As she went past Alex’s house, she kept her eyes fixed on the sidewalk, refusing to look up at it. It didn’t do any good to see if his car was in the driveway or if his bedroom light was on. He didn’t want to see her anymore, and that was the way it had to be.
Her own house looked dark, which she took as a good sign. Brian had to work early in the morning, so hopefully he’d already gone to bed. When Gemma opened the front door, she tried to be as quiet as possible.
But as soon as she closed the front door, a table lamp clicked on, and Gemma nearly screamed.
“Oh, my gosh, Harper.” Gemma put her hand to her chest and leaned back against the door. “What the heck was that?”
“I wanted to talk to you,” Harper said.
She’d turned their dad’s chair so it faced the doorway and sat in it with her arms crossed over her chest. Her long dark hair was up in a messy bun, and she wore her old ratty pink pajama pants, which really ruined her imposing look.
“You didn’t need to hide out in the dark like a maniac.” Gemma gestured to the lamp sitting on the table next to Harper. “You scared the crap out of me.”
“Good?” Gemma rolled her eyes and groaned. “Seriously? It’s gonna be one of those talks?”
“What do you mean, ‘those talks’?” Harper asked.
“The kind where you lecture me on everything I’m doing wrong.”
“I’m not lecturing you,” Harper said defensively. “It’s just…” She took a deep breath and tried to start over. “It’s after ten o’clock at night, and play rehearsal was supposed to end two hours ago. You’re lucky that Dad is trusting you again, but I know that rehearsal doesn’t run that late.”
“Because Daniel is narcing on me,” Gemma muttered and stared down at the worn rug on the floor.
“Daniel is not ‘narcing’ on you.” Harper bristled at the accusation. “I know because I drove past the theater, and nobody’s cars were there. And based on the amount of eyeliner you’re wearing and the ridiculously short length of your skirt—”
“It’s not ridiculous,” Gemma said, but she pulled down her skirt.
“—I can only assume that you’re running around with some boy,” Harper said. “Do you know how dangerous that is for you? Of course you do. The sirens kill boys—you’ve seen it.”
Gemma stared at the floor. She still hadn’t told her sister about how she’d killed a guy before. He’d been assaulting her at the time, and that had incited Gemma’s transformation into the monster. But the real reason she’d killed him was because she had to. In order to survive as a siren, she had to feed.
Over the past four weeks, since Gemma had returned home and they’d struck a deal with Penn, Harper had come to suspect that murdering boys was how the sirens ate. She’d never asked Gemma directly if she’d killed anyone, so Gemma had never told her. But Harper must’ve known that if Gemma hadn’t killed anyone already, she’d have to soon.
“It’s not like that.” Gemma sighed. “He’s just a guy that I’m working with in the play, and we’ve been hanging out. It’s no big deal.”
“Some guy?” Harper raised an eyebrow.
“It’s Kirby Logan,” she said.
“He’s nice.” Harper seemed to relax a bit, probably remembering him from high school. “But that doesn’t mean you should be hanging out with him. He’s too old for you—”
“Seriously, Harper?” Gemma scoffed. “I’m a mythical monster, and your issue is a three-year age difference?”
“No, it’s actually—” She stared up at Gemma. “There are a million reasons why you shouldn’t be sneaking around with Kirby, and one of them is his age, another is that you just had a major breakup with Alex, but none of those really matter. The only one that counts is that you know you shouldn’t.”
“This is such bullshit.” Gemma hit her head back against the door. “You and Dad are the ones that have been saying I need to get out of the house and do something and stop sulking. So I finally decide to do something. I joined the play last week, and I’m making friends, and now you’re telling me it’s wrong?”
“No, Gemma, that’s not what I’m saying.” Harper was doing her best to keep her voice low so it wouldn’t wake their dad. “You were just sitting around the house in your pajamas. You weren’t getting up until two or three in the afternoon. You weren’t showering or eating. I wanted you to do something.”
“And I am, but you have to cut me some slack,” Gemma said. “I can’t swim in meets anymore because I’m now supernaturally, freakishly fast, so it’s not fair to everyone else. It’s not even fair to me. I worked hard to be as good as I was, and now it doesn’t matter what I do.”
“Of course it matters what you do,” Harper said quickly, her tone softened now.
“I meant with swimming,” Gemma said. “I gave up swimming, I had to give up Alex, and I might have to give up you and Dad—”
“We’ll find a way to fight this,” Harper said for the millionth time that summer.
She’d cut her off, but Gemma was glad she didn’t let her finish her thought. Gemma had been about to say that she might have to give up her life, but she hadn’t really talked to Harper about it yet.
The sirens were running out of patience, and although they hadn’t specifically told Gemma, she suspected that they were looking for a replacement for her. It was only a matter of time before they found one and then got rid of Gemma.
“I don’t know who I am anymore,” Gemma finally said, barely holding back the tears in her eyes. “I gave up everything I loved. So I need you to let me figure it out, okay?”
Harper let out a long breath. “Okay. But please be careful.”
“I always am,” Gemma lied and turned around to hurry up the stairs so she wouldn’t have to talk anymore.
Once she was safely in her room, she put her hand over her mouth and let herself cry softly.
The past month, while Gemma had been sinking deeper into her depression, Harper thought it was mostly over Alex, and that was partially true. Giving up her dreams of being an Olympic swimmer, coming to terms with the fact that she was a murderer, and letting go of all the plans and hopes for her entire life was the rest of it.