Calypso made me up a semi-permanent bed on her couch and left me alone for the night. Truth be told, I didn't get much sleep. I spent most of the night tossing and turning, my mind moving a hundred miles a minute. Despite the fact that, for a couch, my bed was quite comfortable, I couldn't seem to find a comfortable position. If I laid still for too long I started to get uncomfortable, like I had too much pent-up energy that was trying to burst out of me.
Maybe it was just my ADHD acting up, or maybe I was still torn over my decision to stay at Calypso's. She was a stranger after all- not to mention she had hit me with her car. But she had fed me pasta. And she had been genuinely kind, something I hadn't seen in a while. Maybe that was what inclined me to stay.
When I finally fell asleep, it felt like I had only been out a few minutes when the smell of cooking bacon woke me up.
Groggily sitting up, I struggled to untangle myself from the sheets and rolled to my feet. My head still hurt a bit, but I was a lot less sore than yesterday. Still, I kept my movements ginger, not wanting to damage myself further.
I followed my nose through the hall to the kitchen, where Calypso was standing at the stove, already fully dressed. She was flipping bacon with a fork, humming under her breath.
"Morning," she said without turning around.
Yawning, I sat down at the table, scanning the plates of eggs and toast with mild curiosity. "Good morning," I said. "Why are you up so early?"
Calypso glanced over at me, her eyebrows raised. She had done her hair in the same braid and headband as yesterday, but today she had opted for a flow-y white shirt and jeans.
"It's nine o'clock, Percy," she said. "That's not early."
"It is to me," I said, shrugging.
She smiled, turning back to the bacon. "I suppose I'm just a morning person," she said, transferring them to the plate waiting on the counter next to her. "Plus, I have to be at work in thirty minutes, and I can't afford to be late."
"Work?" I asked as she picked up the plate and carried it over. "I thought you wanted to be a nurse."
"I do," Calypso said, somewhat defensively. "I've taken a few preliminary classes, but I need real training. Which means I have to pay real money. I found a job at a nearby diner until I can save enough money to go to college."
I nodded in understanding and helped myself to some bacon.
"What about you?" she asked, dishing some eggs onto her plate. "What do you want to do after you get out of school?"
I stopped for a moment, thinking. "I don't know," I said truthfully. "I'm more concerned with getting through the present than thinking about the future. You know what I mean?"
Calypso nodded slowly. "I suppose so," she said. "But you must have some idea of what you want to do."
I shrugged. "I dunno. Something to do with the ocean, perhaps."
"Oceanography?" she prompted. "Marine biology?"
"I was thinking more along the lines of surfing."
She stared at me blankly, looking confused. I raised my eyebrows.
"That was a joke, Calypso."
She blinked, then flushed a bright pink. "Oh. Of course," she said, looking embarrassed. She pushed her eggs around the plate, ducking her head.
I grinned at her and leaned back in my seat, continuing on with my meal.
A few minutes later she spoke again, back to normal. "How do you feel?"
"My head hurts a bit," I said. "Other than that I feel fine."
Calypso nodded like that's what she had been expecting. "Your head will probably hurt for another few days then heal up quite nicely. Your wrist- as long as you don't hurt it further- will be as good as new in a week or two. Put some ice on it if it starts to hurt at all. Help yourself to anything into the fridge, and just- try to stay out of trouble, will you?"
I gathered my plates, saluting at her. "Will do, Cap'n," I said.
She shook her head slightly, grabbing her tan purse off the counter. I recognized it as the same one from the coffee shop.
"You know," I said casually, rinsing my dishes, "most people would hesitate to leave a stranger like me in their home. You're very open."
Calypso slowed slightly, carefully pulling her bag over her shoulder with a thoughtful expression. "Yes," she said, "I suppose it's not the wisest of me. But I have never hit anyone before, so I guess I just feel- I don't know- responsible for you."
I raised my eyebrows at her, but she continued. "Besides, I'm good at judging characters," she said. "And you wouldn't hurt me. Or steal from me, for that matter. Would you?" she asked, meeting my gaze.
I was quiet for a moment, trapped by her gaze. "No."
She nodded, breaking our eye contact. "That's what I thought." She opened the door, stepping outside. Before she closed it she stuck her head back in, grinning. "Plus, if you really had been planning some grand crime, you would have done it while I was asleep last night. I'll be home at four; see you then."
And then she was gone. I heard her car start and roll out of the driveway, and then the house was silent.
I finished cleaning up the breakfast dishes, but Calypso had already done most of it before I had even woken. Instead of standing around in the kitchen, I walked back into the living room, where the couch was a pile of blankets and sheets, half of them on the ground.
I set to work carefully making the bed once more. It wasn't as neat or pretty as Calypso's had been, but at least the majority of the blankets were on the couch once more. When I had finished I smoothed them down, trying to think of something to do next.
Calypso's library was impressive, but I would probably go crazy if I locked myself in there all day to read. I didn't feel comfortable exploring Calypso's house, but there was nothing to do in the living room or kitchen.
Casting one last glance behind me at my bed, I walked back into the kitchen and grabbed my backpack off the counter. There wasn't much in there that I would need on the short walk I had planned, but I felt better having it, more prepared.
I looked at the drawer that Calypso had stuffed her papers in yesterday. I was curious about those. It was probably nothing, but she had acted so secretive about it I had to wonder whether something was wrong.
I turned away. I couldn't look. I wouldn't. Calypso trusted me, and I'm pretty sure going through her drawers to look for information on her would be betraying that trust.
Pulling open the door, I stepped outside. Whatever Calypso had said, 9:30 was still early for me- and for the world as well. The sky was a fresh, bright blue, and the air had a brisk feeling about it. I shut the door behind me and trooped through the grass to the sidewalk, walking quickly so my shoes didn't get wet.
Setting off down the sidewalk, I looked around me. Calypso lived in a tiny, neat neighborhood. The houses around her were pristine, but impersonal. The grass was cut to the perfect length. They were all the same shades of brown and beige, and what flowers they did have were planted neatly in little squares.
I looked back at Calypso's house and noted the bright, overflowing flowerbeds, the blue paint-job, and the unruly grass. It looked more real, more lived in, but far different from her neighbors' houses. Clearly, Calypso was the odd one out here.
As I meandered out of her neighborhood, I kept my pace slow. I still didn't completely know my surroundings, and the last thing I wanted to do was get lost. Plus, I wanted my walk to last for as long as possible.
I thought over my current situation as I walked. I had virtually no money or real home, but I had found a place to stay for a few days. I would stay with Calypso for a while; no doubt Poseidon had called in the police to search for me. He was crazy if he thought I was actually coming back only to be punished for something I didn't do. If he's even looking for me, that is.
That thought sobered me. As much as I told myself that I didn't care about him or anything else, my mood dropped drastically.
Scowling at my feet, I dug my hands into my pockets. I thought back to Calypso's question at breakfast: what did I want to do with my life? It looked like I wasn't going to be finishing high school, and the chances of me going to college at this point were very slim. I would be able to get by, though. Hopefully.
I looked up, surprised to find that my surroundings had completely changed. I had left Calypso's neighborhood behind me and wandered onto a dark, rundown street. I immediately stopped my feet and made an about-face, hoping that I had continued in a straight line even after tuning out of reality. I walked quickly, not wanting to get into any trouble just now.
Luckily I was able to find my way back to Calypso's house. I slowed down again as I walked, grinning slightly out of relief.
Note to self: pay attention when exploring.
"You are so stupid, Jackson," I muttered, stomping through the hallways. I got a couple of odd looks from people, considering I appeared to be talking to myself, but I honestly didn't care at the moment.
Percy was already in quite a bit of trouble, and then he decided to run off and leave the rest of us behind with nothing to go on but the proof already here. His escapade had apparently convinced Dionysus and everyone else in the school of his guilt, for why else would he leave if not to avoid facing the responsibility?
When he hadn't shown up to clean up the art room yesterday, he had been formally expelled- Dionysus had seemed a little bit too happy about that. He had taken a fast disliking to Percy, which I kind of understood. When Percy was irritated, he wasn't exactly the easiest person to be around.
Seeing all the negativity facing him in his absence, I had to admit I didn't blame him for running, even if it did make my job harder. I was still shocked at how quickly everyone had turned against him. I made it a point not to speak to Nico, but I knew he was brooding; I had overheard Hades and Zeus talking about the increasing amount of time he's been spending in his room and how little he's been eating. I would have to go and talk to him soon before he does something stupid.
I let out a huff of air. When had it become my responsibility to keep our dysfunctional little family together?
I scanned the faces in the hallway, looking for someone to start putting my case together. Since it seemed that no one else was going to do it, I had become determined to help prove Percy's innocence. I still refused to believe his guilt. Not only was he too smart to have that many witnesses, he wouldn't risk anything to ruin his relationship with Annabeth. The two lovebirds had been in their own little bubble of bliss up until a few days ago, and though it had become increasingly annoying to be around them, it was worse with them separated.
I spotted someone and quickly changed my course. Marching over, I grasped the girl's wrist and pulled her aside, out of the crowd.
"Hey!" she said, "What do you think you're- oh."
"Yeah," I said, smiling sweetly at her. "Oh."
She was a small girl, dwarfed by her mane of thick black hair. She looked up at me with dark eyes and a cautious look, her eyebrows furrowed.
"What do you want, Thalia?" she asked, her eyes darting to the people behind me as though she wished she could join them.
"Oh, lighten up, Lou Ellen," I said, rolling my eyes. "You're acting like I'm going to lock you in the broom closet or something."
"We haven't spoken in 5 years," she said defensively.
"You wrecked my astronomy project!" I exclaimed.
"On accident," she said, glaring at me. "You flushed my diary down the toilet."
"On accident," I said, rolling my eyes.
She stared at my incredulously, but I moved on before she could reminisce about the past any longer.
"Anyways, I didn't come talk to you just to take a trip down memory lane," I said.
She sighed in a resigned way. "Alright, what do you want?"
"You were one of the witnesses to testify against Percy Jackson."
Lou Ellen's eyes widened slightly. She looked behind me again, seemingly more desperate than before.
"Yeah," she said. "So?"
"So I want to know the truth," I said, crossing my arms and glaring at her. "What really happened?"
Lou Ellen clasped her hands together in front of her, fixing her eyes on a spot just to the left of my head. "Exactly what I told Mr. Dionysus," she said politely, her owlish eyes blinking a hundred times a minute.
I shook my head, disappointed. "Lou Ellen, if you're going to lie to me, at least make it convincing."
She met my eyes. "I'm not lying!" she said hotly.
"Then look me in the eyes and tell me exactly what you saw that day," I said coolly.
She maintained our staring contest for a silent ten seconds before looking away. "I don't have to tell you anything," she muttered.
I raised my eyebrows victoriously. I knew something wasn't right about all of this. "Lou Ellen, this is ridiculous," I said. "Just tell me what you know. You've never even spoken to Percy; why would you make up something so outlandish just to get him into trouble?"
Lou Ellen tightened her hands on the straps of her backpack. "I didn't," she said, her voice so quiet I had to strain to hear. "Just… just leave me alone."
She hurried away, too fast for me to catch her. I frowned as I watched her retreat down the hallway.
"Well, that was semi-successful," I sighed. On the one hand, I knew something was definitely wrong with the witnesses. They weren't telling the truth. I'd have to talk with the rest of them to be certain, but they were lying about something.
The only question was: why? Why would someone like Lou Ellen, who had no affiliation to Percy, lie about something and frame him for vandalism? It didn't make any sense. And it had to be a group thing as well, unless they had all decided to make up the same exact story on exactly the same day. Somehow, I didn't think that was very likely.
"Thalia?" asked a timid voice behind me.
I turned around to see Grover standing there, watching me cautiously. I felt a flicker of irritation, but I wasn't as angry with him as before. It was kind of impossible to stay mad at Grover, especially with the puppy dog eyes he was giving me at the moment.
"Yes, Grover?" I asked.
He looked a little bit relieved. "I was just, uh, wondering why you were talking to Lou Ellen," he said.
"Why shouldn't I speak to Lou Ellen?" I asked.
"You hate her," Grover pointed out.
I thought it over. "Fair point. Alright," I said, "I'm trying to find out what really happened with Percy."
"What do you mean?" Grover asked, frowning.
"The witnesses," I said slowly. "They're lying. Something else happened, but it wasn't Percy's fault."
A flicker of uneasiness crossed Grover's face. "Oh," he said.
"Yeah." I raised my eyebrows at him and waited.
Grover took a deep breath, leaning heavily on his crutches for a moment before standing up straight. "I'll help you," he said.
"I don't need your-" I started automatically.
"No, Thalia, I need to do this," he said forcefully. "If… If Percy really is innocent, it's partially my fault that he ran away. I should have believed him, I should have…" he trailed off, took a steadying breath, and continued. "I need to know the truth, Thalia. Searching for him hasn't been doing any good."
"He's smart, as much as I loathe to admit it," I said. "We won't find him."
Grover frowned. "I know," he said quietly. "But I can't stand the thought of him out there all alone, whether he's innocent or not. If we find evidence that he's not guilty, then maybe he'll come back!"
That was a little bit too optimistic in my opinion, but I wasn't about to burst Grover's bubble. He looked so confident, so convinced that he would be able to make things right, and I didn't want to rain on his parade. Grover was rarely confident about anything.
"What changed your mind?" I asked, crossing my arms. "Why do you suddenly believe he's innocent?"
"I don't," Grover said. He frowned. "I mean, I do. I mean- oh, I don't know, Thalia! This whole thing is really confusing. The odds are stacked against him, but something just doesn't feel quite right about this whole thing. I don't think Percy would do something like this. Not with his new attitude, that is. Unless he somehow reverted back to how he was a month or two ago, I don't think he would risk something like this."
"Well," I said, pleased with his narrative, "we'll just have to find out."
Grover brightened slightly. "You mean I can help?"
I slowly nodded my head. "Yeah, sure," I said. "As long as you promise not to go sharing this information with Annabeth. I'm going to tell her when I've cracked the case and have solid proof. Until then, she can organize all the search parties she wants."
Grover nodded eagerly, and I felt a begrudging sense of affection. Grover had been my friend for years, and I was glad I had at least someone on my team. And out of all of them, Grover would probably be the most useful in this situation. He meant well, and he obviously was very concerned about Percy. He'd do whatever he could to get to the bottom of things, despite whatever doubts he was having. I knew he'd eventually see the truth. It's not like he wanted to believe Percy's guilt.
"Right," I said, "I'll see you later then."
I turned and walked away.
"Wait!" Grover called after me.
I turned around, slightly impatient. "What? I'm going to be late to class, Grover?"
He hesitated for a moment. "Do you think Percy's- you know- okay?" he asked carefully.
I halted for a moment, staring at him. "He's fine," I said, spinning around and marching away again.
He had to be fine. If he wasn't, I was going through all this work for nothing, and I would be quite cross with him when he returned.
"Annabeth!" Sue called, knocking on my door. "Will you please let me in?"
Sighing, I stood up from my desk and walked over, pulling the door open. "Yes?" I asked tiredly.
Sue looked me over with a frown. "Annabeth, your father and I are worried about you," she announced.
I pinched the bridge of my nose. "Why?" I asked.
Sue just raised her eyebrows. "You've been spending all of your time either in your room or out searching for Percy. You barely touch your dinners- you haven't read a single page of your book in days!" she said, glancing at the discarded novel on my dresser.
I looked over at it, uninterested. "I'm just busy, Sue," I assured her. "I'm fine."
Sue hesitated, seemed to debate something for a moment, then asked, "Is this about Percy?"
I turned away from her and walked back over to my desk, leaving the door ajar. She took that as an opportunity to step inside, watching me with concern.
"Annabeth, I know you're worried about him, but-"
"But what?" I asked, sitting down at my desk and glaring at the wall. "What am I supposed to do? Am I just supposed to go about my daily business like nothing is wrong? Do all my homework without being distracted? Read through my book in joyful obliviousness? How can I, when Percy is out there with barely any money and probably no shelter or food or-" I stopped, taking a shuddering breath. "It's all my fault," I muttered, slumping in my chair.
Sue hurried over. "Oh, sweetheart," she said, crouching down next to me and lightly running a hand over my hair. "Don't say that, Annabeth."
"It is!" I exclaimed. "I should have believed him, I should have trusted him, I should have- I should have-"
She pulled me into a hug as I squeezed my eyes shut, taking uneven breaths. I tried my hardest not to cry, not in front of Sue, but it was hard. Percy had been gone for only three days now and already I felt emotionally exhausted and wrung out from worry. I knew Percy. He had only grabbed twenty dollars as he left. He probably spent most of it on his dinner the first night. And if no other options were open to him, he would probably see theft as the next obvious answer. He had practically been raised on it. If he got himself into trouble, it was all my fault for pushing him out.
"Don't say that," Sue was repeating, gently patting my back. "You can't think like that, Annabeth, it's not healthy."
I pulled away from her, sniffing despite myself. "Sorry," I muttered.
Sue shook her head. "No, there's nothing to be sorry about. I know you're in a difficult position now, but trust me when I say things will get better."
I must have looked doubtful, because Sue continued. "You made a mistake," she said gently. "We all do. Anyone would have reacted like you did in that situation. When someone we care about appears to have lied to us, it's human nature to get defensive and angry about it. Yes, it had consequences, but nothing's set in stone. I'm sure Percy will be back one way or the other, and you can make peace with him then." She smiled knowingly. "Plus, I've seen you two together. He's crazy about you."
My lips twitched despite my efforts to remain stoic. Sue smiled again, pleased to see I wasn't quite as morose as before. "Cheer up, Annie," she said, using the nickname only my father ever used. "Things will get better soon."
She stood up, patted my shoulder one last time, and left, gently shutting the door behind her.
I sniffed again, trying to keep my breathing even. I looked at my math homework laid out on my desk and shut it, turning away. Getting to my feet, I managed to take two steps toward my bed before letting out a half- choked sob.
I quickly put a hand over my mouth to muffle it. The last thing I needed was Sue running back in here again. No, I just needed to be alone.
I managed to stumble over to my closet, half-blind from the tears pooling in my eyes. Pulling it open, I slid into my reading spot, dropping onto the familiar blankets and quickly closing the door again.
In the darkness, I let a few tears slide down my cheeks before impatiently wiping them away. I leaned my head up against the wall and squeezed my eyes shut.
I felt absolutely pitiful. I should be out doing something, not sitting in my closet crying. But what could I do? I'd already searched all of the surrounding area with Poseidon. Aside from packing a bag of my own and setting off in a random direction, hoping to come across him, there was nothing I could do but sit here and wait. Poseidon had already contacted the police, and they had promised to keep an eye out for him, but I knew they weren't overly concerned. As far as they saw it, Percy was practically an adult who had left his home. He wasn't in any immediate danger. They wouldn't say it outright to Poseidon, but it was obvious they weren't going to waste too many men putting together a search team.
I ran my hands over my face, taking a few calming breaths. I couldn't afford to break down. I was Annabeth Chase; I was supposed to be the one who knew what to do, the one who could fix things. I was supposed to have all the answers.
For once in my life, however, I was completely at a loss for what to do. If only I had a magic mirror to show me where Percy was, I could find him and apologize and beg that he comes back where he's safe.
I couldn't dismiss that nagging thought in the back of my head, though- what if he was happier wherever he was? What if he had found someone else, a friend- or someone more than a friend- that he likes better than us? What if he never comes back?
I drew my knees to my chest, suddenly feeling incredibly small. I remembered a time, many months ago, when I had sat here, reading a book. I remembered my father opening up the closet door and ordering me outside, where I had literally run into the most condescending, arrogant, and downright rudest boy I had ever met. I remembered looking into his cold eyes and wondering how he could have any feelings, how anyone could ever bear to be friends with someone so threatening.
I chuckled bitterly, swiping at my eyes with the back of my hand. It's amazing, really, how one meeting could change your life.
As I got to my feet and stepped out of my closet, straightening my shoulders and taking a deep breath to clear out any last signs of weakness, I once again faced the one question I didn't have an answer for- what if he never came back? While I wasn't sure exactly what I would do in the future, I knew one thing for certain:
Even if I never saw him again, I don't regret one moment of my friendship with Percy Jackson.
A/N: I AM SO SORRY FOR NOT UPDATING.
Trust me, I planned to, but my school decided to bombard me with tests throughout the week. I had one every day: history, science, Spanish, math, language arts, you name it. And then when I FINALLY sat down with my computer for an hour to get this thing done, my violin teacher shows up unexpected for a lesson, taking away all the time I had set up for writing. Great, huh?
I promise it won't take this long again. I'll be back on track now that most of my tests are over. I feel horrible for taking so long.
But, to change things up, I added in Thalia's point of view. I kind of owed something special to you guys. What did you think? She was pretty fun to write. I might do it again in the future if everyone enjoyed it.
Anyway, please leave a review telling me what you think. We're almost to 2000 reviews! I'm so grateful to all of my readers for their wonderful support, and I PROMISE I will update soon. Thanks for reading!