Sleet and blizzards won’t intercept Annabeth from venturing out to convene with the members of an idiosyncratic consortium adumbrating Ebenezer Scrooge’s principles. They’re definitely more sordid than her—it’s irrefutable that one of them considers homicide on a Christmas Eve to be feasible—but Piper attends with ironic disdain, and whatever Piper heeds, Annabeth expounds on, as if assistive to an elaboration for a group project on which a third of your AP Literature grade used to depend on in the rudimentary, primeval stress of third semester junior year high school.
Their Dickensian appellation is anachronistic and blasé—still, it’s not vis-à-vis A Christmas Carol, which Annabeth is thankful for, since her classmates divulge the associations she has that aren’t on university grounds, but—
It is Bleak House. Hell, they all should be litigated by Charles’ grandkids for violating copyright. Something.
She trudges through the sidewalk paved with congealing snow, incumbent on catching the next train to her destination. Her keys clink in her coat pocket, being the only disturbances advocating disquiet.
For each and every time Annabeth has taken the Subway, the experience has been unpleasant, or worse. This time, she props herself next to a man who reeks of putrid fish—at which Annabeth tries her best not to regurgitate her breakfast at. Tourists would definitely appreciate New York at first glance, but the more they delve into it, the discovery of progressive hideousness whacks them upon their euphoria, indoctrinating it into something similar to sentience.
Like love, Annabeth ruminates sourly. And infatuation.
When the metro halts abruptly, Annabeth dispels her bitter perspicacity along with pulling her curly hair back to tie it in two fastidious twists—a little bit of brutal badinage and foreshadowing in a holiday.
So Annabeth goes.
Tediously, she trots her way to Piper’s apartment complex. The inherent groan that sits on her lips never attains its zenith, but she’s conspicuously off on a misanthrope’s rampage.
Christmas is something warm and comfortable for the general community—yet Annabeth is engorged in a kind of internalized fire that makes her covet strangulating her roommate until his lips are tinted with his favorite color, Blue Lips—like how Regina Spektor crescendoes—Percy celebrates it with so much zeal that she’s actually compelled to asphyxiate him.
This year, however, he’s gone off to confer with his family prior to Thanksgiving, which is a prerogative Annabeth hasn’t been granted ever since The Vociferation.
(Potentially, Annabeth isn’t the type to instigate feuds, but.)
(That’s the deterring conjunction: but. It’s conditional this year.)
Anyway, right, she discerns Piper binging on Parks & Recreation Christmas specials while cackling concordantly with Leslie Knope’s antics, because Piper is in her senior year of high school and, predictably, conceals her spare key ‘surreptitiously’ underneath the superficial potted fern in proximity to her front door.
"Come on, we’ll be late for the Scrooge seminar," Annabeth chides apathetically. Piper flicks a kernel at her, begrudged at the intervention.
“I’d rather elope with a poor-ass burglar right now,” she grunts languidly, still sprawled on the couch.
–while blatantly eyeing Annabeth from bonnet to boot, because Annabeth is hot. “And by poor-ass burglar, I mean you.”
Then: “—not my fault that my economic situation is in frugality, you latent epicure, get dressed.”
Pout. “Can’t we stay in this cozy receptacle and snuggle?”
“Annabeth,” –seriously, Piper is being melodramatic and whiny, but, like, Annabeth needs a ride from her junior to some dumb thing her junior frantically gesticulated at the moment she spotted the advertisement, so.
“No,” Annabeth persists, and ponders what compelled her to offer camaraderie to this hot mess, what a complete dork, she swears.
(Let’s be real, though, Piper was a vivacious flirt throughout Annabeth’s junior and senior years, and maybe once she starts university, even? Rest assured, Piper protrudes it with pride; and it’s not like there’s any evident crestfallenness when the sentiment’s unrequited.)
Annabeth doesn’t dissuade herself (and perhaps Piper) any further than that, so she succumbs—relinquishing to the couch’s serendipity. Detecting Annabeth’s mild loss of patience, Piper ventures out to get dressed, but only in vain. Her mouth is adamant, toiling to stay shut, but is disturbed by the turbulence concerning Annabeth’s disposition.
“You…you know, you should reconcile with your parents—they probably…probably miss you… The altercation could’ve been not too caustic—maybe they’ve forgotten all about it, right? Like, they’re probably unaffected about what you…what you said. And your brothers, Annabeth, they’re so young,” –Piper’s confidence falters, is it okay if she says it? Is her dissertation on Annabeth’s methods for protocol adequate? “They don’t even know what’s going on. They don’t know why you’re absent during Christmas season…and you should…probably acquiesce to your humility.”
Annabeth’s countenance contorts into something similar to torpid disdain, rather than dismantling incandescence. Swiftly, though, she regains composure, retaliating with somewhat bridled obstinacy, because Piper is the one with the verdict—standing before her wrapped in an offensively iridescent carmine sweater, sewn with sequins.
“Regale me with as to why you treat it with such regard.”
Their role reverse is appalling. The kettle answers to its inquisitor—the pot, which makes them both internalized hypocrites.
In aggravation, Piper cannot moderate her petulance. Thing is, she doesn’t care anymore whether Annabeth deems her querulous or immature without logical reasoning, so the next thing she ascertains is that her demeanor has become dishevelled and unkempt; Piper is yelling. “It’s not a game, Annabeth, god damn it! You argue with your stepmom about love, and you say the most insensitive things, and you come crying to me after returning from San Francisco. But you’re still so fucking insistent and stubborn that you’ve resorted to this—this seclusion. You—you say it’s none of my business, too, even after confiding in me first. I care about you – you’re my friend, so why shouldn’t I intervene? I don’t want to see you like this, Annabeth, go back, g-go back home. Go back home.”
“You don’t know how it is,” Annabeth says, finding it excruciating to elucidate. Truthfully, she’s never found it this difficult to be ruthlessly incisive, so why now? The dispute itself is inchoate, and she never argues with Piper to the extent where she has to shout by the second assault. “It’s absolutely repulsive to see someone whom you’re conflated with to make the same. Goddamn mistake. Twice. I can’t – you don’t. To see your father’s aspirations crumbling before your very eyes because of the thing that emanated some disillusionment from him…Shit. Eros can go to hell. Shit.”
“Don’t you see? Your pride’s the obtrusion here. I love you and I care about you, so go home and make amends, Annabeth.”
“Uh-huh. You don’t mean that.” Quiver. Quiver.
Outside, the snow defies its thawing process. Annabeth inadvertently whisks Piper’s spare keys along with her, as if for a purpose.
in what sense / must you mean it / amidst this decadence / and unyielding complacence?
Sent 2: 47 AM
Hey, Piper, are you awake? I wanted to apologize about that incident earlier.
(Draft) 2:49 AM
It won’t happen again. Also, I’m sure you meant the last portion of that dreadful colloquy as platonic.
(Draft) 2:50 AM
Right? I’m afflicted with suspense.
(Draft) 2:50 AM
Your thesis wasn’t erroneous. I suppose I contrived those alibis for my own benefit.
(Draft) 2:51 AM
this is so beleaguering please reply asap i’m anxious about all this. shit it’s late what is cognizance
Sent 2:54 AM
Will you be visiting Tristan for Christmas? See you soon. Gotta return your spare keys directly since it’s more reassuring.
Expulsion of breath had never been so arduous a mission.
Annabeth endeavors to sedate herself, but cannot pursue the soporific element that ensconces people in the benignity of unawareness. A spur of exhortation subdues her train of thought, and—
Impulsively, Annabeth dials her parents’ telephone number into her phone.
She brings it to her ear, dial tone ringing thrice until someone from the alternate line answers.
“…dad? Hi… Yeah, I know… It’s twelve AM over there… How are Benjy and Quentin? Yeah?”
Why’d you call, Annabeth? It’s inquisitive, and appears to be bordering on malice; affection demarcates Dr. Chase’s tenor, which makes Annabeth bend sedentary in her futon. Her limbs go flaccid, as if the only ligament she ever possessed were hubris; she abstains from exploiting it tonight. Not this time. Not this time.
Annabeth huddles over, imploding. For some reason, she’s began to quake interminably, one hand gripping the mobile phone while the other has its index finger resting on her forehead, and thumb excavating a dent in her cheek, auxiliary to the weight of her head – a sign of frustration.
She’s distressed. She can’t paraphrase the contrition, like the English language is something so labyrinthine that she has to assimilate navigation. It’s a terrible feeling for Annabeth, who realizes that when you’re relying on a thread to have things assembled, you have to resign, submit, even when you’re not refuted.
“Listen to me, okay? I…I miss all of you. I miss Caroline pestering me to eat dinner when I’m enticed by something I yet have to comprehend, or when Ben and Q entreat their older sister to rectify their mistakes in their math homework. You…you realize that the picayune and the mundane are intrinsic for other people…and then you miss it,” – though I’m not necessitous enough to be insatiable for it - “I miss you, dad. I miss those classic films you showed me, like Gone With the Wind and The Fountainhead – and I’m sorry. The last six months have been especially strenuous without your guidance; Piper’s the only one orienting me around here…and we quarreled recently. This is becoming redundant, but I’m sorry for all the malevolent, insincere things—” Quiver. Quiver.
It’s all good, sweetheart. You’re okay. You’ll be fine. We’ll visit for New Year’s, okay?
“That’s – that’s great. Thank you. Goodnight, dad.”
Sent 3:22 AM
how does the 22nd sound? my dad can’t make it for christmas so this is, like, his alternative scheme to console me. i’ll see you then. starbucks? the branch adjacent to jason’s apartment. :)
Sent 3:22 AM
Yeah. It’s late; go to sleep.
Sent 3:23 AM
well i’m sorry if the vibration underneath my pillow sent me on a conscious whim. jesus god at least i was somnolent before this annabeth quit overthinking things goodnight take care i love u dummy
She wonders if Piper’s late reply was a pretense, a prolonged moment of tentativeness. (Funny thing – neither Piper nor Annabeth sleeps that night.)
Piper McLean, Annabeth ascertains, is (coincidentally) perusing a copy of Pride and Prejudice upon her own arrival. The little flags calibrating pages expose themselves, rustling as Piper gazes up at Annabeth while sipping a Venti – some seasonal beverage, probably.
“Hi,” Piper initiates, mouth creasing into a grin. Annabeth can’t help but have the images of her drafts flashing across her mind like fragments of a distant memory.
Annabeth’s hi alleviates everything again, so they’re fine.
The former smiles, dog-earing the corner of the page, while the latter purports a wince. Annabeth is about to retract to berating her companion about the dog-earing habit when Piper commences a conversation devoid of any prevarication, and, for the first time, Annabeth notices that the bags underneath Piper’s eyes are only extenuated with make-up – otherwise, they’d seem just as abysmal as hers.
“Why are you so frightened of love, Annabeth?” – is the punch-line, disembarking Annabeth’s panic onto her simmering dialogue. Desperately, she tries to digress. They’re both just probably divested of sleep, she supposes, yet Annabeth resides on lucidity when she’s confronted. She dispels her invalid pretext, lugging the aversion to execute.
“I called my dad yesterday and implored for absolution. And I’m here to do the same, okay, Piper, so let’s not. So I’m sorry, there, I’ve surrendered my arrogance, please don’t ask me this.” Arbitrarily, she recalls that Piper has always desired to study at Harvard Law.
“If you’ve let it down, then why are you still so reprehensive about admitting that you could be wrong? Did you even specify what rooted your vindication to your father?” She’s only glazing her eyes over the scripture now. Is Annabeth’s argument so egregious that Piper won’t even conjure up any effort to enunciate her own? It’s too seamless, and the motion for today is that Annabeth Chase yet has to accomplish something; Team Affirmative is for the motion – vehemently so. “Annabeth.”
“Why do you even care? I can go on for decades without anyone disrupting my stagnation, and you’re – you’re just. Sending me springing. Just stop. Stop.”
Piper’s response is scarcely a whisper now. “It’s consuming you.”
The arousal of hope in Annabeth plunges. She’s prepared to abscond until:
“—that, and I’m infatuated with you,” an acrimonious chuckle emanates from Piper, and it impacts Annabeth with a magnitude in acceleration, down her vertebrae – a vector, if you must. “Your ostentation is a complete fucking obstacle course, Annabeth Chase. It’s not that you’re scared of love, because you’re intrepid as hell – I don’t know anyone else who can challenge Howard Roark’s architectural reform but you, god, I got sidetracked – you…you’re afraid of being disproven.”
Piper slams her hardcover shut obsequiously, leaning down to collect the clutter on the table, including her spare keys. And she goes, leaving Annabeth idly loitering in Starbucks. She’s inclined to realize that in significant moments like these, Piper is never late for the appointment.
Annabeth Chase feels capricious.
It’s not supposed to be like this – she’s typically more calculated than this, but is it okay? Is it okay to consistently mull the same words in repetition for three days without recess?
Is it okay if she transits to Piper’s abode in the unceasing rain and hail?
Annabeth is indisposed, and her only means of (one-sided) communication with Piper is via text message.
(Draft) 4:56 PM
Piper, I think I
(Draft) 4:56 PM
Can’t ever handle an admission so I reacted like that, consequentially – the defiance
(Draft) 4:57 PM
From my side, I mean. I can’t gush out easily. You know being oblique is a defense mechanism, right?
(Draft) 4:58 PM
I’m going to stop forming poor excuses originating from my pride.
Subliminally, Annabeth instills humility and emotional tact in her. Perhaps her anxiety is the byproduct of excoriation, but Piper had imbued something far more enervating and incongruously painful than revilement: revelation. Usually, Annabeth relishes in newfound knowledge as if it were a package of goods. Then again, enlightenment can mutilate an individual severely – depending on what kind of information it contains.
It occurs to her now, firsthand.
It is the 25th of December when Annabeth Chase veers every impediment, sprinting seven blocks while draped in a turtleneck, sweatpants, and deplorably heavy boots in less than zero degrees centigrade.
She’s relapsed into madness, she really has.
The statement is provisional with incontrovertible evidence, hence Annabeth’s attire.
She keeps on running until the apotheosis of the expedition is over; when she’s bequeathed the institution with an immaculate paramount development within her presence, drenched in the elevator, dripping all over the vestibule’s floor tiles.
At the moment, her favorite conglomeration of integers is 1508. Sure, the potted plant’s been replaced with a certain evergreen selected for festivities, dangling precariously from the ceiling—
Piper’s front door swings open, with Annabeth’s external solidarity lighting up the condominium.
“You’re soaked! Jesus God, did you take the train – and no umbrella, either—”
“Yeah, precipitation does that. Hi.”
“Annabeth… Okay, hi, what’s the occasion…? I mean, I know it’s the twenty-fifth, but you’re here and—”
“I came here to say - I’ve subdued the tendency to a particular evil in my disposition. It’s – yeah. Overcoming the natural defect with the best education, like in your late nineteenth century literature, Piper, step by step, and I did it for myself. But it was because of you,” Annabeth says, in synchronicity with the striding action, hand traversing to the nape of Piper’s neck. “Also – mistletoe.”
And she kisses Piper with the most solemn tenderness, eagerly, until Piper’s breaths start to hitch whenever she pulls away, smiling with rigorous discretion. “--mmph. Merry Christmas to you too, you lecherous nerd.”