Hello and welcome to the very last chapter of The Perfect Mistake. Yup, it's actually here. This story has come a long way and I can only say that I really hope you enjoy this ending as much as I did writing it.
Also, look out for a special announcement down at the bottom. ^_^
Things were definitely different.
With the weather clearing and holiday spirit in the air, Manhattan felt brighter and warmer. Not to mention, it was officially Christmas Eve as of today.
My mom had decorated the apartment with Christmas lights and colorful stockings on top of the doorway of the balcony. Paul was talking about buying a small tree for the living room, and I knew my parent's had wrapped up a few presents for the family.
These past few days I couldn't quite tell where Annabeth and I stood, but she was recovering significantly, and it was more than I could have asked for. Her bandage was almost completely off, and she didn't look as weak as she did a day before.
Although Annabeth and I skirted around each other in my small apartment, the tension between us seemed to disappear considerably, and I knew my parent's could tell too as our home felt happier.
"What about this one?" I asked Annabeth, holding up a silver starfish.
We were going through a box of Christmas ornaments for the tree, trying to choose our top ten. It was the first time Annabeth and I had really sat down together, and it wasn't a bad feeling.
Annabeth rolled her eyes. "I know you're the son of the sea god, but not every ornament you choose has to be a fish."
"A starfish isn't exactly a fish," I said, defensively.
Annabeth laughed. "Why does your mom have so many odd ornaments, anyway? I didn't know they even made ornaments shaped like flounders."
I tried to continue defending my starfish, but I eventually found myself laughing right along with her. "I have no idea."
For a second, Annabeth got quiet, and I suddenly realized we hadn't laughed together for what felt like months.
"I like this one," Annabeth said, pulling out a spherical glass ball with a small snowman inside.
I was sure my mom had completely gone insane with the Christmas decorations when I finally escaped the flashing lights and slipped into my room.
I didn't know what made me turn on my computer as I lazily sat at my desk, but I knew I wasn't expecting to see the pop up message showing me I had a new email from Rachel Elizabeth Dare.
Rachel and I rarely ever emailed, and given the circumstances of our last meeting, I wasn't sure what to expect as I double clicked on the message.
It took me a few seconds to fight my dyslexia and make out the sentences in front of me.
Things are going really well here at Claron's. No more monsters. No more weird stuff.
I heard about the battle from camp.
Don't worry about me. Everything is absolutely ok. PLEASE tell me everything is fine for you. Email back, okay?
I clicked out of the email window, closing it. As I thought about it, I had to admit I felt a lot better knowing things were back to normal for Rachel. Not only that, but I felt like I was talking to the same Rachel I had known as my best friend before I ever went down to New Hampshire. As much as I wanted to take back what had happened earlier, a part of me knew it had been out of good intentions.
I found myself thinking that just maybe Chiron had been right. Maybe this storm and uprising was the last we'd get for decades. Things would be a lot quieter from now on. Things would finally be normal.
That evening, Paul, Annabeth, and I hung up the Christmas ornaments we had selected onto the tree. The tree was small but full, completing the living room as the perfect center piece decoration for the apartment. It was the first year my mom and I had gotten a tree. Not to mention this was our first Christmas with both Paul and Annabeth.
Annabeth was smiling again, and that's what really made our home feel like a family.
I watched as Annabeth stood on her tiptoes to put a golden star on the very tip of the tree. No matter how much I tried, I couldn't stop thinking of how crazy things were. I had always imagined spending Christmas with Annabeth, but not this way. Annabeth and I weren't ever together anymore, and I couldn't shake that thought.
When I zoned back in to my surroundings, Paul and Annabeth were taking in the sight of our tree from a few feet away. Paul made a comment and Annabeth laughed.
There is was again. She was laughing.
My mom was busy in the kitchen all evening, preparing Christmas dinner for tomorrow.
She was wearing her apron and had her hair tied back. In one hand, she held a pen to cross off items on a lengthy list in front of her on the kitchen counter. All around her were baking bowls and pans.
For a while, I found myself just watching her in the kitchen the way I remembered doing when I was little. It had always just been us on our own; Gabe never counted.
"Need any help?" I finally asked, breaking the comfortable silence that had fallen between us as I leaned on the other side of the counter.
"Just promise you'll eat everything tomorrow evening," my mom smiled. "I'm making your favorites."
I looked at the blue food coloring on the counter, and I couldn't help but feel like a kid all over again.
My mom spoke after a while. "Paul told me about the conversation you two had."
It took me a second to realize what she meant. I thought back to the hotel in New Hampshire and memories flooded me immediately. I thought about how happy my mom was preparing dinner for our first Christmas with Paul.
"As long as you're happy," I found myself saying.
My mom stopped what she was doing to look at me. "You're okay with a sibling?"
For the very first time, the idea didn't feel completely sour in my mouth. It took me a second, but I finally nodded. "You don't need my permission, mom."
There was a look in her eyes that suddenly made all my problems disappear. It was funny, because right afterwards my mom asked me, "How are you?"
"I don't know," I told her honestly.
My mom gave me a small smile. "Well, it's Christmas, Percy. Just for tomorrow, don't think about anything other than the fact that we're together."
I realized my mom was right. That word meant much more than a relationship status. It didn't matter what was happening between Annabeth and me. I was just happy to be with her. We would be together.
It was past midnight when I stepped out onto the balcony, and I wondered how many little kids were also awake, waiting to see Santa Claus.
The night sky was foggy, which was strange because I was used to seeing the stars over skyline of New York in the far distance. The snow had almost completely melted off the streets below us, but white frost stuck to the balcony railings this time of the night.
I knew my parents would be waking up early in the morning in the spirit of Christmas, and I should have been sleeping, but for some wild reason the couch - my new bed for the past week - didn't look so inviting.
I could see my breath in front of me in a cloud of frosty air before it dispersed into the night. I tried to keep my mind clear, remembering what my mom had told me about Christmas day, but I just felt like I was lying to myself.
"Hey," a voice said.
I spun around on instinct, surprised at the sight in front of the balcony. Annabeth stood in the doorway of the balcony, wearing her pajamas and T-shirt with her hair in a loose braid over her good shoulder.
"I heard noise," Annabeth told me, crossing her arms over her chest as the chilly air greeted her. "I thought you might be awake."
"Yeah," I said, slowly overcoming my surprise. "I am."
Annabeth managed a small smile. "Can I join you?"
I didn't complain as I stepped to the side. Annabeth slid the heavy glass doors shut behind her before she joined me along the railing. She leaned over it, overlooking the city.
We just stood there in silence with the darkness and chilly air enveloping us. There was so much I wanted to say, it was like a war going on in my head. But at the same time, I felt at peace, just standing with her.
A breeze of fresh air came at us gently. Annabeth shut her eyes, gripping the cold railing as the wind flew through her hair. "I'm not forgiving you," Annabeth said, her eyes still shut.
I felt like a rock dropped in my stomach.
The next time she opened her eyes, she was looking right at me. Annabeth turned her body in my direction, keeping one hand on the railing. "But I can't lose you either," she stated. It took me a second to remember the words I had choked out at camp when I thought she was unconscious. I can't lose you, I had said. Be okay. Please.
I didn't know when my heart had begun pounding inside my chest or when Annabeth had reached forward to put her other hand on my shirt, tugging on it. She was just inches away when our eyes locked. I could see every detail on her face from every last scratch she had gotten in the battle to every last eyelash. Her eyes were hard and fierce. "Percy," she said, twisting my shirt towards herself so hard I thought it might have ripped. Even in the cold, I could feel Annabeth's breath warm against my lips. "If you ever," Annabeth said, emphasizing each word carefully, "and I mean EVER, kiss another girl that isn't me, for as long as you live, I swear I will personally stab you in your Achilles spot repeatedly."
It wasn't exactly the sweetest thing or how I wanted to hear it, but I got her message loud and clear. As much as it scared me that Annabeth wasn't joking in the slightest, a part of me felt the happiest I had been all week.
I didn't have time to answer before Annabeth closed the gap, kissing me right there on the balcony in the icy cold weather on Christmas day.
My mom finished opening the last present wrapped in lavender paper.
It was a present I had forgotten all about. Paul and I had picked it out months ago and saved it for today.
She gasped softly as she revealed the picture frame made of seashells. Behind the glass, we had placed a picture of Paul, my mother, and I in front of the ocean from one of trips at Montauk beach. I hadn't thought much of it, but giving it to her now just reinforced how nice it was to be a happy family together.
My mom leaned forward, gathering both Paul and I into a hug. I could hear Annabeth laughing softly behind me as my mom let go. I gave her a look as Annabeth smirked, fixing a piece of my hair.
We opened presents and lounged around all morning. It wasn't until after breakfast that my parents disappeared into the kitchen and Annabeth and I sat by the tree. I felt a little sad that I hadn't had a chance to get Annabeth a present, but things had been so crazy these past few weeks that I couldn't be too hard on myself.
Annabeth pulled out her cell phone, opening a text message. "My dad," she mumbled, quickly typing out a reply.
"Everything alright?" I asked.
Annabeth shut her phone, putting her hand on my knee. "Everything is great."
We heard Paul and my mother laughing from the kitchen behind us as they dried the dishes together. I found myself glancing back at them, and Annabeth seemed to follow my gaze.
Paul hugged my mother from behind, whispering something in her ear which made my mom smile. Paul put his hand on my mom's stomach as she overlapped his hand with her own.
Annabeth and I immediately exchanged glances. I watched her eyes widen. "Do you think?"
I sighed, looking away. "Honestly?" I said. "I have no idea."
Annabeth studied my face. "Well what if?" she asked, nudging me.
"Then I guess," I said, pausing, "you'll have to help me if I'm ever forced to babysit because I am not doing it alone."
She rolled her eyes, but I could see the smile drawing on her face. "You are such a Seaweed Brain sometimes!"
So there we were, on one of the last days of winter vacation lounging in my apartment just where we had started. The snow that once caged us had now melted, leaving behind nothing but a frosty feeling in the air. We had fought a battle with creatures straight from the depths of darkness, bringing peace through the demigod realm once again. And I had made the perfect mistake that once had me fearing I would lose the girl that now sat beside me, smiling with sparkling gray eyes.
Firstly, I would like to thank all my readers- whether you've been here from the beginning or just found this story recently. Thank you! You have been the reason for this chapter today. This started out as a co-written piece created between two brains and had lots of room for abandonment, but your reviews and support kept this story alive for me to finish telling. Thanks to everyone who is here and reading this ending!
While endings are sad, I'd like to take my last few words on this story to give you guys some super exciting news! My wonderful beta, Miz636 (who you've seen editing for this story) and I have been co-writing a story together for over a year, and it's finally ready! You can expect a lot of the same type of drama, romance, friendship, adventure, action and other crazy elements in it as you did with this one (except even better!). I really hope you guys continue on reading about Percy and Annabeth in an entirely new setting and situation, along with Thalia, Nico and other familiar faces! Click on my profile to find a link at the very top for the story titled Challenging the Past for Reality.
Lastly, I truly do hope you have enjoyed The Perfect Mistake. It has been a great pleasure to write and post! It would absolutely mean the world to me if you reviewed!