“Are you sure she’s going to like me?” Annabeth asked, casting an incredulous on her girlfriend. “Positive,” Piper reassured her. The two were seated somewhat comfortably aboard a shabby, mayhem-attracting American plane that squeezed in just six people including the pilot. It wasn't anything special or particularly guaranteeing of their safety, but Aphrodite had repeated that there was absolutely no other option, that is, if Annabeth truly was coming to visit like she promised.
Piper had explained exactly how disappointed her mother had been when she relayed the information of her and Annabeth’s engagement. Of course, Aphrodite was absolutely devastated. How could her favorite daughter, her Piper, be getting married and never have introduced the blushing bride? (She really could have cared less that Piper’s fiancée was a woman. Aphrodite had told her disturbingly detailed tales about her own time with the ladies, something Piper wanted to forget desperately.) Annabeth had interjected that it could be possible they never met due to the thousands of miles between them—Aphrodite chose to reside in Paris after her lingerie sales skyrocketed in Europe.
The truth of the matter was, though, that Piper believed there was a 50/50 opportunity Annabeth and her mother would get along. They were both headstrong, intellectual people, and they carried their pride like gold. They were so alike that there was an equal chance they would be hugging or at each other’s throats in the first minutes of their visit.
Still, this plane? Annabeth firmly believed the mother-daughter duo was planning something if this was the only flight available to France. Or maybe Piper wasn’t part of the scheme at all. Her mother could be behind this whole journey, and Annabeth was certain Aphrodite was trickier than she looked. Ha, Annabeth jokingly thought to herself, the trouble BOTH our mothers could cause together is insurmountable. Athena had known about the engagement long before, and had cornered Annabeth several times to be sure she was making the right decision and had considered all the options. It was at least as annoying as the guilt trip Aphrodite was trying to pull.
A dingy, cracked overhead light appeared at the front of the passenger aisles instructing them to secure their seatbelts, although it took Annabeth a few tries to discern that with her dyslexia jumbling the letters. They struggled to keep the tattered buckles around their waists, and hoped the ropes were still solid enough not to tear in flight.
Annabeth watched a single, homely stewardess board the plane, and grabbed Piper’s hand. Piper was a comforting presence and insanely skilled at detecting the emotions Annabeth took such precautions to hide. As soon as their skin met, a rush of warm, loving calm washed through Annabeth like a tidal wave. She, slightly more at ease, smiled and turned to her window overlooking the minuscule runway. Annabeth didn't have a minute to relax though, as she quickly noticed the sky muddling itself with deep, grey clouds, a stormy reflection of her eyes.
She flipped her thick blonde ponytail back and asked the stewardess with deep inflection of concern, “Excuse me, but isn't the weather going to be a problem? It’s getting darker out and--” The stewardess sighed and rubbed her wrinkled forehead aggressively, interrupting Annabeth in a monotonous drawl, “Our pilot has deemed the air clear for take-off. Please keep all questions and concerns to yourself, thank you.” The woman turned around and entered the cockpit abruptly.
Piper smiled cheekily at her fiancée. Annabeth struggled to keep her frustration under an appropriate volume cap, and clenched Piper’s fingers with increasing strength. “Okay, okay, ow,” Piper objected. “Oh,” Annabeth grumbled, “sorry.” Piper took her (most likely bruised) hand and massaged it, internally laughing at Annabeth’s short temper. Annabeth stood from her inside seat and started to scoot past Piper’s knees. “Wait,” Piper lightly touched Annabeth’s passing arm. Annabeth continued, “I’m just going to talk to the pilot.”
Without warning, the plane jerked forward violently and began its ascent. “Whoa!” Annabeth cried as she fell on her front. Piper attempted to rein her in as she lurched towards the dirty, worn ground, but with Annabeth’s muscle and weight advantage, Piper was yanked down on top of her. “Okay, now it’s my turn to say ‘ow’,” Annabeth groaned beneath her.
A wild giggle burst from Piper, and Annabeth caught it contagiously. They held each other as the plane leaped through thousands of feet, their ears popping and cheeks meeting. “What if we rode like this the entire trip?” Annabeth suggested sarcastically in Piper’s ear. Piper raised her eyebrows and shifted through the mess of their tangled limbs to pinch Annabeth’s nose with her lips. “I’d have to kiss you the whole way,” she answered. Annabeth grinned and wrapped her arms around Piper’s soft, tan waist. They cuddled together in the brisk air of the plane, which definitely lacked a decent heating and cooling system, and were grateful for the thick jackets they layered over their orange summer camp shirts. Eventually, though, Annabeth figured it would be better if they both survived the possible incoming storm, and returned them to their seats. Still, they found ways around the rules.
Their middle armrest wasn’t stiffly secured into its lowered position, and they shifted it parallel to their seatbacks deviously. Annabeth asked Piper detailed questions about her mother in the midst of their cuddling and forced Piper to elaborate if her answers didn’t cover everything Annabeth needed to know. Piper grew tired of this quickly, and returned fire with an interrogation pointed at Annabeth’s family, even though she already knew everything there was about the Chases. That didn’t keep Annabeth from dutifully reminding Piper of her mother and father’s divorce, her step-mother and how little she truly felt for the woman, the two younger half-brothers on her father’s side, and the plentiful bunch of half-siblings her mother had created.
“I don’t remember anymore, but which one was your favorite on your mom’s side of the family?” Piper asked in the middle of a yawn. “Malcolm,” Annabeth answered. Piper nodded, nearly half-asleep, and wondered, “Are you planning on inviting all your family members to the wedding? Because I don’t think there’ll be enough cake.” Annabeth bit her lip in consideration. Piper simpered at the expression, it being one of the habits she found most adorable in her fiancée. The longer Annabeth debated who she could fit into their ceremony, which the relative count of seemed to be growing by the minute, the more tired she realized she was, too. Somewhere along the flight they both fell asleep tucked in each other’s arms. It wasn’t until the warning alarm howled that they awoke.
The stewardess shuffled through the separating curtain hurriedly. She raised her panicked voice over the booming thunder outside, although it never lost its flat tone, “Get up! Grab the oxygen masks deployed above your heads!” Annabeth snapped to attention alertly, and did as she was told by hurrying to secure a drowsy Piper’s mask before her own. “What’s going on?” Piper mumbled through the silicone headgear. Annabeth shook her head and managed to fasten her own mask safely. The stewardess took to the seat across the aisle from them, and rushed to shout, “We’re goin’ down!” before plugging her face into another air mask.
Annabeth’s breathing became more and more rapid (thankfully, instead of ceasing completely like it should have without the assisted air-way) and she went into an ADHD survival mode. Her brain jumped from topic to topic as the plane lowered itself from five hundred to four hundred, three hundred, two hundred, and one hundred feet in the air. She was flashing through the images of the unknown pilot, the stewardess, her and Piper clutching the wings of the plane and struggling to stay afloat and alive. Piper ripped off their winter coats and fastened their safety vests as she fully comprehended what was happening, but Annabeth continued to think of tropical fish and predators lurking in the water. She wondered where exactly they were to be stranded and how they would call for help. She blinked ahead to all the strange and dangerous possibilities they could find, but still, did not anticipate her fate.
She heard the stewardess scream through her mask as the plane hit steady and fast in the rocking foam of the ocean. Thank God for Piper and floatation devices, Annabeth thought as she watched the ocean crowd their small plane and they were forced into the lapping sea water. Annabeth ripped their oxygen masks free and hustled Piper from the plane first. She hooked Piper to the edge of the plane’s right wing and followed suit. As she clasped onto the edge, Annabeth turned to help the stewardess.
No one waited behind her. Confused and agitated that this woman wasn’t falling into the line of action, Annabeth crept back to the sinking doorway. She yelled over the thunder and lightning, “Lady? If you want to live, you’ve got to get out now!” No one appeared. Annabeth shouted again, “Lady?! Pilot?!” No answer. She and Piper were alone in the middle of the ocean.
“Annabeth, look,” Piper called from her sinking plane wing. Annabeth dog-paddled as quickly as she could to her side and followed Piper’s pointing arm to—a bird? “What kind is that?” Piper asked. Annabeth squinted into the bleak horizon. The small, white creature frantically fluttered towards them through the downpour, and Annabeth recognized it as a dove. Wait, a dove? They had to have crashed close to the coast of France. Annabeth had gone through pages of French landscapes, common animals, plant life, and of course, birds, and she was certain doves were not part of their natural routine. Then again, her plane falling into the middle of nowhere wasn’t routine, either.
Piper said, “If there’s a bird, there’s land. We should swim in the direction it came from.” Annabeth agreed and they began their journey. It was another hour of paddling before the two took a break in heavy breaths and resigned to treading water. Suddenly, Annabeth cried through her dry throat, “Piper! Piper! A boat, over there!” Piper twisted in her safety vest frantically, but saw no boat. “Are you sure?” Piper asked, looking at Annabeth like the humidity of the storm might have been going to her head. Annabeth bobbed her whole body in the ocean as a nod, “Yes! It’s right there!”
Piper gasped as a boat seemed to appear out of thin air. She was certain it had created itself from the rolling waves, but at this point, didn’t really care if the boat came from the ocean or Hell itself. She was happy to be out of the water. They helped each other inside and noticed only a single set of oars. Deciding to take turns whenever the other was tired, Annabeth grabbed them first and forced Piper to take the second shift and break for a nap (which was surprisingly easy for her to do in the tempest). It relaxed Annabeth to hear Piper’s deafening snores above the rain, no matter how annoying they had been in their university dorm.
As she rowed, Annabeth got a chance to really look at Piper like she hadn’t in a while. They were both so busy with college that it had become rare to see the other for more than a few minutes in their shared room or during their lunch break, and final exams hadn’t helped. Annabeth noticed the softness of Piper’s beautifully tan features and how the raindrops hung from Piper's nose, the way she chopped her hair and left tiny braids and feathers within its hurricane of chocolate brown, and wished she could see Piper’s eyes again and watch them change from brown to blue to green.
What felt like an eternity of white noise later, Piper pulled free from her dreams as the sky had turned to an endless, clear stretch of stars and light. She yawned, stretched, and glared at Annabeth who still sorely propelled them into the sea. “Why didn’t you wake me up?” she grouched and stood in the rocking boat. Annabeth answered simply, “I wasn’t tired.” “Oh, please,” Piper chastised her, “it’s got to be, like, at least three hours later. Of course you’re tired.”
“No, definitely not.”
“You SO are! Let me take the oars!”
“No, Piper, I’ve got this.”
“Annabeth, I swear to God, I’ll--”
“Just give me the oars!”
Annabeth grinned and traded seats, passing the rowers to Piper. “See, I’m not even sleepy,” she mumbled as she curled up at the tip of the boat. Piper’s turn continued late into the night, but she felt comfortable there, using her strength for the good of their survival. She felt worthwhile. It helped that the night sky was alive with twinkling lights and an army of shooting stars, each chasing after one another. Piper convinced herself she could see a few of the Greek constellations her father had taught her after another hit Tristan McLean movie, and she felt like she saw a new one, a young girl about to shoot an arrow. She brushed it off as her imagination.
They rotated back and forth in “I’m-not-tired-yet” periods of time, right until Annabeth shook Piper awake the next day, mid-afternoon. “Piper,” she said softly, “we’ve found an island.” Piper rubbed her eyes until they were sore and looked over the bright, shimmering water. Sure enough, a soft white sand and nature smothered beach waited ahead of her. Piper laughed garishly in relief. The two girls hugged and kissed tightly in their rocking boat, and Piper forced Annabeth out of the way to let her paddle the last stretch.
They rowed as closely as they could to the shore and finished the journey in loud, messy splashes of water and alleviation. Both were a mess of snickers as they collapsed on the soft bed of land and worked to regain their land legs. They toppled over countless times, belting out giggles at the other every single fall. Eventually, Annabeth sighed and collected herself. She wiped a sweaty strand of blonde from her forehead and suggested, “I think we should start making camp or finding shelter.” Piper agreed, and together they went hunting within the wilderness.
They traveled through the rougher edges of the lush, green forest and it all seemed perfectly natural to Annabeth, but Piper was becoming more and more certain that there was something synthetic about the place. Flowers were planted in rows, the wildlife was neatly organized, and she was positive she could hear footsteps behind them. Annabeth acknowledged Piper’s worries, and took her hand, saying, “Whatever wants to get you has to go through me.” Piper smiled gratefully, but wasn’t sure if the land was hostile, or they were invading someone’s home.
As they walked farther and farther from their original spot, Annabeth took notice as well. They were skirting the other side of the island in the late evening when Annabeth tugged Piper down into a crouch beside her. “What?” Piper asked worriedly. Annabeth pointed to a wide, open cave in the distance. Light glowed from within it visibly and both girls could hear bustling movement. “You think it’s a pack of tourists or something?” Piper wondered. Annabeth shook her head and whispered, “You were right that we aren’t alone, but that's not a popular vacation spot.”
“No, it’s not,” a voice concurred at their backs.
Annabeth and Piper twisted a foot in the air and raised their fists, ready to attack. They came to face a young, smaller girl standing behind them with her hands clasped tightly in front of her waist. “Hello,” she frowned, her cinnamon hair waving in the tropical breeze. “My name is Calypso. It looks like Zeus is still a little bitch.”