“And I was,” Gemma said with pride. “One day, Mom woke up. Not exactly the way I had imagined or hoped for, but she woke up.”
“But you knew everything would be okay,” Harper said, looking at Gemma with tears in her eyes. “And I didn’t.”
“It’s okay.” Gemma didn’t understand why Harper was so upset, so she slid closer to her. “Everything turned out the way it was supposed to.”
“I know.” Harper sniffled and looked over at her. “But this time, I feel like you don’t know everything’s going to be okay.”
“Things are a lot more complicated than they were then,” Gemma said. “And I understand what’s happening. I was seven then, I didn’t know what a coma even meant. But now I fully understand the seriousness of what we’re up against.”
“I don’t know how everything is going to work out,” Harper admitted. “I honestly haven’t a clue about how we’re going to stop the sirens and break the curse. But I do know that everything will be okay.”
Gemma lowered her eyes and shook her head. “You don’t have to say stuff just to reassure me. I appreciate you trying, but I know how impossible this all is.”
“No, Gemma, listen to me.” Harper put her hand on top of Gemma’s and met her eyes. “Today, I don’t know how to stop this and save you. So, tomorrow, then. Tomorrow we’ll know how.”
Gemma smiled at her sister with tears in her eyes. “What if we don’t find it tomorrow?”
“There’s always a tomorrow,” Harper said. “And we’ll keep looking every day until tomorrow finally comes. I never stopped believing in you when we were little, and I’ll never stop fighting for you now.”
Gemma wanted to believe her sister’s words, but she knew something that Harper didn’t—that there wouldn’t always be a tomorrow. She only had a handful left if the sirens didn’t come for her.
But she also knew that they would stop at nothing to find her. Penn cared too much for her own life to just let Gemma slip away, dooming them all to die.
Harper put her arm around her and squeezed her shoulders, hugging her closer. “Life would be so much easier if we got to have normal sister conversations again. Remember when we stayed up all night talking because you were upset that some guy didn’t call you after a party?”
“Yeah.” Gemma laughed. “And now Alex calls me all the time. But it could be worse. We could have the siren issues and Alex not calling me after a party.”
“Yeah.” Harper laughed. “That would be worse.”
The house should’ve been tenser. Gemma was still in trouble, and Brian should’ve stayed angry with her. Not to mention that they hadn’t figured out how to save Gemma from the sirens. Harper had stayed home from work again, refusing to leave Gemma unguarded, even for a few hours.
Both Harper and Gemma knew the sirens were coming after her—it was just a matter of time. They spent a long time discussing possible ways to break the curse and doing what research they could think of, but when they came up with nothing new or substantial, they prepared themselves to fight the sirens.
Harper put earplugs in her dresser drawer so the siren song couldn’t enchant her, and she shoved a butcher knife under her pillow. She put a baseball bat under her bed, and they brought in the shovel from out back and put it in the front hall closet.
Their father had plenty of tools, like saws and even an ice pick, out in his work area in the garage. Harper considered bringing them in, but they felt too gruesome to fight with. She could still get to them if she needed to, but she hoped it wouldn’t come to that.
In a way, all the prep work they’d done reminded Harper of Home Alone, like they were children setting up booby traps for burglars. Gemma went along with everything, but she seemed dubious.
The trouble was that neither of them knew what else to do. They hadn’t found a way to break the curse, so they were only left with fighting back. Harper would do whatever it took to protect herself and her family, and if she had to kill the sirens, she would.
Once the preparation was done, and Harper had stashed weapons everywhere she could think of without Brian finding them, an odd peace settled over her. She’d done everything she could. Now they had to wait.
Brian came home from work that night in an astonishingly good mood. His daughter was home safe and sound. Because of the holiday on Sunday, he had Monday off, giving him a three-day weekend. That seemed to set the tone for the whole night.
Harper was making spaghetti and meatballs for supper, and Gemma offered to help. Brian cracked a beer in the living room to watch TV and relax after work for a bit, leaving the girls in the kitchen to handle supper.
“Harper,” Gemma said, barely stifling a giggle as she held up a misshapen meatball for Harper to inspect. “What do you think of my balls?”
“You’re so immature.” Harper rolled her eyes, but she couldn’t help smirking at her sister.
They stood at the kitchen counter, making the meatballs. Harper seasoned the raw hamburger, and they rolled it into balls. She’d done it a hundred times before, sometimes with Gemma’s help, but this was the first time that Gemma had been unable to stop giggling.
“Oh, come on, Harper,” Gemma said, refusing to be deterred. “It’s funny. Admit it’s funny.”
“It’s really not.” Harper laughed, but only because Gemma’s laughter was contagious. She shook her head and motioned to the meatball Gemma was making. “That one’s lumpy.”
Gemma burst out laughing at that, and when Harper scowled at her, it only made her laugh harder.
“What has gotten into you?” Harper asked.
“I’m just glad to be home, I guess.”
Gemma tossed a meatball at Harper, and it narrowly missed her, landing on the floor with an unpleasant splat.
“Hey,” Harper said. “Don’t waste food.”
“Sorry.” Gemma grabbed a paper towel to wipe the meatball off the floor. “When was the last time we had a food fight, though?”
“I don’t know.” Harper looked over her shoulder to watch her sister. “When I was, like, six or something.”
“Exactly!” Gemma insisted, and leaned on the counter next to Harper. “We’re really overdue for another one.”
“I really don’t think we are.” Harper shook her head, but she smiled. “It’s a waste of food, and it’s a mess that I’ll have to clean up.”