Tidal / Page 56

Page 56


“I didn’t realize he was such a dick when I agreed to go out with him,” Gemma said.

“This doesn’t make any sense.” He shook his head and growled. “I’m so pissed off.”

“It’s over now, and you should go home,” Gemma said.

“You don’t get it.” He turned back to face her and ran both his hands through his hair. “I wanted to kill him because he was hurting you. But I hate you.”

She lowered her eyes and nodded to keep from crying. “I’m sorry.”

“Why do I want to know you’re safe if I hate you?” Alex demanded. “Why do I worry about you? Why am I scared that you’re going to die without knowing how I really feel about you, when what I feel is contempt?”

Gemma struggled to keep her composure, and when she spoke, her words were barely audible. “I don’t know.”

“You’re lying, and I know you’re lying.” He stood a few inches in front of her, practically yelling in her face. “Don’t lie to me, Gemma. Please. Don’t fucking lie about this.”

“Alex, you’re better off just going home,” Gemma said, still refusing to look up at him. “Forget you ever met me.”

“I can’t forget!” Alex shouted, making her flinch. “I dream of you every night. Do you know what that’s like? In my dreams, we’re still together and I still love you. And then I wake up every morning, and I hate you, and I hate me, and I hate everything.”

“Of course I know what that’s like!” Gemma lifted her head and looked up at him with tears in her eyes. “I do the same thing, every day! Except I don’t hate you.”

“Why not?” Alex asked, almost plaintively. “Why don’t you hate me? Why did we break up?”

She looked away again. “You wouldn’t understand.”

“Why not? If I dumped you, why wouldn’t I understand my own reasoning? What the hell happened, Gemma?”

The front light switched on, and Gemma took a step back from Alex. She heard the screen door creak open as her dad came outside.

“Gemma?” Brian asked. “Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, Dad.” She sniffled and wiped at her eyes. “I’ll be there in a minute.”

“I’ll wait,” Brian said. She hadn’t turned around to look at him yet, but he couldn’t be standing more than a few feet behind her.

“Dad, I’m okay,” she insisted, but Alex was already backing away.

“You need to keep her on a short leash, Mr. Fisher,” Alex said as he took steps backward. “Your daughter is hanging around with some very bad guys.”

“What does that mean?” Brian asked. “Gemma? What does that mean?” He walked over so that he was standing next to her once Alex had gone into his own house.

Gemma shook her head. “It’s been a long night, Dad.”

“Why is there blood on my driveway?” Brian pointed to the small puddle of blood that Aiden had left behind.

Gemma sighed. “Aiden got too frisky, and Alex beat the shit out of him, okay? I had a bad, bad night, after a bad, bad weekend, and this is turning out to be the worst summer of my entire life. So if I could just please go inside and go to bed, I would really like that.”

Brian stared at her with bleary eyes. His hair was disheveled from sleep, and he wore his old football T-shirt with matching sweatpants. He was not prepared for this conversation.

“Okay,” he said finally.

“Great, thank you.” She turned around and stormed into the house.

She raced up to her bedroom looking for solace, but it seemed like everything in it was taunting her. It was all remnants of her former life, of things she’d loved that she could never love again, of someone she could never be.

The Michael Phelps poster on her wall she ripped down, actually tearing it in half in the process. There was a picture of her mother on her bedside table and she picked it up and flung it against the wall, shattering glass everywhere. On the ceiling were fading glow-in-the-dark stars that Alex had helped her put up years ago.

Gemma jumped up onto her bed, trying to pull them down, but she couldn’t reach them. She kept jumping and failing, and by then she was sobbing in frustration and anger and sadness.

“Gemma?” Brian asked, opening her bedroom door.

“Everything is ruined, Dad,” she cried and fell back onto her bed. “I’ve lost everything that matters to me.”

“That’s not true.” Brian came into her room and sat down next to her. “I’m still here, and I’m never going anywhere.”

That only made Gemma sob harder. Brian wrapped his arms around his daughter and held her to him. As she cried into his shoulder, he stroked her hair and kept promising her that everything would be all right.

TWENTY-SEVEN

Engagements

Daniel’s biggest problem with the island was that he had no cable TV. In reality, he knew he shouldn’t complain, because it wasn’t like he’d had cable out on the boat, either. At least now he had room to get his full-sized television out of storage and put it up.

Harper had come out to his house to escape the heat, and he was more than happy to comply. But once she’d gone home, he was left on the island alone, and he felt restless. He put in a movie, deciding that watching Jaws again for the fiftieth time would be better than staring at the walls.

The window air conditioner he’d put in the cabin when he moved out kept the place rather cool, but not enough. Harper had a rule that both of them kept all their clothes on when they were together, so he actually didn’t mind as much that she’d left tonight, because it meant that he could shed some layers.

He stood in front of his TV, watching an unsuspecting woman swim alone in the ocean as the great white stalked her, and he unbuttoned his shirt.

“Dun dun, dun dun.” Daniel was singing along with the growing intensity of the music when he heard a bang on his roof. “What the heck was that?”

He looked up at the ceiling, before realizing that was dumb and he couldn’t see through it. Then he heard another bang, this one sounding like it came from the ground. He paused the movie, then went to the front door to see if he could find out what was going on.

“Of course I’m going to the front door like a stupid chick in a horror movie,” he muttered. On his way to the door, he doubled back and grabbed a baseball bat from the closet. “Now I just have to remember not to go outside and ask if anyone is there.”


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