Plummeting to Earth, Reyna started to seriously doubt her life choices.
She had trusted a note that had supposedly been written by Annabeth in Tartarus and somehow transmitted to Camp Halfblood through a shrine, delivered to her by the Greek Oracle who had every reason to try to get Reyna out of the way so that the Romans would be without a leader when the Greeks attacked. Ooookay. As if that hadn't sounded dodgy enough, the note had told Reyna to find a statue of Annabeth's mum and deliver it to the enemy camp. Fool-proof, right? Well, not exactly, especially when you've just been struck by lightning while riding over the sea on a flying horse. Or when you're hurtling towards the only island in sight, probably home to some hungry monster that'll eat you even in the unlikely event you aren't completely flattened into pancakes-and-strawberry-jam on arrival.
No time to worry about that though. The beach was hurtling closer every second and Reyna closed her eyes and braced herself for death.
The next thing Reyna felt was something cool on her forehead and a throbbing pain in the back of her head and her left arm. Her sword arm. Damn. She forced herself to open her eyes despite the wave of nausea that followed and the speeding up of the throbs that seemed to press against her skull. At first she could see nothing but the brightness of the sky and it hurt her eyes so much that she clenched them closed again. When she squinted through them again with her head to the right, she saw the white chiffon skirts of someone who was sitting next to her. Someone who was dabbing a cold flannel on her brow, and was now starting to spoon something delicious (nectar?) into her mouth, and she could hear soft singing that made her bones tingle in a way that wasn't quite natural. The soft scent of cinnamon was overwhelming. Sitting up quickly, her head began to swim again and the stranger caught her before she swooned to the ground.
Lying down carefully on the sand and in no fit state to fight, Reyna hoped the end would come quickly. Her arm was definitely broken and stung so hard she could almost hear it, dulling her senses. She did not immediately realise that most monsters and demons don't tend to your wounds before killing you, but she could see that her arm had been deftly bandaged while she was unconscious. Squinting against the raging sun, she looked up at the stranger who had started dampening her brow again. They looked like a teenage girl, about sixteen years old with hair like melted caramel, large, dark eyes, and coppery skin. Their hair was braided into a plait over their shoulder, and tiny flowers seemed to be weaved in here and there. Of course they could still be a demon, but Reyna couldn't help but notice how cute they were. Still dazed, she momentarily wondered if they were a siren before remembering that it was only in romanticised versions of the myths where the sirens were pretty ladies, and also that if they were a siren then she'd be dead already.
"Excuse me," the girl-monster sounded nervous but tried a brave smile, forgotten nectar spoon hanging at her side from a limp hand, "this is probably a ridiculous questions... no, no, I shouldn't ask. Never mind."
"Whaaaaa?" Reyna attempted, my voice turning into a dehydrated croak. Really attractive, well done her.
"Um, well," she tried again, "erm... well, are you a boy?" I must have pulled a bizarre face because suddenly she was stumbling over her words."I'm sorry; I just don't know why else you would have been sent here, maybe if you are a boy no matter what your body... I'm not saying this right! I just... I tend to need to fall in love with whoever comes here before they can leave, and I've only ever been sent boys before, I haven't seen a girl since before I was imprisoned..." She was rambling but I managed to catch the gist of what she meant. I cleared my throat to a slightly more-acceptable croak.
"So you need to fall in love with me before I leave? And you've never loved a girl before? Am I stuck here forever or do you think you'll make an exception? And why can't I leave unless you love me? Unless... Are you... Are you Calypso?" I felt myself relax but only slightly. Apparently I was being kept hostage by a hot teenage girl who may or may not be the Titan-Goddess Calypso. Ah well, it could be worse.
The girl seemed to have calmed down when I hadn't taken offence to the whole boy thing.
"Yes, I am Calypso." She smiled and it seemed genuine rather than forced. "As to your questions, I don't know whether I will fall in love with you," she was blushing gently and fidgeted a bit. "I usually fall in love with whoever is sent here, it is my punishment. Maybe you will be the first of a long line of girls." She smiled but it was forced again, her eyes were full of pain, possibly at the idea of loving a girl, possibly with the idea of a string of anonymous lovers leading all the way to a future that was as full of pain and rejection as her past. Reyna liked to hope it was the second one because she didn't relish the prospect of being trapped on an island with a homophobe, though she still wasn't exactly enamoured with Calypso calling her a punishment. Reyna's a fucking delight, ask anybody!
Absent-mindedly Calypso stroked the hair that had fallen into Reyna's eyes off her forehead. As she looked down, her eyes changed from anxious to tender and she started to spoon more nectar from a small ceramic pot that was sitting swamped amongst her skirts.
"I shouldn't be making you speak; you have to conserve your strength, brave one." Reyna felt a slight twinge at the "brave one"; she thought she could remember Percy saying something about coming her once, and Calypso calling him that. She never thought she'd feel jealous of Percy - apart from over his hot girlfriend and the way everyone just accepted his leadership - but apparently there's a first time for everything. She took a sip of the water Calypso offered her and cleared her throat again.
"Umm, was Percy Jackson once here? I mean... if it's okay to ask you that..." Calypso didn't look angry or even particularly upset at the mention of his name, though Reyna knew from what Percy had mentioned that they had been close and she had asked him to stay with her forever, an offer he turned down. A hint of nostalgia glinted in her eyes but she was smiling dreamily with no hint of resentment.
"Ah, these silly boys they send me," Calypso smiled fondly, "I never forget them once they have come here. Yes, Percy was here, I don't know how long ago! Time works differently here, you see. I asked him to stay but he was busy saving the world, just like the others! He said something about getting me off this island, but I guess he must have forgotten... But you know him? How is he? How many years has it been? And did he get his Annabeth?" Calypso smiled widely and it lit up her face. She looked so overjoyed at the idea of Percy being happy that Reyna had the sudden urge to throw her arms around her and sob. It seemed so unfair, this beautiful soul being trapped here and wishing nothing but happiness on the men who came to her, used her hospitality, and didn't give her a second thought after they left. It wasn't fair, and Reyna knew what unfair tasted like.
"Why are you looking at me like that?" Calypso looked nervous and Reyna realised that she must have been staring intensely in that way that Jason always complained about back home. Jason. It felt different thinking his name there, she thought, less painful. Like they were on different world, which she guessed they were, really. He didn't belong here, he wasn't relevant. She liked the way that felt.
"I'm sorry, I just- where is this place?" She sat up again gingerly and looked around, bending and flexing her damaged arm to test whether the nectar had healed the break yet. They were sitting on the beach that she had crash-landed on hours earlier, and it looked like a place out of the half-chewed travel brochures the Fauns sometimes left lying around as snacks. The sands were golden and felt like velvet, the sea was picture perfect, even the skies looked suspiciously innocent after blasting her out of them only a few hours before. Leading off the beach were some gentle hills teeming with wildflowers and trees. The air smelled like honeydew and jasmine and figs and the sun was bright but not harsh, and it hadn't burnt them despite the little nap Reyna had for a couple of hours.
It was Paradise, which immediately put Reyna on guard.
"Oh, I'm sorry! This is my home, Ogygia." She pronounced it 'Oh-gee-gee-ah' and Reyna found it hard not to stare at her mouth as she formed the syllables. This girl was hella cute! Calypso continued, oblivious, "You are welcome as long as you want to stay." Her eyes seemed to turn a shade darker with wistfulness, which Reyna found it mesmerising.
"What if I want to stay forever?" Reyna asked. "This place seems like the Fields of Elysium."
"You won't want to say forever." Was it Reyna's imagination or was that a little blunt? "They never want to stay forever. That's part of my curse, the gods send the bravest heroes-" Calypso slyly peeked at Reyna from under her lashes and Reyna wondered whether she had imagined it "-but they can never stay. They always have bigger things to do. Saving the world." Calypso laughed, sadly but not bitterly. "It gets very lonely here sometimes." Her voice was quiet, barely more than a whisper. Without thinking, Reyna took her hand. Calypso looked surprised but squeezed it back.
"You know, I've never been as alone as you've been," Reyna started. "I've always had my sister, I had Circe briefly, I had the other halfbloods, and... Jason. But I've still been pretty lonely. My home with Circe was destroyed, my sister joined the Amazons and Jason got kidnapped and got a cute new girlfriend while he was away. We were supposed to both be Praetor but when he left on this quest, it was left with me trying to hold everything together. I know how it feels to be abandoned. It's pretty shit." The understatement seemed so amusing that she burst into laughing, and Calypso squeezed her hand again. Calypso's hand was warm and strong, yet gentle, and Reyna was reminded of her sister. Reyna was embarrassed to feel hot tears begin to make their pilgrimage down her cheeks, but Calypso wiped them away with her free hand.
They sat in silence for a few minutes, before Calypso quietly asked, "you liked this Jason, didn't you? It hurt you when he found someone else."
Reyna sniffed and thought for a moment. "I don't really know. I think I just liked the idea of someone sticking by me, someone liking me. We were friends. We got so much done together, I trusted him completely. I loved the idea of what we could continue to do together, an unbeatable team. I guess I was just hurt when he turned up with a gorgeous new girlfriend, having forgotten all about me. Like I was that disposable." It was a relief, finally getting this off her chest. Nobody ever asked her how she felt about Jason and Piper, they were too scared that she'd say that he'd broken her heart and driven her mad with grief, or some nonsense. As if! Reyna wasn't that much of a pushover, she had things to do. She wasn't about to be traumatised every time some boy decided that Piper was more his type, if she did, nothing would ever get done! She felt a weight lift at the chance to express just how unfair it was, how easily she was side-lined. Finally someone had opened the can of worms.
Calypso turned to face her, hair blowing slightly in the warm breeze. Her mouth was curved into a good-humoured, sardonic half-smile. "Well, I've loved a few men in my time. They're all the same, so predictable yet endearing. They turn up here in a mess and of course I help them recover. They see this place as paradise and me as an angel, they cherish their time here but their hearts belong elsewhere. As they leave they promise that they won't forget me or that they'll find a way to free me, but of course this doesn't happen. They see a beautiful, caring face and think 'how could I forget this?' but of course they do forget. Their wives’ faces are more beautiful, their lives are more exciting, they grow old and forgetful, they die. I love them, and when they leave I am impossibly sad, but I know it can't last. I'm not going to let myself be sad for the rest of my existence and I know that they have good, exciting, heroic lives that they have chosen, so I let myself be happy for them and I move on. It's all very well saying 'what if they stayed?', but the point is that they didn't stay. This is how I feel you should think about this Jason. Wish him well, and let him go."
Reyna's mouth was half open with astonishment. She closed it quickly but her respect for Calypso continued to bloom as the words she had spoken ran through her mind on loop. "How did you get so wise? How long have you lived, what have you seen? How do you know these things... How?" Calypso smiled again.
"I've lived a long time. I've had a lot of time to think things through. Maybe when you're older you'll understand." Reyna's memories swam at this phrase, Hylla, a very early conversation with an elderly woman who might have been her grandmother. In this moment, Calypso seemed ancient, scarily so. Reyna felt her skin crawl.
Perhaps sensing this, Calypso laughed and seemed like just another teenage girl again. "Come on, let's go inside. I think you should be strong enough to walk now, if the nectar has done its job. You must be starving!"
Realising her own hunger for the first time, Reyna let Calypso help her up and followed her inside.