“I’m sorry.” Gemma squeezed her eyes shut and rubbed her forehead, as if she wished Harper would just stop talking.
“Sorry doesn’t cut it, Gemma!” Harper shouted. “You could’ve died! Do you understand that? You almost did die. I don’t even know what happened or how you’re still alive. How could you do that? How could you put yourself in that situation?”
“I don’t know!” Gemma lifted her head. “How many times do I have to tell you that I don’t know?”
“As many times as it takes until it starts making sense!” Harper shot back. “This isn’t like you. You hate those girls and you hate drinking. Why were you hanging out with them? Why would you risk yourself for people you don’t even like?”
“Harper!” Gemma snapped. “I don’t remember last night. I don’t have any answers, no matter how many times or how many different ways you ask me. I already told you everything I know!”
“You know you are so grounded, right?” Harper asked. “You’re never going to that bay at night again. You’ll be lucky if Dad even lets you go during the day.”
“I know.” Gemma sighed and rested her head against the window again.
“And I don’t know when you’ll be able to see Alex again,” Harper went on. “He was worried sick about you, too.”
“He was?” Gemma looked over at Harper and brightened a little. “How did he know I was missing?”
“I thought you might be with him, so I called and asked if he knew where you were. You’re supposed to call him when we get back.”
“Hmm.” Gemma closed her eyes. “Maybe you should call him. I don’t feel much like talking right now.”
Harper looked back over at her sister, softening with concern. If Gemma didn’t even feel up to talking to Alex, then something definitely had to be wrong.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Harper asked. “I can take you to the hospital right now.”
“No, I’m just hungover and have some bruises. I’ll be fine.”
“Maybe you should get some X-rays,” Harper said. “Those bruises might be worse than they look. And I don’t even know how you got them.”
“I’m fine,” Gemma insisted. “Please take me home. I just want to sleep.”
Harper still wasn’t thrilled about it, but Gemma was probably right. Since Harper’d had the chance to release some of her anger, she decided to let it go. If Gemma was sick, she didn’t need Harper yelling at her. So for now Harper would just take care of her.
When they got home, Gemma went into the kitchen and got herself a glass of cold water from the tap. She proceeded to drink glass after glass, gulping it down so fast that water spilled down her chin.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Harper asked, watching her sister uncertainly.
“Yeah.” Gemma nodded and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. “I’m just really thirsty. But I’m better now.” She set the glass down in the sink and forced a smile at Harper.
“Sit down, then. You need to get cleaned up.”
Gemma pulled out a chair from the kitchen table and eased herself into it. Harper went into the bathroom and got a wet washcloth, antiseptic, and Band-Aids. When she came back, she knelt on the floor in front of Gemma, inspecting her cuts and scrapes.
None of them looked too deep, which was the only good part. When Harper washed off a gash on her thigh, Gemma winced. Harper gave her an apologetic look and dabbed more carefully at it.
“You don’t remember how you got any of these?” Harper looked up at Gemma, searching her expression for any clues about what had happened.
“So you don’t know if the girls did this to you?” Harper asked, and Gemma shook her head. “Penn could’ve beat you up, then? And even if they didn’t, they left you to die in the bay, and you don’t even know why?”
Just thinking about it made Harper so angry, she didn’t realize how hard she was scrubbing at Gemma’s cuts.
“Harper!” Gemma grimaced and pulled back her leg.
“Sorry.” Harper stopped cleaning the cut, and when she put a bandage over it, she was much more careful. “Maybe we should call the police on those girls.”
“And tell them what? I accidentally drank too much and don’t remember what happened?” Gemma asked wearily.
“Well…” Harper shrugged. “I don’t know. I feel like I should do something.”
“You’re doing enough,” Gemma tried to reassure her. “And right now I just need to get some sleep.”
“Don’t you want to shower first?” Harper asked as Gemma stood.
“After I wake up.”
Gemma gripped the table for support and slowly rose to her feet. Her hair was sticky from salt and dirt, and as Gemma walked past her, Harper plucked a bit of seaweed from the tangles of her hair.
Gemma managed to get up the stairs, but Harper followed close behind, in case she slipped. Gemma changed quickly out of her bathing suit into clean underwear and a T-shirt, then collapsed into her bed.
Once Gemma was tucked in safe and sound, Harper went to her room to make phone calls. She kept both their bedroom doors open, keeping an eye on Gemma, and she spoke softly on the phone so as not to disturb her.
First she had to call her dad and tell him that Gemma was all right. He sounded as excited as Harper had been, and then just as pissed when he found out why Gemma had stayed out all night. Brian so rarely got mad at them it was easy to forget how terrifying he could be when he was angry.
The other phone calls went more quickly. She told Alex that Gemma was okay, and she called the coach at the school to tell him that Gemma wouldn’t be able to make it in today. After that, Harper decided to call in to work herself. Even though it probably was just a hangover, Harper didn’t feel right about leaving Gemma alone.
With the calls out of the way, Harper sat down on the floor in the hallway, right outside Gemma’s room. From there she could see her sister sleeping. Gemma had her back to her, and the thin sheet covering her rose and fell with each breath.
Even if Gemma hadn’t been sick, Harper didn’t know if she’d have gone to work. Facing the possibility of losing Gemma made it hard to be away from her.
Sometimes Harper got so wrapped up in taking care of everything, her father and the house and making sure that Gemma was in line and safe, she forgot that she actually loved her sister. The truth was that Harper would be lost without her.