Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Daughter of Apollo - Chapter 9

The Daughter of Apollo

Chapter 9: Please Be A Monster, Please Be A Monster

I was being whisked away to the hospital because I had a concussion. Under any other circumstances, I wouldn't mind going to the hospital. I mean, concussions were pretty serious stuff. But in this case, I was pissed, and all because of the pesky nurse who strapped me onto a gurney. If I wasn't strapped and therefore unmovable, then I would've stomped my feet in exasperation and, I don't know, punched something. I think I would know if my skull was cracked open. For one thing, there would've been blood – and pain. Lots of and lots of pain. And if there was pain, then there would be screaming.

Seeing as I was as silent as a mouse, I think it was safe for me to assume that I was broken-skull free.

"This is wholly unnecessary," I again told the driver, shouting so that I was to be heard over the rain. It was constantly raining here in Forks. "I'm completely fine!"

"A concussion if not fine, Ms. Swan," replied the nurse. The driver was ignoring me, the thin line of his lips telling me that he was on that delicate boundary between annoyed and angry. Since he was the driver, I thought it best to let him be… for now. Besides, I thought his sunglasses were cool, though why he would be wearing them in this rainy weather was beyond me.

"But I feel better already. Please let me out of this thing." I told the woman, eyeing her silky hair and deep, knowing eyes. I thought it was odd that she was wearing makeup as if she was attending a movie premiere. In fact, I thought it was odd that she was not wearing one of those scrubs that nurses were supposed to wear. I've watched enough of House, MD and Grey's Anatomy to know this.

"Be that as it may," said the woman, "I still need to tend to you."

I frowned at her choice of words. She spoke as if I was a problem. That, and she mentioned nothing about the hospital or x-rays or CAT scan or any form of a physical examination. Not even a good old check up from the good doctor, whoever he might be.

"What do you mean tend to me?" I asked, wary. I clumsily fumbled for the straps and the woman, seeing my pathetic attempts, rolled her eyes and took pity on me. I muttered a muffled "thanks" as I sat up. I looked at the front of the car to see the road, only to realize that there was no road to be seen. I instantly went on high alert.

"Oh, relax why don't you?" cried the woman. "You're perfectly safe." Even as she assured me of my safety, I knew I was far from safe. Why? Because the woman's blonde hair just turned to short, cropped black hair.
That was not normal hair behavior for mere mortals. This was either a monster or a god, and I prayed to my unknown father that it was the former. I may not have any weapons on me apart for my drumsticks, but I was ready to fight a monster. Facing a goddess, on the other hand… Having one kidnap you did not bode well for the captive, meaning me – it did not bode well for me.

"Who are you?" I was somewhat proud to hear that my voice wasn't wavering. "What do you want from me?"

"Nothing, nothing," was the airy reply. "I just want to have nice, comfortable chat with you, Isabella."

"It's Bella," I corrected her mechanically. It earned me a raised eyebrow but I ploughed on. "You want to talk to me in an ambulance?" I said incredulously. "Of all the places you could've ambushed me throughout the day, you had to go to all the trouble of stealing an ambulance."

"I prefer the term commandeering," said the driver with a dry smile. "But what can I say, what the lady wants, the lady gets."

I gulped. I suddenly had a feeling that I know the identities of my kidnappers. And they weren't the identities of monsters. Shaking the fear from my mind and body, I locked eyes with the woman and bowed my head politely. I felt that I should watch my mouth from now on. There's no telling what kind of things a pissed off goddess can do to a half-blood.

"What is it that you want from me, Lady Aphrodite?" I said softly, respectfully.

The goddess waved off the greeting as her appearance morphed into a kind, motherly face with hair like mine. "A nice, comfortable chat," she said. "I thought I told you this already."

"A chat about?" I prompted, because to be honest, I was eager to get home.

"Mind your manners, half-blood!" yelled Ares from behind the wheel. I caught his glare on the rear-view mirror, despite the sunglasses that barred the view. I just knew that those literal flaming eyes of his were on me, and they were very menacing. A churning sensation played on my stomach.

"Sorry for my manners, Lord Ares, Lady Aphrodite. You see, this is the first time I've ever met a god or goddess, let along two at the same time, and –"

"Yes, yes, we know that already." Aphrodite brushed off my apology. "Let's get down to business, shall we?" She didn't wait for my apprehensive nod. "You, Isabella, are probably the most average girl in the entire world. You have boring brown hair, boring brown eyes, boring average height and built… and though that doesn't necessarily mean that you're boring, being a half-blood, I know you know that you're just the average demigod. There's simply nothing special about you as a person."

I nodded silently, agreeing timorously to everything Aphrodite was saying. I thought it best to keep my colorful thoughts to myself. For the goddess of love, she certainly doesn't come out as very loving.

"And for those reasons, I think that is why you are stuck in the Hermes cabin, are you not? You have no concrete way of knowing which cabin you belong to since your Olympian father has not claimed you yet, am I right?"

I nodded again. This was humiliating.

"I see. So, on the whole, you are a completely nondescript girl with no discernible way of standing out." So concentrated was I in fighting the urge to whack the look on Aphrodite's face, I nearly missed what Aphrodite said next. "Nevertheless," she said, "for some silly and esoteric reason, my son thinks he's in love with you."

"Excuse me, my Lady?" I squeaked, taken by surprise. Who wouldn't be? The Greek goddess of love and beauty just told me that one of her many sons was in love with boring, average me. Not only was it too good to be true, but it was so out of the blue.

And hey, that rhymed.

"You heard right," growled Ares. "Frank's in love with you."

"Frank?" I squeaked again. Frank was the one who had saved me from a hellhound when I was ten years old. Oh, and yes, he was a son of Aphrodite. Unlike most of his half brothers and sisters, monsters seem to find him wherever he was in the country. It helps ease my worries wonderfully to know that he was a capable swordsman, else I wouldn't be here in Forks. I would be with him fighting. He was my best friend.

"My son fancies himself in love with you, Bella," Aphrodite deadpanned. "But no matter how much I love the kid, I know that he's not truly in love with you. I am the goddess of love, am I not? He loves you, yes, but he's not in love with you. Don't bother trying to decipher what I said, Isabella. You won't understand it. Just understand this: My son thinking he's in love with you is not the only reason why I forced my presence upon you, girl."

"Wh-what is the other reason, my Lady?" I was curious. Frank was now at the back of my mind.

"You may be the average, run of the mill Plain Jane, but something will happen to you that will change that."
My eyebrows knitted by their own accord. "I don't… understand."

"You will fall in love child," Aphrodite said carefully, tenderly, as if she was caressing a newborn baby with her words. "And you will fall hard. Your love story will be the stuff of legends, but no one will know about it apart from a select few – I and your real father, for example. I think you should know that I will do whatever it takes to make this love successful. I'd fight your father if I have to. You know how much I love a good love story."

"My father," my throat clenched with the betrayal, but I continued speaking, "doesn't want me to be happy with this love that you're talking about… Why?"

My hands fisted and unfisted on my lap, sweating like crazy. My father, whomever he might be, did not want me to be happy with this love of mine? Was he sadistic or something? Not only was he letting me endure all of these years wishing for him to claim me, wishing to know who he really was, and now I find out that he didn't want me to fall in love? That was harsh, even for an Olympian god.

"I'm going to be honest with you, Isabella." Aphrodite took my hands and forced me to look at her unwaveringly, and I did. "You're father doesn't want you to be with this man because it will be dangerous. Being with him may or may not decide your fate with death, and eventually the recent security of us Olympian gods. But let's face it: Love is dangerous in and of itself."

The ambulance stopped moving, and I was forcibly thrown across the small space. I didn't notice that the god of war was driving that fast. Perhaps I was just that engrossed in the conversation or something. Any girl would forget that she was on fire if someone told her that her love life will be the stuff of legends. It was both exhilarating and terrifying.

"This is your stop," Aphrodite said. She smiled softly, opened the ambulance door and moved to the side, allowing me to pass by her. Like an automaton, I bid the two powerful gods goodbye automatically and stepped out of the car before it disappeared in a blink of an eye. After said blink, I realized that I was standing in the middle of the road, looking at Charlie's house.

Then it occurred to me that I may or may not have a concussion. I was tired and weary, and my head was spinning all the more with all this new information: Frank thinks he's in love with me, his mother says I don't deserved him, and it just so happens that she's interested in my love life which, apparently, I was forbidden to have because of my father?

This was too much. I collapsed, knowing nothing more.

I woke up the next day feeling well-rested and completely concussion-free. I was just so happy and relieved to be free of the dreams about mine and Frank's wedding (with Aphrodite as the officiator, who eventually curses me into oblivion for not heeding her warning), that it didn't occur to me until I was half into my jeans that the position of sun low in the sky didn't mean it was early morning. It was late afternoon.

"Oh, Styx," I cursed loudly, buttoning up my jeans. I just missed a day of school. Now I have to do some major catching up, or else my grades would suffer for the remainder semester. Frustrated, I grabbed a random shirt and stuffed my head through it, running downstairs as I did so for the landline. I would have to call Angela for the day's assignments, not to mention ask if she was up to some late night tutoring.

I was debating between doing the responsible thing and just drive to Angela's place, or do the lazy thing and turn on the TV and see a random comical sitcom for the rest of the night when, twenty seconds into an old rerun of a Friends episode, I remembered something about last night. It was something Aphrodite had said.
"I'd fight your father if I have to."

Confused as hell, I turned off the TV and robotically went up the stairs to my room. I retrieved the small collection of books I own, all pertaining about Ancient Greek mythologies. They were all written and published at different times (the latest being a compiled document printed from a Greek mythology blog) and countries (ranging from Greece itself to America to, oddly enough, Korea). All of the books have their own images and description about the twelve Olympian gods, the other major gods, minor gods, their immortal children, known mortal children.

And I plan on cross-examining them all to see if I could figure out who my father was. I can't believe I haven't done it before, cross-examining. I usually just read about one god and match his children's attributes to mine, not the other way around. I've never thought about my attributes and talents and then comparing them to other half-bloods, simply because I didn't have any. Like what Aphrodite said, I was nondescript.

"This wouldn't be too hard," I said to myself unconvicingly, cracking open the first book.

An hour later, my head was swimming with meaningless shapes and letters, while my hand was cramping from all of the notes I've taken. I roughly had three back to back pieces of yellow legal pad paper filled with my chicken scrawl penmanship, and at the very beginning was a list of my abilities. I was sure that the answer was staring me right in the face, but my stupid dyslexic brain wouldn't allow me to read further than the Olympian gods and no matter how much the evidence says so, I was not the daughter of the virgin goddess of the hunt, Artemis. I'm pretty sure that my mother was Renee. And come on: virgin goddess of the hunt. She may be a goddess and everything, but I doubt she's capable of immaculate conception.

"Bella, are you all right in there?" Charlie shouted from the kitchen. He was halfway through preparing dinner (a pizza take out), having come home after his shift about forty-five minutes ago. He was so glad to see me up and about that he asked me what I wanted to eat for the night. He ended up ordering pizza instead of cooking the fish he had caught from a previous fishing trip.

"I'm fine," I called, massaging my palms.

Dinner was quiet business – well, barring the part when Charlie informed me that he had accepted a dinner invitation for tomorrow night from Dr. Cullen a couple of hours ago. Apparently, his kids had been worried about my wellbeing since I did not show up in school at all today, and also, Mrs. Cullen had been pretty keen on meeting the girl who befriended her children.

"Pity really that th' kids 'round 'ere exclude th' five of 'em so much," said Charlie around a mouthful of pizza. He was talking about Edward, Jasper, Alice, Rosalie and Emmett. Who else? Santa's little helpers? Charlie finally swallowed and continued, "Of course, it doesn't help that they all live under the same roof, you know. Gotta give Dr. and Mrs. Cullen credit though, adopting all those teenagers and then dealing with them dating each other..."

Okay, that's news to me. Really, they were adopted by the same couple? That's something to think about.
"Well, they seem like nice people to me," I said, picking at the flavorless toppings of my slice of pizza. "Alice and Rosalie are really nice girls, and Emmett's funny once you get to know him. Jasper's interested in the Greek mythologies like me, and Edward…" I paused, not knowing what to say. I can't compliment him on his classical good looks in front of my Charlie for obvious reasons.

"Let's just say," I said finally, "that he's got a good voice."

"Oh, so you've heard him sing, then?"

I knew that he would come to that conclusion. Smiling, I stuffed my mouth with the pizza and grunted noncommittally. It was nice to know that I wasn't the only person in this town whose life was out of the norm.

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