May the Sea Be With You

Our 6th Birthday

I felt so bad that my mom was trapped between my world and Bob’s rules that I told her about my plan to spend my birthday at camp right after Nico left the next day. She grudgingly agreed to let me leave after a birthday breakfast, which she would cook herself.

All day on the twenty-sixth and twenty-seventh, I resisted Iris messaging anyone, trying to give my full self to my mom and Jacob while I was with them. Even though Bob was clearly still mad about Nico coming on Christmas, I managed to have fun for a few minutes here and there.

On my birthday, Jacob woke me up by jumping on my bed. “Happy Bir-day!” he said, smiling and bouncing on his hands and knees. I got out from under the covers and stood, holding his hands, to bounce with him, until Bob screamed at us to cut it out.

Jacob covered his ears, and I jumped off the bed, picked him up, and carried him to the kitchen. He was getting so big that I could barely carry him anymore.

“Happy birthday,” my mom said from the stove, where she was flipping bacon and chocolate chip pancakes.

I put Jacob down in the living room, then ran to hug my mom. “Thanks for breakfast.”

“You’re welcome, baby,” she said, leaning down and kissing my forehead. “You go play until it’s ready, okay?”

I obliged, and not long after, she called us to the table.

Bob sat down just after I helped Jacob into his highchair, and we ate in silence for a few minutes.

“Katelyn is going back to school today,” my mom said, not looking up from her plate.

Bob stopped eating, looking between us. “What kind of school is this, that she wants to go back so bad?”

“It’s hands-on learning,” I said, reciting what my mom had told me. “But we’re not doing school things right now. Some people just can’t go home for the holidays and they’re lonely, so I like being there with them.”

Bob nodded and went back to eating. I bet that he was just glad to get me out of his hair so that he could act like he had a normal life.

After breakfast, I insisted on helping my mom clean up. I was practiced at washing dishes from camp chores, so we got the job done quickly. We hung out in the living room, playing with Jacob’s toy zoo, for a few minutes before I stood up. “I should get going if I want to be awake for lunch.”

My mom grimaced and stood up, wiping her hands on her jeans. “You’ll come back for school in January?”

I sighed. Kindergarten was the worst. “Yeah.”

She smiled and hugged me. “I count the minutes until you come back. Every time.”

“Sorry,” I said, squeezing her extra tight. When she let go, I hugged Jacob, who told me to stop and pushed me away.

“He’ll miss you,” my mom assured me, even though I knew that he would. I knew how boring it could be when you were the only kid at home. “Be safe, okay?”

“I’ll do my best,” I promised. I put my shoes on, grabbed my backpack, and went outside to the shadow under the tree in the front yard.

Peyton had gone home for Christmas and Percy was coming in the evening to celebrate with a blue cake from his mom, so I was the only person at the Poseidon table for lunch. Since it was my birthday, no one said anything when I went to sit with Nico and Emma, though I could feel people looking.

“Happy birthday, you big six-year old,” Emma said, giving me a fist bump.

“Thanks,” I said, and Nico hugged me from the side. “I love you. Thanks for coming.”

“I wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” I said, hugging him back. “Oh, and I love you too.”

Emma smiled at her plate, but I saw it. It made me smile, which made Nico smile more.

“Any special plans?” Emma asked.

“Nope,” Nico said, looking at me. “Just being together.”

I almost added before I have to go home for school, but I stopped myself, wanting both of us to enjoy our birthday to the fullest.

After lunch, Nico and I went to the lake. Everyone who saw us wished us a happy birthday, and neither of us could stop smiling. We spent about an hour on the canoe, talking and kissing and rowing, keeping our arms strong, before we got off the lake and went for a jog on the path that went along the perimeters of the woods. All the safest parts.

“I can’t believe we’re finally six,” Nico said as we ran, not even sounding out of breath.

“Me neither,” I said, smiling.

“It still feels like we’ll never turn eight, though,” Nico said, looking at me.

“Yeah,” I agreed. “But we can still enjoy other people’s babies and just being boyfriend and girlfriend until then.”

“Right,” Nico agreed.

When we got back to our cabins from our run, the door to the Poseidon cabin was open. Nico grinned at me, knowing what that meant, and we sprinted into the cabin. I jumped into Percy’s arms, knocking him back onto his bed.

“Whoa,” he said, laughing and hugging me tight. “You have six year-old strength now!”

“Yup,” I said, standing up and flexing my muscles for him.

“Wow,” Percy said, smiling. “No one will be able to beat you now. What’s up, little dude?”

Nico smiled. “Nothing. Just got back from a run.”

“How far?”

The track was two miles from one end to another. “Four miles.”

Percy whistled. “Doubt I could do that right now. Although… I have been swimming a lot. So just swimming, but vertical.”

Nico and I laughed.

“What do you want to do, birthday kids?”

“Sword fight?” I asked, looking at him expectantly.

“All right, but only if you’re ready to get whooped.”

“It won’t be that easy,” I said, punching his arm and laughing.

“Yeah, you won’t be able to beat me,” Nico teased, jumping on him. Percy caught him, Nico’s toes still dragging on the floor. “All right, which one of you is going to get the piggyback ride?”

I let Nico take it, and we walked down to the arena slowly, asking Percy about his Christmas and his time at school. He smiled the whole time he talked, even though he had been attacked once, so I knew that he was truly happy to be with his mom and Paul.

“I wish her step-dad was that nice,” Nico said, patting Percy’s head. “He barely let me stay for Christmas.”

“Aw, you guys spent Christmas together?”

“Yeah,” I said, blushing a little bit.

“What about you and Annabeth?” Nico asked.

Percy finally frowned. “Her dad wanted her home. I mean, I’m glad she’s figured out how to get along with him and her step-mom and brothers, but man, I just want to spend a holiday with her beside the Fourth of July, you know?”

“Yeah,” Nico said, looking at each other knowingly. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Percy said. “Just something to look forward to.”

“Do you think you’re going to get married?”

The corner of Percy’s mouth twitched. “This probably shouldn’t get back to Annabeth just yet, but yeah. I’d like to think that we will.”

I smiled at Nico, who smiled back and hugged Percy even tighter.

After Percy tired Nico and I out by match after match of swordplay, we all walked to the pavilion for dinner, where everyone else at camp was already seated, eating, or in line for food.

“You’re late,” Chiron said, flicking Percy with his tail playfully.

“Had an emergency. Had to wear these two out.”

Nico and I grinned, and Chiron laughed. “Truly an emergency. Not a problem that is easily solved.”

“We even ran four miles and went canoeing today,” I said, smiling. Chiron reached down and gave me a high five. “Keeping up your fitness at home, are you?”

“Chasing Jacob around and running in my neighborhood,” I said.

Chiron nodded. “And when is your brother due back here again?”

I grimaced. “Mom kinda wants to keep him as long as she can. She gets all sad when she thinks about him leaving, too.”

Chiron nodded again. “I do not want to pressure her. I was merely asking. Your mother never informed me of any problems, but I had to wonder.”

I nodded and smiled, and Chiron walked away to talk to other campers.

Once we had our food, Percy and I joined Emma and Nico at the Hades table.

“I’m so sorry, but I was about to get going,” Emma said, standing up with her empty plate. “Jason and I have to take turns, and--”

“You’re fine, Emma,” Percy assured her. “Go get your kids.”

She smiled gratefully and kissed Nico’s head before running off.

“She’s a good sister,” Nico said, smiling.

“And mother, I would think,” Percy said, and Nico and I nodded.

“You know,” Percy said, “my mom and Paul are trying to have a baby.”

“You’re going to have a sibling?” I asked incredulously.

“You say that as if I don’t already have two,” Percy teased, bumping my shoulder.

“Or more,” Nico said.

“True,” Percy said, “but I like to only think about the ones I know of. It’s a lot less stressful.”

“Not to me,” I said. “If I think I only have you and Peyton, when someone else shows up, I’ll be so surprised and scared and everything like I was when Peyton showed up.”

“But that’s the thing,” Percy said. “It’s not when someone else shows up. It’s if. So if I sit here expecting to have another sibling and one never comes, I spend my whole life sad and disappointed.”

I shrugged.

Percy looked at Nico. “Back me up.”

Nico shook his head. “I’m with Katelyn.”

“Of course you are,” Percy said, smiling. “Just don’t expect too much from Dad, okay?” Percy said, taking my hand. I squeezed his. “I just think dad likes to have babies with pretty ladies.”

Percy laughed and let go of my hand. Nico and I joined in, and we laughed until we were red in the face. “You honestly are probably so right on this one,” Percy admitted, picking up his fork and starting to eat again.

At the bonfire, Percy brought out the cake that his mom had made for me. Jaq worked some old magic, which he hadn’t taught me, and duplicated the cake so that there was enough for everyone, which was really cool. It made me wish that I could do it, and I made a mental note to myself to ask Jake about it sometime, since he was the nice one.

At the end of the night, Percy gave me one last big hug before running to the stables to find Blackjack and head home. I watched him go, holding Nico’s hand, and wished again that all of my family could be together more often.

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