The Diet Coke crumpled in a flash of red tinfoil and sharp edges. Annabeth swore and applied pressure on her finger. She could not for the life of her understand why she was suddenly feeling murderous towards empty soda cans and honestly, anything that resembled a shade of red. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted her laughing wildly at something Seaweed Brain said, all glorious hair and crinkled eyes. Annabeth never looked like that when she laughed. She laughed in short small gasps, like an old AC expelling air. Dear Gods, what had come over her? Since when did she care how she sounded when she laughed?
“Annabeth!” Percy called out at that moment, waving her over. “Come play Hacky Sack with us!” Annabeth sent him a look that could’ve re-frosted Medusa’s statues in case they ever decided to come back to life. “We’re in the Labyrinth”, she deadpanned.
“So?” Percy shrugged.
The audacity. “Wouldn’t want to interrupt your perfect little moment of bonding in the midst of turmoil.” Annabeth almost spat, but managed to check herself and muttered something like “Not in the mood”. This annoyance Annabeth could explain, and she felt relieved for that. Hacky Sack was something she, Percy and Grover played in the few odd moments in between missions where everything seemed normal. It was almost like he was disregarding the tradition; diluting it by sharing it with some artsy boho girl he’d just met. Rachel. She rolled the name around in her head. Even her name was pretty, whereas she had gotten stuck with one that sounded eerily similar to one haunted doll. But what definitely frustrated Annabeth the most was the way that Rachel just seemed to radiate light, like a luminescent goddamn lampshade. She was perpetually smiley, beaming, grinning and so light-hearted, and so unlike Annabeth’s sour expressions and caustic sarcasm that she felt small. Rachel just seemed so nice. Annabeth hated to admit it, but she had never cared about coming across as intimidating, stoic and no bullshit before. In fact, she thoroughly prided herself on being tough as nails. She would still prefer everyone else to have that impression. So why was it bothering her so damn much that Percy did so too?
She hated what she was turning into. Since when did she let anyone, let alone a guy have such an effect on her? This wasn’t her. The normal her wouldn’t have cared if her stupid best friend was bonding with another girl. But gods, the bitter taste in her mouth and the hardening of her eyes every time she heard Rachel banter with Percy was far too prominent to deny. That was their thing. And now this random girl whom they had just met was making it hers like it meant nothing.
She leaned against a rock and shut her eyes. She was more tired than she’d like to admit. Even with her eyes shut, a certain green-eyed boy made his way into her subconscious. She thought of how Percy’s face would light up in joy when he was around Sally and his signature sarcastic smirk when he said something funny. Well, he thought he was funny. She remembered their first time having an actual conversation at the back of the Kindness International truck, on their first quest, when they had really bonded for the first time, and how he would move mountains for the people he loved. The thought made her eyes soften.
She tried very, very hard not to think about how his arms would flex when they fought while practicing. She failed. She rolled her eyes and tried to keep a slight smile from taking over her face. That was when it hit her. She sat up in horror, blinking rapidly as she stared at Percy who was trying to lick his elbow to prove a point. Gods, she liked the idiot.
The thought of telling him now made her want to throw up, she would rather do anything else. But she was Annabeth Chase and she was no coward, so without thinking (which was unusual for her) she marched up to where Percy and Rachel were sitting as she tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around and looked at her questioningly for a moment. As she was about to open her mouth to say she needed to talk to him, she felt a sudden tremor take over her and she froze. For some reason, she couldn’t do it. Not today, anyway. “Uh, Annabeth?” He rolled his eyes. “Earth to Wise Girl.” She was interrupted (saved) by a loud crash, and the telltale signs of a monster approaching.
7 years later:
“And that was the ONLY time you’ve been afraid. Wasn’t it?” Percy asked, grinning from his favourite spot in the living room.
“You’re enjoying this way too much,” grumbled Annabeth. “I should’ve never told you this story.”
“It’s a good thing you did. finally tell me anyway, you’d have deprived yourself of this” he said, playfully gesturing up and down at himself.
Annabeth threw a cushion at his face and rolled her eyes as she stood up. “Whatever you say, seaweed brain.”
“No matter how cool you act, we all know you’re a simp for me wise girl.”
“After 7 years, I think I’m immune to your charms. To be honest, I'm actually quite tired of- AAH!” Annabeth caught the cushion that had landed on her face.
“This. Means. War.”
Authors: Nandini Patil and Ananya Chaure
Editor: Vedant Vaswani