Sally had never heard silence this loud.
She was no stranger to Silence. Sally and Silence had been acquaintances ever since her childhood, in Uncle Rich's house.
That had been the worst part about living with Uncle Rich, back when she lived with him.
It wasn't that Uncle Rich neglected her. No, he was the best uncle Sally ever knew. But his job as an accountant kept him busy for long hours, and so whenever Sally was not at school or the library her days were filled with oppressive silence, broken only by the turning of pages or the hum of the refrigerator. Her uncle wasn't rich by any means of the word, and he couldn't afford to buy Sally a radio, or one of the new music players that were the rage, and the old, broken television in the family room only had a sports channel and news channel.
So, every afternoon and every evening, Sally could be found devouring book after book, thumbing through her old paperbacks or gleefully relishing a crisp library copy. And she loved doing just that, even though the Silence felt like it was crushing her eardrums until Uncle Rich's loud, boyish voice would sound from the hallway.
Sally had always hated the silence. The silence of an empty house always seemed to fill her soul until something came by and banished it.
The silence used to creep up on her when she was not looking, lurking in the shadows until it would rise up and settle on Sally's shoulders like a dead weight and pound in her eardrums.
But that silence, the silence Sally was used to, was nothing like this Silence.
This Silence didn't just weigh on her shoulders—no this Silence continued until it grasped her at the throat and cruelly reminded her over and over again that Percy was gone. "Gone, gone, gone!" It seemed to chant in her head, while Sally's insides twisted and worry crowded her brain.
She had never known that one person's absence could drain a house of its vitality so completely. She had never known real Silence, not until that day after Annabeth's call.
Percy had gone off to Camp Half-Blood the week before, smiling wide as he waved nonchalantly to Paul and Sally. Even then Sally had felt that something was different this time. Something big was coming, bigger than anything she'd faced before, and it scared her. Watching Percy go off on another adventure was always hard. Every day was fraught with worry and anxious pacing, and nothing could get Sally to calm down when Percy was on a quest, not writing, not Paul, not going to her favorite restaurant. Only having her precious boy back home, safe, would assuage her doubts and set her mind to rest.
"He's only off to Camp." Paul gently reminded Sally, after seeing the fearful glint in her eyes. "He just saved the world. I doubt that he'll have another quest so soon." When she didn't make a move to turn back into the house, Paul slowly gathered Sally into his arms and kissed her forehead.
"And even if he does, you know that he'll be fine."
Sally smiled ruefully and tore herself away from the empty street.
"You're right. I'm sure it's nothing."
Annabeth's call had immediately dashed that assurance.
"So Percy's not there?"
Sally didn't like the way Annabeth's voice sounded.
"Well, no. I sent him off just last week—he took the bus, and I haven't seen him since. Why? Is something wrong?" Sally knew that something must be up.
"No-nothing's wrong. I just wanted to check."
Sally felt fear sink cold claws into her heart at Annabeth's stutter. The daughter of Athena sounded as if she was almost panicking.
"Annabeth. What's wrong?"
Annabeth regained her composure on the other line. "It's nothing, Mrs. Blofis. I promise. Listen, I have to get going."
Annabeth hung up before Sally could say another word. Slowly putting the phone on the base and staring out at the cloudy sky, Sally took a deep breath. Ice was running through her veins and she could not stop the fear that was slowly eating away at her heart. Annabeth always had had a good head on her shoulders. She would get Percy out of whatever mess he had gotten himself into.
So Annabeth's next call nearly sent Sally into hysterics.
"I didn't want to say anything before. But it's been all day and nothing has come up."
"Annabeth, what is it? He got to camp, right?"
"Yeah, Percy was here last night."
Sally heard the unspoken 'but' in Annabeth's voice. "And?"
The next words came out in a rush.
"But he never came down for breakfast and we can't find him anywhere. I've tried Iris-messaging, but the signal is blocked, and no one can find a trace of him."
The world tilted around Sally, and she gripped the back of the couch for support. "Wh-what?"
She could barely breathe.
"I don't even know what's go-going on. He was totally normal last night, but no one has seen him since he walked me to my cabin. We've scoured the Camp—everywhere, the forest, the strawberry fields, the Big House. Wherever he is, he's not at camp. I alerted Thalia and Grover, and they said that they are going to look, but there's still a chance that he just went somewhere and forgot to tell anyone, so we can't panic yet." Annabeth sounded half-hysterical herself, babbling frantically. Sally could hear the worry in Annabeth's voice through the phone. "Chiron said that he might have been taken on a sudden quest for a god or something, but since they went silent last month, I doubt that's what happened. I'm going to IM Rachel and see if she got anything from the spirit of Delphi."
Sally blinked hard, and swallowed. "Wherever he is, he's not at camp." rang in her ears.
Sally snapped out of her stupor only after Annabeth said "Mrs. Blofis? Are you there?" five times over.
"Yes, yes, I'm-I'm still here."
Sally could hear Annabeth's long sigh over the phone.
"I don't think we should panic. Not yet. I just can't think of a logical explanation for Percy dis-" Annabeth choked on the word for a second. "-disappearing so suddenly like this. Chiron is worried, I can tell, but it's almost like there's something he's not telling me, like he might know something about where Percy is. I just don't know."
Sally tried to calm her racing heart and stop her head spinning at the same time. She tried to find something to reassure Annabeth, and herself, but there was nothing. Percy is gone.
Her throat was dry and Sally realized distantly that her hands were shaking. There was something missing in her heart, ripped out cruelly by this world of gods and monsters. It all boiled down to the fact that Percy is gone.
Sally let out a quivering breath. "Is there anything I can do?"
"I don't think so. We've tried everything we can. I am going to keep trying to find him, Mrs. Blofis, I promise."
"I know you will." Sally smiled, or tried too, even though Annabeth is miles away, even though her boy was gods-know-where in this crazy world, even though Sally was panicking inside.
Sally and Annabeth exchanged few other words, mostly murmured condolences that rang empty and false on both sides, and afterward, they finally ended the call. When Sally finally lowered the phone it felt like she had just cut a connection to her boy that could not be repaired, and the silence somehow became deafening. She stood there, staring at nothing, wishing with all her heart that time travel existed so she could travel back and grab Percy and just hold him, and never let him go because keeping him in her arms forever could trick her into thinking she could shelter him from the world. That illusion was gone now, Sally realized with a pang that hit the gaping hole in her heart. The illusion of keeping her son safe had never worked. The time was long gone when she could protect her little boy—he's a young man now, a missing young man and Sally very nearly broke down with that thought.
Even later, when she is sobbing into her husband's shoulder as he whispered reassurances into her hair, the Silence still choked her, still rose up within her and reminded her with every beat of her heart that her boy is gone, without a trace, and maybe he's dead, but she didn't know.
She swallowed her tears and took a deep breath against Paul's chest, and tried not to think for a minute. Of course, she couldn't ignore the facts. This whole mess started because of those accursed gods and their pride, and if they sent Percy off on another quest she'd know who to blame. However, she kept remembering that Percy could be dead and no one would know. Still, Sally wouldn't open her mouth and admit that particular fear—saying it out loud would jinx the fragile balance, would make it irreversible and actually cause her to ponder that it might be true. Saying that her son might be gone forever out loud would make it real and it's already real enough.
The days still passed and the nights dragged on, and still there was no word on Percy. Annabeth called regularly, trying to keep Sally's—and her own—spirits up.
Three days went by before Annabeth's next call: "Rachel sent me to the Grand Canyon, and I hoped to find Percy, but instead we found three new campers—a son of Hephaestus, a daughter of Aphrodite, and then a son of Zeus, named Jason, who unnerved Chiron and has a golden weapon."
Later that week, Annabeth called again: "Thalia was going west, and she thought she could find him there. Grover can't do much, but every day he IM's me and lets me know what's going on. Jason, Leo, and Piper came back from their quest. Apparently, there's another camp in San Francisco, a Roman camp, and we think that Jason traded by Hera. We think she took Jason from Camp Jupiter and Percy from our Camp."
The news about another Camp and alternate gods did nothing to reassure Sally, and the apartment still felt too empty.
Nothing stopped the Silence, though Paul tried to reassure her, and a dead-eyed Annabeth dropped by a month after Percy's initial disappearance for a coffee with Sally. Paul still went to work every day, and the empty house sounded far too silent and far too dead, so Sally attempted to escape the emptiness and go to the park or go shopping, but for some reason colors were muted and everywhere she went, the Silence followed, lurking around corners, and everywhere Sally looked she saw reminders of Percy—in the blue cupcakes in the store window, or the black-haired skateboarder passing her on the subway, and even in every memory of salty air and blue oceans, of the thoughts of Montauk or glances of green sweaters in department stores.
The house still stood empty. The Silence was still poignant. Annabeth's voice still sounded weary and anxious, and so did Paul's, and Grover's, Chiron's, Thalia's, and everyone else at Camp. The gods were still silent, oblivious to Sally's tears and Annabeth's breakdown three months after Percy's kidnapping.
Sally was still alone, choking on the lump in her throat and trying not to realize that her only child might be dead.
A/N: Hey y'all, remember how I'm totally unactive and hit with writer's block?
Have a fic. :)
And an angsty one at that! I was going to end it with a bit of hope or maybe even a reunion scene, but decided against it. I will make you all feel my pain! oh, wait, you are, since HoH is still 12 days away in USA, so you are all freaking out just like I am!
Am I the only one with major Sally feels? HAS ANYONE ELSE THOUGHT THAT SALLY MIGHT NOT EVER GET TO SEE HER SON AGAIN? I made myself sad with this fic.
This actually went longer than I thought it would...hope you still enjoy the angst!
Reviews, as always, are craved and (helpful, not overly critical) critiques are sought after! If you have time I'd love to hear what you think of this.
Live Long and Prosper!
Disclaimer: I am quite sure that I am NOT Rick Riordan, so none of these characters belong to me.