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But that wasn’t what had Gemma meandering in the hall. She’d been the last one to have a fitting, so she was alone in the basement, admiring the photographs that lined the walls. All of them were black-and-white eight-by-tens and they had been taken either during the Paramount original heyday or shortly after it had reopened.

The one that Gemma had stopped in front of was of her mother. It had been taken years ago, before either Gemma or Harper had been born, maybe even before Nathalie had married Brian.

Nathalie was standing just to the side of the stage, holding a bouquet of roses. She wasn’t looking at the camera; rather, she was staring at something just to the right of her. Her long hair was pushed to one side, and she had a crooked smile that somehow looked beautiful.

Based on her outfit, Gemma guessed that Nathalie had been playing Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire. It had been a simple blue dress that ended up torn by the end of the play, but Nathalie had really loved her performance in it, so she’d kept the dress for years.

“There you are,” Kirby said, and Gemma glanced over to see him walking down the hall toward her. “I’ve been waiting upstairs for you to come up, but you never did.”

“I got a little sidetracked,” Gemma said, and she pointed to the photograph in front of her. “That’s my mom.”

It took a few seconds for Kirby to pull his gaze away from her and look over at the picture. When he finally did, he nodded his approval.

“She’s pretty,” he said, but Gemma hadn’t expected a different answer. Her mother was tall and elegant, with beautiful eyes and a serene smile.

“She was a very talented actress, too,” Gemma said.

“Like, professionally?” Kirby asked. “Was she on television or movies?”

“No, she was an accountant.” Gemma laughed at the juxtaposition. “But in another life, she would’ve been a model or an actress. She decided to have kids and get married instead.”

“That sucks,” Kirby said, and Gemma shot him a glare. He immediately looked down, his blue eyes wounded and apologetic.

“That does not suck,” Gemma corrected him before turning back to the picture. “She loved my dad, and she loved my sister and me. She chose to be with us because we made her happier.”

“Oh.” He ran a hand through his dark hair and braved looking up at her again. “Did she die or something?”

“Or something,” she said quietly. “She was in an accident nine years ago. She’s still alive, but it’s not the same.”

“I’m sorry,” Kirby said, and it sounded like he really meant it. He reached out to touch Gemma’s shoulder, and she didn’t brush away the gesture.

“I went to see her the other day, and I tried to tell her that I was in a play,” Gemma said. “The last time I acted was when my kindergarten class did Three Billy Goats Gruff. I remember my mom being so excited back then.”

She was surprised to feel tears swimming in her eyes, and sniffled to keep them back. Kirby had let his hand fall, but he stayed close to her, in case she might need him for comfort. But the truth was, she barely even noticed that he was still there.

“I thought she might get excited again,” Gemma went on. “Mom always had such a light in her eyes when she talked about the plays she was in. But when I told her, she didn’t even know what I meant.

“She used to walk around the house reciting Shakespeare and Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller.” Gemma let out a deep breath and shook her head. “But now she didn’t know what I was talking about, and she didn’t care.”

Then, in a small whisper, she added, “She barely even remembers me.”

“Hey, come on.” Kirby tried to put his arm around her, but she stepped away from him.

“Sorry.” Gemma wiped at her eyes and forced a smile. “You don’t need to see me like this.”

“I don’t mind.” Kirby smiled at her. “Why don’t we get out of this dank basement? I’ll give you a ride home.”

“Kirby, no, that’s okay.” Gemma shook her head. “You don’t need to do that.”

Yesterday, while she’d been with her sister and Marcy trying to figure out how to break the sirens’ curse at the bookstore, Kirby had been calling and texting her. She’d turned her phone off so she could focus, but when she finally turned it on, she saw that she had six new texts and two missed calls.

That was when Gemma decided that this had gone far enough. It was one thing to have fun with Kirby to pass the time, it was another thing entirely to actually become involved with him. Penn and Lexi would eventually take notice of him, which could become very dangerous for him.

Besides that, she was still in love with Alex, and she’d never love Kirby. Not that Kirby would ever love her, either. Whatever he felt for her was probably nothing more than siren-induced infatuation, and she didn’t want him getting hurt over imitation emotions like that.

So she decided that she needed to end things with him. Unfortunately, she’d been so busy trying to figure out where Penn might store a secret scroll that she hadn’t thought of exactly how she would break things off with Kirby.

It wouldn’t have been so bad if she’d been able to make any progress on finding the scroll. Her best ideas so far were to talk to Thea about it or search the sirens’ house. Penn and Lexi had been home all day, and at rehearsal she’d been unable to get Thea alone, since she was always surrounded by the actors in the play.