There are more than a few things Merri hates or dislikes, and one of them just happens to be uninvited visitors. As fate would like it, she was unfortunate enough to move into an apartment across from Ash, who simply adored barging into her place and raiding her fridge, all the while talking her ear off as she tries her hardest to study. The fact that he was doing just that while she was studying for a chemistry exam she had tomorrow was even more annoying.
Ash was sprawled all over her couch, a bag of her Doritos in his lap, as wild gestures followed another of his pointless stories about a date he'd gone on at some point in time. Merri sat cross-legged in her big chair, next to the fireplace (yes, her place even had a fireplace. Nana and Gramps really went all the way when finding her a place.), a thick book open on her lap, her green eyes trying but failing at concentrating on the words. She felt a vein pop on her forehead and her eye twitch in annoyance. Ash seemed completely unfazed by the murderous glare she was shooting at him, and simple proceeded to munch on the Doritos.
She'd first met Ash at a bookstore she often went to, about three months ago. He'd approached her asking for help in finding a particular book he needed for class. With how much time she spent in the store, Merri was fairly familiar with the way the books were organized, so she showed him to where the book was. After paying for the book, he asked her out on a drink, to which she declined saying she was currently too busy to go out. He's seemed to have taken the rejection alright and she left it at that, expecting not to run into him ever again. Imagine her surprise when the following day, he approached her again but this time, in the campus lounge.
As luck would have it, they went to the same school. Ash was a third-year and was majoring in English literature. For a week he kept on pestering her about going out with him until she threatened to break his nose after what he cooled down with the dating thing, but kept hanging around her until they formed a kind of a friendship. Well, he thought of it as friendship, she insisted they were only acquaintances and neighbours (since it turned out he even lived across the hall from her). Apparently, Ash was sensitive about his appearances, his face in particular.
"Ash," she sighed in annoyance after he'd started on the third story. "As interesting as it sounds, I really don't have time to listen to how another one of your dates fell through. I have a test I need to study for tomorrow and I need some quiet to do so." She shot him a desperate puppy-eye look in hopes he would finally leave.
He seems to understand as he nodded and got off her couch, taking the half empty bag of Doritos with him. "Well, if that's the case, then why didn't you say so?"
"I did," she deadpanned. "You just didn't listen."
Ash sheepishly rubbed the back of his neck, his fingers tangling themselves in his thick, unruly brown hair. "Sorry. Guess I should pay more attention next time."
"That would depend on whether or not I'll be willing to let you come in the next time you come. I might start locking the doors from now on."
The panicked look that crossed his face was priceless. "Please, not that!" He even got down in his knees and grovelled as he pleaded with her. "How will I survive without food?! Are you really that heartless Mer?"
"The same way you've survived for the past 22 years, Ash." She leaned on her elbow with a small smirk on her face, her sea-green eyes twinkling with mirth. "Besides, the sooner you leave, the smaller the chance of me taking such course of action."
Without a word, Ash leaped to his feet and, in a matter of seconds, was out of her apartment, leaving a satisfied Merri behind. She sighed and pulled her hair back in a messy bun before padding barefoot into her kitchen and putting the kettle for the tea on. She'd decided on green tea for today. While she waited for the water to boil, she let her gaze travel over her apartment.
The place was a comfy two-bedroom place with a balcony and a parking place in the price. In addition, it was close to the campus - it was only 20 minutes by foot - and there was a park Merri went jogging in nearby. It was decorated in a cross between Victorian and contemporary styles, with light coloured walls and hardwood floors and moulding. The stainless steel kitchen with a dining area and balcony access crossed into the living room via an archway. The centre on the room was the large stone fireplace surrounded with couches, chairs and a coffee table, and housed a bunch of picture frames with photos of Merri, her siblings, family, and Luke...
No matter how much his betrayal hurt her, Merri couldn't force herself to get rid of those photos. Most were taken at camp and contained some of her favourite memories, and there was a few that were taken during the rare times Luke had visited her in Seattle. There were even more in various photo albums she had on her bookshelf in the apartment and in the house in Seattle as well as in a small shoebox she kept under her bed.
By far her favourite picture on the fireplace was the one that had been taken last Christmas. In it, she was grinning ear-to-ear as she had her arms around a dark-haired teenaged boy and a red-haired man, all three of them had identical sea-green eyes. On the picture were Merri, her younger half-brother Percy - whom she'd first met last summer - and her father Poseidon. It was taken by her mum after her long program routine at her Christmas ice-skating recital.
After discovering she had a brother that summer, Merri thought it would be nice for them to get to know each other. With that purpose, she'd invited Percy and Sally, his mum, to come and stay with her family in Seattle for Christmas. She didn't really expect them to accept the invitation, so it came as a pleasant surprise when, a day or two before Christmas, she opened the door to find them at her doorstep, suitcases in hands. Jane, Merri's mum, took with open hands and quickly set to prepare them two of the spare bedrooms in the house. The Jacksons stayed with them until after the New Year, getting acquainted with Merri's family.
The biggest surprise, however, came in the form of another unexpected visitor on Christmas, during Merri's skating recital.
Just before she entered the rink, she was greeted by Poseidon, her father. It was the first time she'd seen him since their meeting at the beginning of the summer. Merri had invited him to come to her recital while she was in Olympus but she hadn't of expected him to actually show up.
She smiled at the memory and turned back to her tea. With a mug of the fragrant hot beverage in her hands and her textbook under arm, the daughter of Poseidon made way to her bedroom. She put her book down on her desk and sat down on the window seat, all the while slowly sipping her mint tea.
'It looks like rain,' she thought gazing through the glass. The sky was filled with clouds of dark grey, the wind was blowing through the arm-like branches of the trees, carrying dust, litter and leaves in its wake. There wasn't any lightning in the sky yet, but Merri could feel the low rumble of thunder deep in her bones. 'Lord Zeus must be angry about something, again. I wonder if it's anything Percy or I did.' Pulling her knees closer to her chest, she pressed her palm against the cool glass, her green eyes following the movement of her digits.
She sat there, sipping on her tea, for an hour or so, until the coolness of the storm started seeping into her bones through her skin. Merri got up and put on a navy blue hoodie over her tank top and padded back into the kitchen after pulling on a pair of thick fluffy socks. She threw herself on the couch and turned on the TV, Bonanza was on. Deciding she had nothing better to do, she settled into her seat and set onto watching the old show. If she spent any more time studying, she was going to give herself a migraine. Besides, it was already 10:30 and she had to get up early.
'All that's left now is hope it all goes well,' Merri thought as she was leaving campus the next day. She hoisted the strap of her bag higher on her shoulder and sped up her pace in hopes she would manage to get back home before a new downpour started. Of course, the Fates didn't work in her favour and she was ambushed from behind by a pair of arms wrapping themselves around her neck and a familiar voice squealing in her ear.
"Hey, Claire," she greeted her ambusher with considerably less zeal. "How're you doing?" Claire untangled her arms from Merri's neck and took a step back, her bright blonde locks jumping around her grinning face.
"Oh, I'm fantastic!" the blonde squealed. "It's such a nice day today, don't you think?" she crossed her arms behind her back and tilted her head making herself look younger than she actually was.
"If you consider the constant chance of rain, then, yes the day is nice." Merri nervously shifted her weight from one foot to the other, all the while glancing at the steadily darkening sky. "How about we continue this at my place," she suggested. "I'm dine with school for the day and was about to go home and make some lunch and it would be no problem to make some for you if you'd like some."
"That would depend on what you were planning on making," Claire retorted with a sly smile on her crimson coloured lips.
"Pear, blue cheese and walnut salad. Something light since I'll be going to the gym later."
Claire contemplated for a moment before answering, "I'm in!"
The walk back went by fast and in silence. Claire practically skipped by Merri's side, her blonde curls bouncing with every move and her baby pink dress danced around her knees in the breeze. They climbed up to the second floor where Merri unlocked the door and let Claire in. While Merri was hanging up her jacket and taking her bag to the kitchen, Claire took the chance to walk around her living room, looking over the pictures on the fireplace.
"You know," Merri heard Claire say while she was taking out the ingredients from the fridge, "I've known you almost a year now and this is the first time I've been to your place."
Merri started cutting up the pears. "You never asked to come."
A few minutes later, as Merri was setting the plates on the counter, Claire walked in with two frames in her hands. "You have some questions you need to answer me, young lady." The way she was tapping her foot reminded Merri of her mum and the way she would always cross her arms over her chest and tap her high-heel clad foot whenever she did something bad.
"What did I do wrong this time, mummy?" Merri teased back with a smirk while searching her kitchen for the forks.
Claire heaved an annoyed sigh. "You never told me you had a boyfriend, Mer!" she exclaimed. "You don't keep that kind of a guy a secret from your best friend."
Merri looked at her, confusion etched in the crease between her dark eyebrows. "What're you talking about, Claire? What boyfriend?"
"I'm talking about this!" Claire showed Merri one of the photos she'd taken off the mantle. It was her senior prom photo, and the guy Claire thought was Merri's boyfriend was her date. "I never thought you'd catch that kind of a guy with your attitude. You're just so cold. Like ice." She seemed proud of her comparison. "When was this even taken?"
Merri plucked the photo from Claire's hands and put it face down a few inches away from her plate. The salad didn't seem as appetising to her anymore. "The guy you're talking about is Luke," she answered with a sigh as she mournfully stabbed at her dish. "The picture was taken at my senior prom, he was my date."
"Ah, so I was right! He is your boyfriend!" Claire clapped her hands together like a child. For a 20-year-old, she sometimes acted like she was 12, and this moment was no different. "How long've you two been going out?"
"Contrary to what you believe, Luke was not my boyfriend. He and I used to be best friends."
Claire frowned. "Used to be? And you're not friends anymore?"
"Why? You both look so happy in this photo and it must've been taken less than a year ago. What could've happened that you're not friends anymore?"
"Sometimes things happen for a reason and there's nothing we can do about it." The sad look in Merri's eyes made Claire recoil a bit, but not enough for the redhead to notice. "Some things happened - things I don't want to discuss, so let's just leave it at that."
"Okay..." Claire murmured and returned her attention to her dish.
For a few moments, the duo ate in silence. The only sound being the light scraping of the forks on the ceramic plates as they speared their food. Merri's muscles started relaxing - she wasn't even aware she'd tensed up - and her mind started trailing away from the memories of her prom night.
After they'd eaten, Merri and Claire chatted a bit more about some meaningless crap. To be honest, Merri wasn't even really paying attention to what the blonde was telling her. She just nodded and hummed at appropriate pauses and let Claire carry the conversation like in most cases. It occurred to Merri that she tended to befriend talkative people because she didn't feel like leading a conversation, gladly letting someone else take the reins. No, Merri preferred to listen, only giving her input when she felt it was necessary. She and her little brother, Seth, were a lot alike in that department.
It wasn't more than an hour later that Claire had left Merri's place. She had to get back home and change for her shift.
Claire worked as a waitress in a small family restaurant across town. Despite being from a fairly wealthy family, she wasn't against working. Whatever money she earned as a waitress, she used as her allowance while her folks payed her tuition and her apartment. Claire's attitude towards work was what Merri liked about her the best.
After washing the dishes, Merri changed into a teal t-shirt and some comfy grey sweats before stuffing a change of clothes, towels, gym shoes and a water bottle in her red and gold gym bag. She laced up her signature red chucks and put on a black hoodie, locking up her place and going towards her Impala for the short drive to her gym.
She should call Percy soon and see how he's doing. Since they'd met and learned that they were siblings, Merri and Percy had slowly gotten closer over the course of last summer. They discovered some common interests they had, she showed him how to properly ride a horse and a Pegasus, and she showed him the trick for studying she used during high-school in hopes it would help him with getting important information into his half-blooded head. They spent most days training and she showed him how she was able to control water and other liquids with such ease while it took great toll on him. After parting at the end of the summer, the two had promised to stay in contact - a promise both managed to hold up. Every week they would skype each other and spend hours ranting about one thing or the other.
Merri parked in front of a modern red-walled building with large glass windows. The neon green glowing sign said 'Jason's gym champions'. Not the most subtle name, but not the cheesiest she'd seen either. She went to her locker in the back, greeting the receptionist, Jake, with a wave on the way. She usually frequented the gym when it was too cold or wet to train outside, she didn't want to be out of shape when she went back to camp in the summer. The only downside of going to a mortal gym was not being able to work on her weapon skills but she made do with her usual training regime.
First, it was fifteen minutes of stretching her muscles followed by half an hour of running at various paces and angles of ascent. After her running, she hit the climbing wall, climbing it three times, measuring her time to see if there was any improvement with her speed, before going to the pool for some laps. The pool was more for her relaxation than training, seeing how the water energized her and removed any signs of muscle fever and exhaustion.
Finishing her last lap in the pool a two hours later, Merri stopped for a moment and let herself float on the water. Closing her eyes, she dove down to the bottom where she curled up in a little ball and observed the fluorescent lighting on the ceiling. Her auburn hair floated around her head making her resemble Disney's version of the Little Mermaid. Last summer, her once ginger red hair had started to darken in colour after she met Percy and she had expected it to turn completely black as it would be the second time it had done so. Merri was born with blonde hair streaked with black and red. When she turned seven, and after she came to camp for the first time, it had changed into red with black and blonde streaks, staying so for eleven years before starting to darken. So it came as a bit of a surprise to the demi-goddess when it remained red, albeit a darker shade.
She pushed herself off the side wall and proceeded to gently glide through the liquid surrounding her, letting the muffled silence fill her ears and calm her further. When she'd decided it was time to go home, it was already eight and night was falling. With her hair still slightly damp, Merri drove herself back to her apartment to start packing. In two days, she was going back to camp, for her twelfth summer as a half-blood and her second as the daughter of Poseidon.