Was it possible to want every human being that had ever lived to just die?
Apparently, it was. Because that was exactly how Rachel felt as she stared at the boy she loved. She just wanted everyone to go away, go live on another planet. Well, everyone besides herself, obviously.
And Percy Jackson.
They sat together now, side by side on a park bench in Olympus, watching nymphs romp around the green area before them and satyrs scurry by with important messages for the gods. This is what I want, she thought. Just the two of us. He was saying something to her now, but she wasn't paying attention. She was lost, deep in thought. Dwelling on hateful thoughts and the beautiful boy beside her now. Why couldn't everyone just leave them alone? Go die or something?
To be perfectly honest, Rachel didn't really feel that way about other people. She was a natural people-person: creative, outgoing, artistic. She went to all of the parties at her boarding school, although in the majority they were filled more with artsy/ talented kids as opposed to the jock crowd. Still, she was recognized as a very friendly and fun person to be around. She enjoyed being with people as much as they enjoyed being with her, which was a lot.
So to say that she wanted everyone to die was a bit of an overstatement. In truth, all she really wanted was alone time with Percy.
Ah...Percy Jackson. One of her best friends since, well, for what felt like a million years to her. She had first met Percy when she'd been visiting the Hoover Dam on a family vacation: December, of eighth grade, she remembered. Although it had been around 3 or 4 years since she'd first met him, she could recall the memory as vividly as if their encounter had occurred yesterday...
She had a cold. A terrible, terrible cold. It was understandable though, considering that it was December. Her father, whom she hated with a passion as deep as her love for painting, hadn't bothered to accompany her. Instead he sent her with her nanny, whom she also strongly disliked, ironically, although to a much lesser degree than her father.
"I'm gonna go to the bathroom, okay," she told her nanny. It had been more of a statement than a question of permission though, because she knew her nanny didn't really care about her at all, simply the considerable pay she received for keeping track of Rachel. Her nanny gave a response that was all but vigilant; just a cursory, detached nod and a slight wave of the hand, which is exactly what Rachel had been expecting.
Already pulling out her bag of tissues as she walked away from her nanny, she saw out of the corner of her eye that another load of people had scrambled out of the elevator, looking around curiously at the dam's underground area like a bunch of newborn puppies. Rachel recognized the park ranger that had been present when she came down about thirty minutes ago. Her dark, straight hair and intelligent grey eyes had made her seem so mature and...wise. It seemed like she was so intelligent that she was either an evil genius or some sort of supernatural being. She coughed with a miserable effort into her tissue.
I hate my life, she thought as she blew angrily into her poor, ragged Kleenex. She was wearing one of her favorite outfits- a big Harvard sweatshirt that had belonged to her dad, and her favorite pair of jeans that had marker, ink, and paint stains so thick it was hard to make out the denim material- yet somehow she almost felt worse. Maybe it was because she had everything she needed (besides a loving family) to be happy: painting- a hobby which she was actually really good at; not-too-terrible features, like frizzy red hair and emerald green eyes; freedom to go wherever she wanted, whenever she wanted; and- according to her father- the most important thing of all was having plenty of money, which she certainly had. But it all just felt so...empty.
She was more of the shell of a 14-year old girl on the outside than on the inside. On the inside, she felt like someone who had lived for too long, and been through too much, seen too much. People always told her this (usually overbearing aunts at Christmas parties who would shower her with excessive, slimy kisses and suffocating hugs), but she was way beyond her years. And she knew it too. She felt like someone who had lived in another life, or at least belonged in another one.
If Rachel had been someone else, which she would have loved, and heard what she was thinking at the moment, she would have stumbled away in alarm while simultaneously pulling out her pepper spray and calling the cops. But, unfortunately, Rachel experienced people that received that vibe from her all the time.
So it shouldn't have come as such a shock when, from around the bend, came a boy with an enormous, glowing sword, which he swiped down into her as she blew her nose with an ugly sniff. It didn't seem to go through her completely, more like pass through her as if she were some sort of ghost. It was spooky.
"Oh my god!" she shouted at first instinct, not entirely taking in her attacker. "Do you always kill people when they blow their nose?"
The boy looked rattled, as if she had hit him head-on with a pickup truck. Well, something like that.
"You're mortal!" he managed to stutter out. He still looked shaken. But, now that she had taken a good look at him, Rachel was the one that was shaken. She had never seen a guy so...hot. That was truly the only word that would adequately describe the boy.
He had stunning green eyes, quite similar to hers, actually, and the darkest black hair she had ever seen on a white guy. It was an odd combination of features, she thought, but it definitely worked for him. Definitely.
Still not fully processing how drop-dead gorgeous this guy was, Rachel stared at him in disbelief. "What's that supposed to mean? Of course I'm mortal! How did you get that sword past security?"
The boy must have finally started taking in her appearance as well, which, she was sure was completely odd-ball and weird, because he studied her closely. He peered at her through squinted, long-lashed eyes. "I didn't- Wait, you can see it's a sword?" His eyes narrowed in suspicion as they swept up and down her body, analyzing her. She rolled her eyes, but it was really a sarcastic mask to cover the extreme discomfort she was feeling at the moment.
His steady gaze made her highly uncomfortable, his stare intense and unwavering. To try to dispel some of the awkward tension between her and this unusually attractive stranger, she continued to question him, injecting a tad bit of humor into her interrogation.
"Well, it's either a sword or the biggest toothpick in the world. And why didn't it hurt me? I mean, not that I'm complaining. Who are you? And whoa, what is that you're wearing? Is that made of lion fur?"
She hammered the boy with a steady stream of questions, inundating him with a flood of things she wanted to know. Usually she wasn't so chatty and annoying, but she didn't want the boy to leave, and he was making her nervous, the way he looked at her. She squirmed under his gaze.
He cast a cursory look down at his...pelt, and then glanced behind him, as if he was waiting for someone. Or someone was chasing him.
Suddenly he looked back at her and snapped his fingers under her nose. "You don't see a sword," he said. "It's just a ballpoint pen."
Rachel was too stunned to react for a second, and the boy's charming spell over her was momentarily broken, causing her to snap out of her dreamlike attitude, if only for a moment. "Um...no. It's a sword, weirdo."
He just stared at her. "Who are you?" he asked. She rolled her eyes again.
"Rachel Elizabeth Dare," she said, stating her full name. It was all she ever went by. No nicknames, ever, was her motto. Still feeling sassy and demanding, she huffed,"Now, are you going to answer my questions, or should I scream for security?"
The dude stumbled over his words hastily. "No! I mean, I'm kind of in a hurry. I'm in trouble."
"In hurry or in trouble?"
"Um, sort of both."
Seeing something of his shoulder, she suddenly screamed at the boy, "Bathroom!", ushering him into the men's room behind her while answering his look of confusion with another quick order. "Bathroom! Behind me! Now!"
Only moments after the boy shut the door of the bathroom, a herd of skeletons dressed like security guards- who did they think they were fooling anyway?- burst from around the corner, making odd hissing and clicking noises like a bunch of crazed cats.
She was oddly calm as she rattled off a bunch of commands and orders, none of which she could even recall afterwards. She must have said something that made sense though, or that the skeleton guys liked, because they quickly rushed away, making the same clattering noises as before.
Immediately after they disappeared around the corner, Rachel slumped against the bathroom door, exhaling a breath of air she didn't know she'd been holding in. Her body felt drained of all energy, as if the skeletal security guards had sucked some vital source of strength out of her, taking it with them as they left. She wiped a few beads of perspiration off of her damp forehead, her hands clammy and sweaty, yet cold, a shiver escaping her as she turned around and opened the door for the boy hidden inside.
"All clear," she said meekly, to her surprise. Her voice sounded drained too, devoid of all the oomph it usually possessed. "But you'd better hurry," she added.
" I owe you one, Rachel Elizabeth Dare." She shuddered involuntarily at the sound of the boy saying her full name. It sent up pleasant chills and goosebumps all over her skin. It sounded so...right, coming from him. He began to turn away, towards the elevator, when she stopped him with her words. For some reason, she didn't want him to leave just yet.
"What are those things? They looked like-"
"Skeletons?" He interrupted, causing her to nod. "Do yourself a favor," he said. "Forget it. Forget you ever saw me." Yeah, that's gonna happen, she thought to herself, knowing that she would never be able to forget the boy's face. The thought, overwhelming her with emotion, made her throat close up, and she tried to prevent the tears threatening to spill over.
"Forget you tried to kill me?" she joked.
"Yeah. That, too."
"But who are you?"
"Percy-" he paused, something he saw behind him causing him to stop. "Gotta go!"
"What kind of name is Percy Gotta-Go?" she asked, but he wasn't listening anymore.
He was gone.
As Rachel thought back to that time now, she remembered how she had been so devastated that he'd left. Sure, he'd been a perfect stranger (extra stress on "perfect"), but at the time she had felt a deep connection to the boy that she had never felt with anyone before. Something so powerful and overwhelmingly beautiful that'd she never known so passionately. And now, since she was older and had known Percy for years now, she knew exactly what that emotion had been, and what it still was, for that matter.
Although she'd been young, her love for Percy had been so strong that she'd spent weeks and weeks, maybe even months, shut up in her room: pouring over anything that she could find in the hopes of locating the mystery boy from Hoover Dam. Even though she'd figured out he had lived in the area around the dam, she had still looked for almost half a year before seeing him at her new high school's orientation, looking in magazines, newspapers, school websites... anywhere to see if she could find him.
In the end, all of her hard work hadn't even done anything productive; on the contrary, it had been fate that had put the two of them together again. Still, the thorough search had been enough of a task to keep Rachel's mind occupied in the months that she had been in such a wasted mental position. Her mission to find Percy had given her mind focus, clarity.
Now, though, Rachel longed for the dim, lifeless hold that had taken over her temporarily before she'd begun her search all those years ago. At least if she had that now, her mind and, hopefully, her heart would be too foggy and dull to process the raw inundation of emotions that flooded her being. Feelings like pain, jealousy, rejection. The ones that hurt the most.
The past few years, Annabeth had seemed to come closer and closer to Percy. At first Rachel hadn't noticed it, most likely pushing aside the signs in obvious denial. She had been disbelieving that Percy would fall for a girl like Annabeth: pushy, stubborn, proud, and, no offense to Percy, intelligent. She only said this because she had long ago admitted to herself that she wasn't the brightest student, receiving mainly B's in school and occasionally an A or a C or two. Nothing about her grades that made her stand out. Academically speaking, she had always been...average; unlike Annabeth, who got an A+++++ on everything, or so poor, clueless Percy told her.
Could he not see how much she despised Annabeth's intelligence, their close relationship? Rachel didn't hate her, but she resented everything that Percy loved about her. Could he not see her skills, her talents? She was a good artist, didn't that count for something? People, including Percy, had always commented on, marvelled at, praised her work, claiming she was a genius when it came to creating masterpieces like her paintings, drawings, and sculptures. But that was always the key addition, wasn't it? Adding the extra part after "genius" about her artwork. People were always very particular in their wording, carefully avoiding the original type of genius: Annabeth, which was apparently a synonym for the word.
But that was Rachel. Always second fiddle to Annabeth, Percy's precious girlfriend.
When she had first heard the news about the couple getting together, she'd felt nothing. Only a dull sensation similar to that that she'd experienced in those months of solitude after Percy's disappearance. A little after though, she'd felt as though someone had frozen her heart, turning it into a cold ball of ice, before smashing the fragile crystal ball into a million tiny glass shards with a sledgehammer.
The impact had been that horrific, that painful, that poignant. She'd never experienced such raw emotion as that before. And she didn't think she ever would again, because Percy and Annabeth had destroyed her heart without knowing it, unconsciously holding the sledgehammer that had broken it into such miniscule, unrepairable shards.
Her thoughts lifted from the dark, murky and unfocused waters of her mind to the beautiful sky that reality beheld, the life preserver that had saved her being his voice. Percy's.
"Oh, there's Annabeth. Do you mind if I go talk to her for a second? I'll be right back."
"No," she said with a small, sad smile. "I don't mind at all."