Chapter 1: Athena
20th of January, 2022
Calm down, Athena. It’s just another Tuesday. Okay fine, it was a Thursday. All you have to do is open your eyes, get yourself out of your bed, clean up, put something on, put something in your stomach and walk out the door, where Nik will be waiting for you.
Don’t forget your bag. Easy.
Yes, I was psyching myself into actually getting up to deal with life. I’m not ashamed to admit it. I need that bit of motivation every morning to face that one thing in life that I hate.
Having to interact with people is probably the only part of my daily routine I didn’t like. I’d prefer to remain silent like Nik, stick my nose in a book, and hope nobody notices me, and for the most part, I do. But then someone would come along and say something stupid like “geek” or “nerd” or try to bully me (keyword being ‘try’) and I just couldn’t stop my sharp little tongue from speaking fluent sarcasm, to save my life. I also simply had to answer questions that I knew the answers to in class, which was not exactly ideal for laying low.
High school is hard.
There were only two out of the seven billion people in the world I enjoyed talking to and spending time with: My best friend Nik and his mother Mrs. Cara Ivanov.
My sister Isis was tolerable at best.
Mother dearest couldn’t care less about me. She was more interested in her pretty, charming, popular, athletic younger daughter. And father didn’t seem to care about anything except his clients. And said younger daughter, who was in her sophomore year of high school, managed to acknowledge my existence every other day.
It wasn’t always like this. There was a time mom used to tell me bedtime stories and kiss me goodnight, and my father used to ruffle my hair and say “Hey kiddo,” as he sat down beside me for breakfast before leaving for work. Sometimes he dropped me off at school too.
That was a long, long time ago. How did we get here? Oh, that’s right. My sister was born. Then father made it big in the world of law and went on to become some kind of hero for the entire population of criminals in LA.
So it was safe to say that Mrs. Ivanov was more of a family to me than those three. She has been ever since we moved to LA. I was six at that time.
Breakfast was a silent affair. Mostly. It went something like this:
Me: Hello mother, remember me?
Mom: Don’t be silly. Finish your eggs and go to school.
Isis: I found the chocolate cake you saved for me. It was good.
Isis was actually a pretty okay sibling. I mean, I could’ve ended up with worse. She kept to herself, didn’t get in my way, didn’t steal my stuff, didn’t call me mean names, and only talked to me when absolutely necessary. We weren’t close, but we were civil, and I would probably help her hide a body. She was after all my little sister.
“Do you need a ride to school?” I asked her.
“No, thanks. I’ll walk.” And she was a fitness freak.
“Okay.” And I was already out of the door.
Nik wasn’t there. So, I quickly skipped over to his place which was right next door. Literally, we could see each other from our bedroom windows.
“Morning Mama C!”
“Good morning darling. My idiot of a son is running late. Again.” We laughed together. Nik was never a morning person.
I was watching Mama C bustling about in the kitchen when I noticed her hands tremble rather violently while picking up a jug of milk.
I was about to mention it when she spoke up. “So? Did he finally find a good girl? Oh hell, any girl?”
I laughed. “No. Not since Elaine.”
“Ugh.” She shuddered in disgust. “Don’t even get me started about that girl. He should just give up thinking about others and start dating you already.”
“Mama C!” I gasped. “When will you stop shipping the two of us? You know he doesn’t see me like that.”
“But you do.” She smirked.
“What, no, I – that is not the point!” I was certain I was blushing furiously.
She didn’t reply, just widened her smirk.
I sighed. “Even if he felt that way, which he doesn’t, it’s dangerous territory you know? Nik’s my best friend. I never want to lose that.”
Before she could reply, Nik came running down the stairs.
“Bye mum, see you later.” He kissed her cheek fondly and grabbed my hand, speed walking to his car.
“Athena, he skipped breakfast again. Make sure he eats!” Mama C called out making me smile and shake my head a little.
The moment he situated himself behind the wheel, I fished out a Tupperware from my bag.
“That’s chocolate.” He said, without taking his eyes off the road. He could smell chocolate from a mile away.
“I sure hope so.” I snorted. “I wouldn’t wanna know what I put in my cake that looks like chocolate but isn’t chocolate.”
I held a piece of the cake up to his mouth. He bit into it, barely managing to not bite my finger off. That cake was the product of me being home alone for an entire evening with nothing to do.
Nik loved chocolate. I came to know that within the first few days of hanging out with him but he would never admit it out loud. Also, he skips breakfast every other day because he can rarely wake up on time. So, when I bake, I always put aside a good amount of it for him. Saves him on mornings like these.
“So, you were planning on giving a calculus test on an empty stomach?” I asked as we reached school with five minutes to spare.
“Really? I think after all this time; I knew I wouldn’t have to. You got me.” He smirked.
“Yeah, I got you. You wouldn’t survive a day without me.”
“You’re probably right. See you on the other side.”
“Good luck Nik.”
“Same to y-nah, you don’t need it.”
You’ve probably guessed it by now, I have an eidetic memory. Sometimes it’s a blessing, sometimes a curse.
Calculus, here comes the goddess of wisdom.