Hi guys! I hope you like this second installment. It is rather sad, like Chapter One, but things will look up soon. :) There will be happy chapters, sad chapters, and mixtures of both in this story. I'm trying to make it realistic, but bear with me. I've planned out up to like 30 chappies already! :D
Also, I have a question: should I name my chapters?
Review and tell me what you think. :]
The angry black clouds hovering above New York City seemed to want to pelt me with frigid water until I died of hypothermia. The chilly air of early December didn't help me either; it made my fragile body tremble even more as I sat with a hunched back and wobbly knees beside a black-haired boy. Water dripped off of me when I moved; I was soaked to the skin. I felt stiff and frozen inside and out, and the warmth that had flooded my face when I hugged the kindly stranger left me when I pulled away from him. He asked me for my name again, but I barely caught his words, for I was staring at him bleakly, wondering why he would spare his valuable time to help a lonely, pathetic girl like me.
"My name is Annabeth. Annabeth… Chase."
"Right. Well, I'm Percy. Born Perseus Jackson."
The ancient Greek hero, I thought curiously. Maybe he will become a hero, too. He may be one already.
Large droplets of water rolled off the faded umbrella clasped in his fingers as he pushed my arms into the sleeves of his own raincoat. Unaccustomed to this level of generosity, I asked sarcastically, "Are you only being nice to me so you can later sell me to someone as fishing bait?"
He gave me a funny look while tugging the hood over my ears before he remembered his umbrella was patterned with fish and sea creatures. "I'm not in that business, and you know humans aren't used as bait. My dad manned a fishing vessel, though. This was his."
"Was?" I squeaked, barely managing to stand up without his hands steadying me. I could tell he was evading my true question, which was Why are you helping me?
Wringing out his shirt with his umbrella-free hand and supporting me on his shoulder, Percy replied, "My dad was a rich guy who fell in love with my mother a long, long time ago. Their time together made me, but my father left my mom before I was born. We haven't seen the scumbag since, and he's never reached out to us or tried contacting. My poor mother never received a lousy child support check." He had turned awfully bitter, and I knew exactly how he felt. At that moment, for some mysterious reason, I decided to trust him. Maybe it was because our backgrounds were so similarly depressing, maybe because of the fact that I had never imagined anyone sacrificing their own clothes to keep me, of all people, warm and dry…
We began to stagger down the steps; me in my sorry state, lightheaded, tank and jeans soggy, flesh covered with bumps from cold, but incredibly grateful to my savior; and considerate Percy with his waterlogged sleeves, damp hair, shaking body from the biting cold eating at his exposed skin, and his sea green eyes like glassy orbs searching the barren grey sky.
Following Percy's direction, we walked down the sidewalks of Manhattan amidst throngs of people, both of us sodden and tired. I suspected that his life wasn't great either, his face seemed to be etched with lines of sadness, and no rich and happy person ever bothered to bring home a stray; it's just us downcast people who try lending each other a hand.
We hastily swept through a car-congested street; I dodged a convertible as he struggled to keep his umbrella aloft as gales swirled around us vehemently. "I hope your father and my mother haven't hooked up," I said dryly when we made it across. "My mother left my father right after I was born. She was too busy to be bothered with a baby, like your dad, and my father wanted me less than my mom did, but he had no choice but to take me. At least you have your mom."
Percy frowned as we continued down the sidewalk, passing a number of shabby cafes. His arm remained in my iron grip before he told me, "You make yourself sound like… like a garbage bag full of trash someone is forced to throw into a bin outside. Maybe some chewed-up dog toy unfit to be played with and not even worth throwing away… just left lying in the grass forgotten. Or like an ugly sweater left untouched in a drawer, unwanted."
These comparisons made me want to curl up in a dark corner and never speak to anyone ever again, and I relinquished my hold on his arm. Feeling withered, I muttered, "Thanks…"
"No! No, no… I didn't mean you were, I was just thinking… don't be so hard on yourself," Percy stammered, but I looked away from him. "I'm sorry."
I touched his hand softly. "It's all right," I said, voice barely audible. "You've shown me great kindness by taking me with you. Belittle me, my life, my appearance; I'm used to it."
But he sensed the hurt in my voice and grabbed hold of my hand, hoping it would suffice as an apology.
The little shops ended just before we approached a tall building made of blood red bricks, surrounded by wiry-branched trees, and Percy tugged my arm as he ran to the front doors. He pushed the left one and stepped in, and I tailed behind him. A seemingly comfortable and dimly lit lobby with cushy armchairs and velvety rugs atop a gleaming tile floor met me when I entered, but what I loved most was the soothing warmth. A blanket of alleviating heat washed over me by the time I was a couple of feet in, and it felt like the sun had sprouted hands and had caressed my cheek. The feeling was wonderful and placating, and Percy seemed happier too.
I followed him to the elevator, where he punched in a number as a lanky, uniformed young man came in. He asked Percy jubilantly, "Got a girlfriend, did you, Perce?"
The elevator began to move as Percy gave him a look and said, "Oh, go away, Reggie, you stupid bellhop."
Reggie tipped his hat and grinned at him. "Certainly, I'd hate to embarrass you in front of a lady." Winking at me, he left as the steel doors opened for the second floor.
"Don't mind him," Percy muttered as the elevator closed and began to rise again. "He's annoying, but he means well."
I nodded. "I'm sure he was trying to detract the attention from my hobo-like appearance."
"But you're not – " he stopped midsentence when he got a glimpse of my face and wordlessly motioned for me to come with him when the elevator opened on his floor. I followed him out as a pair of high school kids went in. I ignored their imploring stares and found myself in front of a white apartment door, Percy on my right, his key fiddling around in the doorknob.
The door edged open after he unlocked it, and I saw his apartment for the first time. It was rather small, but it was very cozy and had some wooden and leather furniture, along with homey furnishings scattered throughout the vicinity. The walls were painted soft colors.
"Percy? Are you home?" called a voice, obviously female, came from the kitchen. I stood in the doorway stupidly before I got the sense to go meet Percy's mother.
Percy closed the umbrella and tossed it onto the floor, leaving for the kitchen. As we entered, a delicious aroma wafted around us, and I felt my mouth water. Percy's mom stood above a stove, stirring a large pot in a burgundy dress and smudged apron, her brown hair tied and tossed across her right shoulder.
Percy threw his arms around her waist, making her turn to him and smile benignly. She hugged her son back with equal tenderness; and I felt out of place, like I was intruding someone's home unlawfully. Ms. Jackson had lines around her kind face, likely due to stress over many years, and her eyes constantly changed colors like a kaleidoscope. Those eyes then spotted me leaning against the countertop, and she let go of Percy abruptly.
"Percy, honey, why are you soaking wet?" she asked, frowning, as steam began to billow out of her pot. She then looked at me, worried. "And who is this little sweetheart?"
Ms. Jackson took my face into her hands and examined my face. "Are you all right? Where is your family, dear?"
Choking on my words, I replied, "I don't have one. They kicked me out."
Percy, not remotely surprised at this new information, said, "Mom, I found Annabeth on the front steps of the blue complex on 36th street. She must have been there for hours, and I gave her my raincoat to keep her from getting any more wet."
Feeling embarrassed, I slipped off his blue rain jacket and handed it to Ms. Jackson. "I'm so sorry I let him… I shouldn't have been so selfish…"
Percy's mother looked at me, her kaleidoscope eyes troubled. She disregarded my words and told me, "You poor thing. Would you like some dinner?"
I opened my mouth to protest, but she put her finger to my lips. "Yes, you would. We're having chicken today, with crisp string beans in a secret sauce. There's also a lovely vegetable stew." Smiling, she shifted and said, "Percy, show Annabeth the bathroom so she can dry herself off, the girl is dripping wet." Combing my tangled, matted blond curls with her fingers, Ms. Jackson added, "The hairbrush is under the sink, Annabeth, dear."
Percy led me to the bathroom and handed me a pair of his own pajamas, which had pictures of blue whales stitched in as a design. "There's a towel inside," he told me, and I nodded slightly. He hesitated for a moment, and I thought he wanted to say something else to me, but he turned to walk away.
I threw my arms around his neck and whispered in his ear, "I don't want to be a burden, so I hope I'll find some hellhole to settle in soon. But thank you. For helping me."
Percy clumsily pat my hand and murmured back, "You need the help. And stay."
And with that he disappeared into his room, leaving me alone with his pajamas slung over my shoulder.
I missed him already.