“Nathalie?” Becky, one of Nathalie’s staff, had come out of the group home and was waving her back in. “Why don’t you and your guests come inside and visit?”
Nathalie finally released Gemma. “Do you want to go in the house? Should we go in?”
“Sure,” Gemma said. “That sounds great, Mom. Do you remember Alex?”
“Alex?” Nathalie’s face scrunched up in confusion. “Is that your father?”
“No, Mom, it’s not. That’s Alex.” Gemma motioned to where Alex stood next to the car. He’d gotten out after they parked, but Nathalie had been so focused on Gemma that she hadn’t even noticed him.
“No, I don’t know him.” Nathalie shook her head, then looked sadly at her daughter. “Should I?”
“Probably not,” Gemma said. “It’s been a really long time since you met him.”
Alex had moved in next door to them about a year before Nathalie’s accident. He’d been over to their house a number of times before she got hurt, and he’d even been over during her brief attempt at living at home after the accident.
But considering that Nathalie couldn’t remember her own husband anymore, it wasn’t surprising that she’d forgotten the boy next door.
“Hello, Mrs. Fisher.” Alex walked over to her and shook her hand. “It’s so nice to see you again.”
“Call me Nathalie.” She smiled at him and looped an arm around her daughter’s shoulders. As they walked toward the house, she whispered loudly, “He’s so cute, Gemma!”
“He sure is,” Gemma agreed, and Alex laughed nervously as he followed them inside.
The visit went really well, as far as visits with Nathalie went. She was very hyper, but she was in a good mood. She seemed especially excited to see Gemma, hugging her many times. Once or twice she got a little overly affectionate with Alex, hanging on him or holding his hand. Alex handled it well, and when Gemma reminded Nathalie that Alex was her boyfriend, Nathalie stopped what she was doing.
Nathalie even took a run at braiding Gemma’s hair. Unfortunately, Nathalie wasn’t so great at fine motor skills anymore, so it turned into a knotty mess. It was incredibly painful to endure as Nathalie yanked on her hair, but Gemma smiled through it.
When Gemma and Alex left, her hair was still tied up in a messy “braid.”
“How bad is it?” Gemma asked on the drive back home.
“It’s really … it’s really something.” Alex smirked as he glanced over at her.
“Thanks.” Gemma laughed and flipped down the visor mirror so she could admire it herself. “I think it’s sweet that she tried to do it. She hasn’t attempted to do my hair since I was about seven.”
“And you can pull it off. Not many other girls could wear a rat’s nest, but on you it works.”
“Too bad it hurts like heck.” Gemma flipped her visor back up and started pulling at the tangles and knots, trying to undo them. “I have to take this out before I get a migraine.”
“So when we get back to Capri, you just want to go home?” Alex asked.
“Dad said I’m supposed to,” Gemma said. “But he didn’t tell me what time I had to be home. So maybe we could go out to the cliff?”
Alex grinned. “Sounds good to me.”
In another age, the cliff might have been called “Makeout Point” or something silly like that. It had a wonderful view of Anthemusa Bay, and it was rather secluded, surrounded by cypress trees and loblolly pines.
Alex pulled up the gravel path that wound through the trees and parked as close to the edge of the cliff as he could. Gemma had finally gotten her hair free of the mess her mom had put it in, and she got out of the car, letting the wind blow through her hair.
“It’s a beautiful day,” Alex said, getting out of the car after her.
“It sure is.” Gemma walked to the edge of the cliff and sat down, letting her legs dangle over it. “Come on.” She patted the dirt next to her. “Sit by me.”
When he sat down, he moved more carefully than Gemma and eyed the waves crashing against the face of the cliff warily. He slipped off his shoes before dangling his legs over the edge. Once he was settled, he took Gemma’s hand, holding it gently in his.
From this vantage point, they could see the entire bay. Closest to them were the docks where her father worked, large barges pushed up to the pier. Farther out, there were rows and rows of personal boats, some of them huge yachts and some boats even smaller than Daniel’s.
The public beach was full of people. It was a gorgeous day, and a holiday weekend, so it was packed. Red, white, and blue decorations were hung up anywhere there was room along the beach.
Where the soft sand along the coast started giving way to sharp rocks, the crowds disappeared. The rocks led up to a cypress forest, the same forest where Alex and Harper had found the bodies a few weeks ago. A thick belt of trees wound all the way to the cove, which sat almost directly across from the cliff where Gemma and Alex were.
Then, a few miles away from the cove, sitting by itself in the ocean, was Bernie’s Island.
“My dad’s renting out the island to Daniel,” Gemma said.
“Really?” Alex said. “That’s cool. Right?”
Gemma nodded. “Yeah, I think so.” She paused. “I guess Daniel is Harper’s boyfriend now.”
“Wow,” Alex said.
“I know, right?” She smiled. “I think they’re cute together, but I kinda never thought Harper would ever date. You know what I mean?”
“Yeah, I do,” Alex agreed.
“But I’m glad she is,” Gemma said. “It makes me feel better about all of this. Now I know that no matter what happens, she won’t be alone.”
“Gemma.” Alex squeezed her hand. “Don’t talk like that. We’ll find a way to keep you safe.”
“But what if we can’t?” Gemma turned to face him, pulling one knee up to her chest. “Or … what if we shouldn’t?”
“What do you mean?” Alex asked. His dark eyes were full of concern and confusion, and Gemma didn’t know how to answer him.
Seeing the trees where Alex and Harper had found Luke and the other boys reminded her of how horrible Alex had looked afterward. And Gemma didn’t need any reminders about how she’d killed Jason. She was waking up from nightmares about it every night.