Sighing, she decided to start singing it, hoping it would come to her as she went along, and almost like magic, it did. The lyrics were on her lips, and she sang them out loudly.
“Come now, weary traveler, I’ll lead you through the waves. Worry not, poor voyager, for my voice is the way.”
Then this weird sensation came over her. It reminded her of the way it felt when she had butterflies in her stomach, like when Alex kissed her, but it was on her skin. The feeling traveled down her leg, from her thigh to the tips of her toes. She brushed her hand over her leg, following the path of the strange sensation, and she felt her skin ripple underneath her fingers.
She yelped and looked down. She half expected to see something clinging to her leg, like seaweed or maybe even a leech, but there was nothing. Just her skin, looking as ordinary as ever.
In fact, it was a little too normal. The bruises on her skin had faded and the cuts were almost healed. Gemma craned her neck, trying to see her back, but she couldn’t.
Her hair was rinsed, and she’d already gone over her skin with a bath sponge, so she decided to end the shower. She had planned to scrub harder, but something weird was going on, and she’d prefer to deal with it when she had clothes on.
When she hung the sponge on the faucet so it could dry, the same way she always did after a shower, she noticed something sticking to it. She picked it out of the sponge and held it up in the light, inspecting it.
It was some kind of large iridescent green scale, too big to belong to the usual small fish she saw in the bay. It had to come from something huge, at least the size of Gemma herself. But it was a color unlike any she’d ever seen on a fish. Admittedly, tropical fish came in all sorts of dazzling colors, but the bay was too far north to get the really pretty fish.
“Gemma?” Alex asked, interrupting her examination of the mysterious scale, and he started knocking on the bathroom door.
“Alex?” Gemma asked in surprise, and she grabbed a towel to wrap around herself, even though Alex was hidden safely on the other side of the door. “What are you doing here?”
“I just…” He trailed off, his voice completely lost through the door.
“What?” Gemma asked.
“I needed to see you.”
“What? Why? Did something happen?”
“No, I…” Alex sighed loudly. “Harper told me you were missing, and I wanted to make sure you were okay. I was giving you time to rest, but I just heard you singing, so I knew you were awake.”
Gemma gave an embarrassed look to the open bathroom window. The shades were drawn, but the sash was up; Alex could’ve easily heard her.
Once she got past her initial shame, she furrowed her brow and turned back to the closed door. “So you just came into my house?” That didn’t sound like something Alex would do at all. He was always polite, almost to a fault.
“No, I knocked first, but you didn’t answer, and then you stopped singing,” Alex explained. “I heard you yelp, and I thought something might be the matter.”
“Oh.” She smiled, realizing he was concerned for her well-being. “I just got out of the shower. Let me get dressed, and then I’ll come out and talk to you.”
Thankfully, Gemma had brought her clothes into the bathroom, and she dressed hurriedly. Alex’s surprise visit nearly made her forget about the bruise on her back, but she remembered after she’d gotten dressed.
Gemma turned her back to the mirror and lifted up her shirt. When she looked over her shoulder, her jaw dropped. The massive bruise was nearly gone. It was only a blotch in the center of her back, and the color had even faded from a deep eggplant to a soft gray.
“That cannot be possible.” Gemma gaped at the reflection.
“Did you say something?” Alex called from the hallway.
“Uh … no.” She dropped her shirt, as if he’d be able to see through the door. “I was just talking to myself. I’ll be out in a sec.”
Hurriedly, she ran her fingers through her hair to comb it out. Even her hair didn’t seem as tangled as it usually was. All the salt water and chlorine were harsh on her hair, but it felt silkier than it had in years.
She didn’t have time to worry about it, though. Alex was waiting for her, and she wanted to hurry and see him while she still could. When she got home from work Harper would send him away, and Gemma had no idea when she’d get a minute alone with him again.
“It’s actually really good that you stopped by,” Gemma said as she opened the bathroom door. She’d expected him to be out in the hall waiting for her, but he wasn’t.
“Why is that?” Alex asked, his voice coming from her bedroom.
“Because I’m probably going to be grounded from now until the end of time.”
She went into her room, trying not to let on how nervous it made her, having him in her room. It wasn’t a bad nervous, but this was the first time she’d had a boy she dated in here. This wasn’t Alex’s first time in her room, but it was different somehow. She hadn’t wanted to kiss him before.
She glanced around quickly to make sure she didn’t have anything embarrassing out in the open. Her dirty bathing suit was crumpled up on the floor and her bed was unmade, but there wasn’t anything too bad. Maybe the poster of Michael Phelps on her wall, but Alex couldn’t really fault her for that.
Alex had been standing next to her bed, admiring the picture on her bedside table of her, Harper, and their mother. As soon as Gemma came in the room, he turned to face her, and his brown eyes widened. His mouth opened, but no words came out. He tried to set the picture back on the nightstand, but he wasn’t paying attention, and it fell to the floor.
“Sorry.” He scrambled to pick it up, and Gemma laughed.
“No, I’m sorry.” He looked back at her, giving her a sheepish smile. “I’m so clumsy. You make me…”
“What?” She stepped closer to her bed, and his eyes stayed on her.
“I don’t know.” He laughed and furrowed his brow in confusion. “It’s like … I can’t think around you sometimes.”
“You can’t think?” Gemma asked dubiously and sat on the bed. “You’re the smartest person I know. How can you stop thinking?”
“I don’t know.”
He sat down next to her, still staring at her, but something about his stare had shifted from flattering to unnerving. There was something too intense in his gaze, and Gemma tucked her hair behind her ear and looked away from him.