Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Daughter of Apollo - Chapter 11

The Daughter of Apollo

Chapter 11: It Just Keeps Getting Better and Better

Five seconds outside in the rain and I was already soaked to the bone. The weight of the water pouring over me in torrents slowed me down, but I was able to run for about a mile or two before needing to sit down and rest. I plopped loudly on the wet pavement, groaning at the pounding pain in my legs from the rigorous exercise. Heaving heavy breaths, I studied my surroundings and realized that I was in an alleyway.

I paused. Finding myself in alleyways didn't bode well for me. The last time I was in an alleyway, a hellhound was chasing me. It would be just my luck to have one after me right now (I did just insult the gods, and that includes Hades), and this time, there would be no Frank to help me.

Thinking about the first time I met Frank enabled memories that I had painfully erased from my mind to be remembered. For instance, I remember now that it was after another second place win in a beauty pageant that I decided to run away. Renee and I were living in Riverside, California. I also remember falling asleep behind a dumpster, and then waking up in a warm house. There was a woman tending to me – I remember now. What was her name again? There was an 's' in it for sure, and her name was some kind of flower. Sunflower? Definitely not. Roxanne? No, she was a girl I knew from Sacagawea High. Rosalinda? Maybe.

"Well, well, well… What do we have here?"

I scrambled to my feet, fumbling already for my drumsticks. As the person approached, I raised the two wooden sticks and hit them together. Instantly, they transformed into knives, a saxe knife and a throwing knife. They glinted as the faraway streetlights shined on their metal bodies.

Now that the person was close enough for my eyes to see clearly (I mean, it was raining hard), I saw that it was a man who was in the alleyway with me. He was for definite taller than me, he was heavier in build and therefore much stronger. If I was not a trained half-blood then perhaps I would've collapsed in a puddle of fear, but since I was, I managed to rein in the aforementioned fear. It wasn't like this man was terrifying monster. He was just a random drunkard who may either rob me and beat me to death or rape me. Whichever it might be, I will go down fighting.

"My, aren't you one sweet looking girl," the man appraised, looking unabashedly at me from head to toe. I suppose it did not help matters that my soaked attire stuck to my body like a second skin.

"Stay away from me," I warned, body poised ready to throw my throwing knife. If he got any closer, then I'd go into another pose, ready to fight with the saxe knife first before the throwing knife.

"What are you going to do?" scoffed the man. "Toss that piece of metal at me and watch it fly over my head as I dodge? Don't kid yourself, girl. Just make things easier and let me have my fun. That way, maybe you can come out of this with just a few aches and pains and not a dire injury."

I spat at the man. It hit the target with force. "In your dreams, freak-o. You are not laying your filthy hands on me, so think again." And then I threw the knife, my aim true. Unfortunately, it had slipped my mind that celestial bronze wasn't meant to harm mortals, and so my knife just went past the man's torso and skidded on the pavement floor.

The man stood still for a moment; I suppose he was shocked at what just happened. I took advantage of this and, seeing a sodden plank of wood nearby, grabbed it and swung it at the man with all of my might. Again, my aim was true and the wooden plank collided with the side of the man's head. He let out a startled cry before slumping to the ground, hopefully unconscious and not dead.

"Oh gods," I gasped, my free hand flying to cover my open mouth. "Did I just do that?" The saxe knife transformed back into a drumstick, and that dropped to the ground with a loud clatter; I knelt on the ground and pocketed it. It was still raining. I watched in the dim lighting as the man's blood seeped and mixed with the rain water. The man didn't look like he was breathing. Even if you were unconscious, you were supposed to breathe, right? The man was lying still as a statue, and I instantly knew that I was in deep trouble.

I felt vomit rising in my throat.

"I just killed a man," I whispered, horrified at myself. I mean, I'd killed before, but those were monsters, not mortals. This was different – completely different. "Oh gods, oh gods, oh gods… I killed. I freakin' killed someone."

"You might have, but think of the alternative." Someone else stepped into the alleyway. My eyes struggled to take in the silhouette, so there was a few seconds of dead time (pardon the pun) before I could make a coherent answer.

"Edward?" I threw his name into the air randomly. The figure in front of me certainly was the same height as Edward. He even has the same velvety voice. "Hey, is that you?" Blood rushed from my face for once when I realized that perhaps Edward saw me deliver that killing blow. "Did you see me... hit... that man?"

"I was following the man and saw him go in here," he said, not really answering my question as he came closer. I would've fled by now, the scene playing much too the same from the one with the drunkard, but I couldn't find it in myself to lift up my feet and run. I was ashamed to admit that I was entertaining the idea of killing Edward so that there would be no witnesses.

Oh gods, what kind of person was I turning into?

"Bella," Edward was close enough for me to see his face clearly, despite the rain. "The man was thinking vile thoughts about you, there's no doubt about it. If you didn't defend yourself, then you would most likely be dead by now."

I let out a humorless laugh. "Actually, I think I would be writhing in disgust underneath him and then I'd be dead."

Edward's lips thinned into a line. "Don't joke about that!" His growl sent my heart racing. Wait a minute… his growl?

"I'm sorry," I shook my head as I tried to stand up. "I didn't mean to upset you, I –"

"Hey," he smiled reassuringly as he offered his hand for me to take. "Shouldn't it be me who's supposed to say sorry? I did absolutely nothing to help you back here."

"You weren't here yet," I said, baffled. "How could you have helped then?"

He just shrugged and grasped my hand loosely, leading me out of the alleyway and into, surprisingly, his car. When I asked him what he was doing here in Seattle, he shrugged noncommittally and carried on driving – back to Forks presumably. The entirety of the ride so far consisted of utter silence and I was immensely glad for that. I had used the time to come to terms with my actions. By no means was I happy that I took that man's life, but what Edward said was correct. Killing the man was better than the alternative – and I didn't care how selfish that makes me sound.

I looked out the window and was glad to find that we were nearing the boundaries of Forks. I glanced at the car's digital clock, grimaced, and then sighed, accepting what I know would be the consequences of my actions. Charlie would be furious that I had skipped school, nearly gotten raped and then missing the ten o'clock curfew, not to mention the dinner Mrs. Cullen had prepared.

"Oh, Styx," I cursed under my breath. I completely forgot about that dinner! Cringing into the front passenger's seat, I addressed Edward and said contritely, "Please don't tell me your mother is upset that I missed the dinner she was planning."

The car turned a corner and I was caught off guard, nearly slamming into Edward.

"Sorry for that," he said, quickly adjusting the car. "Um, you're actually worried about that dinner? I would've thought that you'd be worried about…" I sent him a pointed look and he trailed off. "Right, well, Esme's upset but she understands that you haven't seen your friend in a long time."

The tentative, light atmosphere dissipated as quickly as it came. "Frank's not my friend," I said coldly. "Not anymore. And I suppose Angela told you about him?"

Edward shrugged his shoulder. "She kind of had to when your father questioned her after school. The principal, you see, called Chief Swan at the station once he became aware of your absence."

"Gods, that'd be embarrassing." I closed my eyes and leaned my head on the seat. "What happened next? Did Charlie send out a search party for me? Is that why you were in Seattle, though why would you end up in there in the first place?"

"Ah, no, your father did not send out a search party, all the same he was just about to when Alice convinced him not to bother. She told him that you were an intelligent girl and would do the right choice. Well that, along with the idea that you would have to do whatever he assigns for punishment."
I laughed bitterly. "I'd be immensely lucky to get a months' worth of grounding for what I did tonight. I deserve to be in jail or something."

"No!" The car swerved again and this time, I was practically on Edward's lap with the gear stick poking painfully at my abdomen. Really, for such a fancy car, the seatbelts barely work at all. "Don't beat yourself up for this, Bella! What you did was justified and I know you know it, so believe it."

I tactfully kept my mouth shut as I disentangled myself from him. It would do good to upset the driver of the car even further. Besides, what he said was true. I need to remind myself of that. Another round of silence settled in and this time, it wasn't broken until the car parked in front of Charlie's two-bedroom house. There was a small light shining from the living room; I knew Charlie was going to wait up on me. What kind of a father would he be if he didn't?

"This is goodbye then," I said as I unbuckled my seatbelt and opened the car door.

Edward quirked a crooked grin, which evidently, left me breathless. "Not a farewell," he said, quoting the conversation we had in the gym just two days ago, "but a brief separation. I'm sure I'll see you tomorrow morning at school, right?"

"You're not just saying that so that you'll have an alibi like last time, are you?" I couldn't resist saying that, though I knew it was kind of vindictive of me.

Edward flinched but kept his crooked grin. "It wasn't meant to be an alibi the first time," he said. "And it's not an alibi now, either. I really would like to see you again tomorrow."

I nodded, knowing when to back down. "Hopefully in better circumstances, too."

Watching Edward drive away into the darkness of the night was probably the best thing that had happened in the last couple of hours. The way he drove was just so artistically graceful, I found it extremely difficult to look away and make my way inside the house – or, perhaps I was just reluctant to face Charlie and was looking for an excuse to stay outside as long as possible. Still, I wasn't ignorant enough to think that I could prolong the inevitable, so I slowly placed one foot in front of the other.

If this was any other night, soft classical music would be playing from my stereo as I ready myself for bed but, as it was, this was not any other night because the very moment I placed my foot on the front porch, the porch lights went on and Charlie had appeared in the doorway yelling for the entire neighborhood to hear. He had shouted and screamed and bellowed words I couldn't quite catch due to the loudness of his voice, but I pretty much got the gist of the reprimand.

I was not to leave school like that again.

I was not to climb into any boy's cars, even though I was acquainted with him.

I was not to go to Seattle without permission.

I was not to stay out past curfew.

Basically, I was not allowed to do anything I wanted without his permission until I was eighteen at the least, which was quite a bummer since with the life that I lead, I would eventually have to usurp Charlie's authority and leave school in the middle of classes, climb into a random boy's car, go to other places without permission (not just Seattle), and finally I would most likely be staying out past curfew. I really didn't want to disappoint him but hey, it can't be helped. Besides, I've already did.

"I thought Renee was just laying it on thick when she said you were too much to handle," he had said to me after I had bowed my head in half-hearted contrition. "I know what she's like, your mother. She likes to dramatize things to make her sound like the victim, but by God, Isabella Marie, if your little jaunt today was any indication, then perhaps I've she was understating things."

After that little speech, he had proceeded in taking away my stereo as punishment, which only goes to show how much he knew me. If Renee was in his place, then she would've sent me up to my room and ground me for the rest of my life or something. Charlie, on the other hand, knew me. He knew how to make himself heard when castigating teenagers and Styx was he good. Renee sure did know what she was doing when she sent me to her Chief of Police ex-husband.

I was climbing into my bed, already dressed and ready for a full night's sleep, when a loud commotion from downstairs sent a thrill of dread to course through my body. That didn't sound like Charlie bumping into some furniture and falling despite himself. If anything, it sounded like he was dodging something if his grunt of exertion was anything to go by.

Fearing the worst (perhaps Apollo was mad that I had walked out on him and had sent a monster to come after me), I kicked off the covers and grabbed wedged my drumsticks between the waistband of my pajamas. I then got to my hands and knees and reached for my suitcase under the bed. With my heart thudding loudly, I zipped the ragged thing open and took out the only weapon inside aside from the whip – Frank had a very disturbing sense of humor at times, which was made obvious when he gifted that whip to me on my fourteenth birthday; I hadn't used it even once.

"Alright," I murmured as I tightened the strap of my quiver around me. It was the hip and shoulder kind, which made it easy for mobility, and at the moment it was half filled with arrows. I've used the other half in some scrape that I can't even bother to recall right now.

I withdrew from my room with the effortlessness that came with sneaking around for the past seven years or so. I crept through the hallway and softly padded down the stairs, my bow already strung poised and an arrow nocked. It would fly across the room in a matter of seconds if I willed it.

The cold night air danced on my face, and I saw that the front door was open. Actually, it wasn't open. The front door itself was just gone, ripped out of its hinges.

"N-no," I heard Charlie's voice from the general direction of the kitchen, and so I changed course and headed there. As I got closer to the room, I could hear the heavy breathing of the monster I was sure was in there with him. "I don't kn-know where she is," he said shakily. "I've told you: she skipped school with a f-friend and never came back."

"Liar," fumed a distinctively female voice. "I know she was here. I saw her come in, saw you reprimand her like the delinquent she was. Unfortunately, I was too far away to see where she went after that. If your cooperate Mr. Police Chief, then maybe you can spare me the trouble of ripping this house to shreds."

Daring to peek into the room and take a glimpse at the scene, I quickly poked my head in and out again. With that short while, I saw that the intruder's back was facing me, which was a good thing otherwise I would be beheaded by now. The second thing I noticed was that Charlie was by the sink, standing to his full height and channeling all those years he had spent as a policeman. His eyes as widened at the sight of me, but never once did his expression of innocence falter.

"What do you want from my daughter?" asked Charlie, a sliver of fear seeping into his voice. "She's done nothing wrong, I assure you."

"She's don't nothing wrong," agreed the lady monster, "…yet. My master sent me to prevent her doing anything that might endanger – " She cleared her throat. "I really admire your courage and dedication to Isabella, Mr. Police Chief. One has to be blind to not see how much you love her, but what makes you think that she is your daughter?"

I flinched at the harshness of the delivery, and I vowed to myself that I would send this monster to the pits of the Underworld. Charlie wasn't meant to know that I was not his daughter. I loved him like a father anyway, so it was a pointless to tell him. He was the father I've never had.

"Not my daughter?" repeated Charlie in incredulity. "Of course she's my daughter! Who are you to barge into my house and –" The rest of his words died out, replaced by his chokes of air. "Let – me – go!"

I knew for sure that the monster had him on a choke hold. I had to move. I needed to do something before my father dies from asphyxiation. Monsters tend to be cruel to those who oppose them, and Charlie surely was an opposition. Taking a deep breath, I readied my bow and arrow again and stepped into the doorway. The arrow flew and imbedded itself in the monster's shoulder blade. She spun around and faced me, Charlie still in her hands – if you can call claws hands, because it was then that I saw what kind of monster it was that was attacking Charlie. It was a shriveled hag with bat wings – how could I have missed that? – and she had talons for fingers, yellow fangs for teeth and glowing barbecue coals for eyes.

In other words, a Fury was in the house. In the kitchen, to be more precise.

"Get your mangy claws off of him!" I cried as I nocked another arrow. One swipe of a sword would be enough to take care of a Fury, but since I didn't have a sword on me and it would be too much a hassle to activate my knives, I have to make do with arrows. It's not like they can't take care of me, since I trust them more that I could ever do knives.

"Why would I?" retorted the Fury. "He's a liar. He deserves a little pain."

An arrow pierced her wings together, which was a wondrous feat considering that I was not in the vantage point of doing so. That, and the fact that I didn't shoot said arrow.

The next couple of seconds were a blur to me. I was aware that someone had come to my defense, someone outside of the house with a set of arrows. I was also aware that the Fury – Alecto, I was sure her name was – can only be described as furious (pardon the pun) with the interloper. She screeched like a freaking banshee as she flew out the kitchen window like a torpedo, Charlie still writhing under her grip.

Hours later, when I thought back to that moment, I remember screaming for the Fury to give Charlie back. And if I was screaming bloody murder then, I was screaming like a banshee when Alecto disappeared into the night, driven away by my mysterious aide. She was sure to take him to Hades, but what for? She wanted me, not him.

"He's the bait," said a voice behind me. I jumped and turned around, a lone arrow raised in the air like a machete, ready to strike. I vaguely took in the fact that I was outside in the driveway, clad only in my pajamas. The cold hadn't sunk in yet.

"Who are you?" I asked warily. My mysterious savior was a girl no older than I was (she looked it, anyway), with frizzy red hair and green eyes so pretty that despite the situation, I was jealous. She was exotic; I wasn't. She looked like she came from a well to do family whereas at the moment I looked like a homeless person, dressed as I was in my worn out pajamas.

The girl smiled and raised her weapon-free hands in a sign of surrender. Instinctively, I raised the arrow higher. Don't get me wrong, I thank the girl for saving me, but I barely know her. The only thing I was sure of her was that she goes to Camp Half-Blood – she was wearing the Camp shirt, and how else could she have acquired that lovely bow and arrow set? I was eyeing it with envy.

"My name is Rachel," the girl said softly. "Perhaps you've heard of me?"

My jaw dropped in disbelief and I gaped at her shamelessly. Rachel? I knew of a few Rachels, but I only know of one who was both a Camper and a redhead. "Rachel," I breathed, "Rachel Elizabeth Dare, current Oracle of Delphi."

Rachel smiled awkwardly. "Rachel's just fine, if you please. Now, since that you are clearly not dying, what should I do about that jerk over there?" She jutted her thumb behind me and I turned around to see what she was talking about.

It took me a moment to realize who the crumpled form lying on the sidewalk was. Another moment passed and I had breath enough in me to yell out, "Frank!"

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