Wake, p.9
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       Wake, p.9

         Part #1 of The Watersong Quartet series by Amanda Hocking
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“Thanks for … helping,” Gemma mumbled to Daniel and stared down at her feet.

  “No problem,” he said. She tried to open the car door and almost fell over, so he went over and held it open for her. “Get some rest and drink plenty of fluids. Hangovers are a bitch, but you’ll survive. ”

  Gemma smiled thinly at him and climbed into the car. Once she was safely inside, he shut the door and turned his attention back to Harper. Her arms were crossed over her chest as she glared down at her sister in anger and disbelief, but when Daniel looked at her, she smiled sheepishly.

  “I’m really sorry for dragging you out to help me pick up my drunk sister. I mean, thank you. I appreciate it, but I’m sorry for bothering you. ”

  “No, it was no bother. ” Daniel grinned. “I was just thinking to myself how tedious it is sleeping in until after the sun comes up. ”

  “Sorry,” Harper said again. “I should probably let you go back to sleep. ”

  “All right. ” Daniel nodded and took a step back from the car. “But take it easy on her, okay? She’s just a kid. They screw up sometimes. ”

  “I didn’t. ” Harper walked around the front of the car to the driver’s side.

  “Really?” He stopped to arch an eyebrow at her. “You never screwed up?”

  “Not like that. ” She gestured to the car, where Gemma had her forehead resting against the glass. “I never stayed out all night or got drunk. I maybe overslept for school once. ”

  “Oh, wow. ” Daniel smirked and looked genuinely surprised. “That’s actually a little sad. I mean, good for you, not drinking. But a life without any mistakes? That doesn’t sound like any fun at all. ”

  “I’ve had fun. ” Harper bristled, and Gemma groaned in the car, interrupting her argument with Daniel. “I should really get home, though. ”

  “Right, of course. ” He gave her a small wave and backed away. “I won’t keep you from your duty. ”

  “Thanks. ” Harper smiled at him.

  As soon as she got in the car, her smile and any sense of happiness evaporated. Her relief at finding her sister alive had turned into full-blown anger.

  “I don’t understand how you could do this,” Harper said as she put the car in drive and pulled away from the bay. “Dad almost called out of work to look for you. He could’ve lost his job over this. ”

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  “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.

  “No. ”

  “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 Gem
ma 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.

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  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. ”

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  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.

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