Gemma woke up late in the afternoon after her fever finally broke, and her thoughts were a bit clearer. Her dreams had been bizarre and excruciatingly vivid, but the instant she woke up, she forgot them all. All she knew was that they left her feeling gross and terrified.
Harper doted on her, which made Gemma feel even worse. Harper and her dad worried so much, and Gemma never wanted to do anything to betray their trust. Staying out all night would leave her grounded for the summer and banned from Anthemusa Bay, on top of having scared the hell out of the two people she cared about most.
The worst part was that she didn’t even know why she’d done it.
She couldn’t remember anything at all after she’d drunk from the flask. It was all black until the morning, when Harper had found her on the shore. But even before that, before she’d had anything to drink, her memories felt strange and fuzzy.
Gemma remembered going to the cove. In her mind, she could see what she’d done, but it was like watching a show about someone else. All the movements and actions—it was her body doing them, but it wasn’t her.
Going to the cove and hanging out with Penn—those weren’t her decisions. Gemma would never drink, let alone do it because girls like Lexi pressured her to. She remembered doing it, but it wasn’t her. She would never do that.
But she had. Or how else would she have ended up washed up on the beach, hungover?
Getting drunk didn’t completely explain the night, though. Things were messed up before she drank from the flask, and Gemma had never heard of liquor being thick like that. It had the consistency of honey, but tasted nothing like it.
Maybe it wasn’t alcohol, but it was definitely something. It could’ve been laced with a drug or poison. Or maybe a potion. Gemma wouldn’t be surprised at all if Penn turned out to be a witch.
In any event, they had slipped her something. Gemma would probably never know exactly what it was, but it didn’t really matter. They had given her something, and she had no idea why.
Worse still, she didn’t know what they’d done to her after that. All the scratches were probably from being thrown around in the ocean. After she’d passed out, they must have just tossed her in the bay.
Or had they? If she had been unconscious when she went in the water, wouldn’t she have drowned? Or been swept out to sea? How did she end up on the shore with only a few scrapes and bruises? Why wasn’t she dead?
“Crap.” Harper sighed and walked into Gemma’s room, pulling her from her thoughts. “Marcy just called me. There’s some kind of meltdown at the library, and I need to go help her out.”
Gemma sat up in bed. Her body already felt much better than it had that morning. All the aches had gone away, and even the redness and swelling had gone down around her cuts and bruises. Other than being sticky and dirty, she didn’t feel half bad.
“Will you be all right here, alone for an hour or so?” Harper asked.
“Yeah.” Gemma nodded. “I’m fine. I think I’ll probably take a shower. You go do what you need to do. I don’t want to inconvenience you any more than I already have.”
“All right.” Harper bit her lip and seemed hesitant to leave. “I’ll have my cell phone, and you call if you need me. I mean that, okay?”
“Okay.” Gemma nodded again. “But I’ll be fine.”
After Harper left, Gemma felt relief wash over her. Having Harper look out for her like that only worsened her guilt, but more than that, Gemma wanted a chance to clear her head and try to sort things out herself. It was hard to think when Harper kept checking on her and interrogating her about what had happened.
Gemma knew that Harper meant well, and it was actually her own fault that Harper felt the need to be this intensely involved. But sometimes she just needed room to breathe.
It was after Harper and their mom were in the car accident that things had first started getting bad. Even though Harper was the one who had been hurt, she suddenly became ultra-protective of Gemma.
And Gemma hadn’t minded, at least not at first. She’d needed it. When her mother was in a coma, Gemma had felt totally lost. In retrospect, she’d been a bit of a mama’s girl, and if Harper hadn’t stepped up, she didn’t know how she would’ve coped.
Eventually, though, she learned to handle it on her own. That was when she really took to swimming. She’d always loved the water, but after that, she couldn’t get enough of it. It was the only place she felt free, and sometimes, when Harper got in a mood, it was the only place that Gemma could really breathe.
Now, because of her stupid mistake with Penn, not only would Harper be way more intense, but Gemma wouldn’t be able to go out to the bay to get some release. At least she still had swim practice. And long baths.
Gemma considered taking a bath now, but her skin felt too dirty. It would only take a few seconds before she was swimming in a tub of mud. A shower would be better.
While waiting for the tap water to warm up, she turned on the CD player in the bathroom. Her father’s Springsteen album came blasting out, and Gemma sifted through the stack of CDs on the counter, searching for her own music. It was mostly Harper’s music in the bathroom, groups like Arcade Fire and Ra Ra Riot.
But for some reason, Gemma’s own CDs didn’t sound good. She didn’t want to hear anything on them. It all felt … wrong, somehow. Clicking off the stereo, Gemma decided to just forgo music.
Before she got in the shower, she stripped down to her underwear. In front of the mirror, she turned this way and that so she could see all the wounds on her skin.
A large bruise stretched out from the small of her back all way up to her shoulder blades. It was a dark purple color with green around the edges, and Gemma touched it tentatively. It was sore, for sure, but it didn’t hurt nearly as badly as she thought it would.
In any event, a hot shower ought to make it feel better, so she finished inspecting herself and hopped in. As soon as the warm water streamed over her, she felt even better. Almost invigorated.
Gemma couldn’t help herself, and she began to sing as she washed her hair. At first she was singing the latest Katy Perry song, but a different tune was stuck in her head. It was a song she didn’t even know how she knew.
With conditioner in her hair, she paused to think of it. She couldn’t quite get it, but it was on the tip of her tongue.
“Come now…” Gemma furrowed her brow as she tried to think of the words. “I’ll show you the way … into my ocean…” She shook her head. “No, that’s not right.”