Harper didn’t say anything to that. She didn’t know how to respond. Alex didn’t say anything for a while, either. He just lowered his eyes, his jaw clenching and unclenching as he thought.
“I was in love with her, and now I can’t stand the thought of her,” Alex said. “And I don’t know why. I don’t know what changed. You can’t just wake up one day hating the person you used to love. But I did.”
“People change,” Harper said in a lame attempt to support her sister’s siren-song-enforced lie.
She wasn’t sure if she agreed with what Gemma had done, but she couldn’t do anything about it now. Gemma had done what she thought she needed to in order to protect Alex, and Harper could understand that.
She just couldn’t imagine how painful and confusing it would be if she woke up tomorrow hating Daniel. Part of her wanted to believe that it wasn’t even possible. The way she cared about him couldn’t be changed by any siren song or spell.
But seeing the way this was obviously tearing Alex up, and knowing how much he’d loved Gemma, Harper had to believe that anything was possible. If a siren song could get Alex to loathe Gemma, it could probably do anything.
“It’s like part of me is missing.” Alex gestured to his chest. “Like something inside me has been erased. Whole chunks of me are just … gone.”
“What do you mean?” Harper narrowed her eyes.
Gemma had been very clear that her siren song was meant only to get him to stop loving her. She loved Alex and didn’t want to change anything about him. All she wanted was to keep him safe.
“Everything I used to care about, I just…” Alex shrugged helplessly. “I don’t anymore.”
“What about video games?” Harper asked. “Or storm chasing? Or your comic books?”
“No.” He shook his head. “I don’t hate them, but I have no urge to do anything with them. I just … I stopped caring. It’s like everything I loved disappeared.” He swallowed hard. “It’s like I’m incapable of loving anything anymore.”
“I don’t think that’s true,” Harper said, but her words lacked conviction. “You just went through a really bad breakup. It takes time for these things to heal, for hearts to mend.”
“I hope you’re right. I don’t know how much longer I can go on like this.”
Once they reached the cabin, Harper gave Alex a glass of water and set him up in front of the TV. Alex seemed to be doing all right, so Daniel suggested that Harper head home for the night.
“Are you sure?” Harper asked. She stood at the doorway, talking quietly with Daniel, and glanced over at where Alex sat on the couch. “I don’t want to make you take care of my friends.”
“Nah, it’s no problem.” Daniel shrugged it off. “Besides, I think he could use some male-bonding time.”
“Okay.” She relented, then smiled over at Alex. “I’ll see you later, Alex. Take care of yourself, okay?”
“I’ll try.” He forced a smile at her. “Thanks, Harper.”
“I’ll be back in a few minutes. Don’t fall asleep while I’m gone,” Daniel told him, then he walked outside with Harper.
“I won’t,” Alex replied.
In the moonlight, they started walking down from the cabin toward the boathouse. Daniel shook his head and let out a long whistle.
“What was that for?” Harper asked.
“Your sister really did a number on him,” Daniel said.
“Yeah, she did,” Harper agreed. “But Gemma had no idea what she was doing. She couldn’t know that it would screw Alex up so badly.”
“You can’t go messing around with people’s hearts,” Daniel said simply. “It never ends well, no matter how good your intentions might be.”
They reached the boathouse, and Daniel stopped. Harper walked a few more steps toward the dock, where Daniel’s boat was tied up, until she realized that he wasn’t with her. She turned around and looked back at him.
“What are you doing?” Harper asked.
“You can drive a little speedboat, can’t you?” Daniel asked.
“Yeah,” Harper said cautiously, walking over to where Daniel stood. “What does that have to do with anything?”
“Well, I was thinking, why don’t you take Bernie’s boat?” Daniel suggested. “It’s technically yours anyway, since Bernie left it to you. And I don’t really need two boats.”
“What would I do with Bernie’s boat?” Harper asked.
“You could come and go as you please.” He shrugged, trying to seem nonchalant. “You could come see me whenever you wanted.”
“So … this is kinda like giving me the key to your place,” she said.
“I think your dad already has a key to my place,” Daniel reminded her. “He is my landlord.”
“You know what I mean,” Harper said. “This is like a step. A bigger commitment.”
“Yeah.” He smiled down at her. “But I’m ready for it.”
Harper glanced back at his house, where Alex was waiting. He’d turned into a total mess after getting involved with the sirens, and it was only a matter of time before something horrible happened to Daniel.
Not to mention the fact that their date had turned out the same way they always seemed to anymore. They’d hardly spent any time together since they’d been dating, and with Harper leaving for school soon, they probably wouldn’t have that much time left.