Are we recording? Testing, testing, one two three… Nico! We’re recording? Cool.
Hi, I’m Bianca di Angelo. You probably knew that. *nervous laugh* I’m sorry, I’m really not used to… this. Ironically.
I guess I’ll start from the beginning, then.
My parents are Hades and Maria di Angelo. Yes, that Maria di Angelo, the world-famous singer. The “Barbra Streisand of Italy.” That’s how my parents met if you didn’t already know--Papà’s studio, D.O.A. Recording Studios, bought out Mamma’s original label in Italy.
D.O.A. totally stands for “Dead on Arrival!” Papà’s the guy from the Greek myths! He’s an immortal reptilian Illuminati—
Thank yooooou, Nico. Now, kindly shut the fuck up.
Persephoneeee, Bianca’s cursing at me agaaaaain!
You know, I can get one of Papà’s guys to run the audio equipment! … There. That’s a good boy.
Right, so, back to Italy. Papà met Mamma because she was Bellissimi Studi di Canto’s headliner. I like to think it was love at first sight. Nico--my carlo fratello who decided to butt in earlier--and I grew up in this beautiful penthouse in Venezia. I remember it was right over the water, not too far from Piazza San Marco. Tourists would come and go all the time, but I didn’t mind much.
We traveled a lot, too. Whenever Mamma toured, we went right along with her, across Europe, Asia, and, of course, the United States. Papà was usually with us too, but obviously he had to take business trips to L.A. all the time. Mamma didn’t seem to mind. She always said their love was--quote--“a dance of sad goodbyes and joyful reunions.” Besides, Papà never stayed away for very long.
Everything changed in 2013. We were on our way to L.A., flying over the Arizona desert when the plane went down. I remember I was playing Mario Kart on my 3DS when the plane started shaking. I thought it was turbulence, so I kept playing my game. It’s amazing how well I can tune things out sometimes. I just remember Mamma grabbing me, then everything went black.
*Deep breaths, as though Bianca’s about to cry*
You want me to take over? … She’s nodding, folks.
I was ten at the time, so I don’t remember as much as Bianca. I grabbed a snack--nice thing about private jets--and then everything started shaking. I fell to the ground and busted my knee. Someone--I don’t know who--picked me up and helped me sit back down. That’s when the lights turned off. I was so scared, I was… yeah, I was crying. Mamma was trying to get Bianca’s attention.
The bad thing about private jets? You don’t have to keep your seatbelt on. Bianca never buckled hers, even during takeoff. That’s probably why Mamma grabbed her, to shake her like she sometimes did to get her attention and tell her to put the damn thing on. But it didn’t work. Bianca flew forward and smacked her head on the opposite wall; Mamma and I were screaming. Without even thinking, I think, Mamma unbuckled her seatbelt so she could pick up Bianca. We both still thought it was just really bad turbulence.
That’s when the plane crashed. Mamma jumped on top of Bianca--or maybe she just fell like that. Either way, it saved Bianca’s life. Mamma… um, Mamma wasn’t so lucky.
I shook Mamma, crying, but obviously she didn’t wake up. She wasn’t breathing. I checked her pulse, and there was nothing. I looked at the cockpit, but the entire front of the plane had smashed in. The pilot was crushed beneath tons of metal; there was no way she was still alive either. Something told me I had to get out of there. The smart part of me said that Bianca had to be dead too, and I should just go, but, somehow, I knew that wasn’t true. I just had a feeling it wasn’t true. So, I pulled Mamma off of Bianca, and I dragged Bianca outside with me. I screamed for help, but it was the middle of the desert. There wasn’t anyone around.
I guess I thought I could walk to civilization, so I did my best to lift Bianca and limped a random direction. It was the right decision. A few minutes later, the plane exploded. The crash must’ve set off a spark in the engine. If I hadn’t pulled Bianca off the plane, she would’ve died.
I’m glad you did.
I am too, B. … Right. So. I lucked out. I realized Bianca still had her cell phone in her pocket. I didn’t have one. Mamma and Papà wouldn’t let us get one until we hit middle school. I checked it, and no bars. Obviously.
In my series of live-saving luck, it was nighttime, and winter, so the desert wasn’t too hot. I carried Bianca until I found this… there’s no other word for it but a ghost town. I wandered around until I saw this big plaque. A little trivia, because I need to stall a bit or I’m going to break too. According to the plaque, the place was called Swansea, it was this mining town that was first settled in 1862, founded in 1908. It started to decline in the 1920s, and the last mine officially closed in 1937.
I knew where I was now. I left Bianca near the plaque and ran around Swansea until, by some miracle, I got a single bar on the phone. I didn’t know what the 113 number was in the U.S., so I called Papà and told him what happened. We kept going in and out, and it was all static-y, and I was crying, but, eventually, he realized what was going on. He called 911 for me and told me to wait with Bianca by the plaque.
It took about an hour for the helicopters to find us. As soon as we were safe, my knee started hurting really bad. It was the kind of pain where all you can think about is how painful it is. They took us to the hospital. It turned out that my knee was completely shattered from my fall; the hospital staff was shocked that I was able to walk around the desert. You hear all these kinds of amazing things your body can do in survival situations. I guess I’m one of those examples now.
They operated on my knee to piece it back together. I still have a brace on it to this day, but you can’t see it through my jeans, and otherwise I got away unscathed. When I woke up from the anesthetic, Papà was sitting next to me. He was crying--that was the first time I’d ever seen him crying. He put his hand to my cheek and kept saying things like, “you’re safe, Nico, don’t worry, I love you, you’re going to be okay,” over and over again.
Bianca was still in the operating table as they tried to treat her injuries. When the doctor came in, he asked Papà to step outside, but he wouldn’t leave my side. “We have news about your daughter, Mr. di Angelo,” the doctor said. I remember Papà asked if Bianca was dead; the doctor asked him to step outside a second time, but he didn’t budge. We both could tell by the doctor’s tone that it wasn’t going to be good news.
I asked how long until she wakes up. I tried to keep asking, but my voice broke, and I started crying. Papà tried to comfort me, but it was like he wasn’t even there anymore.
It was the first of many moments I felt like he chose Bianca over me.
The doctor started going on about something or other about Bianca’s condition, but I didn’t listen. My world was collapsing. My mother was dead, my sister was probably dead too, and my father looked like he was a million miles away. There was an emptiness in his eyes that a part of me knew he would never recover from.
“I won’t pull the plug,” Papà said firmly.
The doctor pursed his lips. It looked like he got that kind of response all the time. He said, “sir, there’s a very little chance she’ll wake. These things can get expensive--”
Papà cut him off. “Do you know who I am?” he demanded. “I have billions, and I’ll go bankrupt before I let her go.”
I had to stay in the hospital another week. Papà practically lived there too. When I had P.T., he would stay with Bianca, and when I was able, I’d go too.
It took three weeks for her to start showing any sign of waking. We were both in the room when she started twitching. Papà ran for the nurse, and, a few days later, B opened her eyes. She was in there another two months, recovering. Papà and I spent every day with her.
*Deep breaths, as though Nico’s about to cry*
Hey? Nico, it’s okay, I think I can take over again.
People ask me sometimes if I remember being in a coma. I don’t. It’s just black. One minute, I was playing Mario Kart, then I blinked, and I was in the hospital with a bunch of doctors standing over me. And, yeah, let’s talk about that. I started screaming and thrashing. Well, not exactly thrashing, because I was so… groggy doesn’t begin to explain it, but that’s the closest word. I was terrified and confused, even a little angry, though I didn’t know why. I couldn’t form thoughts at all.
I felt like I was swimming. People were saying things, but I couldn’t understand them. My vision kept going in and out, and then it was blurry when it was in. Is that the saying? If I’m saying “in and out,” I guess when I had vision, it’s “in.”
Okay, you know what I mean.
I couldn’t speak for a day or so. My memory’s really, really foggy--I have this one memory of Papà spoon feeding me in the hospital, and another of a physical therapist moving my leg back and forth.
She was a hassle for the doctors, too. She basically had to relearn English, so Papà kept having to fly in doctors from Italy to work with her. It probably cost an arm and a leg, but, you know, billionaire. It took her like six months with a private tutor to speak conversational English again.
I remember that. It was really annoying, to say the least, because, after the plane crash, there was no way we were going back to Italy. The mansion in L.A. that used to be our summer home turned into our new full-time house. We still have the penthouse in Venezia, and we go sometimes, but it’s more of a vacation house now.
Nico and I missed Mamma’s funeral. I think that was for the best, honestly. I don’t know if I’d’ve been able to take it. And Nico was ten; I doubt he would’ve been able to, either.
The first day I got out of the hospital, Papà took us to visit Mamma’s grave. I did my best to be brave for them. I cried, but not hysterically like I wanted to. I said a few words about how she would’ve been so proud of us for getting out alive and recovering, and I promised her that I’d be someone she’d be proud of. Nico was too hysterical to speak. He listened and nodded to me, but I doubted he could even hear what I was saying. Papà looked so far away, too.
When we got home, I went up to my room, made up just like it had been every summer, and I lied in bed, curled up, and cried the rest of the day. I missed her so much. She’d died to save me... that had to mean something.
Our family changed that day. Nico started acting out, he got more aggressive and cold. He would spend hours by himself. We all wore black for a month, but, when Papà and I finally changed out of it, Nico didn’t. He refused to. His bubbly, sometimes annoying energy was gone. He didn’t seem to enjoy anything anymore.
His behavior wore Papà down. As the months went by, he stopped arguing with Nico. He seemed to stop talking altogether. He drowned his grief in his work. Soon, there was a rift between Papà and me. But if ours was a rift, between him and Nico was a chasm. Our family was falling apart.
I kept asking myself every night, why had Mamma died and I survived? Why did I wake up from a coma when the doctor said I wouldn’t? I wasn’t much for religion, but I prayed to heaven for some kind of answer, hoping Mamma could hear me. For months, all I could see was Papà’s and Nico’s faces as we stood by the gravestone. They both looked so… so broken.
And that’s when I knew. I sat up and wiped the tears from my cheeks. “No more tears,” Mamma would always say when Nico or I threw a fit. “Anger and sadness are important to feel, but you have to know when to stop crying. Crying doesn’t make things better, it only keeps you from thinking about the solution.”
“It’s time to stop crying,” I said. “I’ll be strong for you, Mamma. Family was always the most important thing to you. Your death broke Papà and Nico. I promise that I’ll do what you always did; I’ll take care of them like you would’ve, and put this family back together.”
I made good on that vow. Slowly, I took Mamma’s place in our house. I ran the household, instructed our staff to the point where they went to me for everything, even their paychecks. I wrote Papà’s meetings on the calendar and made sure he took a break once in a century. I parented Nico, praised him when he did good, punished him when he acted out, made sure he got to school and did his homework, bugged him endlessly about making friends. But he always said he didn’t need anyone but me.
Our private chef, Sally, has a son named Percy who went to the same high school as us, and that’s basically how I ended up with my current group of friends. There’s him, then his girlfriend Annabeth, Jason--the one guy who could probably turn Percy gay--and Jason’s crush Piper, and Leo, Jason’s best friend. Oh, also Grover and Rachel.
She forgot to mention that she was one of the most popular people at school, if you didn’t get that from the endless list of friends. I think a different guy asked her out, like, every single day.
It was one every other day, thank you very much.
I got pretty decent grades, too, considering everything I’d gone through. It was enough that I qualified to do the junior high team sports in eighth grade. Percy had just gotten together with Annabeth, and she wanted to try the archery team. I decided to join her as a bit of bonding. She dropped out of it pretty quickly, but I stuck with it. The coach, Artemis, told me I should try out for the team as a freshman. I did, and I got on the team. Go Half-Blood Hellhounds!
That’s where I met my best friend, Thalia. She’s pretty intimidating, but, when you get to know her, she’s actually kind of awesome. Then there’s Zoë Nightshade, Phoebe Apollo, Naomi Myers, and Celyn Holly. The six of us are really close, and Coach Artemis is basically our Mom. Yeah, she has a last name, but literally no one calls her anything but Artemis.
And that’s how it was until senior year. My little family, my friends, and my teammates.
Then, one day, Papà called Nico and me into his office to give us the news that would change our lives forever.
He proposed to Persephone!
God, Nico, I was trying to be mysterious!