She spotted one that had no words on it—only a weird symbol. It looked familiar to her, so she plucked the book down and flipped it open. The pages felt like they might disintegrate in her hands, and it smelled distinctly of dirt.
“My god, where does Lydia get these books?” Harper asked, genuinely awed by what she found. “I think this is written in Sumerian.”
“What’s that?” Gemma came over to see what the fuss was about. Since she was shorter than Harper, she had to crane her neck a bit to read over Harper’s shoulder. “That’s not a language. Those are just shapes and symbols.”
“That’s how it was written,” Harper said. “It’s a dead language.”
“How do you know it?” Gemma asked.
“I don’t know it. Like, I have no idea what any of this is saying. I kind of recognize some of the symbols.” Harper ran her hand along the page. “I took an elective last year, Advanced Languages of the World. I thought the Latin part would help me with medical terminology.”
“So then … that doesn’t say anything about sirens?” Marcy asked.
“Probably not, but this is really old,” Harper said and carefully put the book back on the shelf. “You can’t just go pick that up at a garage sale or any old used book store.”
“I told you this wasn’t any old used book store,” Marcy said.
“Many of the books I get come from private dealers who wish to remain anonymous,” came a voice from behind them, and Harper whirled around to see a petite woman walking down the aisle toward them.
She looked to be in her mid-twenties, with black hair kept in a short pixie cut, which suited her, since she reminded Harper of a pixie. Her dark brown eyes appeared almost too large for her face, especially considering how delicate her features were. Her clothes were pastel and chiffon, looking much less goth than Harper had imagined the owner of this establishment would look.
“Hey, Lydia,” Marcy said, her voice the same monotone it always was, so Harper couldn’t really tell how happy she was to see her friend. “These are the people I was telling you about, Harper and Gemma.”
“You must be the siren,” Lydia said, instantly focusing her attention on Gemma.
“Um…” Gemma appeared unsure how to reply to that and looked embarrassed. “Yeah, I guess. I am.”
“Cool.” Lydia smiled widely. “I’ve never met a siren before.”
“Well, here I am.” Gemma shrugged.
Lydia bit her lip and her eyes sparkled. “You wouldn’t want to sing for me, would you?”
“No, that’s not a good idea,” Harper answered quickly.
“Yeah, it’s not really safe,” Gemma agreed. “It can get out of hand.”
“I understand. I know it’s extremely dangerous.” Lydia waved her hand. “I shouldn’t have asked anyway. You’d think I’d have learned my lesson after the werewolf.”
She pulled back her shirt to reveal her slender shoulder. A red scar in the shape of a large dog bite wrapped around it. Harper was content to look at it from where she stood, but both Gemma and Marcy leaned in to get a better look.
“Cool,” Marcy said.
“So does that mean you’re a werewolf now?” Gemma asked after Lydia had pulled her shirt back up.
“Yeah, I’m all, like, rawr.” Lydia made her hands into fake claws and pretended to growl, but she started laughing almost instantly, a light tinkling sound that reminded Harper of wind chimes. “No, no, that’s not how werewolves work. It’s a whole different process.”
“Really?” Gemma asked. “How does one become a werewolf?”
“Well, it’s, like—” Lydia started to explain, but then she saw Harper’s annoyed expression and stopped. “Sorry. You guys didn’t come here to talk about werewolves, did you?”
“I didn’t come here for that, but I kinda want to talk about it now that you brought it up,” Gemma said, her tone getting a touch sulky because she knew Harper didn’t approve of that as a conversation topic.
“You’re not missing much,” Marcy said. “Werewolves are boring.”
Lydia leaned forward and lowered her voice, like she was telling them a secret. “They kinda are.”
“See?” Marcy asked.
“Anyway, you’re sick of being a siren and want to break the curse. Did I get that right?” Lydia asked. “Or did one of you want to become a siren?”
“No, no, no,” Harper said and waved her hands. “No more sirens. None.”
“Yeah, we definitely want to break the curse,” Gemma said. “And not have more sirens. In fact, if we can find a way to kill the sirens that already exist, that’d be great.”
“You don’t know how to kill the sirens?” Lydia raised an eyebrow. “So you don’t know how you can die?”
“I know some ways,” Gemma said. “But I don’t know how I can be murdered.”
Lydia crossed her arms over her chest and leaned back, studying Gemma. She did it for so long that Gemma became uncomfortable and began to squirm.
“That leaves you vulnerable to attack, doesn’t it?” Lydia asked.
“Yeah, it does,” Gemma said.
“We hadn’t thought of that before, but thank you for putting it in my head now,” Harper muttered.