Darn, I forgot my toothbrush. I should have listened to Renée. Why didn’t I pack that annoying little thing after I used it last night? I was most likely too tired to have actually bothered to tuck it inside a pocket of my carry on bag, but hey, it wasn’t entirely my fault. Renée had to schedule the flight from Phoenix to Seattle at three in the morning. I was an early riser, but waking up a few hours after midnight was just plain torture.
I had half the mind to forget about the plane ticket and just commute all the way to Forks, all for the purpose of getting a lie in, but then I was discouraged immediately. The thought of encountering the many monsters on the way was just daunting. No matter how many times I battled a monster and won, it was still a very scary thought to meet one. I didn’t win all the time – sometimes I was just plain lucky to come out alive.
That was the life of a demigod. Or a hero, as we are occasionally called.
It was a four-hour flight from Phoenix to Seattle, a two-hour wait for the next flight to Port Angeles, which in turn had taken an hour, and then an hour drive back down to Forks. I’ve never flown anywhere before, but after a quick prayer of request to keep my flight safe to Zeus, the god of the skies, I found that there wasn’t much to fear when you’re thousands of feet high in the air.
“Bella, are you all right in there?” Charlie asked, tapping his knuckles on the half-opened bathroom door. The only thing that sucked about living with Charlie, as far as I could think of, was that we have to share bathrooms.
“I’m fine, Ch – Dad.” I smiled and lifted my toiletry bag, “I just forgot my toothbrush is all.” I wasn’t allowed to address Charlie by his first name, mainly because he had no idea he wasn’t my real father, and also because it would be impolite.
“Well, in that case,” he said, scratching the side of his face, “I have a spare somewhere. You can buy yourself a new one tomorrow after school.” He turned to leave, but paused and said, “You do know where the nearest convenience store is around here, right?”
I laughed. “Of course; I might not have been here since I was ten, but I’d like to think my memory’s that good. Besides, there’s only one Thriftway here, right?”
“Oh,” Charlie blushed. He was smiling, so I suppose he wasn’t that embarrassed. “I knew that. Well, you’re free to do whatever you want: unpack, roam around the town, listen to that raucous music of yours, but just make sure you’re safe, all right? I’m gonna head out to Billy’s place at the rez.”
I nodded and assured him that I would be safe. Besides, I had no plans of leaving the house’s perimeter – explore the front and back lawn for a secluded practice ground if I had enough time after unpacking, but that’s about the extent of it. After telling Charlie that I was glad to be here, I thus began the search for my new toothbrush.
Silly elusive thing tormented me for about half an hour before I found it inside the medicine cabinet. I had to turn the entire household upside down. On the plus side, I found the dusty VHS collection of Disney movies Charlie, Renée and I used to watch way back when.
The next day, I was up earlier than usual since school here began an hour earlier than Sacagawea High. I didn’t mind, because that meant I was able to witness the sun rise. It was a mighty scene to behold. For once, the overcast skies of Forks were – well, not overcast. I knew it would be unreasonable for me to wish that the clouds would just disappear for the rest of the day, but I really did hope that it will. Just for my first day of school, at least.
I stretched as I pushed myself off the wall, happy to have seen the beautiful rays of sun dance around the many leaves of the trees in the surrounding forest. Mindful that Charlie was most likely still asleep, I turned on my stereo and adjusted to volume to the lowest audible level and began my morning routine. The first thing I ever do was make my bed to wake my body up, and then I have to prepare my clothes for the day and bring it with me to the bathroom. It would be mortifying if Charlie ever sees me clad in only a towel.
“Bella, are you decent?”
I spun around in shock, my eyes darting to the door. Charlie’s head was popped inside, eyes tightly shut. It made even clearer the obvious crows feet around his eyes. I also noticed that he hadn’t shaved for the day yet and that his moustache was unruly. He must have just walked out of bed.
“I’m okay, Dad,” I said, confused. “What’s wrong?”
Charlie straightened up and entered the room fully, opening the door wide so that the air can circulate. “Nothing to worry about,” he said, yawning. “I just wasn’t sure if you liked lie ins or not. I was supposed to wake you up and tell you to prepare for school, but I can see you’re way ahead of me.”
“I think it should be me telling you to wake up and get ready for work,” I replied dryly. I eyed his sleepwear with mock admonishment. “It’s already after sunrise and you’re still not ready, Mr. Chief of Police? The early bird gets the worm, you know.”
“Yeah, yeah…” Charlie rolled his eyes. “I’m gonna make breakfast,” he grumbled. “Hope you like burnt toast and dry cereal.”
I followed Charlie about half an hour later, freshly clean and ready for my upcoming day. I was wearing a unisex dark grey t-shirt with Camp Half-Blood’s logo on the front, tied into a knot behind me so that it fit better. For pants I chose to wear my faded blue jeans that flared at the bottom, covering the back half of my Nike shoes. They were faded for a reason, seeing as I’ve worn them nearly every other week. They were my favorite pair, having sown onto them two long, thin pockets for my drumsticks.
Yes, I play the drums. I won’t say that I’m a prodigy at it, but hitting the drums (or anything, for that matter) when I feel hyper was a good way to relieve the excess energy. And I feel hyper all the time because of my ADHD. Since it wasn’t really ADHD but battle ready energy, the hyperactivity hadn’t really calmed through the years.
My drumsticks, however, weren’t just meant to be used as sticks to hit drum sets. They were especially made for me by Milo, a certain son of Hephaestus, after I lost considerably to him in a sword fight. My strength was with the bow and arrow, and so fighting with a sword usually means a certain defeat for ol’ me. But, good friend that he is, Milo informed me about the importance of close contact fighting and then gifted me on my thirteenth birthday a very special pair of knives: a heavy saxe knife and a short throwing knife. They were special in the way that they can be transformed into a pair of drumsticks for camouflage, and vice versa.
I was distraught to hear the news of his death a day after the Battle with Kronos and his army. That was two years ago. Milo died with bravery and honor, and his friends will never forget him.
“Wow Bella,” Charlie commented as I sat down on front of him, stealing a piece of triangular toast from his plate. “You look nice.”
I took a bite of the buttered toast, chewed, and then smiled around it. It was burnt and tasted awful. “Only the best for my first day of school,” I said.
My first day of school and I was beginning at the middle of the semester. Not only will I get some attention as the daughter of the Police Chief’s flighty ex-wife returned, but I would also be gossiped about whether why I chose to move school between semesters. As a junior who was supposed to be getting ready for college, that’s a stupid move to make. Well, I could always blame Renée for kicking me out.
Once breakfast was done, I volunteered to wash the dishes, much to Charlie’s delight. The extra time allowed him to just sit back and catch a few z’s before heading for work.
“All right, Dad,” I said as I was donning on my hoodie jacket. It was a plaid pattern of red and black. “I’m going to head off. Don’t want to be late, you know…”
I was halfway out the door when Charlie’s shout made me stop. “Wait, Bells!” he cried. He then bounded after me, a wide smile on his face. I was puzzled by his uncharacteristic behavior – Charlie wasn’t the type to bound after people.
“What’s up, Dad?” I asked.
“Nothing,” he said. “I just wanted you to have this.” He then handed to me what looked like a set of keys. Looking closer, I realized that it was a set of keys, with a small key chain pepper spray attached. I thought it was for the locks of the front and back doors, but then I realized that there was one key particular…
I blinked and took an involuntary intake of breath. “Is this what I think it is?”
“Depends on what you’re thinking,” quipped Charlie. That wide smile was still on his face. “Well,” he said, impatient at my lack of obvious reaction. “Do you like it? It’s your homecoming present, if you will. I didn’t have much of an allowance, but I couldn’t resist splurging some money for my lovely daughter. I just want you to be comfortable here, Bella.”
That brought tears to my eyes, strengthening the fact that though Charlie might not be the one who fathered me, but he was still my father. He was my father in all things but blood. He didn’t have to get me a car, but he did, even though he was strapped for cash.
“Thank you,” I said sincerely. I wrapped my arms around him in a hug. “You don’t know how much this means to me. The truck’s perfect. It’s the perfect homecoming present.”
It really did warm my heart to think as Forks as my home, as coming back to this sleepy town to live permanently, a thing I haven’t done since I was five years old. And to spend some quality time with Charlie? I haven’t done that in ages. After I began living with Renée again, Charlie had only visited for two weeks during the summer before he had to go back home and I to Camp Half-Blood.
I said goodbye to Charlie before hopping into the rusty orange-y red truck. It had big round fenders and a bulbous cab, reminding me somewhat of a pathetic, wide-eyed puppy. Suffice to say, I fell in love with it. The first thing I did before driving away was to check the glove compartment, which thankfully was full of my favorite CDs. Thank the gods for Charlie’s consideration. I loved listening to music, especially when driving.
The second thing I did was to pump up the heater. Silly me had forgotten to buy a coat for the freezing Forks weather, and all I have was my flimsy hoodie. It wasn’t as if it was at the forefront of my mind as I was packing my clothes back in Phoenix. It was hot, dry desert in Arizona. It didn’t occur to me that it would be freezing here in Forks. Cold, yes. Rainy, definitely. Freezing? Didn’t cross my mind at all.
I drove for a couple of minutes, wandering aimlessly and just looking at the sights to see (there was forest everywhere, and I knew now the exact location of that convenience store), before I saw that I only had about fifteen minutes before classes began. Luckily, Forks High was easy enough to spot, and I parked in the only available parking space.
“Hi, I’ve never seen you around here before,” greeted an enthusiastic girl with frizzy brown hair and a well-concealed zit on her chin. She was leaning on the purple van parked beside mine, surrounded by her small group of friends.
“Nice ride,” one of the guys, who had coffee colored skin and a bright smile, commented. For some particular reason, this annoyed the girl with the zit on her chin.
“Er, thanks?” I hauled my book bag over my shoulder. “I’m a new student,” I said to the girl, “so you probably never saw me before.”
“Oh, so you’re Isabella, then!” She grinned widely and clasped her hands together. “I’ve heard so much about you from my mom, who has these weekly dinners with Angela’s mom,” she pointed at a quiet girl with framed glasses, “who happens to be the sister of the Police Chief’s deputy’s husband. I mean, I practically know all about you already!”
Huh, nice try, mortal. I bet you don’t know me at all. Hello? Daughter of an Olympian god here!
“Er…” was all I was able to say. Thankfully, the bell rang and the group scattered to wherever it was they were supposed to go, leaving me alone to trek up to the school’s administrative office to claim my timetable and a map of the school. Mrs. Cope, the secretary, was a jolly enough lady, though from the way she had peered down at me told me that she thought it was odd that the Police Chief’s daughter would come back after twelve years’ of absence.
Yeah, I thought it was odd, too. I was halfway through my junior year, and it really was unfortunate that I got expelled.
“Oh, there you are, Isabella!” I jumped about fifteen meters high in the air when the frizzy haired girl with the zit on her chin came out at me from nowhere. “I’m Jessica, we met in the parking lot just this morning?” She was way too cheery for my tastes, but I swallowed my irritation and forced myself to smile.
“Please,” I said, “call me Bella. Isabella’s too formal.”
“Whew,” Jessica laughed, looking relieved. “Thank you, Bella! You’re name’s kind of a mouthful, you know. Just like mine, right? Jessica… Most of my friends call me Jess, but Tyler calls me Jessie on the side, if you know what I mean.” She wriggled her eyebrows suggestively. She prattled on about one thing or another as she led me to my first class of the morning, which fortunately we didn’t share.
The rest of the morning was pretty much normal, aside from that one time I stumbled over a passage when one teacher asked me to read something from the board. So by lunchtime, everyone in the two hundred and something student populace knew that I was dyslexic. I heaved a sigh. It was Sacagawea High all over again, and Preston High before that, and some other high school I forgot the name of before that…
I didn’t know what I was thinking, hoping that this time no one would know that I was dyslexic. I suppose holding out that no one would figure out that I had ADHD as well was going to be pointless. I already spaced out eight times in three different lessons, and basically ignored a handful of the students who approached me because the blue sky above was more interesting.
“Hey Bella, come sit over us!” Jessica shouted the moment I entered the cafeteria. I complied and took the seat beside the quiet girl, Angela. When I sat down, she looked up from her novel and smiled.
Wow, she has pretty gray eyes, I thought. The girl reminded me of Annabeth, who used to be my fellow full-time camper until she began living with her father. Annabeth was the daughter of Athena, so perhaps Angela was a half-sister of hers. My eyes glanced down at Angela’s neck, hoping to see a beaded necklace like the one I wore. It was a sign that the person wearing it had spent at least one full summer in Camp Half-Blood.
“Bella?” I was shook from my own little world by Mike, a blond-haired guy that somehow reminded me of a golden retriever. He was asking me what I was having for dinner.
“Oh, I’m not really hungry,” I gestured to the Coke in my hands. “I had a big breakfast.” Which was true. Who knew Charlie could cook up a storm? Maybe being in his lonesome for the last twelve years was good for his culinary skills. Though the toast was burnt and the cereal was dry, the eggs and bacon were delicious.
Mike accepted my answer and, though reluctant to turn away from me, acknowledged Jessica’s prodding for conversation. Tyler, the one who commented how nice my car was, was having an intense conversation with Eric about Dungeons and Dragons… or was it World of Warcraft? I didn’t really care.
“I see you’re wearing the logo,” whispered Angela softly.
For the second time today, I jumped fifteen meters up in the air, having been caught in surprise. “Logo?” I choked out, “What logo?”
Angela rolled her eyes. “Don’t act dumb,” she said. “I know you’re a half-blood, your shirt says so.” I looked down at my shirt, and realized that I was wearing my Camp Half-Blood t-shirt.
“And how do you know about Camp?” I retorted, feeling – I dunno – embarrassed at being caught. “You must be a half-blood, too, right? Daughter of Athena, I suppose?”
“Yes,” Angela nodded. “I’ve attended camp for about two whole summers. I was all too happy to go for my third, but my dad didn’t want me to go. He heard word about a huge fight, a war, between the gods and Kronos. He didn’t let me go, no matter how much I had begged.”
“Lucky you,” I said sadly. I averted my eyes to focus on my Coke. “I was there, you know, when Percy Jackson led us to defend Olympus. I was only fifteen, but I fought the best I can.”
“Took down many monsters, I bet.”
“If I do say so myself,” I chuckled. Then I stopped. “But, I almost died when an empousa came after me. I lost that particular fight, and would’ve died if it weren’t for Connor Stoll, you know him, right?” Angela nodded. “So basically, I was unable to fight for the rest of the battle. The next thing I knew, I was being tended in the Ritz hotel by some kid of Apollo – nice girl, Hannah was – and Connor was out of his mind, excited about being honored by the gods for our heroic deeds. Then Frank, my best friend, was telling me to go home and visit my mother. Anything to get away from New York at the moment.”
“Sounds like you had a great time.”
I cracked a smile. “Yeah, you could say that.”
Despite all the dangers I have faced fighting against Kronos’ army, all the injuries and pains, I knew it was worthwhile. Why? Because the world was restored to order, because Zeus was not overthrown and because I moved back in with my mother… that’s why.
Well, it was funny to see her face when I turned up halfway through their dinner. I mean, she hadn’t seen me since I was ten. I suppose it came as a surprise to me when I saw that she was married again, with two beautiful little girls. I had to admit I was jealous, but hey, all demigods had to deal with half-siblings. It was just they way things were.
Angela and I shared a smile. That smile was not the only thing we shared, though. We were both half-bloods, we both knew what it’s like to fight a monster and survive. I have a strong feeling that Angela and I were going to be great friends.