“I should’ve gotten you a corsage,” he said.
She laughed. “This isn’t prom.”
“Still.” He shrugged. “You deserve a flower.”
“So, we’re all ready then.” She stepped away from the door, so she could call to her dad, who was in the kitchen. “Dad, Daniel’s here, so we’re heading out.”
“Hold on.” Brian hurried in to stop them before they took off. Alex and Gemma had edged closer to the door, and when Brian came in, his stern gaze moved between Alex and Daniel. “You guys know the deal, right? Be home by midnight, both my daughters safe and sound and intact. You think Penn is bad, but she’s got nothing on an angry father.”
Gemma groaned. “Dad.”
“We’ll have them home by midnight, Mr. Fisher,” Alex promised.
“You better,” he warned them.
Gemma shook her head, but she stood on her tiptoes to kiss Brian on the cheek before heading out the door. “’Night, Dad.”
“’Bye, Dad,” Harper said, and started following her sister, but she felt like she was shirking her duty. She’d had one foot out the door, but she turned around to come back in. “I should stay and—”
“No. Go.” Her dad put his hand on her arm and gently pushed her toward Daniel. “I’m just as capable of dumping soda and water on something as you. Now go. Get out of here. Have fun.”
The lush grass of Bayside Park had been covered in smooth corkboard for easier dancing. Paper lanterns on fairy lights were strung above even though it was still light out. The sun had begun to dip below the horizon, and the sky was lavender and orange, with the first twinkling of stars breaking through.
Just off the dance floor, Harper sat in a folding chair next to Daniel, sipping the punch he’d brought over. An older David Bowie song played from speakers surrounding the park, and Harper watched the people dance.
It was a beautiful night, and one of the last true nights of summer, so the park was packed. It was hard for her to see Gemma and Alex through the crowded dance floor, but she spotted them, dancing pressed together even though the song was up tempo.
Her gaze didn’t stay on them for long, since Marcy and her date, Kirby, had stolen the show. She’d worn black boardshorts and a polka-dot top, but it was clear that the shorts had been chosen because they allowed more freedom of movement.
Marcy was darting and spinning and doing all kinds of moves like she had secretly spent the past ten years as a classically trained dancer. Kirby hurried to keep up with her, but, fortunately, Marcy was such a crazy good dancer that she made him look good.
“Wow,” Daniel said as he watched her spin. “Marcy is intense. Did you have any idea she could do this?”
“No, I had no clue.” Harper shook her head. “I’m starting to realize that I literally know nothing about her.”
“It’s so strange seeing her engage in normal human activities.” Daniel tilted his head, as if trying to get a better look at Marcy. “And she’s dating that guy, too. What do you suppose they talk about?”
“My guess? El chupacabra.”
He nodded. “That would make sense.”
With David Bowie still crooning about monsters, Gemma and Alex broke through the crowd and walked toward where Harper and Daniel sat. Gemma was grinning so wide, it almost looked painful.
“What are you two doing? Are you just gonna sit here all night?” Gemma asked as she reached them.
“I danced. We danced.” She motioned between herself and Daniel. “I’m just not very good at it.”
They had danced, for about half a song, but the truth was that Harper didn’t feel much like dancing. It was taking most of her energy to smile, and she didn’t have much left to pretend to know how to move to the music.
“You can’t sit out all night,” Gemma persisted.
“We’re not,” Harper told her.
“Oh my gosh!” Gemma exclaimed when the song changed to “All Alright” by Fun. “This song. You have to dance this.”
“I don’t know.” Harper was perplexed by Gemma’s excitement. “It doesn’t even really seem like a dance song.”
Gemma had apparently given up on persuading Harper to dance and turned her attention elsewhere. “Daniel. Come on.” She extended her hand to him. “Dance with me.”
“Sure.” He took her hand and stood up, letting her lead him out to the dance floor.
Alex had his hands in his pockets when he looked down at Harper. “So that leaves me and you.”
“We don’t have to dance.”
“Are you kidding me? We totally do.” He took his hands out of his pockets and held his arm out for her.
With little choice left, Harper smiled and took his arm. Once they found a clear spot, he stretched out his arm, then put his hand on her waist, pulling her closer to him. He took her hand in his, and she put her hand on his shoulder.
“You seem to be in an awfully good mood today,” Harper commented. “You and Gemma can’t seem to stop smiling today.”
“I am in a very good mood,” Alex admitted with his easy grin.
Daniel and Gemma spun by, doing some kind of exaggerated waltz that had Gemma laughing.
“Everything going good with Gemma?” Harper asked once Gemma and Daniel had danced far enough away that they couldn’t hear them again.
“Couldn’t be better,” Alex said, then corrected himself. “Well, it’d be nicer if there wasn’t that whole siren thing … but considering, it’s actually pretty amazing.”
“I’m glad. You guys seem really good together.”
“Thank you.” Alex looked genuinely pleased with the compliment, and Harper realized that this was probably the happiest she’d ever seen him. “Now that you’re getting more used to the idea, we can start hanging out again.”
It wasn’t until now, with things feeling easy and simple and like old times again, that Harper realized she’d missed him. She loved Daniel and Gemma, and even Marcy, but it would be good to have Alex in her life again.
Then, unexpectedly, Alex took her hand and spun her, causing her to twirl as she laughed in surprise, then he pulled her back to him.
“It seems like you’ve picked up some dance moves,” Harper said, as they started to speed around the dance floor. She thought he was doing a version of the Charleston, but her feet didn’t cooperate as much as she’d liked.