The Beginning of a New Summer
“Do you think Chiron likes all the babies?” I asked Nico as we walked from the Pavilion to our battle strategy lesson.
“He always holds them when he goes to the nursery.”
“But he doesn’t go to the nursery much, right?”
“Right,” Nico said. “I think they scare him. ’Cause he can’t train them like he trains everyone else.”
I laughed, and Nico joined me. I looked at him, soaking up his smile. “So, new last name, huh?”
“What?” Nico asked, still smiling. “Is it so bad to think we could share a last name?”
“Of course not,” I said, taking his hand. “I just didn’t think you’d tell me for the first time when Chiron was there.”
Nico smiled and squeezed my hand. “Do you have any ideas?”
“No, not yet. But I will.”
“I know you will,” Nico said. “You’re good with names.”
It took us a matter of days to fall into rhythm, being year-round campers together. On the other hand, it took us months to come up with the last name that we wanted to share someday.
By the end of May, our summer friends were flooding into camp, and everything felt right again. Familiar faces were all around, and everywhere we went, there was someone to catch up with. Percy and Annabeth were back, of course, as were Nikia, Robert, Izak, Camden, Gary and Nickole from the Demeter cabin, Nathan, Spencer, and Jane from the Athena cabin, Mickey, Ashlynn, Willow, and Maddox from the Apollo cabin, Connor, Travis, Devin, Callie, Julio, and Chris from the Hermes cabin, Cleo, Nate, Carl, and Leo from the Hephaestus cabin, Christian, Conga, Marge, Allen, and Kelli from the Ares cabin, Thatcher, Thasher, and Penny from the Nemesis cabin, Bermuda (who was not one of the Carmans) from the Hecate cabin, Orlando, Layla, Lakara, Sandyr, and Raidyr from the Hebe cabin, the Barnaby brothers: Jax, Jary, and Jay, along with two new siblings from their parents: Jakie and Jade. To add to the Boreas cabin, Sierra Phillips, Clovis and Cannon from the Hypnos cabin, Logan, German, and Keylin from the Nike cabin, Fich, Cog, and Rainy from the Iris cabin, and Leeland, Lilac, and Logan from the Tyche cabin.
With the addition of the two new Barnaby kids, this put our numbers at Camp Half-Blood at an all time high, and on the first night that everyone was there, Chiron let the rules go out the window for dinner and we were free to mingle.
Peyton settled at the Apollo table with her friend Maddox, but Nico, Percy, and I settled at the Athena table with Annabeth, Malcolm, and their brother Spencer Barnhart, who was a couple years younger than Annabeth but older than their other siblings, Nathan and Jane.
“How was school?” Annabeth asked Spencer.
He sighed. “Can we not talk about it ever again after this? I know you’ll keep asking if I don’t answer, but I really don’t want to talk about it.” “You don’t have to,” Malcolm said.
“Okay,” Spencer said. “I’ll just sum it up. I’m in the gifted and talented program, right? Well, I really wanted to go to this alternative school for twice exceptional children, because of the ADHD and dyslexia crap. Well, I got in, but then my dad heard the tuition numbers and… Yeah, I had to trash the whole idea and stick it out at my public school, where I basically teach the gifted and talented class and all my normal classes are boring as hell. Just sucks.”
“At least your school has a gifted and talented program,” Percy said. “Mine sure doesn’t.”
“They might, Seaweed Brain, but you’d never know,” Annabeth teased. Percy rolled his eyes and bumped her shoulder with his playfully.
“We can do a ton of fun stuff this summer,” Malcolm promised Spencer.
“And then I’ll go into next year even more far ahead of everything,” Spencer said, laughing. “But thanks, Malcolm. Seriously. Sounds really great.”
“So,” Annabeth said, looking at me and smiling. “I heard we have a new year-rounder.”
I smiled back. “Yep. I don’t know if I will be in the fall, but it was really fun for the couple months that I got to. Malcolm’s a super good teacher.”
Malcolm blushed. “Thanks, kid.”
“You know,” Annabeth said, “I think that, after I get out of college, I’m going to spend some time here teaching. Really giving back, you know?”
“Or you could take a gap year. Help me out now,” Malcolm said, and Annabeth laughed. “What? I’m serious!” Malcolm said. “You’d be great at it, and I really need help.”
“Sorry, Mal, I just… I don’t think I can.”
“Because,” Annabeth said, looking at Percy like “Back me up.”
Percy cleared his throat and looked down at his plate. “Well, I know Annabeth has some really focused goals, but I was thinking about doing just that, Malcolm.”
“What?” Annabeth yelled, so loudly that nearly everyone looked over.
“Yeah,” Percy said. “Not to like, teach real class like Malcolm does, but to teach sword fighting. And canoeing and stuff. You know, Peyton is still trying to master her powers--”
“And me,” I said.
Percy smiled. “You can do anything I can, sis. I have nothing left to teach you.”
I smiled down at my plate, blushing.
“But aren’t you going to go to college?” Annabeth asked. “I thought we had a deal. New Rome and everything.”
Percy sighed. “I’m not backing out. Just hear what I’m really saying. Just a gap year. It’s no big deal, okay? I’ll be a year behind you.”
Annabeth sighed. “We can talk about this later.”
“Ooohhh,” Malcolm and Spencer said, then broke off into laughter.
Annabeth’s glare could have turned anyone to stone, but Malcolm and Spencer were too busy laughing to see it.