“I wanted to see you,” she said simply.
“No, I don’t mean just right now, but…” He set down his clothes in a pile by the door and turned back to face her with his hands on his hips. “What was last night about? Harper said you just took off with those weird pretty girls, and then you come to my house soaking wet because you need to know if I like you.”
“I’m really sorry about that,” Gemma said, but he was on a roll.
“And the other night, when you disappeared, again with those weird pretty girls! Harper thought you were dead. You know you’re scaring the hell out of your sister, and that’s not like you.
“And then when I came over on Tuesday and…” He lowered his eyes, and his cheeks colored lightly. “And we made out. That was hot and all, but that was … not you at all. I don’t even know if that was me.”
“I know, I know.” Gemma sighed. She wanted to tell him everything, but how could she? How could anyone possibly believe what she had to say?
“What’s going on?” Alex asked, and the desperation in his voice pulled at her heart.
“Do you trust me?”
“Honestly?” He lifted his head and looked her in the eyes. “A few days ago, I would’ve said unequivocally yes. But after what’s been going on lately, I don’t know.”
“I’ve never lied to you.” Then she shook her head. “I mean, maybe I did when I was a little kid. But since we started seeing each other, I haven’t. And I won’t. And I know how crazy everything is, and I don’t know how to explain it to you.”
“You could at least try,” Alex suggested.
“I don’t think I can.”
“Is it me?” he asked. “Or, I mean, is it us?”
“No, no!” Gemma shook her head emphatically.
“Because that’s the only thing that’s really changed. You were normal until we started getting involved.”
“No.” She stepped closer to him, putting her hands on his chest to convince him. “No, it’s absolutely not you. You’re the only thing that’s keeping me sane.”
“Why?” He looked down at her, but he didn’t reach out and touch her the way she’d hoped he would. “How did I suddenly become your grip on normalcy?”
“Because. I think you’re the only person who sees me for who I really am.”
“Gemma.” He breathed deeply and brushed her hair back, tucking a loose strand behind her ear. Something must have occurred to him then, because he looked around. “Wait. What time is it? Why aren’t you at swim practice?”
She smiled sheepishly at him. “I needed to see you.”
“Why? It’s not that I don’t want to spend time with you, but you never skip practice. You love swimming more than you love anything in the world.”
“Well, not anything.” She lowered her eyes and stepped back so she could sit on his bed. “I know that you’re unsure, but can you just trust me?”
He narrowed his eyes, perhaps afraid of what she might be getting at. “How?”
“Let me spend the day with you. Just one day.”
“Gemma.” He laughed a little and shook his head. “I want to spend every day with you. Why is today so important?”
“I don’t know.” She shrugged. “Maybe it isn’t.”
“You’re so cryptic lately.”
“All right, then.” He scratched the back of his head, then sat down on the bed next to her. “So what do you want to do today?”
“Well … you could teach me some of those awesome dance moves you were doing earlier.” She tried to imitate some of them.
“Oh, that’s just mean.” Alex pretended to be offended. “Those were my private dance moves, and you were being a creepy stalker on the roof. I should call the police and report a Peeping Tom.”
“Oh, come on.” Gemma stood up, doing horribly exaggerated versions of what he’d been doing. “Show me what you got.”
“No, never.” He laughed at her attempts to copy him.
When she kept going, he grabbed her around the waist and pulled her back on the bed. She started giggling, and he pushed her back down so he was poised over her. His arms were strong around her, and she’d never felt closer to him.
He bent down and kissed her, making her heart skip a beat. It gave her a warm feeling that started out in her belly and spread out through her fingertips.
When she’d been swimming in the bay as a siren, she’d thought it was the most amazing thing she’d ever felt. But lying there, kissing Alex, she realized she’d been wrong. The way he made her feel was so much better because it wasn’t some crazy magic curse. This was real.
“All right,” Alex said, still hovering above her. “I guess I can show you a few moves.”
Abruptly, he stood up, taking her hands so he could pull her up with him. He busted out some ridiculous moves. Gemma tried to join him, but she was laughing too hard. He put an arm around her waist, pulling her to him and doing an exaggerated waltz.
Eventually they both collapsed back on his bed, laughing. And that was where they spent the rest of the afternoon. Lying in his old twin bed, laughing and talking. Sometimes they kissed, but mostly they just lay together.
The mood got somber when Alex told her how worried he was about his friend Luke. They hadn’t been that close, but he’d always liked Luke. Without looking at Gemma, Alex awkwardly admitted that it scared him that somebody could just disappear like that, without a trace.
Gemma had done the best she could to comfort him, holding his hand and reassuring him that everything would turn out okay.
After that, Alex tried to lighten things up. To her disappointment, he’d put on a T-shirt, but it was probably better that way, since she found it hard to focus on much else when he had it off.
He regaled her with tales of his clumsy adolescence, telling stories that made her laugh so hard, her belly hurt. For lunch, he made them peanut butter and potato chip sandwiches, which they also ate in his bed, spilling crumbs all over his Transformers sheets.
At one point, he’d apologized for the sheets, insisting he’d had them since he was eleven, and they were in good shape, so he had no reason to throw them out. Gemma smiled and nodded, but really she thought it was sorta cute how geeky he was.
For a while they just lay there, not saying much of anything. They lay next to each other, looking up at the ceiling but slightly tilted toward each other, so their sides touched. Alex was holding her hand, and sometimes he squeezed so tightly that she could feel their heartbeats between their fingers, pounding in time together.