I was sitting on a run-down dirty log in the middle of the forest right within Camp Half-Blood's borders. My tousled black hair clung to my forehead, and my clothes were ratty and a mess. I folded my hands and rested my elbows on my knees, peering into a small lake at my feet. The surface of the pool reflected the image of the dark trees in the moon light. In the center of the reflection, my own face stared back. I scowled and looked straight into my deep dark eyes. They seemed to be glaring.
"Nico," I heard a female voice whisper.
I whipped around, but no one was there. Convinced it was just my imagination, I looked back into the pool of water only to see my sister's face looking up at me. The gleam in her eyes spelled a look of concern, but my tense muscles relaxed. I was overcome with a wave of relief and sadness at the sight of her familiar face.
"Bianca," I said, a slight quaver in my voice.
Her image shimmered began to emerge from the pool. Her ghost rose up until I could see her entire body hovering over the pond. She was still dressed in that cursed Hunters outfit, and I couldn't stop myself from scowling again. I partially blamed them for her death.
"Please, Nico," she pleaded, reading my thoughts. "Please let it go! I'm begging you. For me." Her ghostly shape was completely flushed of color, but I could swear I saw her cheeks redden.
"I've tried," I protested loudly. "And what have you done for me that deserves repayment? You joined the Hunters and left me here," I referred to the camp as if it was some sort of day care. Her pale face grew solemn.
"I didn't mean to –" she began.
"You didn't mean to?" I snapped, then lowered my voice. "Bianca, you were the only family I had. Now I'm alone."
Neither of us spoke. I wondered how long she could remain a ghost. Sooner or later, she'd have to go back to the underworld. An unsettled frown remained on my face, letting her know I was waiting for a response.
"I'm sorry," she said quietly. "I came here because you called me and because I wanted to apologize."
"I wasn't calling you," I remarked bitterly.
"Yes, you were," she countered. "Things between us haven't been resolved, Nico. I knew there were some things you wanted to say that you couldn't in front of Percy," she told me gently. "Your soul was crying to set things right and to say good-bye properly."
I looked down at the ground and shuffled my feet but did not respond.
"Nico…" she pleaded, again. This time it was my cheeks that burned as a flood of emotions came rushing through me. I felt my expression lose its tough outer shell and soften into a sad, pathetic look of longing.
"I'm not ready for you to leave me," I stated quietly. "I'm still growing up, and now I have had to do it on my own. Where am I supposed to go? This camp isn't for me, and I can't stay here."
Bianca blinked slowly, and nodded.
"I understand," she said. "Find out about your past, Nico. Our shared past," she paused. "And you'd better tell Percy why you can't stay." She lifted her palm and gazed off into the distance. I followed her gaze and saw someone approaching me.
"You have to go?" I asked quietly.
"I have to go," she repeated. I felt warm tears rising to my eyes. There was a sour stab in my stomach that this would be the last time I'd see her… ever. I blinked hard to keep from crying. Crying was childish and showed weakness. I was not weak.
"Don't leave me now," I whimpered hoarsely.
Bianca's ghost glowed and little brighter, and I heard Percy's footsteps in the forest freeze. She put her hand on my face that sent a cool chill down my spine. I understood.
"Good-bye, Bianca," I whispered. "I love you."
"I love you too," she said. "Do not forget it... ever." Slowly, she lifted her hand off my face and smoothly dissolved in the night air. I felt a cool breeze blow across my face, and I felt better for some reason. A load was lifted off my shoulders.
I took a deep breath, rubbed my eyes, and then turned around. Percy stood before me, waiting for an explanation. At first neither of us spoke, but then I realized that he had seen Bianca.
"Saying good-bye," I said, and I meant it. Bianca was gone, and there was nothing I could do to stop it now. I sniffed as I watched the tree shadows grow larger, and I looked to the sky. Night approached, and it was time to part.