What's it like to be family to a half-blood?

It's hard, because, obviously, you get monsters in town a lot. You have to worry about whether your loved one is safe. Every time you seem overprotective to him, he'll get testy and impulsive. He might not always want you around, and when he does, it's hard to keep the secret of his parentage from him.

When he finds out, it doesn't get any better. He might want to live somewhere else. The decision is constanly nagging at him and scaring you. Part of you hurts to see him like it at Camp Half-Blood, and the other part is glad he's there, where you don't have to watch him every minute of the day, where he's safe...

And yet, how safe can he be, in the hands of those that brought him into this mess? Though you understand the responsibilities of his father, how can you trust the people that have abandoned him until now? How is this fair to your loved one or you? You wish he had parents that could really take care of him.

Yet if they could, they'd be robbing you of the experience of a lifetime.

XXXXXXX

Diego was pretty annoying as far as little brothers go. He constantly tried to find ways to terrorize me and embarass me in front of my friends. I could use about a thousand instances to prove this, from the moment my parents adopted him from my aunt, to any day right now. However, the best place to start my story is the first day of summer break this year.

Diego had just finished fourth grade, but he'd been to a lot of schools for his age. Mom had tried to put him in a public school in kindergarten, but he'd been kicked out. So she homeschooled him in first and second grade for his ADHD and dyslexia. Third grade took place in another public school in the district, but of course he was expelled again. So Mom put him in the charter school I'd been going to for nine years (since kindergarten), which he didn't mix too well with, as usual. Now she had all summer to find some new place for Diego to start school. I was just glad I didn't have to put up with him in public on a regular basis anymore.

I had Mandy over that day. She'd been my best friend since fourth grade, when my posse broke up because the Saunders twins moved away. We had a lot in common. We were both exceptional students, with 4.0 grade averages. We both played in the school band (me playing the flute, she the clarinet). We had a great love for fantasy. We talked Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl, Percy Jackson and the Olympians... The latter of which had our attention that summer. Yes, we were Percy maniacs.

She was knocking on my door at eleven o'clock sharp, and unfortunately, Diego answered it before I could.

"What are you doing here?" he asked, rude as ever.

"I'm here to spend time with Anna," she answered primly. "Not that it's any of your beeswax."

I smiled. Mandy had an uncanny ability to deflect Diego's insensitive remarks. "Come in," I told her, and we escaped to my room before Diego could follow.

Once we arrived, I turned on Kelly Clarkson and we sat on my bed, delving into a conversation about our classmates this past year, turning to my yearbook for reference.

Somehow we got into a conversation about my little brother.

"I feel sorry for him sometimes," Mandy confessed.

Sorry? "Why?" I asked, confused.

"It's just that everybody marks him out as a troublemaker."

"He is a troublemaker," I reminded her.

Mandy sighed. "But he can't be behind everything. And he's blamed for everything."

"Not everything."

"But for a lot of things. Look, let's say Diego causes about eighty-five percent of the trouble in your home, and you and Ian" (he's my older brother) "cause the other fifteen percent."

"Mmm-hmm," I answered, following along.

"Well, when it comes to blame, Diego gets about one hundred percent."

I nodded. "I see what you're saying. But Diego wouldn't get blamed if he didn't cause that eighty-five percent in the first place."

She shrugged. "Children tend to live up to the expectations of others."

"So you're saying that it's not his fault he gets in trouble?"

She shook her head. "Part of it is his own fault, another are his disabilities, and the rest of it is everyone else's fault."

The words not his fault and getting in trouble bounced around in my head and clicked together with an idea that made my lungs gasp and my eyes pop.

"What? What is it?" Mandy asked.

"What if... What if Diego is a half-blood?" I whispered, glancing at the book on the nightstand.

She glanced at it too, her face deep in thought, putting the pieces together. "You said he was adopted?" she asked quietly.

"He's my aunt's son," I explained. "She never told us who his father was."

"Maybe it's Ares."

"Or Hermes."

"Or a minor god, like Nemesis."

"It would explain why the monsters haven't gotten us yet." Maybe it was the way I said it - like a little kid at night - that made us laugh.

"Or," Mandy suggested, still giggling, "he's a child of the Big Three and he's not even supposed to exist."

I gasped in mocking shock, and we broke into raucous giggles. We both recognized a silent agreement. Since this was probably a coincidence, we would treat it as such until we had further evidence.

However, in our book a coincidence had great grounds for an inside joke, and for a miniscule amount of time it became something we would make references to, in front of Diego, when trying to get on his nerves ("Need a ballpoint pen to keep you safe from monsters, Diego?" "Hey, look, Diego! A water fountain! Let's do a prank call on Ares!"). It also became a source of pity for Diego when he got on our nerves.

If only I knew how long those happy weeks would last.