The Daughter of Apollo
Chapter 10: Enter Frank
My comeback after my near-death experience with Tyler's van was as normal as can be – that is, if you considered having teens your own age idol worship you for either coming out alive from a situation like being nearly run over, or at the fact that it was 'the' Edward Cullen who heroically saved me. Frankly, I've grown tired and weary with the large posse by the time lunchtime rolled around, so I was immensely glad that Angela kidnapped me and showed me her hiding place.
"I always go up here whenever I get frustrated by anyone or when I just need to be alone," she said as she spread a folded blanket over a cement bench, allowing the material to soak up the remnants of rain water. We were on the roof of the Science building, where some of the senior science students performed most of their plant-related experiments (or where the smokers go secretly to unwind, judging from the lingering scent of eau de smoke).
"Well, it's nice up here," I said, admiring the view of the school and the town from above. "I'd never thought that I'd find myself up on the roof of a school building after what happened back in Preston High."
Angela stifled her chuckles. "Let me guess: You got attacked and somehow you ended up on the roof fighting for your life?"
"With a throwing knife in one hand and a saxe knife in the other," I nodded my head passionately, the scene of the incident clear in my mind. "Since, you know, hauling to school a bag filled with a bow and a full set of arrows is a very stupid thing to do. I mean, they had metal detectors at the entrance doors! I couldn't sneak in anything worthwhile."
"Right, I see. Oh, and speaking of weapons," She rummaged in her bag and took out her lip balm. "I like the work done in yours." She nodded her head to the direction of my drumsticks, catching me by surprise to find out that she knew what they were in the first place. "So," she smiled, throwing me the lip balm, "I'd like to show you mine."
I caught the flying projectile deftly with one hand. Eyebrows furrowed with the lack of comprehension as to why I was holding lip balm – let's face it, I wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed – I wedged the thing between my forefinger and thumb and asked, "My lips are dry?"
Angela laughed. Heartily. "No, silly. That's what I want to show you! Open it and see what I mean."
I did as I was instructed and, a split second later, the small lip balm was replaced by one magnificent sword. Made from what else but celestial bronze, the double edged sword was amazingly lightweight and very, very sharp. The hilt was simply decorated, but engraved at the tip was an owl, the symbol of Angela's mother.
"It's breathtaking," I whispered, eyes wide, taking the entire thing in all at once. "I've never seen a sword as wonderfully made as this…" I backtracked, thinking of Frank's sword. "Well, it's the third best wonderfully made sword I've seen," I amended, thinking out loud.
"Whoa, hold up there, Swan," Angela cried. She was standing up with both hands on her hips. "What do you mean the third best sword?" She wrestled the weapon from my arms and, imagining an assailant (most likely a giant spider, her worst nightmare), performed some of the basic maneuvers. "This thing is my baby, how could you say that?"
"I'm sorry," I said sincerely, "but it's true." I shrugged helplessly, knowing how ridiculous one can get over their chosen weapon. I know I've made a fool of myself a couple of times when someone (cough*Frank*cough) made an offhand comment about my bow and arrow being shoddy or about my knives not being grandly decorated enough.
"Aww, c'mon," Angela pouted. "Who else has a better sword than me? Tell me your top two."
Reluctantly, I told the annoyed daughter of Athena my top two.
"Well, Riptide is pretty awesome," she allowed, "Percy's sword is historical. But this Frank, is he the same guy you told me about on your first day here?"
"Yes…" I said softly. "My best friend. He's older than me by a few years, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's brighter."
Turning around, I looked away from Angela and examined the many different colors of roses behind me. I gently caressed one a pale pink one with my third finger, feeling the velvety smoothness of it, reminding me of my last day with Frank. It was on the last day of summer just this year. We were going on our separate ways: Me back to Renee's place and him to his father's condominium in Chicago.
I wonder where Frank was now. He's probably studying very hard in whichever college Mr. Stinson had chosen for his only stepson – or most likely, skiving off of lessons as he wandered the busy streets of Chicago, hitting on one poor girl after the next. Being a son of Aphrodite, Frank was blessed with immense good looks and charm. It's a wonder that he hasn't been offered a modeling contract yet.
"I see that you miss him," came Angela's hushed voice. "He must be a very good friend to you."
I laughed a teary laugh. "Only if you call IM-ing your best friend only once after months' worth of absences a very good friend," I said wryly. "He attracts trouble wherever he goes and, when I'm close enough, I sometimes get dragged along with him. I don't mind fighting with him side by side, but it's when he's alone that I get worried. He never stops by or calls or IMs to tell me how he's doing, and I hate that."
"I'm sorry." Angela wrapped me into a warm hug. "I'm sure wherever he is, he's all right."
"Yeah…" I murmured. "You're right."
After a while, Angela let go of me. There was comfortable silence between us and I was enjoying myself with the peace when, out of the blue, Angela asked, "Does Frank own a sleek black Porsche?"
I sent her a baffled look. "Yes, but why are you asking?"
"And does he, by any chance, have charcoal black hair?"
"Personally I'd say it was ebony black, but sure, yes. How did you know?"
"Does he like wearing button up shirts and dress pants?"
"And Italian shoes," I added. "All the time. Why? Have you met him before?"
"Know him?" Angela gulped. "I think I just saw him." She raised her finger to point downwards towards the parking lot. And then I saw what she was seeing.
Frank, my absentee best friend, was sitting on the hood of his car, looking ill at ease as every pair of eyes in the sparsely populated parking lot (and its surrounding field) stared at him. Indeed he was dressed just as Angela described him, so he looked a few years older than his twenty years of age.
"Oh gods," I exclaimed, delighted. "It's Frank!"
I suppose leaving Angela on the roof was a bad decision on my part. In fact, leaving the school premises with Frank without telling anyone that I was leaving was sure to get me into trouble the minute I get back. But what the hell, I'm throwing all my cares away. Why? Because I haven't seen my best friend in months, and I missed him.
I repeat: My best friend.
And at the moment we were cruising down the highway, singing at the top of our voices and acting like immature idiots (which we were on special occasions, and this was a special occasion). IYAZ's song Replay was blaring from the Porsche's radio system, thankfully drowning out Frank's ear-splitting voice. Handsome and charming he might be, Frank was never able to hold a note or carry a tune. I'm not saying that I'm worthy to be singing in front of crowds, but at least I wasn't breaking the figurative glass windows.
"So Frankie," I said, slightly breathless from the song. I had turned it down to a more manageable volume for conversation. "Why the sudden reappearance, and where are you taking me? My house is in the other direction…"
"Why am I here?" Frank repeated, feigning feeling appalled. "Why, I'm hurt, Isabella. Does your best friend need a reason to drop by and see his best friend in the whole wide world?"
I cocked an eyebrow at him. "Yes, if that best friend is supposed to be attending college in Chicago, and especially if that best friend hadn't called in eons."
I crossed my arms, grumbling, "Certainly felt like it to me."
"Aww, poor Bella," crooned Frank, jutting his lower lip out in an adorably fake pout. At this angle of his head, I was able to examine his face properly. His ebony black hair was long enough to cover his hazel eyes and there was a new scar on his cheek, most likely from one of the many monsters he'd battled. But being a son of Aphrodite, Frank was still handsome. It gets unfuriating at times.
"Don't 'aww, poor Bella' me," I snapped. "I've been worried about you! For all I'd know, you could be lying in a ditch somewhere, bleeding to death! Do you know how frightened I get every time I see you with a new scar?" I reached across to grab his chin and adjusted the angle of his head so that I had a better view of his battle souvenir. "How did that happen, huh? Another hellhound clawed you in the face?"
Frank looked away and I let him go, seeing as he was driving and all. His reaction told me enough: That it was a hellhound that attacked him. It was always hellhounds or one of the Furies. I didn't know what kind of feud there was between Frank and the god of the Underworld, but it has been seven years. It ought to be resolved by now.
I sighed, knowing that I've been too hard on my friend. "Sorry," I mumbled. "I just worry about you is all."
"No," Frank shook his head, glancing at me fleetingly before staring back out at the road, "I see where you're coming from. But I'd rather you don't find out about my latest escapades, you don't deserve to be worried all the time. That's one of the main reasons why I don't IM you every time something happens to me. I'd rather you be happy and carefree than be worried and anxious for just me. That, and because drachmas are difficult to come by."
"Frank," I sighed. I lifted my feet to rest on the chair and leaned my elbows on my knees, allowing my head to be cradled by my arms. "You're my best friend – how many times do I have to as that? It's natural that I worry, no matter what I know and don't know."
"So that's all I am, then?" he said, far too lowly to be overheard by me. But I did, and so I blushed at unintentionally hearing. Luckily, Frank didn't notice my blush and the rest of the ride to our destination was spent in heavy silence, despite the fact that the radio was on.
Frank parked the car in front of a grand looking building. After the longest of car rides, we finally arrived to wherever we needed to be. That is, the busy city of Seattle. When we had crossed the town limits, Frank explained to me that he and I needed to be somewhere (as if it weren't obvious) to meet a very important person. He didn't tell me any more details than that, but I'd gathered that this meeting was very important.
I was clueless as to how it would pertain to me, but it was important nonetheless.
Stepping out of the car, I shivered from the cold. I was only wearing my hoodie, and the cold biting wind was just that: cold and biting. Frank, bless his soul, offered me his coat to wear. I then obediently followed him into the building (which I now recognized as a theatre, judging from the dramatic and musical posters lining the walls of the lobby), I eventually found myself in a very spacious room. It was a circular room with chairs upon chairs arranged around an elliptical stage, in which an orchestra was situated.
Suffice to say, I was beyond baffled as to why Frank – and more importantly, I – would be needed in a theatre. The farthest I've gone into entertaining arts was the beauty pageants I was forced into, and even then my talents were second best.
"Shh," he hissed softly. "We need to be quiet; they're practicing." He reached for my hand and led me towards the center of the room, where the orchestra was.
"Then why are we here?" My eyes scanned the room, picking up details that only someone with battle ready skills can do: I saw that the room has been recently cleaned, there was equipment people scurrying around up on the balconies, blocking most if not all of the exit routes, and the orchestra were dressed in formal wear. In other words, people will be coming in soon to watch the show.
Frank didn't bother to answer my queries. We were by now at the very bottom and the center of the room and, as if timed, the moment we stepped on the stage, the orchestra's song ended. I vaguely identified it as Haydn's String Quartet in F Major No. 2 – yes, I listen to classical music, Haydn being one of my favorite composers. In fact, I find his Surprise Symphony very entertaining.
"Mr. Blaze, sir," said Frank, addressing the conductor. The man was very tall, at least six feet, and he had a crown of dull brown hair. When he turned around and faced Frank and I, I saw that he had a bright smile plastered on his wrinkled face and, dressed in a tailed tuxedo paired oddly enough with loafers, he looked quite handsome for a man well into his late forties.
"Yes, young man?"
My eyebrows shot up to meet my hairline. The man, strangely, had a young voice for someone so old.
"I had a dream last night," Frank whispered, wary of the clearly eavesdropping people surrounding us. Unknowingly, I was leaning in too, just to hear Frank's hushed words.
"Young man," laughed the man, "everyone has dreams."
"Yes," said Frank, unperturbed, "but this one stood out in particular, mainly because the exact same thing happened to me seven years ago."
"Ah," the old man's face smoothened, losing the gaiety he was wearing just moments before. "You must be Frank Stinson…" The man then looked at me long and hard, like he was assessing me. I certainly felt ill at ease as he took in my five feet short inches of height. For some reason, I felt underdressed in my worn out jeans and simple shirt for such an important occasion. Why meeting this old man was an important occasion, I might not know at the moment, but important it was. "…And you are Isabella Swan," the man said.
"Bella," I corrected automatically. My cheeks flamed under the man's reproofing yet vaguely amused gaze. Still, I apologized softly for speaking out of turn.
I watched as the man signaled one of the orchestra players, a girl with carrot red hair and eyes too close together, to lead the orchestra into playing another musical piece. He then led Frank and I into an antechamber of sorts, away from any stray listeners. My eyes had to adjust accordingly to the darkened room, but in time I was finally able to see the elaborate designs on the ceiling and the various paintings of people lining the walls. Already, Frank and the conductor were having a hushed discussion.
"Are you sure... she doesn't suspect a thing?"
"It was difficult to hide it from her for all these years, sir…" Frank replied. "…I managed to do so without much difficulty. I had to… but she remains unsuspecting."
Pretending to be engrossed in a painting of a little girl in a yellow dress, I strained my ears to listen. What were they talking about? Was the 'she' of their topic me? I mean, why would I be here in the first place? I like listening to orchestras and everything, but I had skipped school for this (and involuntarily the dinner Mrs. Cullen had invited Charlie and me to).
"Well then," the conductor said. "I suppose I should thank you… gallant acts throughout the years. You've done a good in job in protecting…" I was confused to piece together the fact that this old man knew about Frank's heroic deeds in fighting the many monsters he had encountered, but then it all made sense when he said, "You have the gods' blessing, Frank Stinson."
The conductor was a god, that much I was certain of. And who else would it be other than Apollo, the Greek god of music (among other things)?
My heart skipped a beat; this would be the second time in just one week that I was in the presence of an Olympian deity. If this happened to me more often in the past, then perhaps I wouldn't be so surprised. But this doesn't happen to nondescript, boring me. Nothing ever happens to me that can warrant the attention of the gods – well, except for what Aphrodite said.
Wait a minute.
I stiffened and, slowly, turned towards Frank and Apollo. Aphrodite mentioned something about my love story being the stuff of legends. She mentioned that being with my love, whomever he was, may or may not decide my fate with death. She also mentioned something about my decision jeopardizing the recent security of us Olympian gods. I suppose that could warrant the attention of the gods.
Feeling my gaze on them, the two men ceased their talking and looked at me. I looked back with appalled eyes – slowly, I'd been putting together the separate pieces and the bigger picture was materializing in my head: Frank was in league with Apollo about something, something that I was a huge part in. And it had something to do with Aphrodite's prediction, I was sure.
"Bella," began Frank, offering his hand for me to take. "This is not what it looks like."
"It usually never is," was my reply. It was a shock to hear that my voice was cold, detached. "I thought you were my best friend, Frank. As it turns out, you've just manipulated me like a chess piece."
"I am your best friend, Bella."
"No," I hissed, putting as much of my hatred and disgust into it, "you're not, Frank. Your mother was wrong about me not deserving you. It's your manipulative ass that doesn't deserve me. The past seven years had been a lie… you're just as bad as the gods themselves!"
I pushed past him, not hesitating in using some of the shoddy martial arts work I had accumulated in the past years. I left Frank kneeling on the ground, clutching his family jewels in pain. I ignored Apollo's shouts of my name as well as I left the room, the building, and ultimately ran into the pouring rain. I had pissed off the gods with my wayward mouth, but I didn't give a damn at the moment.