Harper crossed her arms over her chest and leaned back against the copier, but she didn’t say anything. Alex had made a point she couldn’t really argue with, but that didn’t mean she still didn’t think this was all stupid.
“Do I need to get like a Ouija board or something?” Alex asked.
Marcy scoffed loudly. “Ouija. Pfft. That’s all hokum.”
“Okay,” Alex said. “So how do we contact the spirits?”
“Why don’t I meet you at your house after work, and I’ll bring everything we need?” Marcy suggested.
Even though Harper thought it was dumb, she didn’t have any better ideas, so she went along with it. Alex went home, and after work Marcy went home to get her stuff, then was going to meet them at Alex’s house.
Harper waited outside with Alex, sitting on the front steps of his house. He wasn’t sure what to bring, if anything, so he’d grabbed the video camera he used to record storms and a pocketknife in the shape of Batman’s batarang.
“You really think this will work?” Harper asked, watching him as he flipped the blade in and out of the pocketknife.
“I don’t know,” Alex admitted. “But I don’t know what else to try. I’ve got to do something, and I’m running out of options.”
“Can I ask you something?”
Alex shrugged. “Sure.”
“Why do…” Harper tried to choose her words carefully. “You’re really passionate about finding Gemma, and I’m glad. It’s just … it’s a little strangely intense, since you and Gemma haven’t been together that long.”
“Is that your question?” Alex asked, looking over at her.
“Kinda. I just don’t fully understand why you care so much.”
“But I’ve known her practically my whole life,” Alex pointed out. “And it’s not like I suddenly started having feelings for her the day we started dating. I mean, I’ve liked her for…” He trailed off, as if realizing he’d admitted more than he wanted to.
“When did you start liking her?” Harper asked.
He shifted uneasily. “I don’t know the exact date.”
Harper had known that Alex and Gemma liked each other for a little while, possibly longer than the two of them knew themselves. Alex would be over watching a movie with Harper or doing homework with her, but as soon as Gemma came in the room, he could barely pay attention to the task at hand.
That eventually had put a strain on her friendship with Alex. She didn’t mind so much that he liked Gemma. It just weirded her out that they’d be hanging out in her room, and Gemma would be across the hall in hers, and Alex would suddenly get up and go hover in Gemma’s doorway. It was obnoxious, so Harper had stopped hanging out with him as much.
“I think I noticed it a few months ago,” Harper said. “You kept making eyes at her.”
“I did not,” he said quickly. “I don’t even know what that means.”
“There’s nothing wrong with it,” Harper said. “I’m just curious about how long you’ve had a crush on my sister.”
“I don’t know.” He sighed, and when he spoke, his voice got quieter. “Maybe years.”
“Years?” Harper asked loudly, thinking she must’ve heard wrong.
“I don’t know.” He lowered his eyes and looked uncomfortable. “I mean, it wasn’t like a crush. It was just I really liked her, and she always thought I was such a dork. But then in the last year or so, something changed, and she started looking at me like I was a person, and not some geeky guy running around with her older sister. And then I think … I don’t know.”
“So you’ve been into Gemma for a really long time?” Harper asked, still trying to process what he was saying.
“I guess so,” he admitted. “Sorry.”
“Why are you sorry?” Harper asked.
“Because we were friends, and I didn’t tell you?” Alex said as if he weren’t sure why he was apologizing. “I feel like I wasn’t supposed to have a crush on your sister.”
“Honestly, I’m fine with you about it,” Harper said, smiling at him to prove it. “It’s just strange to me that I didn’t realize you did.”
“So that’s why I’m kinda being such a freak about all of this,” he said with a sad smile. “I finally get to be with Gemma, and then she’s … gone.”
“That would make me crazy, too.” She twirled the bottle of water in her hands, staring down at it as she asked him the next question. “So … are you in love with Gemma?”
“I…” He ran a hand through his brown hair and hesitated to answer.
Marcy pulled up in front of the house, honking the horn on her Gremlin loudly as she parked. She got out of the car, carrying a book bag with Captain Planet on it as she walked up to the house.
“You cats and kittens ready to contact some spirits?” Marcy asked, but before anyone could answer, she noticed Alex’s pocketknife. “Is that a batarang? Are you planning to batarang the spirit of your dead best friend?”
“No.” He flipped out the blade to show her. “It’s a knife.”
“Oh, so you’re gonna stab a ghost,” Marcy said. “That’s so much better.”
“I didn’t know what to bring. I thought we might need something to defend ourselves,” Alex said.
“Well, we don’t,” Marcy said. “Now come on. Let’s do this thing.” Marcy turned and started walking away.
“Where are you going?” Alex asked, jumping up.
“Yeah, where is this thing taking place?” Harper asked as she followed Marcy and Alex away from their houses.
“Luke’s body was found in the wooded area by the bay, right?” Marcy asked. “That’s where we’re going. His connection to the earth will be the strongest there. That’ll make him easier to contact.”
The trees where Harper and Alex had found the bodies weren’t far from where they lived. Neither of them had been back there since they’d shown the police where to go. It wasn’t someplace where Harper ever wanted to go again, so she slowed her steps when Marcy told them that was where they were headed.
“Are you coming, Harper?” Alex asked, glancing back over his shoulder at her. He hadn’t slowed down even slightly. Harper knew that finding the bodies had really freaked him out, too, but apparently he was braver than she’d thought.