“You will not worry. You will not cry,” Harper told her reflection. “You will forget anything that makes you sad, just for tonight. You will enjoy the time you have with Daniel, and you will laugh and have fun.”
There was nothing to be said, and nothing more to do. She turned off the music, then headed downstairs.
Alex had already arrived, and he was sitting on the couch next to Gemma. Her sister looked radiant, and it wasn’t just because of how lovely she looked in her halter dress. Or the way her hair was pulled up, with a pink carnation pinned above the loose curls.
There was a glow about her, and it wasn’t the one that came from being a siren. She and Alex kept looking into each other’s eyes, their expressions soft and doey. Their hands were intertwined, and when she laughed, Gemma would lean into him. Like they were sharing some private secret between the two of them.
Even though they were just sitting in the living room, and they weren’t really doing anything, Harper felt like she was intruding. She tried to duck by on her way to the kitchen without interrupting, but Gemma caught sight of her.
“You look really pretty, Harper,” Gemma said, and Harper stopped her escape to the kitchen and turned back to smile at them.
“I didn’t see you sneak down the stairs.” Alex stood up, so Gemma did, too, her hand still entangled with his. “You do look really nice. I don’t see you in a dress very often.”
“Thanks. You guys look great, too.” She self-consciously smoothed out her dress. “Are you waiting for something?”
“Yeah, we’re waiting for you, actually,” Alex said, then glanced back at Gemma, as if to confirm that he’d said the right thing.
“We thought it might be fun to all go to the dance together,” Gemma said.
“Oh yeah.” Harper smiled. “That would be fun.”
It might be fun with all four of them, but currently, Harper felt like a third wheel. Alex leaned over and whispered something in Gemma’s ear, which made her cheeks flush as she smiled widely.
When the doorbell rang a minute later, Harper practically ran to answer it. She wanted to see Daniel anyway, but now she was looking for a reprieve from awkwardly watching the two lovebirds.
“Wow,” Daniel said when she opened the door, and his eyes widened in awe. “You look really beautiful.”
“And you look very handsome.”
Wearing a crisp white dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows and a skinny blue tie that made the flecks in his eyes pop, she’d never seen him look quite as sharp. He still wore jeans and his old Converse sneakers, but they somehow made him look even sexier.