“Sorry. I should’ve called and told you, I guess,” Harper said. “But Gemma’s not … Gemma ran away.”
“Oh?” Becky’s eyes widened with concern.
“Yeah, she left earlier this week, but we hadn’t planned on telling my mom,” Harper said. “At least not yet. I didn’t want to worry her.”
“Of course, I understand.” Becky nodded. “But, gosh, that’s so weird. It’s like Nathalie knew that Gemma was missing.”
“Yeah, I know,” Harper agreed. “I was wondering if maybe Gemma said something to her when she visited last Sunday? Did my mom say anything about where Gemma might be going?”
Last week, they’d skipped their Saturday visit, because Gemma had been comforting Alex over his friend Luke’s death. Harper and Gemma had gone out to see their mom on Sunday instead, and Harper had planned on going in with her, but Gemma asked to visit Nathalie alone.
“No, sorry,” Becky said sadly. “The only thing your mom said after Gemma visited was that she was going to live with mermaids, and we didn’t put much stock in that. Maybe it means something to you?”
“Um, no.” Harper shook her head. She couldn’t very well tell her mother’s assisted living staff that Gemma had turned into a siren.
“Sorry,” Becky said again. “Wish I could be of more help.”
“No, you’re plenty of help, thanks.” Harper smiled faintly at her. “I’ll see you next week, then.”
Harper wasn’t surprised that Gemma had told their mother about what she’d planned on doing. Nathalie would’ve been the only person who wouldn’t think she was insane or try to stop her from doing something stupid.
As hard as it had been seeing her mother act the way she had today, there was actually something sweet about it. Nathalie couldn’t remember what Gemma had said, but it had gotten through to her that her daughter was in trouble. All week she’d been worrying about her.
Harper didn’t want her mother to be upset, but she wasn’t always sure that Nathalie still loved them. Her mother had a severe traumatic brain injury, and when it came to love, everyone always told her that Nathalie loved them “in her own way” and “as best as she could.”
And Harper accepted that. She just didn’t know exactly what that meant, but today it became a lot clearer.
She left feeling even more drained than she normally did after visiting Nathalie. Along the drive home her eyes blurred with tears, and she had to blink them back so she could see the road.
When she finally got home, she noticed her father’s truck was gone, so he was presumably still at the lawyer’s. Harper pulled in the driveway behind Gemma’s beat-up Chevy. It hadn’t moved since it had died on Gemma, and now she wondered dimly if her sister would ever drive it again.
Harper shook her head, trying to clear it from that kind of thinking, and she knew she couldn’t spend the afternoon alone in the house.
She got out of the car and was headed toward Alex’s house when she spotted him in the backyard. Dark clouds were gathering overhead, looking almost black on the horizon, and Alex was staring up at them.
This wasn’t the first time Harper had caught Alex gazing up at the sky. He’d always been fascinated by the weather and the stars. In recent years, his fascination had turned into career aspirations.
He’d even started working with storm chasers this past spring, tracking thunderstorms, tornadoes, and even hurricanes, which Harper was actually surprised to learn. She’d always thought that Alex would prefer analyzing things from the comfort of his home, but apparently he didn’t mind danger as long as he was passionate about what he was chasing.
“What are you doing?” Harper asked when she walked up behind him.
“Oh, hey.” Alex turned around, looking surprised to see her, and gave her a half smile. A gust of wind came up, blowing his hair back. “I didn’t see you there.”
“I didn’t mean to sneak up on you,” she said. “I just came to see what you were up to this afternoon.”
Alex shrugged. “Not a whole lot.”
“It seems like a storm is coming,” Harper said, hugging her arms to her chest to shield herself from the chill of the wind.
“Yeah, but the worst is going to be farther west.” He pointed to the line of clouds. “We’ll get rain and wind, but I’m thinking there might be hail farther inland.”
“Are you gonna go out and chase it, or whatever it is you do?” Harper asked.
“Nah.” He shook his head. “Some of the people I’ve gone with before are out. They think there might even be a tornado, but I don’t think it’s likely.”
“So why aren’t you with them?” Harper asked. “I know you love that kinda thing.”
“I do,” he agreed. “It just doesn’t feel right. Not with Gemma still being gone.”
“Oh.” She let out a deep breath. “Have you heard anything new on that?”
“Not really,” he said, then corrected himself. “Nothing useful, anyway.”
“I went to the police today,” Alex admitted, sounding sheepish about it.
“Did you really?” Harper asked. “What for?”
“I just wanted to know what they were doing to find Gemma.”
“What are they doing?” Harper asked.
“Not a whole lot,” Alex said. “I mean, I can’t really blame them. They’re still looking into the murders of Luke and those other boys, and Gemma just ran away from home. She’s not exactly their top priority.”
“Yeah.” Harper hadn’t really expected any different, but she’d hoped for more than that. “Do they have any leads on the murders?”
“I don’t think so.” He shook his head. “They asked me a couple more questions about Luke, but I didn’t tell them anything.” He paused for a minute, thinking. “The sirens killed him and the others, right?”
Harper hesitated before answering him, then nodded. “Yes, they did.”
“But I can’t tell the cops that.” Alex sounded exasperated. “They’d think I was crazy, and if they didn’t, they’d think Gemma was involved. And she wasn’t.”
Harper swallowed hard when Alex said that, but she didn’t respond. Not for the first time, she wondered exactly what Gemma’s involvement with the sirens was.