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No One Can Know

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Mr. Brunner begins to pass out graded exams from last week. Soon, he walks by my desk and puts my exam face down. That’s not a good sign.

“Percy,” he says. “Please see me after class.”

He continues to pass out papers and I flip mine around. An F.

The bell rings a few minutes later and everyone packs up their things to leave now that the school day is over. I, however, stay in my seat, already dreading the conversation I’m about to have.

After the last student leaves the classroom, Mr. Brunner looks at me from his desk expectantly. I sigh, slinging my backpack on my shoulder, and walk over to him.

“Percy, is there anything wrong?” When I scrunch up my brows in confusion, he continues. “I mean, is everything okay at home?”

I shuffle my feet uncomfortably. “Uh, yeah. Why?”

Mr. Brunner shrugs. “It’s only mid-October—a month and a half into the school year and you’re already failing my class. I’m just trying to figure out why.”

Well, there definitely isn’t anything wrong at home. In fact, things are great. After over three years of writing, my mom is finally working to get her book published. My new step-dad, Paul, and I get along great. And just a month ago, I found out that I’m going to become a big brother.

“Don’t worry. My home life is pretty much perfect.”

“Then what is it?” he presses. “What could possibly have you so distracted?”

I shrug. “I’m just focusing on swim right now. And if I’m being honest, it’s not like I’m ever going to use Latin.”

That wasn’t the right thing to say, and I can tell by the look of disappointment on Mr. Brunner’s face. “Percy, this class is just as important as your other classes. I expect nothing but the best from you. School policy states that all student-athletes must be passing their classes with a minimum of a 2.0 GPA, otherwise they will no longer be able to participate in sports.”

What? I didn’t know that was part of school policy.

“Now, I’ve looked at your grades. You have a C, two B’s, and two A’s: marine biology and swim. Normally, this would keep you on the swim team because you do have over a 2.0 GPA. However, the F you have in my class still breaks school policy. I’ve talked to Coach Hedge and we’ve made a compromise.”

Please don’t say I’m off the team until I bring up my grade. Please don’t say it.

“You need to bring your grade up. While I would like for you to have an A in my class, passing is still acceptable. Until then, you cannot participate in any swim meets. Though Coach Hedge is still allowing you to attend practices.”

I can feel my heart sinking. No swim meets? Junior year is the year that scouts watch athletes for potential scholarships. This can’t be happening.

“Mr. Brunner, there’s no way I can bring up my grade all by myself. Sure, I know the basics from last year, but in case you haven’t noticed, Latin isn’t my strong suit.”

He smirks at me and suddenly I get a little nervous. “I’m glad you mentioned that. I’ve set you up with a tutor. She’s my top student and the two of you will be meeting several times a week to work on your Latin. If anyone can get you to be an A student, it’s Annabeth.”

“Annabeth? As in, Annabeth Chase?” I ask as if there’s any other Annabeth at school.

“Good, you know her! Here is her contact information.” Mr. Brunner hands me a small slip of paper with Annabeth’s name on it, along with her phone number. Then he claps me on the shoulder and guides me to the door. “I look forward to seeing you improve this semester, Percy.”

He smiles at me before closing the door in my face, leaving me standing there with my jaw hanging open.

*****

My keys jangle as I open the door to my family’s small apartment.

“Mom,” I call out, “I’m home.”

I walk inside and see my mom at the dining table typing away furiously on her laptop. My stepdad is nowhere in sight because he is still on his way home from work, but my mom glances up at me and smiles before turning her attention back to her work. “Hi, sweetie. How was school?”

“Great,” I say with a hint of sarcasm. I sit down in the chair next to her and think about how to tell her. I take a breath and impulsively blurt it out. “I got assigned a tutor.”

My mom stops typing and looks at me, suddenly worried. “A tutor? For what?”

“Well…” I scratch the back of my neck nervously. I know she won’t yell at me because that’s not the type of mom she is, but I know she’ll be disappointed in me and I hate that. “I may or may not be failing Latin.”

She sighs. “Oh, Percy.” She reaches out and cups my face. “You know you can talk to me about these things. If you’re having trouble, I want to help. I would’ve set you up with a tutor earlier if I knew.”

“I know, mom. I’m sorry. I’ve just been really preoccupied with swim. The only way I’ll afford college is through a scholarship and I’m clearly not going to get an academic scholarship. But I know I could get a swim scholarship. Then you and Paul wouldn’t have to worry about paying for my tuition.”

My mom gives me a soft smile. “And here I thought I was the parent,” she teases as she brushes the hair out of my eyes. “Percy you’re 16 years old. I don’t want you to have to worry about these types of things. Sure, a scholarship would help a lot, but I want you to do as well in school as you are in swim. I love you for worrying, but Paul and I can figure something out.”

“But—”

She raises a hand to cut me off. “No buts. Promise me you’ll focus more on school.”

I sigh in defeat. There is no arguing with my mom. “I promise.”

“Good,” she smiles. “So do you know who’s tutoring you?”

I groan. “Sort of? I’ve never met her but I’ve heard of her.”

“A girl?” My mom raises her eyebrows and I already know where this is going. “Is Piper going to be okay with that?”

I shake my head and have to laugh. “Mom, Piper doesn’t get jealous. Plus, Annabeth’s just going to be my tutor. It’s not even like that,” I say defensively.

The look on her face says that she’s still skeptical but she drops the subject. “Okay, okay. Go get started on your homework. I’ll be starting on dinner soon.”

I go to my small bedroom and drop my backpack to the floor by my desk. Instead of starting on my homework, I kick off my shoes and lay on my bed. I try to figure out how I can make this whole tutoring thing work without people finding out, but the fact that I don’t get along with Annabeth’s best friend makes it so much harder.

I take my phone out of my pants pocket along with the piece of paper that Mr. Brunner gave me. I open my messages app and punch in her phone number.

Hey, is this Annabeth?

It takes a few minutes, but then my phone buzzes.

Yes, who is this?

I debate on whether or not I should tell her who I am.

Mr. Brunner gave me your phone number. You’re supposed to tutor me.

He didn’t tell me who I was tutoring so that doesn’t really answer my question.

You’ll find out when we have our first session, I promise.

Fine. Meet me in the school library before school tomorrow. 6:30 AM. Don’t be late.

*****

It’s exactly 6:30 in the morning and I’m standing in front of AHS. The morning wind in New York is brisk but I make do with just my AHS swim hoodie and a pair of jeans. My hair, still damp from my early-morning shower, clings to my forehead. I slowly shuffle up the front stairs and make my way through the empty halls.

I finally reach the library some minutes later and through the window, I can see a single person sitting at a table by herself. Her back is to me so I can see her blonde, curly hair cascading down her back in a ponytail. She’s hunched over, most likely reading a book or completing an assignment. In the corner, I see the school librarian at her desk, but other than that, there is no one in sight.

I pull the library door open and walk towards Annabeth. I set my backpack down on the table and sit across from her. “Hi,” I say.

She glances at her watch. “You’re late.” When I don’t respond, Annabeth finally looks up at me and I almost laugh at her reaction. “Percy Jackson?” She practically chokes on my name. “You’re the one I’m supposed to tutor?”

I give her a nonchalant shrug even though I can’t believe this is happening. “Guess so. Mr. Brunner set it up.”

“No, no, no. This isn’t going to work. I can’t tutor you.” Annabeth starts to pack up her things to leave.

I mentally panic. “Wait, Annabeth, please.”

“No, I have to go.” She slings her backpack over her shoulder and heads for the door.

I bolt out of my seat and stand in front of her. I put my hands up in an effort to stop her. “Just hear me out.”

Annabeth looks at me impatiently and I take that as my cue to continue.

“I really need your help, okay? I’m failing Latin and I can’t stay on the swim team with a failing grade. The only way I could possibly pass Latin is with your help.” I plead to her with my eyes--a method I often use on Piper whenever we argue.

I don’t know her very well but I can already see the gears working in her head. Annabeth looks up to the ceiling and moves her lips ever so slightly, almost as if she’s praying to a god. Then she groans and pinches her forehead.

“If this is going to work, you cannot tell anybody about this arrangement. And I mean, no one can know.”

I raise my hands in a mock-surrender. “Hey, that we can agree on. I can’t exactly have people knowing that I need a tutor.”

She moves to sit back down. “Gods, Jason is going to kill me if he ever finds out.”

“He won’t find out. Don’t worry,” I reassure her as I sit down too.

Annabeth sighs as she takes out her Latin book and I take mine out too. She begins to review the basics with me until around 7:00 when people start coming into the library.

We pack up our things to leave when she says, “This isn’t going to work—studying here in the library. We need a more private place if we’re going to be efficient.”

I nod my head in agreement. “You can come over to my place after school if you’d like. My parents will be home but other than that, no one else will be there.”

I can see that she’s hesitant to take my offer but she eventually nods. “Just text me the address. It’s better that we don’t go together.”

We part ways after leaving the library and I head in the direction of my locker to put my books away. As I round the corner of the hallway, I see Jason leaning against the lockers and scowl. He’s talking to a girl I don’t recognize but she’s pretty, with her black hair in a braid and clutching her books.

I walk past them and don’t look back.

Now, I’d like to think that I’m an easy-going person. I typically get along with people and I don’t get angry all that easily. But for some reason, it’s different with Jason. We’ve known each other ever since we got to AHS as freshmen and we just never got along. We always clashed against each other when we had classes together, which is why I’m glad we don’t have any classes together this year.

I make my way to my locker and drop off the books that I won’t need until after lunch, which includes Latin. I close my locker and my girlfriend is standing in front of me.

I smile. “Hey, Pipes.”

Just then, the bell rings telling everyone to get to first period so I throw my arm over her shoulder and we walk together.

“How was your morning?” Piper asks me. “I texted you but you never responded.”

“Oh, um, I woke up later than usual. I must not have seen your text because I was rushing.”

Piper seems to buy it because she drops the subject. She says hi to multiple people on our way to her class. I always liked that about Piper. She’s nice to everyone and makes everyone feel included whether or not she actually knows them.

Once at her class, I kiss her on the cheek and say, “I’ll see you at lunch, Pipes.” Then I head to the boy’s locker room for swim.

On my way to the locker room, I see my best friend Grover scrambling to get to class. I also pass by Frank and Hazel holding hands and Hazel’s stepbrother Nico tagging along.

I briefly say hi to each of my friends and make it to the locker room just before the bell rings. The locker room is practically empty because my teammates have already changed and are out by the pool but I guess that’s what I get for being almost late.

I quickly change into my swim shorts and throw on my gym shirt before running out to the pool area.

“And with a minute to spare.” Coach Hedge’s voice echoes throughout the room.

“Sorry, Coach,” I say unapologetically.

My teammates and I stretch and warm up before going into the pool. After a few minutes, we dive in and get started on some laps. I’m the fastest out of everyone. I can’t quite put my finger on it but I always feel stronger in water, as if it’s my natural element. Time always seems to go by faster too. Before I know it, it’s time for us to go back to the locker room and change.

“Hey, Jackson,” Coach Hedge calls me over to him while the others head to the locker room.

“What’s up, Coach?”

“Brunner tells me you’ve got a tutor.”

I nod. “We met this morning and we’re meeting again after school.”

“Good,” he grunts. “You’re the best swimmer I’ve got. I need you to get your grade up so you can go back to swimming at meets.”

“Can’t you let me swim at meets anyway?” I beg him.

Coach Hedge immediately shakes his head. “No can do, Jackson. I’m sorry, Percy, but if I broke the rules for you, I’d have to break them for everyone else. It wouldn’t be fair for me to let you break school policy.”

I sigh as I accept my fate. Coach claps me on the shoulder giving me words of encouragement as I go off to change.

*****

The next three periods go by slowly. After swim, I have pre-calculus, English, and marine biology. The only class the really stimulates an interest in me is marine biology because I eventually want to become a marine biologist.

Following marine bio is lunch. I go to my locker to grab my lunch and switch out my books, then head to the cafeteria to meet up with my friends.

I walk in and I find Grover, Hazel, and Frank sitting at our usual table.

“Hey guys and gal,” I say as approach them.

They chorus a greeting in response and we all start to break out our lunches. Soon after, Piper joins us and sits next to me. We all eat and crack jokes, making lunch go by faster.

Towards the end of lunch, I tense because it feels like someone is watching me. I slowly and discreetly look around but everyone seems to be in their own conversations. Then I see Annabeth stand up to throw away her trash.

“Percy?” Grover calls. “Are you okay?”

I tear my eyes away from the blonde and look at my best friend. “Yeah, man. I’m fine.”

I force a smile as the bell rings and go about the rest of my day.

Chapter Text

As I stand in front of the red-bricked apartment building, I readjust the books that I’m holding to ensure that I don’t drop them. Percy had texted me his address during sixth period but I lingered after school because I honestly didn’t want to come here. Thinking of Percy, I briefly flashback to lunch with my friends.

“Hey, Annabeth. Where were you this morning?”

I look up from my lunch and see them all looking at me. “I was in the library,” I say, which technically isn’t a lie.

“Really?” Will asks. “I didn’t see you.”

I shrug. “We must’ve missed each other.”

Reyna, Will, Nico, and Leo don’t think anything of it and engage in a new conversation, but Jason, who is sitting next to me, nudges me with his elbow.

“You okay?” he asks me quietly so the others don’t hear.

I nod but look down at my food. “Yeah, I’m fine.”

I can still feel Jason’s eyes on me and I know that he doesn’t believe me but he drops the subject. He knows better than to press me about something when I clearly don’t want to talk about it.

In the last five minutes of lunch, I see Percy in the center of the cafeteria sitting with his girlfriend and his friends. I watch as they laugh with one another. All of a sudden, he looks around and I turn away immediately.

“Does anyone have trash to throw away?” I ask my friends.

Shaking my head, I bring myself back to the present. I walk up the steps and ring the buzzer before saying, “Um, it’s Annabeth.”

The only response I get is the sound of the door unlocking.

Once inside the building, I take the small elevator to the third floor and find apartment 3A. It’s conveniently right by the elevator once I get off.
I stand in front of the door for a bit before forcing myself to knock.

The door opens and Percy is standing in front of me, no longer in his hoodie from this morning but an old Led Zeppelin t-shirt. I didn’t realize how much taller he is than me—maybe half a foot taller? And I’m already 5’5”.

“Hey,” he says. “Come on in.” He opens the door wider and stands aside for me.

I step inside and wonder whether or not I should take off my shoes.

“You can leave them on,” he says like he’s reading my mind.

Percy closes the door and leads me through the small apartment. As we walk, he says, “My dad’s not home from work yet and my mom is out grocery shopping so it’s just us right now.”

He can’t see me because I’m behind him but I nod slowly as a response and I take in my surroundings. We pass the kitchen and that’s when I realize that I’m being led to his room.

“Well,” he starts. “Uh, make yourself at home I guess.”

Percy plops down on his bed as I decide to claim his desk.

Above his desk is a bulletin board of photos. There’s a younger Percy, maybe 12 or 13, with a beautiful woman who I’m assuming is his mom. Another photo is of the same woman in a white dress standing between Percy and a man. Percy is in a suit, and I hate to admit it but he looks handsome. There are various birthday photos, vacation photos, photos with friends, and some of Percy and Piper.

I feel like I’m invading his privacy somehow so I look away and pull out my Latin book. “Okay, let’s start.”

“Damn, you really don’t play around,” Percy groans, but he grabs his book as well.

I raise my eyebrows at him and smirk. “Who do you think I am?”

About 20 minutes later, we hear the apartment door open and close.

“Percy, I’m home!” a woman’s voice calls.

“In my room, mom!” Percy shouts back.

Soon, the woman from the photos, Percy’s mom, is in his doorway and she looks surprised to see me.

“Who’s this?” she asks looking between me and Percy. There’s a good distance between us though since he’s on his bed and I’m at his desk.

“Mom, this is Annabeth. Annabeth, this is my mom, Sally Jackson.”

I smile sheepishly and stand to shake her hand. “Hi, Mrs. Jackson.”

She smiles back and says, “Oh, you’re Percy’s tutor. Are you kids hungry? I can make you some snacks. I’ll just do it anyway. You’ll get hungry eventually.” And then she walks out to the kitchen.

I still stand there but with my mouth gaping open because I realize I didn’t even get a word in. Percy just chuckles from his bed and I look at him.

“That’s my mom for you.” He shakes his head and smiles.

I sit back down at his desk and peer at him. “So…” I start. “You have a good relationship with your mom then?”

Percy nods. “I always have. She’s the one stable thing I have in my life.”

I let that information sink in. I want to ask more but I refrain myself from prying too much. I’m not here to get to know him. I’m here to tutor him and that’s it.

A few minutes later, Mrs. Jackson walks in with a plate of chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven, except they’re blue.

“I already had the cookie dough made from last week so I just had to pop them in the oven,” she says, which explains how she made the cookies so fast. She puts the plate on the desk and leaves after telling us not to study too hard.

Once she’s out of earshot, I ask, “Um, why are these cookies blue?”

Percy laughs. “It’s my mom’s way of showing me that anything is possible. Also, my former step-dad said there was no such thing as blue food. After that, my mom was constantly going out of her way to show him just the opposite. I guess she was sort of telling him off.” He shrugs.

I can't help but smile. “Your mom sounds pretty cool.”

“Yeah, she is,” he simply states and then smiles too. “Toss me one.” Percy puts his hands up to catch.

I take a cookie in my hand, still warm, and toss it to him like a frisbee. He catches it easily.

“You know,” I say, taking a cookie for myself. “If swim doesn’t work out for you, baseball might. You’d make a good catcher,” I joke.

He rolls his eyes but chuckles. “Yeah, right. No way I’d do anything except swim. Now are we going to do this or what?”

Before we know it, another three hours pass and it’s just after 7.

“I should probably go if I want to catch the subway,” I sigh.

Percy just nods.

“We should meet on Thursday before school,” I say as I pack my things. “We won’t get as much done compared to today but I won’t always get a chance to come over. It varies on the amount of homework I have.”

“Okay, sure. 6:30 again?”

“Yup.” I pop the ‘p.’

Percy gets up from his bed and does a little stretch. “Come on, I’ll walk you out.”

I follow him out and as we walk by the kitchen I see Mrs. Jackson and the man from the photos cooking.

“Hey, Paul,” Percy says and goes to give him a man-hug. I can’t help but internally roll my eyes. “This is Annabeth, my tutor. Annabeth, this is my step-dad, Paul Blofis.”

I smile and shake his hand. “Hi, nice to meet you.”

Mrs. Jackson is at the stove and she turns around. “Annabeth, are you leaving?”

“Yeah, I need to go if I’m going to catch the subway,” I say.

“Oh, stay for dinner at least. I’m almost done. And then Percy can take you home after,” she pleads.

“I can do what now?” He doesn’t sound all that happy about being volunteered.

She raises an eyebrow at her son. “We have a car. You have your license. You can take her home.”

I smile at her firmness. “It’s okay, really. My dad and step-mom are expecting me home anyway. But thank you so much for the offer. Maybe next time?” I ask.

Mrs. Jackson looks a little disappointed but she gives in. “Okay,” she says. “You’re welcome here any time, Annabeth. Get home safe, okay?” She smiles at me softly.

I nod and return the gesture. “Bye,” I say to both of Percy’s parents and then follow him to the door.

“You never told me you had a step-mom,” he says.

I shrug. “You never asked,” I point out. “We also just met this morning. Forgive me if I don’t immediately tell everyone I meet that my biological mom left after I was born.”

“Hey, I’m not trying to start anything.” Percy puts his hands up in mock-surrender. “But if it makes you feel any better, my dad left before I was even born. And then for years, my mom was married to this abusive jerk, the one that didn’t believe in blue food. I’m not really sure what happened to him though. It’s kind of like he fell off the face of the earth.”

I didn’t know Percy had such a complicated history. And it’s so similar to mine. I shudder because I realize we have more in common than I thought.

“Um, okay… Well, I’ll see you on Thursday,” I say.

“Hey, uh, text me when you get home, alright? So I know you made it,” he says as he scratches his neck nervously.

My heart feels warm at the kind gesture but I try not to show it. “Sure.”

I walk towards the elevator when Percy calls my name.

“Annabeth?”

I turn around. “Yeah?”

“Thanks for doing this,” he says. He doesn’t wait for a response and closes the door. But if he had waited, he would’ve seen me smile.

*****

It’s Thursday at 6:40 AM and Percy still isn’t here. I keep glancing at my watch and my leg doesn’t stop bouncing. Curse this ADHD.

The library door bursts open and Percy comes running in.

“Sorry, sorry. I know I’m late.” He takes off his backpack and sits across from me but all I can do is glare at him.

“10 minutes. You’re 10 minutes late, Percy. We don’t have much time as it is!” I practically whisper-yell.

“I’m really sorry. I woke up late and I was hungry so I stopped by this convenience store but all they had were snacks so I grabbed a box of Cracker Jack, which I’ve never even heard of but it looks good and it comes with a prize.”

Amazingly, he says that all in one breath.

“Also,” he continues, “I brought coffee.”

I can see that and he has two cups. I am feeling a little tired this morning…

“Fine, I accept your coffee.”

He smiles and hands me a cup. I take one of those sealed containers of creamer, pour it in, mix it, and take a sip.

Meanwhile, Percy opens his Cracker Jack box and immediately goes for the prize. But he’s disappointed when he opens it because it’s a ring. The gem is round and a deep blue but I can tell that it’s not really his style by the face he’s making.

I laugh a little at his reaction and he looks at me.

“Do you want it?” he asks me.

The smile slips off my face. “Me?”

He shrugs. “Give me your hand.”

“What?” I ask. “No way.” I shake my head.

“Come on,” he groans.

Percy takes my right hand anyway and puts the ring on my index finger. Surprisingly, it fits.

“There.” Percy smiles. “Don’t say I never gave you anything,” he says, referring to the coffee and the ring.

Students start coming into the library around 7 so Percy and I pack up our things to leave. As we head for the door, Will walks in with Nico. They haven’t seen us yet but I panic anyway. Percy is oblivious so I grab his hand and pull him between two bookshelves.

I peer out from between the shelves to see if the coast is clear. I’m so focused that I don’t even realize how close we’re standing until he whispers in my ear, “What’s going on?”

I jump and accidentally hit his chin with my head.

“Ow!”

“Sorry, sorry!” I apologize profusely. “I didn’t know you were right there. You scared me!”

Percy just rubs his chin and looks at me. “Damn, Chase. You’ve got a hard head,” he says, cracking a smile.

I smile back but I still feel guilty. “Come on, let’s get out of here before someone sees us.”

*****

It’s third period—architecture. Normally I’m very active in this class. I take notes, ask questions, answer questions, and sometimes even correct the teacher. But today something is different. I’m distracted.

For whatever reason, I can’t stop thinking about what happened in the library this morning. First, there was the whole ring situation. Percy just had to give me that stupid ring. And even though I probably should, I can’t bring myself to take it off. It’s not like it means anything anyway. It’s just a silly little prize that came in a snack box.

There was also the fact that I held his hand and we stood in very close proximity to one another. Granted, I held his hand for 0.8 seconds and it was only to pull him away. But the fact that he was standing so close to me… I can feel my face getting red at just the thought.

I do my best to push Percy and this morning out of my mind and focus on the lecture my teacher is giving. And for a while there, I almost succeed.

In the last 15 minutes of class, we are assigned a handout that’s due at the beginning of class tomorrow. I start as soon as I get the piece of paper while everyone just talks and puts their things away.

I’m three problems into the worksheet when the person sitting next to me, a kid named Malcolm, says, “That’s a nice ring.”

I look at him and then stare at the ring. I’m not sure what to say at first, but then I smile to myself and decide on, “Yeah, it is.”

Chapter Text

Percy

It’s been four weeks since Annabeth became my tutor. We’ve been meeting twice a week before school and twice a week after school due to her insistence. When she first proposed it to me, I wasn’t excited about meeting that often but I have to say, my Latin grade has slowly been rising. I now have a D+ in Latin thanks to Annabeth, not that I’d ever tell her that.

And as hard as it is hiding it from Piper and my friends, I actually enjoy spending time with Annabeth. If I’m being honest, I’d like to consider her my friend but I’m not sure if she feels the same way, especially since Jason is her best friend. But she’s even begun to have dinner at my house on the days she’s over for tutoring.

It’s Thursday night and we’re having another tutoring session in my room. Annabeth had given me a practice exam because we have a real exam tomorrow. While I take it, Annabeth does her own work. I finish the practice exam in about 45 minutes, my dyslexia making me take longer than I should.

“I think I’m done,” I say, the words still swimming in front of me.

Annabeth, who has grown more comfortable around me, moves to sit next to me on my bed and begins grading.

“So what are you doing next weekend?” I ask her.

“I don’t know,” she says without looking up. “Probably sit home and read or do homework.”

I scrunch up my face. “That sounds boring.”

She shrugs. “To you maybe.” Annabeth pauses with her pen on the exam. “Wait, doesn’t Thanksgiving break start next weekend?”

“Yeah,” I say, running a hand through my hair. “That’s actually what I wanted to talk to you about. See, Piper’s throwing a party next Saturday to kick off Thanksgiving break. Pretty much all of the upperclassmen are invited and I was wondering if you wanted to come.”

Annabeth looks at me skeptically. “A party?”

“Yeah.”

“I’m not sure if you noticed, but I’m not really the party type,” she remarks sarcastically.

“Oh, come on. It’ll be fun! And it’ll be at a beach house in Montauk so if you’re not into the actual party, you can always head down to the beach. I’ll even go with you so you’re not alone,” I say in an effort to convince her.

She sighs. Finally, she says, “I’ll think about it, but I can’t make any promises.”

I crack a smile. “Great! I’ll text you the details once I have them.”

Annabeth continues to grade my exam and I smile to myself like an idiot.

A few minutes pass before Annabeth speaks. “Congratulations. You passed.”

My jaw drops open. “Are you serious?”

She nods and I can see a smile begin to emerge. “Yup. You got a C.”

I jump up from my bed and fist pump the air. “Yes!”

Annabeth stands up too and begins to laugh. “Good job, Percy. I’m proud of you.”

“Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

Out of sheer excitement, I pick her up and spin her around. My face goes slack when I realize what I’m doing and I put her down.

Annabeth immediately distances herself from me and fidgets with the hands nervously.

I clear my throat and feel a blush creeping onto my face. “Sorry. I guess I got carried away.”

“It’s alright,” she says but she doesn’t look me in the eye. Instead, she moves to pack her things. “I should probably go. It’s getting late and I don’t want to miss the subway.”

My heart sinks a little at her words. It is getting late but I was hoping she’d stay a little longer. Then I have an idea. “Why don’t I take you home?”

Annabeth stops and looks at me. “Percy, you don’t have to do that. I can just take the subway.”

I shake my head. “I insist. It’s almost 9 PM and honestly, my mom will kill me if she finds out I made you take the subway this late by yourself.” She probably thinks I’m exaggerating but I’m not.

She hesitates and then smiles softly. “Okay, you can take me home.”

No more than 10 minutes later, Annabeth and I are driving along the streets of Manhattan in Paul’s Prius. There’s a bit of an awkward silence so I strike up a conversation.

“So how long have you known Jason?”

Even from my peripheral vision, I can tell that Annabeth wasn’t expecting me to bring him up just by the way she shifts in the passenger seat. I’m not quite sure why I mention him either. I mean, I don’t even like the guy. But I can’t think of anything else.

“We met at freshmen orientation.”

“That makes sense,” I say as I vaguely recall the day myself. All freshmen were required to attend orientation a week before school started. I had also met Jason that day and we instantly clashed. Literally.

It was crowded and I was messing around with my friends. I was shoved and inadvertently, I hit Jason. He totally flipped his shit, saying we shouldn’t be messing around like that. Jason’s always been a rule follower and I guess that bugs me because no matter how hard I try to follow the rules, I always end up breaking them. At one point, I decided I’m better off just going with the flow, whether or not that involves following the rules.

“Have you thought about life after high school?” I ask, changing the subject.

“Tons of times,” she says.

I’m curious so I continue the conversation. “What do you think about?”

“College, a career, a family of my own.”

“Do you know what field you want to go into?” At this point, I’m just trying to get to know Annabeth a little better.

“I want to be an architect,” she says without even thinking.

“Really?” I try not to sound surprised.

“Yeah, I’ve been into architecture for as long as I can remember. There’s something about the stability that’s appealing to me. Probably because I haven’t really had any stability in my own life.”

I’m not sure what to say to that, but luckily Annabeth continues talking.

“The Hoover Dam is probably my favorite architectural piece. There are also so many amazing buildings in New York that inspire me.” And then she adds quietly, “Someday, I want to be the greatest architecture the world has known.”

I contemplate that: Annabeth, one of the smartest people I know, being a world-renowned architecture. “I can see that happening,” I tell her honestly.

She looks at me but I keep my eyes on the road.

“You really think so?” she asks, almost sounding afraid.

We hit a red light and I look at her. “Absolutely.”

She smiles and I can’t help but return the gesture.

A few minutes later, we pull up in front of Annabeth’s family’s large apartment building. From what she has told me, she lives with her dad, her step-mom, and her two half brothers.

“Thanks for the ride.”

“No problem.”

Annabeth gets out of the car and is about to close the door when she pauses. She ducks her head back inside to look at me. “And thanks for believing in me.” She smiles and closes the door before heading up the steps of her apartment building.

I wait until she makes it inside before driving off.

*****

The next day at lunch, I’m studying for the Latin exam that I’m supposed to take in two periods. Last night, Annabeth had given me a simplified version of her notes and they are really helping me. I just want to be prepared. I’m so focused on studying that I don’t even hear my friends talking about me.

“What is he doing?”

“Studying, I think.”

“No way.”

Grover nudges me. “Percy, what are you doing?”

I look up and all of my friends are looking at me like I’ve grown a second head. Is me studying that absurd of an idea to them?

“I’m studying for the Latin exam,” I say nonchalantly. “I’m taking it sixth period.”

“But… Since when do you study?” Hazel asks.

I don’t want to go into detail so I just say, “I study.”

Piper shrugs it off. “It’s not even that bad. I took it last period. And Grover and Frank are taking it next period. You’ll all be fine.”

Piper’s words soothe me. She’s always had a way with words. I put my books away and try to relax but I can’t seem to sit still. My leg bounces and I fidget with my hands. Finally, I can’t take it and tell my friends that I’m going to go to fifth period early, which for me is U.S. history. My friends don’t think anything of it and I leave the cafeteria.

I go to my locker and sit on the floor. I close my eyes and try not to think. I don’t do a great job at that, but then my phone buzzes. I pull it out of my pocket and see that it’s a text from Annabeth.

I saw you leave the cafeteria. You okay?

My fingers fly across the keyboard.

Yeah, just nervous about the exam later. Your notes helped a ton though.

She responds immediately.

Don’t worry. You’ll do great. :)

 

Annabeth

It’s the Monday before Thanksgiving break. We got our exam results back today. I’m on the subway home after school when Percy texts me excitedly because he got a C+ for the first time ever on a Latin exam, even better than he did on the practice exam I gave him. But that’s because I purposefully made the practice exam harder than the actual one.

Percy really isn’t a bad student. His dyslexia and ADHD just makes it harder for him to focus. I can get through to him though because we relate on that level.

I smile at his text and am about to respond congratulating him, but then he sends me another text.

Just a reminder that Piper’s party is this Saturday. The address is 115 Surfside Avenue Montauk, NY 11954 and it’s from 8 PM until whenever. There’ll be food, drinks, music, all the good stuff. If you need a ride, just let me know. I hope you can make it. :)

I sigh and drop my phone to my lap, not even bothering to respond anymore.

Ever since Percy asked me about it last Thursday, I’ve been internally debating on whether or not I should go. On one hand, I could go and get out of my comfort zone. On the other hand, I could be totally out of place. Who would I even talk to? I mean, I don’t know who Percy and Piper invited. Probably a bunch of popular people—people I don’t really associate with. And I’m sure Percy would rather spend time with his girlfriend than he would with me.

I could ask Jason to go with me…

No, that’d be stupid. He and Percy don’t get along, for dumb reasons if you ask me because they’re so similar. But I don’t want them to start anything at the party.

Maybe I could ask Reyna. I know she has a thing for Piper, even though they’ve only ever held one real conversation.

I open my messages app and start to text Reyna.

Hey Reyna, are you doing anything this Saturday night?

A minute later, my phone buzzes.

I don’t have anything planned. Did you want to do something?

I think about what to say.

How do you feel about a party? Piper will be there.

I add in that last part in an effort to persuade her.

A party, huh? Who are you, and what have you done with Annabeth?

I roll my eyes.

Ha-ha. So are you down, or what?

Well, if Piper’s there, count me in.

I smile and I actually get kind of excited.

Cool. Do you think I could get a ride with you?

Yeah, just let me know the details.

I begin to feel giddy. This will be my first high school party. I’ve never really pictured myself as the party-goer type but I guess there’s a first time for everything. Besides, I’ll have Reyna with me and Percy will be there too. What could go wrong?

*****

Later that day, I asked Reyna if she could not mention it to Jason or anyone else in the group. I told her I would explain eventually, which thankfully, she accepted as an excuse.

It’s now the day of the party and I have no idea what to wear.

I text Percy and ask him what kind of attire was appropriate for the party and he laughs.

Wear what you want, he said. But I’d bring a swimsuit, in case we do end up going down to the beach.

After an extensive phone call with Reyna (because I can’t make up my mind), she helps me decide on a pair of ripped boyfriend jeans and a cropped, white long-sleeve top over a plain black bikini. I also go with a cute pair of sandals since the party is at a beach house. I grab a jacket in case it gets cold later, which it probably will considering it’s late November and we’ll practically be at the beach.

I throw my hair up into a ponytail while waiting for Reyna to pick me up. She makes it to my house a little before 6:30 so we don’t get to Montauk until after 8:30, but I heard being fashionably late was acceptable. Not that I’m all that fashionable.

When we pull up to the beach house, Reyna and I are in awe. The place is huge and is more like a beach mansion than it is a house. There are tons of cars in the driveway and I can already hear music blasting as we get out of the car. Reyna and I look at each other nervously and then link arms as we brace ourselves and walk through the front door.

The music is ten times louder inside. I’m not familiar with the song that’s playing but it has a nice beat, something to get people up and dancing. The front room of the house has several couches and a large screen TV. People I recognize from school, are cheering excitedly over the football game that’s playing.

Reyna and I walk further inside and we see the kitchen. There, people are standing around, gossiping and drinking. A variety of alcohol sits on the counter and I already decide that I won’t be having any of that. I also see a large display of food, ranging from pizza to chips to fruits and vegetables to other finger foods.

Outside on the patio, people are dancing to the music. Along the stairs are small clusters of people drinking from Red Solo Cups and talking. And in the next two rooms, there are people playing beer pong and spin the bottle, which sounds kind of juvenile to me.

Percy, who is playing beer pong with his friends, sees me and smiles widely. I smile back as he excuses himself from the game and comes over to us.

“Hey,” he says. “You made it!”

I clear my throat and look at Reyna who is eyeing Percy suspiciously.

He realizes his mistake. “Um... I mean, Annabeth, right? Nice to meet you.” He holds out his hand for me to shake and I take it.

“Nice to meet you too,” I say. “This is my friend Reyna.”

“Hi Reyna, I’m Percy.” And he holds a hand out for her to shake too, only she doesn’t.

“I know who you are.” And then she glances between us. “Annabeth, can I talk to you?”

I swallow thickly, already nervous for what’s about to come. “Sure.”

We look for a quiet area of the house and I can’t help but look back at Percy as we walk away. He mouths, Sorry.

Once in a secluded area, Reyna turns to me and asks, “What’s going on?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, why did it look like you and Percy already know each other?”

“Um…” I try to think of an excuse but nothing comes to mind. I sigh and realize I can’t keep lying to my friends. “Because we do,” I finally admit.

Reyna doesn’t even look all that shocked. “Mind explaining how?”

“I’m just helping Percy with… something. I can’t say what exactly because he doesn’t want me to, but he was desperate and you know I can’t say no to someone when they ask for help. I knew Jason would flip and Percy doesn’t want anyone to know so that’s why we’ve been keeping it a secret.”

“And how long has this been going on exactly?” she asks impatiently.

“Well… A little over a month.” My voice comes out small, ashamed almost.

“A month? Annabeth, you’ve been hiding this from us for over a month? ” She sounds angry and I don’t blame her.

“I’m sorry,” I plead. “I honestly don’t know what was going through my head. I don’t have any other excuses aside from the ones I’ve already told you. But I swear to the gods I’m telling the truth now. Besides, it’s not that big of a deal.”

“Not that big of a deal? Annabeth, you’ve been hiding this from us for a month, doing gods know what with Percy. And you know that Jason doesn’t like him. I mean, how is he going to feel when he finds out?”

I panic. “You can’t tell Jason. I’ll tell him eventually but I can’t tell him now. And he can’t hear it from someone else. Please, Reyna.”

She sighs. “I don’t know. I need some time to think about this. All I know is I can’t stay.”

My heart drops. “What? Reyna, come on.”

Reyna shakes her head. “I’m sorry, Annabeth.” And she walks out, leaving me standing there alone.

What just happened?

Chapter Text

I wait a bit after Annabeth and Reyna walk off, but I’ve been to Piper’s beach house often enough to know where they’re going just by the direction they head in. They’re clearly looking for a private place to talk. A few minutes pass before I go looking for them. I hear voices just around the corner so I stay where I am to avoid exposing myself. I know I probably shouldn’t, but I listen in on their conversation. I only catch the last part.

“You can’t tell Jason,” I hear Annabeth plead. “I’ll tell him eventually but I can’t tell him now. And he can’t hear it from someone else. Please, Reyna.”

Reyna waits before responding. “I don’t know. I need some time to think about this. All I know is I can’t stay.”

“What? Reyna, come on.” Annabeth sounds like she might be on the verge of tears.

“I’m sorry, Annabeth.”

The next thing I know, Reyna walks around the corner and she sees me. She glares at me but other than that, she ignores me and brushes past, leaving the party.

I round the corner and see Annabeth standing there looking confused and heartbroken.

“Hey, are you okay?”

That was the wrong thing to say because her face falls instantly and tears spill out of her eyes. She stutters because she can’t form any words. I don’t know what to do other than hold her, so that’s what I do.

I pull Annabeth into a hug and in response, she wraps her arms around my torso and buries her face into my neck. She sobs softly and I stand there letting her.

After a couple of minutes, she pulls away and wipes the remaining tears off her face. “She’s going to tell Jason,” she says, her voice breaking. “He’s going to be so mad at me.”

She begins to cry again but this time I wipe her tears. “Hey, you don’t know that. She might decide that you should tell him yourself. After all, it’s not her secret to share.”

Annabeth shakes her head. “That’s the thing though. It shouldn’t be a secret. Jason’s my best friend. I should’ve been clean with him from the start. Hiding it from him makes it so much worse.”

I’ve never seen Annabeth like this before and it honestly breaks my heart.

“Come on,” I say. “Let’s get you cleaned up.”

I direct Annabeth to the nearest bathroom and tell her that I’ll be in the kitchen. While she’s getting cleaned up, I grab a beach blanket, some towels, and a whole box of pizza.

Annabeth comes into the kitchen about a minute later. She looks at me skeptically when she sees what I’m holding. “What is that for?”

“Just come on.”

We walk to the back door which leads to the beach. The rest of the party has moved inside. There are only two people still out on the back patio but they’re engaged in their own conversation so I’m not too worried about anyone seeing us.

I lead Annabeth down to the beach and find a good spot in the sand. I hand her the pizza and towels to hold and then I lay the blanket down on the sand.

“Percy, what’s going on?” she asks.

“I’m trying to cheer you up.” I take off my shirt and kick off my shoes.

Even in the dark, I can see a subtle red tint on her cheeks, but she doesn’t look away. “This is your idea of cheering me up?”

I laugh. “Would you just trust me?” I take the pizza and towels from her and set them on the blanket. “Let’s go swimming,” I say and wiggle my eyebrows at her.

Annabeth looks at me incredulously. “Are you crazy? It’s probably freezing!”

I shrug. “Maybe. But who cares? It’ll be fun,” I grin.

She rolls her eyes and sighs but she gives in. I watch as she takes off her clothes leaving only her black bikini on. I look at her and I suddenly can’t form a coherent thought, though I don’t know why.

“Well?” she says. “Are we going in or what?”

I swallow thickly and nod.

Together, we walk down to the shore and she shrieks when the water touches our feet. I have to admit, the water is cold, but I have to commit to it because I’m the one that dragged her out here.

An idea pops into my head and I smile smugly. When Annabeth isn’t paying attention, I sweep her off her feet and carry her bridal style.

“Oh my gods, Percy!” she screams. “What are you doing?!”

“Throwing you in,” I say as if it should be obvious. I walk further into the ocean and she tries to wriggle out of my arms but that only makes me hold her tighter.

“Percy, it’s cold!”

“We’ll be fine,” I reassure her.

I’m waist-deep into the ocean. The water was cold at first but now I’m used to it.

“Percy, I—” Annabeth doesn’t get to finish her sentence because I duck under the barreling wave with her still in my arms. Shortly after, we break through the surface and I put her down. She gasps for air and then she glares at me. “You really couldn’t warn me first?”

I laugh at her reaction. She shakes her head but she begins to smile. Annabeth splashes me with the water and I return the favor. I swim a little farther out and she follows. We stay in the water for another ten minutes until we can’t take the cold temperatures.

We walk over to the blanket and I grab a towel, but instead of using it for myself, I wrap it around Annabeth. I didn’t realize, but she’s shivering. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.

“Sorry, I didn’t think you’d be that cold,” I apologize.

She shakes her head. “It’s okay, it was actually kind of fun.”

I smile and take the second towel for myself. We sit down on the blanket and for a few minutes, we just listen to the water crashing on the sand.

I break the silence between us. “So did that cheer you up?”

“Maybe if the water wasn’t so cold,” she says sarcastically. “I don’t know how you do it.”

“Nah, the water was freezing. But I thought it’d be fun.” I grin cheekily.

She rolls her eyes. Her hair is heavier now that it’s wet so she begins to take out her ponytail, except it gets tangled. Without even thinking, I reach up and take it out for her. Her curly hair doesn’t make it easy but I manage to extract the hair tie.

“Thanks,” she says as I give her the hair tie.

“No problem.”

“Wait, hold on,” she says. “I just realized, shouldn’t you be with Piper?”

“Nah,” I say, to which she raises a brow. “She throws parties a couple of times a year and we don’t usually spend time together during them. She likes to talk to new people every time. She does her thing and I do mine. Plus, I couldn’t just leave you crying. That’d be a real dick move.”

Annabeth gives a small laugh but then she goes silent. “Thanks for being there for me,” she says quietly. “Who would’ve thought, huh?”

I smile. “Yeah, who would’ve thought?”

I open the box of pizza and offer her a slice, which she happily accepts. We go through over half the box before we decide we can’t eat anymore.

“Um, Percy?” Annabeth is fiddling with her hands like she’s nervous.

“Yeah?”

“Do you… think you could give me a ride home? I came with Reyna.”

I can see that she’s still bothered by what happened so I take her hand gently. “Of course I can give you a ride home,” I say, bumping her shoulder with mine.

At around 10, we get dressed and decide to head back up to the beach house. No one notices us slip inside because they’re all dancing, drunk, or playing games. I tell Annabeth to wait by the front door and to give me a few minutes to take care of some things before we leave.

I haul the blanket and towels into the laundry hamper upstairs and then I grab a bag of Lays potato chips from the kitchen. I may have just eaten three slices of pizza but it’s a two-hour drive home. I’m going to want a snack.

Finally, once I have all of my things, I go looking for Piper. I find her playing beer pong with a group of people that I vaguely remember seeing around school: Connor and Travis Stoll, Clarisse La Rue, Katie Gardner, and Malcolm Pace. Piper sees me from across the room and smiles at me. I smile back and gesture for her to come over to talk. She momentarily excuses herself from the game and walks over to where I’m standing.

“Hey!” she says, giving me a hug and a sloppy kiss. “Where’ve you been all night?”

I pull back and scratch my neck. “Around,” I say vaguely. Piper doesn’t notice though because she’s had a few drinks. Luckily she’s staying the night to help the cleaning crew that’s coming tomorrow, so she won’t be driving home or anything. “Listen, Pipes, I have to go. I just wanted to say bye.”

Piper pouts. “So soon? It’s not even 10:30.”

“Yeah, someone needs me to give them a ride home and they have a curfew,” I explain.

She’s still pouting, but she says, “Okay, fine.”

“I’ll see you later, okay?” I kiss her cheek and head to the front door where Annabeth is waiting for me.

“Hey,” she says when I approach her. “All set?”

I nod. “Yup, let’s go.”

Two hours later, we’re back in Manhattan. Annabeth fell asleep on the drive home. I was hoping to talk to her more but I didn’t mind. I found myself looking over at her a lot. She just looked so at peace while she was sleeping.

Soon, I pull up in front of her apartment building and park.

“Annabeth?” I gently shake her to wake her. “Annabeth, we’re here.”

Slowly, Annabeth stirs and awakens. She mumbles incoherently.

“We’re here,” I repeat, “at your place.”

She looks around and I can tell she’s still groggy. I smile because it’s kind of cute. “Gods, what time is it?” she asks.

I look at the clock on the dashboard. “Just after midnight,” I say. Annabeth groans and rubs her eyes. “Come on,” I say as I take the key out of the ignition. “I’ll walk you upstairs.”

She shakes her head and scrunches her brows together. “You don’t have to do that.”

“You’re half asleep, Annabeth.”

“I’m fine,” she argues.

I raise my eyebrows at her and give her a look but I let her go by herself.

She gets out of the car and pops her head back in. “Thanks for the ride, Percy.” Annabeth gives me a small smile before saying goodnight and shutting the door.

I watch to make sure she makes it inside the building safely before starting the car and driving home.

*****

I don’t hear from Annabeth again until Thanksgiving day.

I wake up and eat a small breakfast because gods know that my mom is going to make a lot of food for dinner. At around 11 AM, I lay in bed and draft up a text message to send to Annabeth. In honor of Thanksgiving, I thank her for the time, patience, and effort she’s put into tutoring me. I also let her know that her hard work isn’t going to waste because my Latin grade has actually been improving. But before I even finish the message, I get a call from her.

“Annabeth? What’s up?”

“I’m really sorry to bother you, especially on Thanksgiving, but Reyna’s still kind of mad at me and Jason is with his sister and…” I hear a sigh through the phone. “I got into an argument with my dad and my step-mom. I feel like you’re the only one that understands. Would you mind meeting up somewhere? I just need to get my mind off of things.”

I nod even though she can’t see me. “Just tell me when and where.”

She pauses to think. “There’s a coffee shop about two blocks from school. Manhattan Mocha? I’m already on my way.”

“Okay, I’ll be there in twenty.” I hang up and quickly get ready. I don’t live far from school and I remember seeing the coffee shop on the way there so it shouldn’t take me too long. I put my shoes on, grab my phone off the bed, and head out to the kitchen where my mom and Paul are already working on Thanksgiving dinner.

“Whoa, wait, hold on. Where do you think you’re going?” my mom asks.

“Um…” I think of how to explain this. “I’m meeting up with Annabeth.”

“Oh?” My mom smirks and raises her eyebrows. “When was the last time you saw Piper?”

I sigh. “Mom, it’s not like that. Something happened with her parents and she just wants to talk.”

“Okay, okay,” she says putting her hands up in mock surrender. “Be home by 4, please? It’s Thanksgiving, after all.”

“Don’t worry,” I say grabbing one of my jackets from the hall closet. “I don’t think it’ll take long.”

Soon enough, I’m walking through the streets of Manhattan. The air is brisk, typical for November in New York. I’m thankful to have brought a jacket. After a few minutes, Manhattan Mocha comes into my view. I was worried that the place would be closed seeing as it’s Thanksgiving, but it’s open until 3 PM.

I peer in through the window and see Annabeth at the counter ordering. I pull open the door and a bell chimes. Annabeth turns around at the noise and sees me. Today, she’s wearing a black pea coat, jeans, boots, and a light pink scarf. Her hair is down and in its natural, curly state. She looks cute, but that’s not new.

“Hey,” I say as I approach her at the counter. She smiles at me and I give her a quick hug. Annabeth finishes paying for her coffee and a slice of pumpkin bread and then she stands to the side as I order a coffee for myself.

We wait for our orders to come out before we go to sit at a table for two in the corner. Besides us, there are only two other customers.

“I’m really sorry to bother you on Thanksgiving,” she says again.

I shake my head. “There’s nothing to be sorry about. I wasn’t really doing anything at home. Paul and my mom are just cooking,” I say nonchalantly. “Besides, we’re friends and I’m here for you.” 

Annabeth smiles and breaks off a small piece of her pumpkin bread. “And here I thought we were just tutor and student,” she remarks sarcastically.

I roll my eyes. “So… what happened exactly?”

Her smile fades and she sighs. “I’ve always had an estranged relationship with my step-mom. I’m terrified of spiders, right? And when I say, ‘terrified,’ I mean I will scream at the top of my lungs if I see a small one. I can’t imagine how I’d react if I saw one as big as a house.”

Where she even got that idea, no clue.

“But anyway, when I was little, I had these really bad nightmares about spiders. I would wake up in the middle of the night screaming and my step-mom would get so mad and frustrated with me. That’s just one negative aspect of our relationship. I also have ADHD and dyslexia so that plus the nightmares, she thought I was some freak. At one point, I even thought about running away from home… I was seven.”

I raise my eyebrows in shock. “Seven?”

She nods. “I’m not proud of it, but I couldn't stand it. My dad didn’t really do anything to defend me and he always sided with her. He’s been better at not choosing sides lately but I know he wishes I was different—normal.”

I frown. “I know what it’s like having to deal with ADHD and dyslexia. And I know what it’s like to have a step-parent that can’t stand you and vice-versa. My former step-dad, Gabe, was awful. I think I told you a bit about him actually.”

“Yeah, you said he was… abusive.” She says the last word quietly.

I grimace as memories flood my mind. “He was. To me and my mom. All he did was smoke and drink beer and play poker. He constantly used my mom and her generosity. I was twelve when he disappeared. I still don’t know what happened to him, but if I’m being honest, I don’t really care.”

Annabeth nods solemnly. “My step-mom was never abusive. I just feel like she doesn’t really care about me the way she does my brothers. It’s exhausting competing for attention and when I do get attention, it’s always negative, like I can never do anything right.”

“Your step-mom clearly doesn’t know you then,” I scoff. “You’re the only person I know that does everything right.” Then, an idea pops into my head and I stand up. “Come on, I have an idea.”

Annabeth looks at me skeptically. “Are we going somewhere?”

“Yup. Just follow me.”

She sighs but she finishes her pumpkin bread and we grab our coffees and go.

On our little stroll, Annabeth continuously asks me where we’re going but I don’t tell her. We make some small talk and walk several blocks before she realizes where we’re headed.

“Central Park?”

I nod. We walk closely together through the park. “I come here a lot when I need to think. I just walk through the park or sit on a bench and think.”

Annabeth studies me. “How often do you come here?”

I shrug. “Once or twice a month, maybe. I’ve never told anyone that. Damn, I must really trust you.”

“Not even Piper?” she asks, surprised.

I shake my head. “Nah, I don’t think she’d understand.” I gesture towards a nearby bench and we have a seat.

“How long have you guys been together?” she asks quietly.

“Almost a year. Next month will be a year. But…” I go quiet.

“But what?”

I sigh. “But I feel like she’s not the right person for me,” I blurt. I’m shocked at my own words. I’ve never admitted that to anyone even though I’ve been feeling this way for almost two months now.

“Oh,” is all she says.

“Don’t get me wrong, Piper’s amazing. She has such a big heart and we definitely had something at first but something’s changed recently. The spark just isn’t there anymore.”

Annabeth puts a hand on mine. “I think… maybe you should talk to her.”

I groan. “I know I should. I just don’t want to hurt her. And I don’t want to lose her either. I mean, she’s been in my life for years.”

“I know,” Annabeth nods. “But it isn’t fair to her. And it’s not fair to you either, being in a relationship where you’re unhappy.”

“You’re right.” I sigh and put my head in my hands. “I’ll talk to her on Monday after school.”

Annabeth gives me a nod of encouragement. “At least you have time to plan what you want to say.”

“True,” I laugh. I check my phone for the time and see that it’s already almost 2:30 PM and the walk from Central Park to home is not a quick one. “Hey, I’m really sorry but I have to head home,” I say.

“That’s okay,” Annabeth says as we both stand. “I should probably go home too and try to mend things with my parents.”

I give her a small nudge. “You got this. Let me know how it goes, okay?”

She nods and we hug but we linger in each other’s arms for a few seconds. I put my chin on top of her head and she buries her face in my neck. Then we say goodbye and head our separate ways.

Chapter Text

Percy

It’s Sunday, the last day of Thanksgiving break, and I’m dreading going back to school tomorrow. Not because of school itself, but because I told myself that I would talk to Piper and break up with her at the end of the day. As I’m packing my books into my backpack, I get a text from Annabeth.

Hey, did you want to meet before school tomorrow for tutoring?

I quickly type a response.

Please? I haven’t practiced in a week. I could use your help.

That’s what I’m here for! 6:30 AM. Don’t be late, Seaweed Brain.

Seaweed Brain?

Yeah, that’s my new nickname for you.

I roll my eyes but I can’t hold back a smile.

I’ll see you in the morning, Wise Girl.

Is that supposed to be an insult or???

I don’t know, it sounded better in my head, lol.

*****

Usually, when Annabeth and I have a morning tutoring session, I leave around 6:15 AM and I can make it to school by 6:30, but I leave at 6 today so I can pick up coffee from Manhattan Mocha. I still remember what Annabeth ordered when we were here on Thanksgiving so I get us each a coffee.

I walk into the library before 6:30 with both coffees in hand and a smug smile on my face.

“Wow,” she says. “You’re early. And you have coffee,” she whimpers.

“Yup.” I smile. “One mocha with almond milk and whipped cream,” I say handing her the cup.

“You remembered,” she gushes.

I shrug nonchalantly. “No big.”

“Okay, let’s get started,” she says as I sit down and pull my Latin book out.

We get a good groove going and before we know it, it’s 7 and people start coming into the library. I suppose Thanksgiving break made us a little more careless because we don’t worry if anyone sees us. We stay a few minutes longer than usual and then we pack our bags.

Once out of the library, Annabeth and I hug and go our separate ways.

First period goes by quickly, as usual, but second period is a bit of a drag. When I get to English, I sit at my desk, which is behind Grover’s and next to Frank’s.

“Hey,” I greet them as I sit down.

“Hey,” they chorus.

“How was your break?” I ask them.

“It was great!” Frank says. “If you don’t include the heaping amounts of leftovers we have.”

I laugh because we have a lot of leftovers too.

“I also learned that I’m pretty good at archery. I found an old bow and some arrows in my grandma’s attic,” he explains.

“That’s pretty cool, Frank,” I say in response. Then I realize Grover didn’t answer. I tap him on the shoulder. “Grover, how was your break?”

“Fine,” he says without looking back.

Um, okay… That was weird.

I look at Frank and gesture to Grover like, What? and Frank just shrugs.

English and marine bio breeze by and then it’s lunch.

Halfway through the day, I sigh to myself. I sit with Piper and our friends at our usual table. My heart feels heavy because I’m smiling and laughing with them now but later I’ll be breaking up with Piper. But I know it’s what’s best for us because I don’t feel the same way anymore.

Throughout lunch, I catch Grover occasionally glaring at me. I don’t know what I did to make him so mad at me but I don’t want to ask him in front of everyone else.

The last two periods go by much faster than I would actually like them to. After school, I grab my books from my locker and prepare myself for what I’m going to say to Piper. As I close my locker, I hear someone call my name. I turn and see Piper walking towards me.

Oh man, I think. I have to do it. I have to end it. It’s not fair to either of us.

“Hey,” she says. “I wanted to talk to you.”

I get nervous and I feel like I might throw up. “What’s up?”

“Well,” she starts. ”Grover said he saw you in the library this morning with another girl. I know you’ve been keeping something from me but… are you cheating on me?”

My jaw goes slack. Grover saw us this morning. That explains the way he was acting earlier. But why didn’t he just talk to me? “What? No, Piper, I wouldn’t do that. Do you really think I would do something like that?”

She hesitates. “I don’t know, Percy. What are you keeping from me then?”

I sigh. I might as well come clean. “In October, Mr. Brunner pulled me aside after class and told me that I was failing Latin. He also told me that I couldn’t stay on the swim team if I was failing a class, so he set me up with a tutor—the girl Grover saw me with this morning. We didn’t want to tell anyone because I didn’t want people finding out I was failing a class and her friend doesn’t like me so… yeah. I swear, I’m not cheating on you.” Piper nods as she processes the information but I continue talking. “I wanted to talk to you about something too, actually.”

She raises a brow at me. “What is it?”

I look around to make sure no one is listening because this next conversation is seriously private, but I see that the hallway is practically empty. “I, um, well…”

“Percy, you look like you’re going to be sick.”

“I feel like I”m going to be sick,” I say honestly.

“What’s wrong?” she asks.

I sit down at the base of my locker and gesture for her to sit next to me.

“I’m going to be straight up with you,” I warn. “During the last two months, I felt a change in our relationship. I… I don’t feel the same way anymore. I don’t feel the same way I did when we started out. I don’t know what happened and I’m so sorry.” I look down at my hands, unable to help the guilt creeping in.

“That’s what you wanted to tell me?” she laughs lightly.

I whip my head up and see that Piper’s smiling. “Why is that funny? Why are you smiling?”

“Because I’ve been feeling the same way,” she admits. I can’t contain my surprise and she stifles a laugh. “I just didn’t know how to tell you that… I’m attracted to girls more than I am to guys,” Piper says quietly.

I take a moment to process that, but I can’t say that I’m surprised. “So… we’re cool then? You’re not mad or anything?”

“No, I’m not mad. Percy, you’re one of my best friends. I may not be in love with you but I still love you.”

I give her a small smile and she returns the gesture. Then I smirk and ask, “Do you have your eye on anyone?”

Piper laughs and shoves me lightly. “I might,” she says teasingly, and then we both laugh.

“I’m glad we talked,” I admit, standing up. I offer her a hand and she takes it.

“Me too.” She smiles and we give each other a hug. Piper and I head our separate ways and I go home feeling like the weight of the sky was just lifted off my shoulders.

 

Annabeth

After fourth period gym, I go to my locker to grab my lunch. I’m somewhat anxious because I haven’t seen Jason all day. And he’s not a very big texter so if Reyna’s said anything to him since the party, I wouldn’t know.

I enter the cafeteria and see Jason sitting at our lunch table. Everyone else is there as well—Leo, Will, Nico, and Reyna. I approach the table and sit next to Jason.

The next twenty minutes are completely normal. Jason doesn’t look at or speak to me differently. I glance at Reyna but she hasn’t paid attention to me all lunch. I guess she didn’t tell him.

Towards the end of lunch, I see Percy across the cafeteria sitting with Piper and his friends, and then I remember what he told me on Thanksgiving. I was surprised, to say the least. I was also kind of relieved when he said he was going to break up with her, though I’m not sure why.

I tear my eyes away from them and see that Reyna was watching me. She shakes her head and scoffs. I suddenly feel guilty, but then the bell rings and she’s walking away without a goodbye.

After school, Jason and I walk to Manhattan Mocha together. Jason was the one that introduced the café to me back when we were freshmen. I think about waiting to tell him about Percy until we get there but waiting makes me even more anxious.

“I have to tell you something,” I blurt.

“What is it?”

“Well, a while ago, like a month and a half ago, Mr. Brunner told me I would have to tutor someone in Latin.”

“Makes sense,” Jason says casually. “You’re really good at it.”

I laugh lightly. “Thanks. Anyways, um, so yeah I’ve been tutoring this person for some time now and-”

“Do I know them?” he interrupts.

I hesitate even though I know there’s no going back now. “Um, yeah, it’s... Percy Jackson.”

Jason stops in his tracks and I stop alongside him. “What?”

My hands get sweaty and I clear my throat nervously. “I’m tutoring Percy Jackson.”

I can’t read Jason’s expression, which is not unusual. He has a very good poker face. But in this moment, it’s only making me panic internally.

Jason scoffs. “Figures he’d need a tutor.”

I’m shocked at his reaction. I thought he would be mad, though he did just insult Percy. “You’re not mad?”

He shrugs. “I mean, you said Brunner told you to. Doesn’t really sound like you had a choice.”

“Technically, I did. I just didn’t know who I was tutoring. He said it was someone in our grade that needed help so I said sure.”

Jason seems to be processing this. “Is he giving you a hard time?”

“Percy? No.” I shake my head. “He’s not that bad of a student. And he’s actually improving. Like I said, he just needed some help.”

Jason nods as if he approves. “Well, as long as nothing happens between you guys or anything.”

It feels like my heart stops beating and I suddenly can’t breathe. “What makes you say that? I mean… would it really be so bad?”

He looks at me like I'm crazy. “Come on, Annabeth. It’s Percy. He has no respect for the rules. He does what he wants whenever he wants. He doesn’t think about anyone but himself.”

I scrunch up my eyebrows. “That’s not true,” I say shaking my head. “And Percy does follow the rules. He’s just not always good at it.”

“Why are you defending him?” he asks angrily.

“Because you’re judging him solely on that one incident over three years ago.” I try to stay calm. “Be honest, Jason. You don’t even know him.”

“Oh, and you do? You’re just his tutor, Annabeth.”

I’m at a loss for words. This is the reaction I expected from Jason. I understand that he’s angry but his words still hurt.

I shake my head. “Talk to me when you cool off,” I say. And then I walk away.

I take the subway home. When I get there, I try to make as little noise as possible and go straight to my room to avoid my parents. I’m so frustrated, I feel like I could punch someone.

Why is Jason being so judgmental? And why is he being so harsh?  

I then get a text from Percy.

Great news. Piper and I broke up. It was mutual.

My fingers fly across the keyboard.

Happy for you. Told Jason about you. He didn’t take it too well.

Uh oh. Want me to come over? We can talk about it.

You don’t have to do that.

Too late, already leaving the apartment.

I sigh and put my phone down on my bed. Percy’s always going out of his way for me and it makes my heart soar. Jason may be my best friend but even he doesn’t do that for me.

I quickly realize that Percy will probably come in my room when he gets here… and it’s a mess. I furiously try to clean up my room. I put all my books back on the shelf and organize my desk. I pick up some clothes thrown on the floor and toss them into my closet, shutting the door after. I put all my trash and food wrappers into the bin and place the bin in my bathroom. Hopefully, he won’t go in there.

‘Cleaning’ my room takes me about 15 minutes. I check my phone again and Percy hasn’t texted me or anything. But just then, his name pops up on my phone because he’s calling me.

“Hey,” I answer the phone. “Just go to the second story and I’ll meet you there.”

“You read my mind,” he says and then we hang up the phone.

I go out to the main hallway and wait for Percy to come up the stairs. I smile when I see him and he opens his arms for a hug. I gladly step towards him and wrap my arms around his torso. I don’t know how, but he smells like that salty beach air that I like so much.

We pull apart and I lead him to the door.

“So he didn’t take it too well, huh?” Percy asks.

I scoff. “You could say that,” I say as I open the door to the apartment.

“At least it’s what you expected,” he offers.

I shrug. “I guess.”

“Annabeth?” I hear my step-mom call from the kitchen. “Are you home?”

Shit, I curse myself. I forgot to be quiet.

The next thing I know, my step-mom comes into view, wiping her hands on a kitchen towel. “Who’s this?” she asks.

“My friend.” I’m purposefully being vague.

She raises her brows. “Does this friend have a name?”

“Does it really matter?” I ask irritated.

“It’s Percy,” he interrupts and holds a hand out for her to shake. “Percy Jackson. It’s nice to meet you, Mrs. Chase.” She shakes his hand and offers him a smile.

Gag me.

“Come on, Percy.” I start to walk away towards my room but she keeps talking.

“Do you guys want snacks or anything? I can make sandwiches and cookies.”

“We’re fine,” I say.

“Wait,” Percy says. “I would love a sandwich and some cookies.”

“Okay, I’ll bring some to you in a few,” she says walking back towards the kitchen. But she calls over her shoulder, “Leave the door open, please.”

I roll my eyes and then I look at Percy. “Really?”

He shrugs. “What? I’m hungry.”

“Come on,” I sigh.

Percy follows me to my room and my irritation subsides. Instead, I start to feel nervous for some reason.

We walk into my room and I try not to watch his reaction but I can’t help it. He just stands there and looks around, probably taking everything in.

“It’s not much,” I say kind of embarrassed.

My bed is against the back wall and next to it is a large window that opens up to the fire escape, which I used a lot in middle school to get away from my parents. Everything in my room is white—my walls, my bed frame, my sheets, my large bookshelf, and my desk. The only splash of color I have are my books and my grey tapestry hung up behind my bed.

“I like it,” he says. “It’s very you.” Percy walks towards my bookshelf. There must be over fifty books there. “Damn, have you read all of these?”

I nod. “It took me a while though because of my dyslexia.”

“Understandable.” Then he looks over at my desk. “Is that—?”

I shift my eyes to where he’s looking at. On my desk is a ring with a round, blue gem. I smile and clear my throat, embarrassed. “The ring you gave me? Yeah, it is.”

“And you’re not wearing it?” He puts a hand to his chest, feigning offense.

I roll my eyes but I can’t help but smile. I sigh and take the ring and put it on my finger. “There, happy?”

He grins. “Very.”

Then my step-mom comes in with two plates: one with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and one with chocolate chip cookies. “Here’s the food!” she says sing-songy. She puts the plates on my desk and after Percy thanks her, she leaves.

Percy immediately goes for the cookies while I shut the door.

“Didn’t she say to keep the door open?” he asks with his mouth full of cookie.

“Oh well,” I say with a shrug. I take off my shoes and lay down on my bed. I close my eyes so I can think but then I hear Percy shuffling. “What are you doing?” I ask, my eyes still closed.

“Taking off my shoes.” And then I feel my bed dip on the right of me as if something heavy was just put on it. I open my eyes and see Percy lying next to me but he’s just looking at the ceiling with his hands behind his head.

Don’t freak out. He’s just on your bed. Jason’s been on your bed plenty of times.

“So what happened with Jason?”

I sigh and look up at the ceiling too. “I mean, at first I thought it was okay. He asked if you were giving me a hard time and I said no.”

“What changed?”

“Well, um…”

Jason’s words ring in my ears. As long as nothing happens between you guys or anything.

I decide to leave that part out. “He sort of insulted you and got mad that I was defending you.”

This time, Percy sighs. “I’m not really surprised. But honestly, I’m over this little feud between me and Jason. If it were up to me, I’d want it to end, especially for your sake. It’s not fair to you.”

His words, though simple, stir something in my stomach.

I change the subject. “Piper didn’t take things too hard?” I ask.

“Nah,” he says. “She’s cool like that. But I was definitely nervous.”

“What happened?”

“At first she thought I was cheating on her.”

“What?” I scrunch up my face. I may not know Percy that well but I know he wouldn’t do something like that. “With who?”

“With you,” he says nonchalantly.

“What?!” I whip my head to look at him. “Why would she think that?”

“Apparently, Grover saw us in the library this morning and he told her about it. I don’t know why he didn’t just come to me about it. I should talk to him. But anyway, I told her about our situation and she understood. And then we broke up.”

I nod as I process the information. “And you said it was mutual? Why?” I ask, curious.

“Uh, well it’s not really my place to say. But I will say that I no longer interest her, which is fine because I feel the same way, so I don’t really blame her.”

“Who wouldn’t be interested in you?” I laugh. Then I realize what I just said and I freeze.

Percy sits up immediately but I shut my eyes so I don’t have to see his reaction. “Are you hinting at something?”

“Shut up,” I say. “I didn’t mean it like that.”

“Mhm,” he remarks sarcastically. I refuse to open my eyes because I just know he’s looking at me with that adorable smirk of his. But then I feel the weight on the bed shift again as if he laid back down. “What are you going to do about Jason?”

I open my eyes and look at the ceiling. “I don’t know,” I say honestly. “I’m probably going to have to give him some time to cool off. I guess I’ll be spending lunch in the library for now,” I sigh.

“Why don’t you sit with me and my friends?”

“Really?”

He shrugs. “Why not? I can introduce you to my friends and maybe clear up some things with Grover,” he says, half laughing.

I contemplate this. It could make things worse between me and Jason, but I don’t really like the idea of eating lunch in the library. I may be a nerd but I’m not that much of a nerd.

“I’ll think about it,” I finally say. “But I’m leaning towards the idea.”

“Great!” he says. Then he looks at the time on his phone. “I should probably go. My mom’s expecting me home soon.”

“That’s fine,” I tell him as we both sit up, even though I secretly wish he could stay longer. “I’ll see you tomorrow?”

“Yup, tomorrow.”

We stand up and hug. I don’t know what it is, but every time I hug Percy, it feels like my heart is beating a little faster than usual. And I get this funny feeling in my stomach that I’ve never felt before.

I walk him out to the main hallway and wave him goodbye. I wait until after he rounds the corner and I can no longer see him before going back inside.

Chapter Text

Percy

Annabeth has been sitting at our table for almost two weeks now. Everyone gets along with her really well, especially Grover, which is funny because he was the one that basically accused me of cheating on Piper with Annabeth. I also came clean and told all of my friends that Annabeth has been tutoring me in Latin. I was happy when no one judged me for it. I guess I was just too afraid of looking stupid to realize that I have some pretty great friends.

Finals are coming up over the next few days, so Annabeth and I have been meeting every other day before school and almost every day after school. Not only has she been helping me with Latin, but she’s also been giving me some pointers in history and pre-calculus.

It’s Monday afternoon and we're in my room studying for final exams. She’s sitting at my desk while I’m on my bed. Annabeth and I have been trying to converse in Latin for the last ten minutes but I’m failing miserably.

“This is hopeless,” I groan, putting my face in my hands.

“You know what? Let’s try a practice exam,” she says. She gives me a small packet of paper with fill-in-the-blank and multiple-choice questions. While I take the exam, Annabeth works on preparing herself for her own exams. She goes through her AP U.S. history flashcards and scribbles down some things in her notebook. I feel bad for taking time away from her own preparation but she says she doesn’t mind helping me.

I finish the practice exam fairly quickly—under thirty minutes. Comparing that to my first practice exam with Annabeth, that’s pretty damn good.

“I think I’m done,” I say looking over the pages to make sure I answered every question.

“Wow, that was fast,” she remarks. Annabeth sits next to me on the bed to grade.

Even though we’ve been doing this for almost two months now, it’s safe to say that in the last week alone, Annabeth and I have grown a lot more comfortable with one another given how much time we’re spending together. And I’ve noticed some things about Annabeth that I never really noticed before. It’s small things, like the way we sit so close to each other that our arms touch, or the way she scrunches her eyebrows together when she’s focused, or the way she absentmindedly chews on her pen when she grades my quizzes and exams.

This is what I think about while Annabeth grades my exam and I begin to get a funny feeling in my stomach. But before I can decipher what the feeling is, Annabeth finishes grading my exam.

“Oh my gods, Percy,” she says with a grin.

“What?” I ask anxiously.

Annabeth pauses for dramatic effect, and then says, “You got a B!”

My jaw drops and I jump off my bed. “Are you kidding? Don’t mess with me,” I warn her.

“I’m not kidding.” She laughs and stands up. “Percy, you got a B!” Annabeth holds up my paper to show a big red ‘B’ written on the front. Neither of us can stop smiling.

“Holy shit! Oh my gods, this is amazing. I’ve never done so well on a Latin exam before. And I know that yours are harder than Brunner’s,” I say.

“I knew you could do it,” she praises.

She jumps up and wraps her arms around my neck for a hug. I hold Annabeth around her waist and bury my face into her curly hair. She smells like lemons.

After a few seconds, we pull back from the hug and our faces are mere inches apart. The sunset shines through my bedroom window and onto her face. She looks like an angel with the golden light shining on her. We’re so close that I can clearly see the storm-grey color of her eyes and the small freckles spotted around her nose. She’s absolutely mesmerizing.

Annabeth clears her throat, snapping me out of my trance. We let go of each other and she blushes. It’s so cute that it’s almost enough to distract me from the fact that I enjoyed holding her like that… Almost.

*****

Annabeth stays over for dinner. My mom loves having her over because she thinks Annabeth is a great influence on me, which she is, of course. But as soon as Annabeth leaves, I sit in the living room with my parents and my mom begins her interrogation.

“So you two looked more friendly than usual.” She looks at me with a smirk.

“Mom, just ask me what you want to know,” I sigh. Paul laughs at my bluntness.

“Well, I do want to know what happened between you and Piper. Two weeks ago, you said you guys broke up, but you never told me the full story. I’m your mother! I want to be kept in the loop,” she pouts.

“Oh, come on, Sally,” Paul says. “Give the kid a break. Maybe he doesn’t want to talk about it yet.”

I chuckle. “I mean, nothing bad happened, if that’s what you’re thinking. We just sort of lost feelings for each other. We’re still friends though.”

My parents nod as I speak. “And Annabeth?” my mom asks.

I scrunch my brows together. “What about her?”

“Do you like her?”

Damn, straight to the point.

“I don’t know,” I say honestly. “But we have these moments, like today, and almost every time, I get a funny feeling in my stomach.”

My mom laughs and she looks over at Paul who only smiles.

“What? What’s so funny?” I demand.

My mom’s eyes go soft and she gives me a smile. “Those are butterflies, Percy. She gives you butterflies.”

*****

The next day after school, I see something I never would have expected: Jason Grace standing at my locker. He sees me walking towards him, which I do warily. When I’m standing in front of him, Jason clears his throat.

“Hey, man,” he says.

“Hey,” I say, opening my locker.

“I wanted to talk to you.”

“I can see that.” I grab my books and put them in my backpack so I can take them home.

“It’s about Annabeth.”

“And me?” I ask.

He clenches his jaw. “Yeah,” he says tightly.

I shut my locker and look at him expectantly. “Well?”

Jason glances around the nearly empty hallway. I can tell how tense he is just by the way he’s standing. He sighs and the tension lessens a little.

“I’m sorry,” he says.

“For what?”

“Well, for one, I’ve been pretty judgmental about you.” Jason pauses. “And two, I sort of overreacted when Annabeth told me about your tutoring set-up.”

I nod and lean back against my locker. “I know. She told me.”

“Look man, I don’t know what you’re playing at but I’m her best friend. I don’t want to see her hurt.”

“I’m not playing at anything. And why would she be hurt? I care about her too, you know.”

“Just—” Jason pauses and thinks of what to say. He groans. “Just be careful with her, okay?”

“Yeah, of course I will,” I say. “Is that all?”

Jason shakes his head. “I want to put whatever bullshit we had behind us. For Annabeth.”

I nod my head in agreement. “Okay then,” I say and then hold a hand out for him to shake.

I can see in his eyes that he’s hesitant to take it, but after a few moments, he nods and shakes my hand.

Now that’s all,” he says.

“Okay, uh, well, see you around, I guess,” I say as we turn and walk opposite directions.

That was weird, I think as I walk away. But now Annabeth won’t be in the middle of all this.

I whip my phone out and dial Annabeth’s phone number.

One ring. Two rings.

“Hello?”

“Hey, you’re never going to believe what just happened,” I say immediately.

I hear Annabeth chuckle on the other end of the line. “I might have an idea,” she says. I then proceed to tell her about my conversation with Jason.

 

Annabeth

Since Percy has been doing so well, we decided to cancel this morning’s tutoring session. I like spending time with him but I really needed a break from Latin so I guess it’s okay.

I still get to school at 6:30 to study because I really need to ace my finals. I haven’t told anyone, but ever since I started tutoring Percy, my grades have been slipping from A’s to A’s and B’s. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that, but I want to be great so I’m only accepting straight A’s this semester. Plus, I need to show colleges that I’m at the top of my game.

After 45 minutes of studying my various notes and flashcards for all my classes, I’ve had enough. I pack my things just as the bell rings and I run into Piper on my way to class.

“Hey, Annabeth!” she says when she sees me.

I smile at her. “Hi, Piper.”

I have to admit, I didn’t think I would like Piper all that much. Everyone says good things about her so I kind of thought she was too good to be true, but after hanging out with her for a couple of weeks, I can see for myself just how great she is.

Piper has English first period and I have AP U.S. History. Since the history and language hallways are near each other, we walk together.

“Were you just studying?” Piper asks me.

I nod and sigh. “Yup. I really need to do well on my finals,” I say, half-laughing.

“I’m sure you’ll do great,” she reassures me. “I also just want to say thanks for helping Percy out. I’m sure he’s told you that but I know how much swim means to him. And since he can’t stay participate in meets without a passing grade, I know this means a lot to him too.”

I smile. “Yeah, of course. Percy and I have been doing this for almost two months now and at first, I wasn’t sure how it would work, but I’m really glad I said yes to tutoring him. Plus, he’s a pretty decent student. He just needs the extra help.”

Piper studies me and I try not to feel intimidated. Something about the way she’s looking at me…

“So, you and Percy—is that a thing?” she asks suddenly.

My eyes go wide in shock. Piper, Percy’s best friend and ex-girlfriend, is really asking if Percy and I are a thing.

“Um, I don’t think I follow,” I say as we approach my classroom. I do follow, of course, but I’m trying to avoid answering the question.

Piper laughs breezily. “I mean, do guys like each other?”

“I- I don’t—”

“I see the way you guys look at each other. It’s how Percy and I started out,” she says. “I’m okay with it if you think that I’m not or something. Trust me, I don’t have feelings for him anymore. Besides, I just want him to be happy. And you make him happy.”

Piper glances over her shoulder in the direction of her class. “I have to go, but we’ll talk more later.” She smiles at me and then she walks off.

*****

First and second period breeze by. As I’m leaving AP English and the language hallway, I see Percy on his way to English. We smile at each other as we get closer.

“Hey,” he says giving me a hug.

“Hi,” is all I say. I think back to my conversation with Piper and then I feel it—the churning feeling in my stomach, my quickening heart rate, and my cheeks heating up.

I look down so Percy can’t see me blush. “Um, I have to go. I have architecture on the other side of campus.”

“Oh, uh, yeah,” he says. “I’ll see you at lunch?”

“Yeah, I’ll see you later,” I say, and then I dash off without glancing back.

After fourth period gym, I head to my locker and grab my lunch. But before I even make it to my locker, someone pulls me by the arm into a random classroom.

“Hey!” I say. I look to see who grabbed me and I’m surprised, to say the least.

It’s Jason.

“I want to talk to you,” is all he says. No greeting, no apology for pulling me aside like that. Two weeks with no contact and that’s what I get.

I walk towards the classroom window. “What’s there to talk about? I told you to talk to me when you cooled off.” I turn around and face him. “That was two weeks ago, Jason.”

He winces. “I know, I know—”

“Do you even want to be my friend still?” I interrupt, pain and anger evident in my voice.

“Of course, I still want to be your friend! Annabeth, you’re my best friend.”

I look at him skeptically, but then I get distracted because my phone buzzes—a text from Percy.

Hey, where are you?

Just dealing with something. I probably won’t make it to lunch.

You okay?

Yeah, don’t worry about me.

Like I do anything but.

I put my phone away just as Jason says, “Annabeth, I fucked up, okay?”

I raise my eyebrows at his choice of words. They’re true, of course, but Jason usually tries to stray from using coarse language.

He keeps going. “I’m sorry. I know that I overreacted and it was wrong of me to try and control who you see or hang out with or have potential feelings for. That was really controlling of me and I’m sorry.”

Jason pauses and I take that as my cue to speak.

“Is that it?”

“No,” he sighs. “I miss you. I miss my best friend. It’s been two weeks. Will you please forgive me?”

I can hear the urgency in his voice. And it’s not like I didn’t miss him either. But I can’t let him off the hook that easily.

After a few moments, I say, “I forgive you.” Jason begins to smile but I’m not done. “On one condition.”

“Name it,” he says immediately.

“I want you and Percy to be on good terms.”

Jason laughs nervously. “You’re not serious.”

“Dead serious,” I say with a straight face.

His smile begins to fade. “Annabeth, come on. You don’t really expect me to do that, do you? I mean, ask me to be okay with you tutoring him and I’ll do it but you’re asking a lot right now.”

I sigh. “You’re important to me, Jason. But so is he. I’d really like it if you guys were friends, or at least on good terms.”

Jason groans. “Can I at least think about it?”

I shrug. “You either make good with him or you lose me.”

“Why is this so important to you?”

I hesitate because, after today, I finally realize why Percy is so important to me. But Jason might not like the reason.

“I think you know why,” I say quietly.

Jason goes silent and he looks at me intensely.

This is it, I think to myself. This is the moment I lose my best friend.

I can already feel my heart breaking. But then Jason sighs and says, “Fine. I’ll talk to him after school.”

A wave of relief washes over me.

“Now can we please make up?” Jason asks with his arms out for a hug.

Almost immediately, I run into his arms and throw my arms around his neck. He laughs and holds me tight.

“I missed you, Annie,” he says into my ear.

“I missed you, too,” I mumble against him.