Chapter 12: Condolences
"You'll have to find out for yourself." My mom giggled. I'd IMed her, hoping to get answers to what had been bugging me for two months now.
But, just like the last time, Aphrodite wouldn't give me a straight answer nor would she help me.
"Mom! You could at least give me a hint!" I said. Maybe it wasn't a great idea to yell at a goddess, but Aphrodite was pissing me off with her unhelpful crap.
"But what would be the fun in that? You know, I think your love struggle is my favorite since Percy and Annabeth's love life." Aphrodite seemed to go off into La la land, so I decided to end this call.
"Whatever mother. Goodbye." I raised a hand and was about to slice through the Iris message when Aphrodite stopped me.
"Oh! Piper, I have something I need to tell you!"
"What?" I snapped.
"It's about Hunter. He had a good reason for being gone, but I don't know why he hasn't called you or anything..."
"What? What reason does he have?" I demanded but Aphrodite only shrugged.
"It's not very interesting and has nothing to do with love, so it doesn't interest me much..."
"Goodbye Aphrodite!" I said and slashed through the Iris Message. I left my bathroom and moved into my room.
"Ugh! She's useless!" I yelled in irratation and fell back onto my bed.
I laid there for a few minutes before heading for my closet.
I pulled off my cut offs and over sized sweater, aproriate for the house since it was nice and warm in here. I pulled on an outfit appropriate for the now cold weather outside: A gray turtleneck sweater, skinny jeans, a black shearling jacket, and black flat boots. I pulled on a gray scarf that was a shade lighter than my sweater and grabbed my wallet.
I headed for my car and immediatly headed for the cafe. I'd been busy with the new albums just reasently so I hadn't had a good hot chocolate in over a week.
The poll-as Leo suggested-was done and we started it last week. It would be going on for another month and then the album would be made. But the 'from heartbreak to over it' album was almost done.
But something about all this song writing was bugging me. It was like...like I was missing something. I've had the feeling before and I hate it. I know it means there's a song trying to be written in my head, but the words refuse to fall into place. My guess is that Apollo loves to mess with me like that.
When I was five minutes from the cafe I decided to just walk the rest of the way. It would only be a few minute walk after all.
There was a parking lot near me and since it was still cold and it was a bit late, not many spots were taken. I parked my car in the first open space I saw and immediatly got out, making sure to lock the car.
The parking lot was for a the park, so of course it wouldn't be in use.
I walked out of the lot and crossed the street.
Store windows were lit up, filled with christmas displays.
Christmas... I thought. More words soon popped into my head as I walked.
Christams...I don't want a lot for christmas, there is just one thing I need. I don't care about the presents underneath the christmas tree...
That's it! Those are lyrics for that song that refuses to come to mind!
Just keep going. The words will come to you. It's christmas mixed with love. Aphrodite giggled in my mind and I sighed. Damn it...
I rolled my eyes but kept walking. I took my time walking, since I didn't have a hurry to get anywhere and it wasn't like I would die without my hot chocolate...
I admired the window displays as I walked. There was one that had three white hand made trees. Two trees on the left-one of which had white presents under it-and one on the right. Between the trees stood two mannequins.
Ones had white pants and a white shirt with a black handbag and jacket aong with a blonde wig. The other mannequin's outfit made me roll my eyes. It was wearing a blonde wig with a black rose on the side of her head but she was wearing shorts.
Honestly, what did her designer think if they were trying to sell winter clothes? Did they think people would by shorts during this season?
I moved on and kept walking. I was a bit surprised that the sidewalk was so emptye excpet for me and a few couples that would pass by.
"She's taunting me..." I muttered as I watched one guy steal a quick kiss from his girlfriend. They were going to get married, and I could tell because I'm a daughter of Aphrodite.
Funny how our sence of who would make good couples works on others but not on ourselves...
"Oh!" I gasped as I collided with someone. I started to fall back, but luckily the person I'd bumped into caught me.
"You okay Piper?" I realized it was Leo and scrambled to get out of his arms.
"Um, yeah. Sorry for bumping into you." I apologized. "It's just that there's this song I need to write for the heartbreak album and I can't get the lyrics to emerge. Apollo's taunting me..."
"I'm sure he's not. But where ya heading?" Leo asked.
"I'm heading to the cafe, but I decided to walk so I could look at the window displays."
"Cool. Mind if I come too?" Even if I had feelings for Leo, I couldn't let them show or hold me back.
I started back onto my path and Leo fell into step with me. Soon we were laughing and making fun of some of the window displays.
"I mean, it was like," Leo held out his hands at his sides to emphasize the the large size. "And it was a tiny doll in the middle! And with the guys riding horses over the dress it's like-"
"What the hell? Who wears a damn dress that big? And I mean, come on! It's impossible for it to be so big men can ride horses over it!" I finished for him and Leo nodded through his laughter.
Soon we arrived at the Cafe and Leo held the door open for me. He walked in after me and only then did I reaize how cold it had been.
"Hey Piper." Eric called from the counter as I walked over. The cafe, like usual as this time of day and season, only held two couples and one business person talking aimlessly on a cell phone.
"Hi Eric." I said and glanced up at the menu board hanging on the wall behind the counter. "A large hot chocolate. What do you want Leo?"
Leo's eyes skimmed te menu board and then he skimmed the many pastries in obvious view under the glass counter.
"The same as Piper and...one of those and those." Leo pointed at a vanila cake with chocolate frosting and a cookie that had a smilie face on it.
"Alright..." Eric punched in the order's prices into the cashregiter then told us the total amount. I reached for my wallet but Leo waved me off.
"I'll pay." For once, I didn't argue. It was sweet that Leo was offering to pay. Eric got us our order and then I led Leo to a booth next to a window.
"This," Leo held up the smilie face cookie. "Is for you. A happy smilie face for Miss McLean."
I smiled and too the cookie from his hand.
"Thanks for the smilie face cookie, Mr. Valdez." I said and bit it. before setting it down on the plate Leo had. I looked out the window and grinned. "Look! It's snowing!"
Small specks of white were falling from the sky and starting to for a layer to cover the sidewalk. It looked so lovely...
"Piper?" I tore my attention from the window and looked at Leo. "Have you heard from Hunter yet?"
I'd told Leo everything about Hunter's sudden disappearance about a week after he disappeared. As soon as I'd finished with my story, Leo had started pacing the room swearing he'd kill Hunter as he used every cuss word in the book, in both english and ancient greek, and even spanish.
I'd managed to calm him down, but it's not like it helped much. Leo insisted Hunter was a stupid jerk and that I should just forget about him.
The scary part was that I'd considered doing that more than once.
"No, I haven't heard from him. But my mom says he has a good reason for leaving, but she doesn't get why he doesn't contact me and she refuses to even tell me anything about why he left. It's annoying as hell when your mom is the goddess of love but refuses to help you when you're strugling in her domain..."
"That sucks. You have my condolences." I raised and eyebrow. "What?"
"Condolences. It's an awefully big word for you and I bet you don't even know what it means."
"I do too! It's a smarter way of saying 'I feel sorry for you'. You say it at funerals and suff. Or when you feel sorry for someone."
"Merci. But no need to feel sorry for me." I took another bit of the smilie face cookie. "But I'm starting to think you were right. Maybe I should forget about Hunter, maybe I should just move on or something..." I leaned back and closed my eyes, suddenly feeling tired. I smiled as I started to think.
"I have the worst luck. My first boyfriend cheated on me and then the one I got after him disappeared. Hell, for all I know Hunter never existed and he was just some elusion sent by Aphrodite." I laughed a bit at my last comment.
"Maybe you just haven't found the right one yet." Leo said and I felt his hand take hold of the hand I had on the table. "Maybe you just need to keep looking."
I opened my eyes and looked at Leo.
"Maybe you're right." I said an met his gaze. When our eyes locked something in his eyes told me he's meant something when he said I should keep looking.
I couldn't tear my eyes away from Leo's and we sat there, in a peaceful silence. But then, of course, my phone just had to go off.
Leo instantly let go of my hand and I pretended looked down at my phone so he wouldn't see the blush I knew was covering my face. I checked the caller ID and answered.
"What is it Reyna?" I was silent for a second and heard Reyna crying on the other end. Instantly I was was up and alert. "Reyna? What's wrong?"
"J-Jason. H-he c-came-d-drunk. He h-hit a-and slapped-d m-me..." Oh my gods...
"Reyna, listen to me. Is Jason still there with you?"
"N-no. H-h-e l-left b-bef-ore I called."
"Reyna, I'll be over soon. Lock the door and stay inside, alright?" Reyna made what sounded like an agreement. "I'll be there soon." I hung up and stood up.
"What happened?" Leo asked.
"Jason went home drunk. He hit and slapped Reyna in his dunken state but he's not home at the moment. We need to get over there. Now."
Leo nodded and we left, practically running to where I'd left my car and I'm sure I went over the speed limit when I was driving to Reyna's.
"Reyna!" I called as I knocked on the door.
Reyna answered on the fifth knock. She didn't exactly look great, but that didn't matter.
"Come on Reyna. You can't stay in this house. You're staying with me." Reyna thought it over before nodding and letting us in. I helped her pack a bag of what she'd need and Leo stood in the outside doorway, on the look out for Jason.
"Is that everything?" I asked as Reyna examined the contents of her bag. She muttered something I didn't catch but then looked at me and nodded. I zipped up the bag and carried it.
Leo took the bag from me and went to put it in the trunk of my car.
An hour after we'd gotten to Reyna's home I was parking in front of Leo's house.
"Thanks Leo." I said as Leo unbuckled his seat belt.
"Thanks? Thanks for what?" Leo asked and I smiled.
"Thanks...for everything you've done. Just, thank you." I smiled and Leo grinned back
"You're welcome, Piper." Leo opened the door of the car and was about to get out when at the last second he leaned back in and leaned over to my side of the car.
His lips connected with mine, only for a second, and then he got out of the car and bolted for his front door.
I sat there for a few moments, long enough for the tingle of Leo's kiss to fade away. Then I glanced back at Reyna who was asleep in the back seat and restarted the engine.
I drove home and got Reyna inside and situated in a guestroom. I made sure all the windows and doors were locked before I went to bed.
But from the moment Leo was out of my car to the moment I fell asleep, I couldn't stop thinking about that brief kiss. I couldn't help but relish how right it had felt when it was supposed to feel so wrong.
I wanted to hate myself for liking the kiss, but I couldn't. And when I wondered why I couldn't feel bad about the kiss I heard an all to familiar giggle in my mind.
Aphrodite was definitely doing something. But whether she was messing with things in a good way was yet to be seen. But I knew one thing for sure:
I was definatly falling for Leo Valdez.