“Both of you, dating boys.” Brian squinted up into the sunlight so he wouldn’t have to look at his daughter. “I always kinda hoped at least one of you would end up an old spinster.”
She smirked. “Sorry, Dad.”
“And here comes more trouble.” He motioned next door, and Gemma looked over to see Alex walking toward them.
He wore his regular clothes as opposed to his work overalls, but his Boba Fett T-shirt appeared a bit too small. It hadn’t been a few weeks ago, but now it pulled snug across his chest and biceps.
His hands were shoved in the pockets of his jeans, and he kept his head down. His thick hair cascaded across his forehead.
“Hello, Alex,” Brian said, his voice firm but not exactly hard. “I haven’t seen you at work the last couple days.”
“Yeah, I haven’t been feeling very well.” He glanced up at Brian, but only for a second, then turned to face Gemma. “Hey, Gemma, can I talk to you for a minute?”
She stood up straighter, but stayed leaning against the garage door. “Sure.”
“Gemma?” Brian said, studying the two of them. “I can stay out here, looking at a few other things on your car.”
“No, it’s okay, Dad. I’ve got it.” She tried to smile reassuringly at him.
Brian hesitated before nodding. “All right. I’ll go check on Harper. But we do have to get going soon.”
“Okay. Thanks, Dad,” Gemma said.
They stood in silence until after Brian had gone into the house. Alex finally lifted his head and looked at her. She wanted to brush his brown hair back from his forehead, so she could search his eyes for the warmth that had once been there.
But she didn’t. Not so much because she was afraid of how he would react if she touched him—but because she was afraid that she might not find any warmth left inside him.
“I need you to be honest with me,” Alex told her.
“Okay. I’ll try.”
“No, Gemma,” he snapped. “Not try. Completely honest. If you ever loved me, I need you to be honest.”
She swallowed. “Okay.”
“I loved you,” Alex said, and she couldn’t look at him. “And I think I loved you for a long time. Well, maybe I really liked you for a long time, but once we started dating, I was head over heels for you.”
“I don’t know why you’re telling me this. I have nothing to be honest—”
“Because I loved you with everything in me, and now I can’t stand you,” Alex said. “Except that’s not even true. It’s like I’m supposed to hate you. But I don’t think I ever really can.”
“I’m sorry,” Gemma whispered.
“I’ve thought about it and thought about it. But I can’t think of a single reason why my love turned into hate. I don’t even remember breaking up with you. Do you?”
“Of course I do,” she said, but that was sort of a lie.
Alex hadn’t broken up with her. What she remembered—and she did remember it vividly—was her using the siren song to cast a spell on Alex and convince him that he didn’t love her. She thought about it every day, and even though she knew it kept him safe, she wished she could take it back.
“What did I say? What were my reasons?” Alex demanded.
“You … you said…” Gemma stumbled, trying to come up with a reason for their breakup.
Until a few days ago, Alex had never asked why. He hadn’t even spoken to her in a month. So she’d never had to make up an excuse for why their relationship had ended.
“I didn’t break up with you, did I?” Alex asked. “None of this was my idea. You used your song on me.”
“Gemma!” Alex yelled, sounding exasperated. “I know you did. I just want to hear you say it.”
She stared down at the driveway, but she felt his eyes burning into her. “It was for your own good.”
“For my own good?” He laughed darkly. “You had no right to do that. No right! To control my feelings, to mess with my heart and my head. Do you understand what you’ve done to me? I can’t enjoy anything. I’m miserable all the time. You took away all of the love I had inside me.”
“I didn’t mean to.” She looked up at him, blinking back tears. “I only wanted you to stop caring about me so you’d be safe, so the sirens wouldn’t go after you anymore. I never meant to hurt you.”
“It doesn’t matter what you meant!” he shouted, and she flinched. “Did you ask me if I wanted this? Did you even talk with me about this before you did it?”
“No, I knew what you would say.”
He scoffed. “You knew what I would say, and you did it anyway?”
“I couldn’t let you get hurt or killed over me!”
“Gemma, I would rather die than feel the way I do now. Do you understand that?” He leaned toward her, his face inches from hers, and his dark eyes burned with rage. “Death would be far better than being unable to love ever again.”
“I didn’t know it would be like that,” she said. “I thought you’d just forget about me. Alex, I never wanted to hurt you.”
“What am I supposed to do now?” Alex asked. “How am I supposed to live the rest of my life?”
“I don’t know.” She shook her head. “Maybe I can sing to you and undo it.”
“No.” His eyes widened. “That’s what broke me in the first place! Don’t come anywhere near me with that song. You have no idea how to control or use it. You could end up killing me next.”
She nodded, secretly feeling relieved. Alex was right. She didn’t completely know how to use the song, and after the way she’d accidentally hurt Nathalie before, she didn’t want to try with Alex. If she hurt him more, she’d never be able to forgive herself.
“I know, I’m sorry,” she said again.
“Sorry doesn’t cut it, Gemma!” Unable to control his anger any longer, Alex lashed out, and punched the garage door right next to Gemma’s face. She flinched but didn’t move. “Are you scared of me?”
“No.” She stared into his deep brown eyes, and behind the anguish and confusion there was a flicker of warmth—a hint of the Alex she still loved desperately. “Should I be?”
“The worst part of all this is that as pissed off as I am, as much as I hate you, somehow I’m still in love with you, too,” he admitted softly. “There’s parts of me that even your siren song can’t touch.”