“Obviously this isn’t completely accurate,” Alex said, refusing to be deterred. “Some books say there are only two sirens, while others say there are as many as four. Some describe them as mermaids, others as birds. None of them get it completely right, but maybe that’s because they change form.”
Harper narrowed her eyes, thinking. “What do you mean?”
“Maybe Ovid saw them as a bird.” Alex pointed to the book in Harper’s hands. “But others saw them as mermaids. The girls can change their shape, like you saw. The only constant is their song. And we know they have that.”
Biting her lip, Harper stared down at the book in her hands. What Alex said made sense. Or it would have, if any of this made any sense.
“This is mythology, Alex,” Harper said, shaking her head, and she handed the book back to him. “None of this is real.”
He groaned. “Oh, come on, Harper. You saw the same things I did. This is real, and you know it.”
“Fine.” Harper crossed her arms over her chest. “Let’s say you’re right. What we saw … they were sirens. Is Gemma one of them? How did she become one?”
“I don’t know. So much of what I’ve read contradicts itself.” Alex motioned to the shelf of books beside him. “I was researching on the Internet all night, but I was hoping that maybe actual books could offer some clarity.”
“Well, how did the sirens become sirens in the first place?” Harper asked.
“From what I can tell, it had something to do with pissing off one of the gods.”
Alex turned away from Harper to focus his attention on the books. His fingers trailed along the spines as he scanned for a title.
“What are you looking for?” Harper asked, moving closer to him to help him look.
“I read a passage from a book online. I think it’s called … Argonautica or something.”
“Here.” Harper reached up past him, taking a worn copy from the top shelf.
She picked up an encyclopedia on Greek mythology, then started grabbing any book that might possibly have information on sirens, including one called Mythology for Dummies.
As she began gathering books, she handed them to Alex. Once he had a small stack, he sat down on the floor right between the two shelves and spread the books out around him.
“There are tables we can sit at,” Harper said. “There’s even an overstuffed couch.”
“Here’s good,” Alex said, already flipping through one of the books.
Shrugging, Harper sat down across from him and folded her legs underneath her.
“So.” She rested her arms on her knees and leaned forward. “Tell me what you already know.”
“I don’t know how much I ‘know’ per se, since there seems to be a lot of misinformation,” Alex said.
“You think they became sirens because they angered the gods?” Harper asked, and he nodded. “But Gemma didn’t anger any gods.” Then she changed her mind and shook her head. “At least, I don’t think she did.”
“I don’t think she did, either,” Alex agreed. “So maybe she isn’t one.”
Harper thought back to the end of the other night, when she’d seen Gemma disappear into the ocean in the pale pink light of early morning. Even then, her tail had been unmistakable. Gemma had definitely had a mermaid form.
“No, she’s one of them,” Harper said definitively. “And it doesn’t really matter to me why or how she became one. I just need to know how to get her back.”
“That’s the tricky part.” Alex grimaced. “I haven’t read about any way to undo their curse. Only how to kill them.”
“Well, we don’t want to kill Gemma, but I wouldn’t mind killing those other bitches,” Harper said, a little surprised by the vengeance in her own voice. “How do we do that?”
“I don’t know exactly. Apparently, the sirens are fated to die if someone hears their song and escapes it,” Alex said with a sheepish expression on his face.
“But you heard the song, and so did I, and we escaped it,” Harper said. “And they didn’t die.”
“That’s the only thing I’ve read so far,” Alex said. “But according to what I read in Homer’s Odyssey, the sirens should already be dead.”
“Great,” Harper muttered. “So basically what you’re saying is that you don’t know much more than I do?”
“Not really, I guess,” he said. “But at least I figured out what they are.”
“That’s a start,” Harper admitted grudgingly, and picked up a book off the floor.
With no better plan, Harper and Alex were left researching everything they could on sirens. As they went through the books, they spoke very little to each other. They were both too focused on figuring out how to rescue Gemma.
Harper wasn’t sure exactly how long they’d been sitting there reading, but she’d had to change positions because her legs had gone numb. She sat with her back resting against the shelf behind her, the copy of Argonautica spread out across her knees.
Even Alex had moved, probably for the same reason. He lay on his belly with the book open before him. His fingers were buried in his dark hair, and his handsome features were hardened in concentration.
Harper glanced up from her book and caught sight of him. Something about the intensity of his expression moved her. His devotion to Gemma nearly rivaled her own, and that made her feel a bit better. She wasn’t in this alone.
“What are you doing?” Marcy asked, and Harper looked up to see her coworker standing at the end of the shelves with her arms crossed over her chest.
“Um…” Harper glanced back at Alex for help with answering the question, but he looked as lost for words as she was.
“Did you plan on doing any more work today?” Marcy asked. “Or were you going to hide out here all day?”
“Well…” Harper shifted so she was sitting up straighter. She knew she should be working, but she didn’t really want to abandon her pursuit, either. That felt more important than scanning in overdue library books.
“If you didn’t feel up to working because of Gemma running away or whatever, then you could’ve just said so,” Marcy went on. “You didn’t need to sneak off on false pretenses.”
“No, we didn’t,” Harper said quickly.
Marcy narrowed her eyes, apparently hearing the conviction in Harper’s words. “What are you doing?”