A Bittersweet Beginning
The Golden Age really did not feel golden at the beginning. For me. I know it sure did for Percy and Annabeth, who were finally dating. Percy smiled more than ever when I Iris messaged him: me at camp and him in his apartment in New York. He told me about his school, which wasn’t a boarding school, and about a friend that he made there. I was just happy that he was happy.
Nico Sr. dropped by occasionally and taught Emma, Nico Jr., and I to shadow travel. I could do it because of the gifts I had received when all of the gods had claimed me. Chiron told me that they only claimed me because they thought I would need it to unite the Greeks and Romans, and since I had done it essentially without their help, some of them had sort of rescinded their claiming of me. He told me not to be surprised if I lost some of my powers, but it didn’t bother me. I had never used anything but my powers from my dad, anyway.
That is, until shadow traveling, which took me longer to learn than Nico and Emma. But I did learn eventually, even though I ended up in the middle of a busy highway once and only narrowly survived.
Then, when Hecate made a special appearance at camp to teach her children, the Carman brothers, old magic, she told me that I would be able to learn some, too. The Carman brothers, Jaq, Jake, Jay, and Jarko were the only kids in the Hecate cabin, though Hecate made it sound like she had more children. Jaq was a few years older than me and really mean. If I wasn’t able to do something as fast as him, he made fun of me. Hecate never stopped him. Jake was a year older than me and was quieter than his brothers. He wasn’t as good at magic as Jaq or his brother Jay, who was the same age as me, and they made fun of him for it. Still, Jake never really talked to me or tried to include me.
The youngest Carman brother, Jarko, was just a baby, so he stayed in the nursery during our lessons, which only lasted 3 days. On the last day, Hecate gave Jaq books to study so that he would learn more magic. She told him to teach the rest of us, but he never reached out to me again, and it was years before I learned more magic. Not that I had any reason to use it before then, anyway.
Nico and I spent all of our spare time together, often playing with the babies in the nursery. Since our kiss, neither of us had talked about it, but I needed to.
“Nico,” I said one day in September as I rocked little Martin Kunwar to sleep. His parents were napping, and the other parents were out training while their kids slept. Nico and I had volunteered to comfort them if they woke up.
“Yeah?” he asked quietly, looking up from Kayla’s peaceful, sleeping face.
“Remember when we kissed?” I asked, my heart pounding.
“I was just wondering…” I said, the words catching in my throat. “I think--”
“I think about it a lot,” Nico admitted.
We sat in silence for a minute.
“Are we dating?” Nico asked.
“I think so,” I said.
“I think so too,” he said, smiling at me.
So from then on, we were. Nico and I made faces at each other from our separate tables at meals, having been called out enough for not sitting where we were supposed to. He always made sure that he sat so that he was facing me. We held hands whenever we walked anywhere together, and sometimes I took him out on a canoe in the lake and we talked, or he led me to the running path after dinner and we took walks, occasionally stopping to kiss each other tentatively.
In November, Argus found me in archery class and took me to the Big House. Chiron waited for me at the ping pong table, Dionysus nowhere to be seen. I sat down.
“How are you?’ Chiron asked.
“Good,” I said, shifting in the folding chair uncomfortably. Last time Chiron had called me to talk to him, he had told me that I was supposed to unite the two camps.
“Your mother contacted me,” he said, folding his hands over the fake legs that occupied his wheelchair.
“She said that she told you she was getting married in November.”
“Yes,” I said, shifting again. She had told me right after the Titan War when I called from a random New Yorker’s cellphone to tell her that I was okay.
“Well, it’s November. She was hoping that you would come home.”
Tears welled up in my eyes. I wasn’t sure why they came so suddenly. “For how long?”
“I think she hoped that you would come for the wedding, stay for the holidays, and then you would go to school in the spring.”
I shook my head, looking down at the table. One of my tears escaped, splatting on the ping pong table.
“It’s okay, child,” Chiron said, wheeling himself around the table. His warm hand found my shoulder. “It’s only for a little while. You can come back in the summer and Percy will be here.”
I nodded, crying silently. I did care about seeing Percy, but I cared about Nico more. He would be lonely without me. And he couldn’t watch all the babies by himself. Katie, Kit, Nyssa, Griffin, Emma, and Jason would be upset with me for leaving and not being able to babysit anymore.
“If you want, we could always try to arrange for you to be a year-round camper,” Chiron said. “But ultimately, it is your mother’s choice.”
“I know,” I said. I leaned over and hugged him impulsively. He hugged me back, one hand on my head. “It will be okay.”
When I finished crying, he gave me the date for the rehearsal dinner and the wedding that my mom had given him. I went back to my cabin with the paper in hand and lay down on Percy’s bed, wishing he was there to make jokes and make me laugh. It wasn’t fair that my family couldn’t be all together all the time. If I wanted to see my little half-brother Jacob and my mom, I had to go home and miss Nico and all of my friends here. It just wasn’t fair.
I left the paper on Percy’s bed and went to find Nico. He was in Ancient Greek, which Malcolm was teaching, so I waited outside the Athena cabin until they were done. Nico, Emma, and Jason came out together and saw me sitting in the grass.
“Did archery end early?” Emma asked.
I pulled at the grass. “Chiron called me to the Big House.”
Nico sat down next to me and Jason and Emma followed.
“My mom wants me to come home next week for her wedding.”
“You’re going to have a step-dad?” Emma asked.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “They’re generally the worst.”
Jason nodded in agreement. “When will you be back?”
I shrugged. “My mom wants me to stay and go to school.”
“You won’t be here until summer?” Nico asked.
I shrugged again. Then I looked up at Jason and Emma, trying not to cry. “I’m sorry I won’t be able to help with the babies.”
Emma patted my back. “It’s okay, promise.”
“Yeah,” Jason said. “You and Nico are always so nice, helping and everything.”
“You’re not mad?” I asked.
Nico took my hand and squeezed it.
“We’d never be mad at you,” Emma promised. “They’re not your kids.”
I laughed a little and used my free hand to wipe my eyes. I looked at Nico, who smiled.
The next week, I walked up Half-Blood Hill with Nico, Argus, Nyssa, and Tera. Nyssa had been the only one of our friends free to see me off, but it was okay. I had said goodbye to all of the rest of them at the campfire the night before.
“Take care, girlie,” Nyssa said, giving me a side hug and ruffling my hair.
“Thanks,” I said, grinning and reaching up to push my hair out of my eyes. Nyssa smiled and held Tera down so that I could kiss her forehead and say goodbye. Tera gave me one last drool-filled smile and I laughed.
Nico reached for my hand, and I turned and hugged him. “I love you,” I whispered.
“I love you too,” he whispered back. “You’ll Iris message me, right?”
“Whenever I can,” I promised.
We let each other go and I tried not to think about the tears in his eyes.
Argus touched my shoulder and gestured away from camp. I gave Nico, Nyssa, and Tera one last smile and then followed Argus down the hill. Nico and Nyssa waved, and I waved back. I tried not to look again, but I couldn’t resist, and I saw Nico hugging Nyssa’s legs, his face buried in her shirt. She rubbed his back with one hand, holding Tera in the other, and my heart broke a little bit.
I took a train home because I wasn’t confident enough in my shadow traveling to get home safely. Argus dropped me off at one platform and my mom, Bob, and Jacob picked me up at the next.
My mom hugged me as if she hadn’t seen me in years, which I supposed was nearly true. Bob smiled at me but never tried to hug me, which I was thankful for.
Jacob didn’t seem to remember me very much since he was only 3, but he let me hold his hand as we walked to Bob’s car to go home.
Our house was much different than I remembered, since Bob was living there now. He shared a room with my mom, and my room was next to Jacob’s. Even though my mom was a good cook, she made a lot of things that I didn’t like and I wished for camp food.
The next day, I went outside in my coat and turned on the hose to Iris message Nico. We had only talked for about twenty minutes before Bob came out.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
I knew he couldn’t see through the Mist, and I was pretty sure that my mom hadn’t told him who my father was, so I couldn’t think of a lie fast enough.
“This is a waste of water, and you could get frostbite,” he said, ripping the hose from my hand and turning it off.
I popped my thumb in my mouth. It had been over the end of the hose, making the water into a spray, and it was very cold and bright red.
“Get inside,” he said.
He marched me to the front door. When my shoes and coat were off, he steered me to Jacob’s room, where he and my mother were playing with blocks.
“Do you know what your daughter was doing?” Bob asked, holding my arm. I shook it out of his grip.
“No, what?” my mom asked.
“She was playing with the hose. In nearly freezing weather.”
My mom looked at me knowingly. “You just really love water, don’t you Katelyn?” she asked.
“It’s okay, we can find something for you to play with inside.”
“Okay.” I said. I didn’t want to play. I just wanted to talk to Nico.
“That’s it?” Bob asked. “Our hose could have water left in it that’s going to freeze and make us have to buy a new one in the spring!”
“Well now she knows better,” my mom said. Jacob sat down in her lap, and she hugged him close.
“Unbelievable,” Bob said, stomping out of the room.
“Iris messaging Percy?” Mom asked.
“Friends at camp,” I said. I hadn’t really told my mom about Nico and I being more than friends. She had never really met him.
“We’ll find a way for you to do it inside, okay?”
“Okay,” I said, sitting down and absentmindedly building a little tower with Jacob’s blocks. “Are you going to tell him about us?”
My mom sighed. “Maybe sometime, when Jacob is older. He still thinks that camp is a special school for dyslexic kids and that your dad’s name is Paul.”
I smiled a little, thinking that Percy’s step-dad’s name was Paul. “What about Dionysus?”
My mom smiled. “Derek.”
“Jacob looks a lot like Pollux. Dionysus’s other kid.”
“I met him, remember? When I picked Jacob up from camp. He’s a good-looking boy, just like his dad.”
“Oh yeah. But he does.”
“He certainly got the blond hair.”
“Mom,” I said, hesitating. “Do you still love Dionysus?”
She grimaced. “No, honey, I don’t. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t love Jacob.”
“I know,” I said. “What about my dad?”
She hesitated. “No, I don’t.”
“Why isn’t my hair black like Percy’s?” I asked.
My mom shrugged. “Poseidon said he was surprised too, when your hair went from black to brown. But I think it fits you.”
“At least I have green eyes,” I said, sighing.
“Your eyes are beautiful,” my mom said, putting her arm around me for a second. “I’m glad you’re home.”
I didn’t respond.