She hurriedly closed all the books and put them away. Harper knew she was looking at them, but Gemma didn’t want to let on how frantic the search had become.
“No, Marcy, I don’t think that Friday the thirteenth should count as a national holiday,” Harper was saying. The steps creaked under her feet as she climbed up them.
Marcy scoffed. “But Easter is a holiday.”
“Easter happens once a year at roughly the same time,” Harper said. She reached the landing and rolled her eyes at Gemma, showing what she thought of Marcy’s latest theory. “And people actually celebrate it.”
“I celebrate Friday the thirteenth!” Marcy countered.
Harper had brought up a couple cans of Cherry Coke from the fridge, and she went into her bedroom across the hall from Gemma’s. Marcy followed suit, munching on a Rice Krispies treat left over from a batch Harper had made earlier in the week.
“Okay, fine, write your congressman about it, then,” Harper said, setting the cans of soda on her desk.
“I will,” Marcy said through a mouthful of food and flopped back on Harper’s bed.
Gemma walked over to her sister’s room, which was bigger than hers and had more places to sit. Harper had her bed, the chair for her desk, and a worn-out padded rocker that Nathalie had used when the girls were babies.
“So, how was work?” Gemma asked, sitting down in the old rocking chair by the window.
“Great,” Harper replied absently. “I grabbed you a can of Cherry Coke, in case you wanted one.”
“Sure, I’ll take it,” she said, and Harper walked over to hand it to her.
“Work was not great,” Marcy said. “It was totally lame. We had to work on a holiday.”
“It’s still not a holiday,” Harper said. She sat down at her desk and shook her head. “At least not until you write to congress.”
“Sounds like you’ve had a fun day.” Gemma smirked and took a sip of her pop. “But I don’t…” She’d been looking out Harper’s bedroom window, and she trailed off as she spotted Alex pulling into his driveway. He usually worked until after four, the same as her dad.
When he got out of the car, he was wearing ripped jeans and a T-shirt, not his usual work overalls. He walked to the house with a labored gait, and he looked like hell.
“Have you talked to Alex lately?” Gemma asked, her eyes still glued to Alex’s house, even though he’d already disappeared inside.
“What?” Harper asked. “Why?”
“He’s just getting home,” Gemma said. “And he doesn’t look so great.”
“Yeah, um…” Harper sighed. “I think he crashed at Daniel’s last night.”
“Why?” Gemma finally pulled her eyes away from the house and faced her sister. “Are they hanging out or something?”
“Well. Kinda.” Harper lowered her eyes. “No, not really. Alex … We ran into him last night, and he was getting thrown out of a bar.”
“Alex?” Marcy asked with genuine surprise. “Geeky next-door Alex?”
Gemma shook her head. “Alex doesn’t drink.”
“He was last night,” Harper said.
“Well, did you talk to him?” Gemma asked. “What did he say? Is he okay?”
“Not really, Gemma,” Harper admitted. “I was thinking about not telling you, but … whatever you did to protect him, it’s really messing him up. He knows he’s supposed to love you, and he says it’s like a part of him is missing.”
Gemma didn’t say anything. She just turned and stared out the window again. Alex’s bedroom window was right across from Harper’s, but his shade was pulled. Gemma didn’t even get a glimpse at what he was doing.
“Maybe you should talk to him,” Harper suggested quietly.
“I can’t,” Gemma said.
“He’s really hurting, and I think maybe you should consider undoing it.”
“I can’t, Harper,” Gemma said, more firmly this time. “I don’t think it’s possible even if I wanted to, and I don’t want to. It’s dangerous for him to be involved with me.”
“I know how you feel,” Harper said. “But if he knows the risks, you have to let him make the choice.”
“Just let it go.” Gemma shook her head and looked down at her can of soda. “I can’t talk about this right now.”
“Have you guys come up with alternate plans yet?” Marcy asked, changing the subject. She sat up straighter on the bed, crossing her legs underneath her.
“What do you mean?” Harper turned back to face her.
“The way I see it, there’s three possibilities to this scenario.” Marcy held up three fingers, then ticked them down one by one as she listed the options. “One, Gemma finds the scroll. Two, the sirens have hidden the scroll so well that no one can find it. Three, they don’t have the scroll.”
“Gemma hasn’t even had a chance to really look for the scroll yet,” Harper said quickly. “We can’t rule that out.”
Marcy shook her head. “I’m not saying rule it out. I’m saying look into other avenues.”
“That’s probably a good idea,” Gemma agreed. “But Lydia seemed to think they’d have the scroll. It’s important to their existence.”
“But maybe they left it with somebody they trusted more than themselves,” Marcy suggested.
“Like who?” Harper asked.
“When I leased my apartment, the landlord didn’t trust just me, so I had to have someone else put their name on it.” Marcy waited a beat for it to hit Gemma and Harper. “My parents.”
“You think the sirens’ parents are still alive?” Harper asked.
“I don’t know.” Gemma shook her head, thinking back to what Lexi had said. “I don’t think they are.”
“Aren’t their parents immortal?” Marcy asked.
“Their dad was, but I don’t really know about their mom,” Harper said. “I was a little confused on that.”
“Who is their mom?” Marcy asked.
“Um, a muse,” Gemma said, thinking. “Or two muses, actually. Thea and Penn have different mothers. I’m pretty sure the muses are immortal, too. Just not goddesses. So I think that in their regular life, pre-siren, Thea and Penn were mortal.”