Lullaby / Page 18

Page 18


“You go ahead, Dad,” Harper said. “Daniel can take me home.”

Her father hesitated before nodding. “Okay. I’ll see you later, then.” He leaned over and kissed Harper quickly on the temple before walking away.

“So…” Harper said once her father had left. “Do you often peruse the obituaries for funerals?”

“No.” Daniel stepped away, walking among the headstones, and Harper fell in step with him. “I’ve actually been checking the paper a lot for any info on Gemma.”

“Oh, yeah,” Harper said. “I’ve been doing the same thing.”

“So you haven’t heard anything from her yet?” Daniel asked, watching Harper as she spoke.

“No. Alex has gotten a couple e-mails, but they’ve been false leads so far.” She sighed. “I have no idea where she is. And I don’t know what I’ll do if she never comes home.”

“I hate to break it to you, but … you’ll live,” Daniel said solemnly.

“Why do you make that sound like bad news?”

“Because I’m under the impression that you want to curl up and die,” he said. “Or at least that’s what you think you’re supposed to do if something happens to your sister. But the hard truth is that you won’t. Life will move on, and you’re strong and smart, so you’ll move on with it.”

Harper shook her head. “I can’t imagine that. I can’t ever give up on her.”

“Nobody’s asking you to give up,” Daniel said. “I’m just suggesting that you keep things in perspective.”

“How so?” Harper asked.

Daniel had stopped walking, so she stopped and looked up at him. The sun was shining brightly above them, and the day felt far too lovely for a funeral. He squinted in the light, then gestured to a headstone behind Harper.

“That’s my brother John’s grave,” he said.

Daniel had told her about the accident he’d been in with his brother five years before. John had died, and Daniel had been left with scars covering his back and a few on his head, hidden by his hair.

“I’m sorry,” Harper said.

“I visit him from time to time.” Daniel stared down at the headstone, sounding uncharacteristically solemn. “I loved him a lot. But he’s still dead, and I’m still here.” He looked up at Harper, his eyes resting on her. “And so are you.”

“I know.” She smiled wanly at him. “And I don’t plan on going anywhere.”

“Good.” He smiled at that. “Now come on. It’s too nice out to spend the day at a cemetery. Let’s get out of here.”

TEN

Sirensong

Since going for a swim yesterday, Gemma was reenergized. Once she got past her guilt about enjoying any part of this experience, she felt pretty good. Penn hadn’t spoken to her much after that, and that was fine by Gemma.

Penn had spent most of yesterday in her room with Sawyer, making all kinds of noises that Gemma had only thought existed in porn. Then Penn got up early this morning and declared that she and Lexi were going on another shopping trip, once again leaving Thea in charge of Gemma and Sawyer.

Gemma still didn’t feel a hundred percent, but the watersong was hardly bothering her, and her chills and night sweats had gone away. So she decided to make the most of it. She put on a bikini and went out to the balcony to lie out in the sun. It was a beautiful day, and she wanted to enjoy it.

The problem was that Gemma had never really lain about before. She was always tan, but that was because she spent so much time in the bay. It didn’t take long before she gave up; she just couldn’t lie still that long.

The balcony outside her room hung about twenty feet from the ground. The ceilings on the first floor were tall, making the balcony exceptionally high. A railing of horizontal bars—painted white, of course— ran around the side of it to keep anyone from accidentally falling over.

Gemma went over to the edge and sat down, dangling her legs over the side and resting her arms on the lowest bar. She stared out at the ocean and swung her legs back and forth.

“I see you’re feeling better,” Thea said from the balcony next to hers. Each one of the five bedrooms that faced the ocean had its own balcony, and Thea’s room was closest to Gemma’s.

“Much better,” Gemma admitted.

“It’s the ocean that does it, you know,” Thea told her. “Something about the transformation heals all your aches and pains.”

“Yeah, I figured that.”

“If you swim every day, you buy yourself some time,” Thea said. “It’ll help keep your body from completely falling apart. But eventually you will have to eat.” She paused, running a hand through her hair. “But if you want to put that off, then I’d suggest you swim as often as you can.”

“Thanks,” Gemma said, genuinely surprised that Thea had offered her any tips.

Thea didn’t say anything to that. She stayed outside a moment longer, then turned and went back into the house.

Gemma knew she should take Thea’s advice, but she didn’t want to just yet. She felt content. Or at least as close to content as she’d felt since coming here. She’d been in so much pain lately that just the absence of pain felt amazing.

She was about to get up and go down to swim when Sawyer wandered out to the balcony. He’d gone shirtless today, opting to walk around in drawstring pants. Not that Gemma minded all that much. Her heart might belong to Alex, but she wasn’t blind.

“Do you care if I join you?” Sawyer asked.

Gemma shrugged. “It’s your house. You can do what you want.”

“Is it my house?” Sawyer sounded perplexed as he sat down next to Gemma, dangling his own legs over the edge of the balcony.

“Yeah, it’s your house.” Gemma gave him an odd look. “At least that’s what you told me the other day.”

“Right, right.” He shook his head as if to clear it. “Of course. It’s my house.” He leaned against the railing, resting his chin on his arms. “It’s just that lately it feels more like Penn’s house.”

“Yeah, I can understand that,” she said. He sighed, and she turned to face him. “Do you even like her?”

“Penn?” Sawyer asked, then nodded quickly. “Yes. Of course I like her. I’m crazy about her. I don’t think I can live without her.”


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