"What does that mean?" I asked, taking in this with as much shock as everybody else.
"It means you move into the Hera cabin and follow the rules just as you have been. Any other changes will be revealed at the meeting of the Gods tomorrow," Chiron instructed with a sense of seriousness and business, but I could tell he was worried.
Everybody, including myself, was still staring at Chiron. He shooed us off to put our dishes away.
I gathered my presents and luggage and moved them all down to the cabin. It was at the very edge of the circle of the others. Nobody stopped to help me. I didn't blame them.
I'm not sure how, but a while ago, Annabeth and I got on the discussion of Hera, or my mother, I guess. Annabeth told me that Hera cursed her because Annabeth accused her of being vain. She thinks that is was my mother who threw Hesphaetus out of Olympus instead of Zeus. Annabeth was my teacher and my friend. I trusted what she said. Was my mother really that bad? I felt the hint of a rebellious teenager spark.
The cabin was actually very decorated from the lack of occupants. From the fresh smell, it seemed Demeter children had put lilies all around in sconces. There was a fancy cuckoo clock in the corner. And a golden horn lay on a table. There were twelve tiny cows on the bookshelf. Each had a special inscription on it for all the majors gods of Hera's family. One had a lightning bull for Zeus, a manatee ("sea cow") for Poseidon, the skeleton of a cow for Hades, and so on. I believe my mother's was the albino one. A shrine of Hera was in the opposite corner of the clock. On the statue, she was smiling, but with a cold look in her eyes. A stone hawk perched on her shoulder had the same look as she and on top of her staff was another lotus. There was a painting of her by the door, too, but she was grimacing like a politician. To me, the most beautiful thing was a cot covered in blankets made of peacock feathers.
"Home sweet home," I said to the warm brown walls. They didn't feel as warm as they looked.
I pushed my suitcase under the bed and placed my backpack beside it. I uncovered all of the teal feathered bedding and lay down without even putting my pajamas on. If I'm being so lazy, why couldn't I be a child of Hypnos? They're so sweet, too. I sniffed. I called them my perfect family and I feel so alienated from them now. I started to cry. At least Aphrodite? I remembered the texture of my soaking pillow before I was whisked into a dream.
In my dream, I was in my room back in Wisconsin. It looked more dusty in there, but nothing had been removed. I walked out and moved down the stairs. I saw a flicker of my mom's red hair switch into the kitchen where I smelled her famously fresh apple pie. All of our neighbors stayed late at our dinner parties all for our dessert. Dad said it was because I was such a charismatic hostess, but I knew they loved my mother's cooking as much as I do. I guess it's actually my step-mother's, or you could say Mary Kenneth's. Ugh, this is so confusing.
I dashed toward my mother's hair for fear she would drift away. She stood over the counter mixing something. I ran up to her and hugged her from behind.
"Mommy, I missd you so much."
She turned around as I still had my arms around her. The figure changed. She had short-for-business brown hair and dark brown irises like pools of chocolate. She had a bold look, but still dreamy and content like a woman who had everything she needed.
"I missed you, too, sweetheart. I haven't seen you for thirteen years now," Hera gushed with a million dollar smile.
I ripped my arms away and stepped back.
"You're not my mother," I yelled defiantly.
Hera leaned against the counter and tapped her fingers before coaxing,
"I know you don't like to admit it, but I always will be. And you're my lovely demigod daughter, Andrea. Oh, and do you like the cabin? I set it up for you. Nobody else sees what's in there, but you. It's just how the magic worked out."
"I don't care what you say about me being your 'special daughter'. You ruined my life!" I wailed.
Hera threw her hands up. "Teenagers," she sighed.
I held my disgusted, reckless face on and turned around. I closed my eyes tightly and willed my dream to change. I turned back around and Hera was still staring at me. She laughed.
"You really think you're in control, do you? I am your mother. And I'm a goddess. You're not changing anything, honey. I'm staying. I haven't seen my couragous eagle for over a decade. You wouldn't think it'd be very long for a god, but it's actually the first time for me," she chatted.
This woman was sick. She was so self-absorbed it made me crazy.
"What did you call me?"
"It is your name. Andrea Ava means Courageous Eagle. You didn't think you were living up to any old name, did you? I picked it based on modern meaning."
"Oh, how clever," I smirked sarcastically.
"Don't use that tone with me. I may be 'ruining your life', but I'm still your mother. I deserve respect for all I've done for you," Hera scolded.
"Well, what respect do you have for me?" I challenged, "you take me from my happy life here and drag me all the way to Long Island just so you can show off your creation. You humiliate me by claiming me and isolate me by having no other children. You know what it's like to feel alone. We're both monophobes. That's why Dad had other kids. He didn't want me to be alone. And now you've torn everything I ever had. You're the worst person I think I've ever known and it is a shame to me to share your blood."
Hera gazed silently into space. I knew I had hurt her and I didn't care. She'd already taken me from a good, no, amazing life and showed me things that I could have gone forever without ever needing to know. My life would have been splendid without the small fact that I was a demigod. I don't want to save the world. I'm just a girl. A thirteen-year-old girl who is every scared of being a hero.
"Andy-" she began.
"Don't call me that, you slime. Only people I care about call me that," I spat.
"Sweetie," she spoke again, more cautiously, "I was under oath to claim you. And we cannot tell what the future holds. I planned this since the day you were born. I've been watching over you your whole life. I sent Meggie my servant to escort you to Camp as safely as I could control. I told Argus to give you that watch. I gave you to Dad hours after you were born. I barely have had chances to be there for you. Now, I finally can. It's kind of like a custody arrangement."
I rolled my eyes. I felt a little bit sorry for her and maybe a little guilty for screeching at her, but that's way deep down. I still wanted to hold a grudge. She didn't deserve that speck of guilt.
She put her hand on my shoulder, and gently said, "I never wanted you to feel empty or lonely. I never wanted you to feel ripped from this place. I did want you to have a magnificent childhood. Not like mine. My childhood was spent in my father's stomach crammed against four brothers and sisters," she hooted a laugh like a cowbell at the absurdity. I giggled myself, but I tried to hide it.
Hera smiled a more genuine grin and continued, "I wished for you to have all the chances you could at knowing what a supreme family was. You had found it at Camp Half Blood. Although now, because you learned that I'm your mother, you don't want to believe you liked your demigod family. Andrea, I love you. You're my only little girl. All my other children are stuck up now because most of them are gods, but you are my only half-blood. I hope you know how special you are. Or Nelson had failed me."
Dad certainly didn't fail her. He taught me that I could do anything. He packed in all he could teach me into almost thirteen years. He had known this whole time, but he was driven enough not to let it break his heart. Dad always told me how fortunate I was to be born into the Kenneth family and he'd go on about his heritage and yadda yadda. He'd also tell me how wonderful it is to have a family. Dad had always been there.
"Dad could never do that." I took a darker turn to continue the grudge I had for my mother, "But I don't think you could ever be as great as he was. I don't care about claiming and custody. I just wish I could come back. I want my old life again."
"That isn't possible and you know that. Stop being so fatuous. You can't go back. Let go of the past. Things in the future are much more remarkable."
I took a deep breath. Dad had also taught me anger can control. Dad loved her enough to take care of me, I guess. I have to love this woman or at least be nice to her. For Dad.
"Okay. Start explaining. From the very, very beginning," I demanded.
"Dear, it does get quite graphic," she advised.
"I'm thirteen, now. I can handle myself," I replied with wit.
"You claim a hero and they think they rule the world," she muttered.
"Alright, well here goes. It all started with a misunderstanding. It really was all a mistake..." she began.
I stopped her, "Mistake? You're looking at your mistake, Mom."
"Oh, precisely. A gorgeous mistake that was actually a true blessing in disguise," she continued.
She told me the full story. She told me how I came to be. She talked about when I was growing up and whenever I was hurt, she would reach down from Olympus and stroke my hair. That was the regenerating comfort I felt. She called it "a mother's touch". Hera said she was there at my speeches for student council and she hinted that she was the one who made sure I wasn't in trouble when I couldn't hand in the written version of my application speech. She didn't want me to feel so humiliated because of my dyslexia. My mom really was there for my life. She wasn't always there, but she left traces of herself around.
Mary, my step-mom, knew about Greek gods. My brothers were only told after I was gone.
Hera said that she would be sneaking sometimes when it wasn't wise to go visit me and it was hard to get back. She risked it all to have me.
When I was approaching closer to thirteen, Hades grew suspicious of Hera's anxiety. He had released hellhounds tracking on Hera's scent and one had followed us in Wisconsin. It was vague, but when I picked up the cell phone, it grew more powerful. The only reason it had happened so fast was because it was nearing the truck already.
My past made so much sense with the way my mom explained it. Mary's cooking was actually touched by Hera so that I would love it so much. Before, Mary had only the practice and efficiency, but she lacked magic. I'm glad Mom didn't hold so terrible a grudge against Mary as she could have. And holding grudges is something I had gotten from her.
It seemed like I made Hera humbler. She still is vain, but hey, I'm not getting off clean, either. I grew to understand my mother more by the nearing end of the dream. We were really a lot alike. It's a downfall we're both stubborn, though, because I can't win any fights with a goddess that's a lot like me.
The one thing I found interesting was that I don't have her eyes. My dad's eyes were so powerful that my genes had turned out like his. It puzzled my mom for so long because usually the gods' traits are the more dominant.
We ate a slice of the apple pie and I woke up with a smile. I was feeling a hellhound of a lot better.
My watch blinked 7:12 AM when I woke up. Breakfast started at 7:30 AM. I rushed into the bathroom and took a quick shower. I had prayed to Poseidon to make sure it was hot. I was saving his ocean by going quickly and praying to him, so I hope that means I'm on good terms with him.
When I was dressed, I was wearing my orange shirt and black capris. I was whistling while I was tying my shoes and I felt really good. I made it to breakfast a few minutes after they had opened.
I was surprised they even had a Hera table, but honor counts, too. I sat there with all the elbow space I could ever ask for and I stretched my legs out. I pointed at my goblet and asked, "Orange juice?"
It swirled with an orange liquid. I took a sip. There weren't little flecks of the orange in it.
"Oh, with pulp, please."
Little bits of pulp appeared. "Thank you."
I tossed my good looking roll into the fire and made my offering to Hera.
I happily ate the rest of eggs and bacon a la burnt toast while I could feel eyes looking at me. And it wasn't my watch or Argus. There was an eerie silence as other campers stared in my direction. Like people still didn't know what to say after last night. It felt really icy to me.
When breakfast was over, it just felt like an awkward silence. Nobody really had an idea what was going on, except me, because of the information I squeezed out of Hera, herself. I was trying to act normal because maybe it would catch on. It sort of did. It was still very difficult to return to our duties fully.
I wondered how the gods are feeling right now. Probably angry? Confused?
I was thinking deeply by the time I walked into my Greek class. I held a grin without teeth not to seem so flashy and I sat in my usual seat. I was right in the middle and it was like I had a big bubble around me that nobody wanted to pop. No one bothered to whisper anything that was required for class. Not a person nearby risked leaning in closer to me. Everyone was on a sharp edge like a macheti blade. I'd never really felt that disconnected with people. It took everything I had to stay cheery about things.
At a Hesphaestus version of arts and crafts, I managed to finish building a floating car with magnets that the class had been working on. It worked almost perfectly and I beamed with pride as the leader looked at it. I rocked on my heels with a silly grin on my face, and I noticed kids scowling like, "Little Miss Perfect." My smile disappeared.
I moved onto sword fighting, but not even my friend, Lila, would battle me. An Ares demigod named Vince ended up being my partner and he seemed like the only fiery and exciting event with the still silence. Vince didn't want to give up just because I was a girl. I didn't give up either. I pushed back and stabbed the side of his armor. He gritted his teeth and slashed more. We went back and forth like that for half an hour. It was the most fun I'd had.
Meals were feeling lonelier and I started to resent my mother. I cursed her in my head for the heartache I was feeling. My extra hair bands on my right hand snapped and I hollered, "Ow!"
Even more awkward gazes turned my way in that second.
"Sorry, Mom," I murmured as I threw half of my pudding cup in the fire.
It was a really slow day. Normal things happened with a solitude about them. I was about to give up hope for a chance to restore my joy when people were more hyped up and anxious at dinner. I couldn't tell what was happening until I saw Rachel, the oracle, aimlessly walking around the tables. Her eyes were a bright green and smoke was floating around her frizzy red locks. The conversations had moved away from me. People started discussing what Rachel was doing and prophecies that had occured in the past.
Chiron trotted up and stopped when he saw Rachel in oracle form. Rachel had finally made her way to the Hera table and gazed at me. She quietly said the words to a prophecy, but everything was so hushed that she sounded much louder and more powerful.
"A queen's mistake done through spite,
But the outcast daughter works to seek the right.
With two accomplises, she moves toward her former home,
To find the path she has need to know.
An unexpected hero rivals her meaningful pursuit.
And the winner of the duel chooses the quest's new route.
When the key to the future has been discovered,
The true use shall be uncovered.
Then the era of alliance reveals to the heart,
Of the figure that this incident did start.
Abandonment occurs to create the beginning,
And the peace they remembered has come to an ending."
"Okay then," gasped Rachel. "I was wondering how long that would last." She walked off, leaving the campers and I completely speechless.
Disclaimer: I do not own the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series or the rights to the idea of Camp Half Blood heroes.