Don't forget, I uploaded two chapters today. Don't accidentally skip the one before this!
PLEASE NOTE: On my Tumblr (flyingcrowbar), there is a special version of this chapter. For full effect, you can read it there!
Ten years is a long time.
When lived, however, it doesn't feel like it. It's just a series of days, followed by nights, summers, followed by winters, comings and goings.
For Percy and Annabeth, a decade had felt like nothing.
They had moved in together a few years ago, setting up home in a small New York apartment suitable enough for a modest, humble living. Their walls are decorated with photos of vacations, family gatherings, holidays, birthdays. Ten years span these photos, capturing moments of memories. Plants, overgrown and loved, perch on the windowsill, buffering in the gentle, city breeze from the open window. A pile of clothes, heaping in the laundry bin in the corner of the bedroom needs to be tended to. In an office, large enough to barely house a drawing board, are sketches of buildings, frameworks for new skyscrapers. Eraser shavings and pencils are scattered all over the desk, littering the latest project. It's almost complete. It's almost perfect.
There's a large, leather couch in the living room. It's sprawled with a blanket, disheveled and just recently left. Two mugs sit, empty, freshly drank, on the coffee table. Above the mantel are trophies, ribbons, and a shiny, Olympic gold medal.
The front door closes and footsteps trail into the hallway.
Percy and Annabeth make their way out of the building and down the street. It's a quiet afternoon, at least by New York standards, and they walk. The leaves have just begun to turn, contrasting the slate sky, throwing the world into a shade of sepia and spiced cider. Hand in hand, they go. Where? Nowhere in particular. Saturdays are like that. It's a break from the chaos. Neither have any place to be for a while yet. Percy has to coach later that evening, and Annabeth has a conference call with a Chinese firm. They spend what time they have together.
They're not yet married, though they might as well be.
They stroll down 158th. They linger at a corner bookstore, Percy buys a hot dog, Annabeth splurges on an antique book. Annabeth steals a bite of his lunch. Percy reads the book aloud in a funny voice, holding it high out of her reach as she tries to snatch it back. Laughter comes as easily as breathing.
They walk along the Hudson, shrugging against the sudden chill cutting over the river. They cut back down streets and ambel onward. There's a drummer's circle playing on the stoop of a warehouse. A dog walker hustles by, being swept down the street by a pack of Chihuahuas. The sound of children carries over. There's a playground nearby, Wright Brothers playground. With nothing better to do, they head inside. Children scramble over the jungle gym, shrieking and hollering with joy. Parents mingle on the outskirts, sitting on park benches. A gaggle of teenagers are playing a pickup game of basketball in the court a ways inside. The sound of the basketball hitting the pavement echoes around the buildings.
Annabeth's eyes skim over the children playing. She hardly remembers ever being that small. A memory comes back to her. It makes her giggle. Percy glances at her, curious.
"What's up?" he asks.
"Oh, I just remembered something funny." She tucks loose strands of her bob behind her ear, a vague attempt to defeat the wind. "I don't know what made me think of it."
Percy's smile splits wider. He's always up for a funny story. "Don't hold out."
"It's just silly, because I remember when I was little, maybe third grade, my dad had brought me to New York for a weekend conference, and I was at a playground, just like this one. It even had the same rope course. Anyway, this boy - he kissed me at the top of the castle." She snorts, pointing to the highest level of the jungle gym. "And I pushed him down the slide."
Annabeth continues to laugh about the memory, but Percy stops in his tracks. His eyes are wide.
Firstly, I'd like to dedicate my work to my husband. He's had to put up with so much over the past two years while I wrote this story. I think he knows it was worth it.
Special-super-awesome thanks to Kat, my beta/editor. You know exactly when to rein me in, but you also know when to push me. I wish I could ever repay you.
To Hannah, I give my undying gratitude. Without you, my days would be a lot dimmer.
I'd also like to thank my amazing and supportive friends who helped me get through this. Meg, Dan, Whitney, Shannon, Mina, Arne, and Mari. Without you guys, I would have given up long ago.
To my readers, thank you all for your support. Your words of encouragement and humor has a special place in my heart.
In wake of the tragedies in Orlando, I'd like to remind everyone that love cannot be killed. Senseless acts of violence against the LBGTQIA community is dishearteningly still a problem in this country. Homophobia is a gaping wound, still bleeding and infected, that many elected officials try to cover up with a BandAid. While we've come a long way as a society, there's still a long way to go. We cannot give up this fight. Not yet. My American readers, please join me in contacting your local representatives, stating your disappointment of the inaction regarding gun policy. Take action, make change. With love, we must stand together, and demand our voices be heard.
Love wins out.