I woke up, for real, hours later. When I did open my eyes, the sun blinded me. Stunned by the sudden brightness, I threw my blanket back over my head, and waited for my temporary blindness to go away.
There’s no way I’m getting out of bed, I thought as I waited for sleep to find me again. It’s too damn early.
“You awake yet?” Jay’s voice called.
“Barely!” I snorted. “I’m half blind, here. Help me out, would ya?”
The door opened. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but Jay was standing in the doorway. I groaned and continued to try to sleep.
“Breakfast time,” he said, tearing the blankets out of my grasp. “Wakey, wakey.”
“Not. A. Fucking. Chance,” I snarled. “You can’t expect me to get out of bed this early.”
“Early? It’s nearly eleven in the morning! C’mon. Odie says breakfast is ready,” he replied evenly. He scooped me out of bed in one fluid motion.
“I’m not waking up,” I warned, keeping my eyes tightly shut.
“You are awake. You just don’t want to admit it,” Jay contradicted me.
I opened my eyes at this. Jay was carrying me, and he wasn’t about to put me down anytime soon.
“Jerk,” I muttered.
Jay smirked. “You asked for it. By the way, you look good in my pjs.”
I heaved a sigh of annoyance. “Put me down.”
“Mm, how about no?”
I squirmed. I wasn’t about to let this guy control me. “Let me go.”
“Not a chance. Knowing you, you’d just crawl back in bed.”
“I can’t sleep with the light on. Sunlight is light. I can’t sleep with it. You know that.”
He kept walking, smirking at this point. “You’d get lost around here. You wouldn’t know the way to the bathroom.”
“I’d figure it out eventually,” I argued weakly. “I’m not stupid, y’know.”
“We know that,” a new voice said. “Jay just worries about you.”
“Herry, don’t. She’s being a little bit of a pottymouth this morning.”
“Now will you put me down? I don’t mean to be a bit of a brat, but I don’t like being controlled.”
Jay sighed and gave into my demands. “Later?”
I crossed my arms. “I would expect so. You live here, don’t you?”
He laughed. “Yeah, later, then. Herry?”
“Band meeting in my room, don’t forget.”
“I won’t.” With that, Jay headed off.
I grumbled under my breath about fiction being real a broken rule before I finally noticed this so-called Herry. He was nearly as tall as Cronus, obviously well-built, but struck me as having a gentle nature. I guess it was the teddy bear face that told me he was a nice guy, but I wasn’t about to cross him. He’d likely snap every bone in my body. He was definitely older than me, thanks to looking at his sideburns. His grin was lopsided but friendly enough. I also noticed two white dots on his neck, right where the jugular vein should be. I didn’t want to find out what bit him directly from him, and I thought it rude to pry. Herry seemed too nice to demand answers from.
“I’m Herry,” he said brightly. “You must be Colbie.”
“Am I all they talk about around here? First Cronus, then Jay, now you,” I asked. It was an honest question.
Herry laughed, and it felt good to hear it. “I guess so. Ever since hearing the prophecy from Jay and Chiron, the rest of us often wondered who the subject of the prophecy was.” He winked at me. “To be honest, I think you fit the description fine.”
“Why is that?” I asked.
“There’s this obvious chemistry between you and Jay.”
“Newsflash: I’m not sure of him, yet. He almost seems scared of me, like I’m a nuclear bomb waiting to go off.”
“He’s like that with every new person we meet. Ever since the issue with Medelia two years ago, he’s been wary around girls.”
“Not so much wary with me, more like he has a disregard for my requests.”
Herry laughed. “He likes you. He’s just a chicken to admit it. As a friend, I mean.”
“He’s dating someone?”
“Yeah. He’s dating the resident psychic. Theresa.”
I caught between celebrating and pouting. Despite Jay’s flaws, I had mixed feelings for him. A part of me hated him, and a part was falling for him, little by little. That part of me was disappointed. I didn’t think I would be the jealous type.
“What’s up? You’re so quiet all of a sudden,” Herry noted.
“Just thinking. Well, I’m going to find my way to breakfast. Care to direct me as to where I’m going?”
“Sure. Just keep heading the way you’re going. You should reach the stairs. From there, head down the stairs and hang a left. You should reach the kitchen.”
I smiled at him. “Thanks, Herry. It was nice meeting you, by the way.”
Herry laughed again. “No problem. And, hey, it’s great to hear you’re starting to adjust to all this.”
“Not really adjust. More like cope.”
After Herry left, I was grinning like a fool.
Why? Thanks to Herry, I was going to prove Jay wrong.
* * *
By the time I made it to the kitchen, I heard Jay laughing.
It was a musical laugh, like church bells ringing on a Sunday morning. I couldn’t resist smiling. His laugh was more contagious than any disease known to humankind and far more carefree than I gave him credit for.
“Did you ask Lanna out, Arch? And, could you repeat what she said? I kinda think she rejected you, judging by the look on your face,” he gasped.
“I asked her out. She said she wouldn’t hesitate,” a cynical voice called Arch said. “It’s not funny, Jay.”
“Archie, Archie, Archie, we’ve been friends with you for a long time,” another voice said. This one definitely belonged to a black guy. “Of course Atlanta wouldn’t hesitate to go out with you. Ever since Cronus stopped making appearances, we all have a clean slate. Don’t blush, man.”
“Seriously, though, go with her. I didn’t realize how I was feeling until Theresa almost died,” Jay replied. “Odie’s right. Don’t blush. I know a lot of girls go for insecurity, and Lanna’s not one of them.”
“You two were practically dating before the whole phantom incident, anyway,” Archie stuttered back. “Who are you to talk?”
“Someone who’s had a little better luck in the field of dating,” Jay replied. I could almost picture the smug look on his face.
That was when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I whirled around, half-expecting Cronus to be there. He wasn’t, but a girl about two inches shorter than me was right behind me. She had emerald green eyes that shimmered with laughter; one was almost completely by strawberry blond hair. She was smiling, like I was one of the greatest girls she’s ever met.
“Jay’s talking with Archie and Odie. You’ll meet them soon enough,” she whispered. “Jay’s been acting a little cocky as of late.”
The conversation in the other room stopped as soon as the girl finished speaking. “I’m hearing voices, man,” the second voice, Odie, noticed.
“Me, too,” Archie seconded. “Sounds like Theresa’s dishing the dirt on you, Jay.”
“Gee, I wonder who’s listening to it,” Jay replied sarcastically, and, quite loudly.
“Told you I could figure it out,” I called. “Joke’s on you, Jay: I didn’t get lost.”
The girl laughed. “That’s my girl,” she continued. “See you later?”
I shrugged. “I guess,” I answered. “No other way around it, right?”
“Right.” With that, the girl headed out side.
Jay sauntered into the doorway, almost blocking me from heading inside. I never noticed his height until this point. Jay was a few inches taller than me, so I had to look up to look at his face. I stood only five foot eight. He had to be at least five foot eleven. “So, you didn’t get lost. Call it a test to prove you’re resourcefulness,” he explained, leaning on the would-be doorpost.
“You know I’m not an idiot. I may not have known my way around here, but I asked Herry. He seemed all too happy to help.”
“Besides that, and the fact you have an absolutely hideous personality in the morning. I liked you a lot better at three in the morning than I do now.”
“I was looking through your stuff.”
“At least now you’ve learned a few things.”
“And the fact I like you better at night than I do during the day.”
“Am I that bad? That I’m rubbing off almost unlikable.”
“Hey, you said the same thing ab–”
A pale-face guy with purple hair, and grey-blue eyes stuck his face over Jay’s shoulder. “You guys are fighting like a married couple. Maybe she is the girl the prophecy spoke of,” he insisted.
At the other guy’s remark, Jay started blushing. “Archie, seriously, does that look like a face that could do some serious damage?” Jay replied.
“You're kidding, right? She’d give Helen of Troy a run for her money. She’s stunning in your pjs, Jay.”
“Better not let Lanna hear that.”
“I’m right here, you know,” I remarked.
“We know that,” Jay replied.
“Besides the argument between you two, I’m Archie.” The other dude gave Jay a good shove, and stuck out his hand for me.
I shook it, like I would if any guy stuck out his hand. “I’m Colbie. Nice to meet you.”
“Pleasure’s all mine. Anyway, I’ll be seeing ya around. I’ve gotta go for advanced weapons training with Ares.” He headed out the same way the girl left mere minutes before.
“Advanced what-what?” I echoed. I was really confused at the time. “With whom?”
Jay laughed at my obvious confusion. “You’ll understand a little later.”
“Later? What do you mean?”
“You need breakfast, don’t you?”
“And answers. You seem to be the only one capable.”
“I’ll give them to you. Just get something to eat.”
“And you, as punishment for what you were saying earlier, will have to sit with me.”
“Just letting you know, I’ve already eaten.”
“Not that I care about that. You’re the only person I really know here. It wouldn’t hurt to get to know each other a little better, right?”
“Right.” He let me through. “And, first of all, what would you like to know?”
“Band meeting? What does that mean?”
“Oooh, good one.” He looked at me and studied my expression for a fraction of a second before finally laughing out loud. “I’m kidding. I know what you’re asking. Herry and I kinda founded the school’s music program. No one’s really interested in it, surprisingly enough.”
“Really? Sounds depressing.”
“Not as depressing as fighting Cronus,” he offered with a rueful smile. “Anyway, we’ve only got four members in our band. Me, Herry, Odie, and Archie.”
“That sucks. Back home, we had like, a hundred and fifty.”
“Not concert band. A cover band.”
“A cover band only needs like four members anyway.”
“Seriously. We want to expand on the artists we’re covering.”
“Like, female artists?”
“Yeah. Like Taylor Swift, Christina Perri, and Carrie Underwood.”
“Taylor Swift your favorite?”
“Her songs were like the only thing that kept me going through the whole war against Cronus. She’s a huge source of inspiration.” He was blushing again.
“Don’t be ashamed. You’re a Swiftie, big deal. I like her, too.”
“We all do, except Neil.”
“Oh, would you look at that, we’re at the breakfast table, and it looks like Odie’s decided to join us.”
“Hey,” a cute African-American boy dressed in tan slacks, light blue T-shirt, red hoody, and green glasses said. He was offering a slight smile.
“Hi,” I replied. “Let me guess, you’ve eaten, too.”
“Yep. And, please excuse the use of huge words. High intellect, see.”
“I was taking physics back home. I think I can handle it.”
“How are you at Greek myth? Around here, it’s usually Jay and I that do the readings.”
“It drives the others nuts.”
“I’m great at it. Dad told me lots of them while I was a kid, and we were just doing a project on individual characters in Latin before the whole incident with Cronus.”
“I’m going to go out on a limb here, and guess: You got Cronus, didn’t you?” Jay asked.
“Yeah. There wasn’t much to research. I just talked to Percy about him.”
“How far along were you when Cronus appeared?” Jay was definitely too eager to learn this.
“Final revision of my presentation. Can we please drop the subject? I’m starving.” I was more than ready to forget the whole thing.
“Sure,” Odie said, getting up. “You’re the blueberry waffle, right?”
“How did you–” I was cut off.
“We asked Caitlin about your likes and dislikes,” Jay answered. “Does it bother you we know a lot about you?”
“Sort of,” I replied as Odie set back down my plate. “But it’s not the least bit creepy compared to Cronus.”
Jay laughed. “You got that right.”
“Besides, that, your band: I’d be interested in it.”
“I thought you would be. Why else would you ask about it?” Jay raised a quizzical eyebrow. “Besides, you seem to have an obvious crush on Odie.”
Odie laughed. “But you think I’m cute, right?”
I cut off a piece of my waffle and popped it in my mouth. “Why should it matter to either of you?” I said with a mouthful. “Besides that, when is this meeting?”
“Four-thirty this afternoon,” Jay answered. “Herry’s room.”
“Consider this your invitation,” Odie continued.
“I’d be willing enough to escort you there, since you’re not really familiar with the dorm,” Jay added.
“Thanks, both of you.”
“See, you’re starting to warm up,” Jay noted with a smirk as he wrestled me into a chokehold. “I guess it took something to perk your interests.”
“And something to eat,” Odie suggested. “I didn’t think she was that bad. Anyway, I’ve got to head off. Hermes is having a hell of a time with getting his e-mails organized.”
“Wait a minute – Hermes? Greek god of thieves?” I squirmed to get out of it.
Jay laughed again, letting me go. “You have no idea what to make of it, right?”
“What’s the deal with the whole Greek god thing? First Ares, now Hermes? Who else is here? And how the hell did Archie and Odie get in to be the best in the eyes of these two gods?”
Jay turned all serious. “I’m not sure if you know, but majority of us here were drafted to fight Cronus.”
“It would explain a sudden interest when we started talking about mythology.”
Jay shuddered. “He still haunts me, even though the prophecy’s been done for a while, now.”
“How long since your last battle against him?”
“Against Cronus? End of June.” He offered me a weak smile. “I’m so bored now. I have no idea what to do anymore.”
“Did you ever try returning home?”
“I can’t. It’s almost like repulsion. I wanted to. Believe me, I wanted to go back to normal.”
“Something held me back. Like that little voice that won’t leave you alone at the grocery store, I think it was fate. I think I felt something like another prophecy coming.”
“Personally, I think it’s the fact you got attached to some of these people.”
“If you think that way, yeah. The others turned out to be more like siblings I’d always wanted. I’d even gotten to trust Theresa to the point she became to be the girl I’m dating.”
“And you never had any siblings?”
“My older brother is three years older than me. He was my best friend until he started growing up. My little sister was born when I was three years old.” Jay paused to get a better look at me. “My sister’s here, y’know. She’s not that bad a person, but, according to her, I get really scary if I get mad at her.” He looked at my plate. “Do you do that every time someone is talking to you and there’s food in front of you? Eat absentmindedly, I mean.”
“There are some people I find interesting. There are some I find amusing. Then there are others I find boring. The interesting and amusing will prompt me to eat while listening to them talk. The boring: That’s something else all together.”
“So what? I’m interesting? Amusing?”
“I’m still not sure of you, yet. You’re a nice guy if you’re not lobbing insults left, right, and center. You’re considerate, since you volunteered yourself to escort me to a band meeting. But you’re also scarred, like something hurt you so bad emotionally that there’s no way for you to recover from it.”
“So, I’m one of those not sure people?”
“You’re definitely not boring. That, I can be sure of.”
It was at that point, someone else walked in. He was dressed in designer label clothing – all of it black and white. He was also tan to the point I knew it was fake. His face looked like it had been carved by angels, but had a condescending grin. He also had hair the color of sunshine, and navy blue eyes.
“You’re needed, Jay,” he said in a voice that turned to be higher than I expected. “The little sister requests your presence.”
“Now? I was just going to help get Colbie settled.”
“Wait a minute: I thought you said we wouldn’t see her till the end of November! You lied, Jay.”
“Neil, what more could we do? I thought you got it: that you can’t expect Cronus play by the rules.”
“I know that, but couldn’t he leave her alone for at least another month?”
“Who knows? No one can predict what he’ll do next,” I answered. “By the way, I’m right here, y’know.”
“I know. You’re such the brat,” the boy, Neil, groaned. “More aggravating than one of Cronus’s schemes.”
“She’s the center of them now, Neil,” Jay replied.
“He’d do anything to keep me,” I added.
“I wouldn’t let her lose her sanity. At least act like you care,” Jay continued.
“By the way, it was great to meet you, Neil,” I said sarcastically.
Neil snorted and walked away.
“Jerk. Worse than you, I might add,” I muttered.
“Cool it. You’re a little bit of a jerk yourself, but I think you have a natural dislike for Neil.”
“I don’t think I can stand being the same room as him. He seems a little shallow to me.”
“Sadly enough, he’s a model. You’ve gotta learn to put up with it.”
“So, I have to suffer through, Girl, that shirt don’t go with those pants?” I asked, tucking some hair behind my ear.
“Yeah. You got your ears pierced?”
“Over six months ago. Quit changing to subject.”
“Sorry. Jeez. I’m bad at this.”
“Changing the subject? I guess so.” I smiled at him. “Everyone is at fault for changing the subject. That doesn’t change anything.”
“True. You said you wanted answers?”
“First of all, let’s start trivial: Where am I supposed to stay?”
Jay laughed. “You sure you want to know? I could show you.”
“Oh, would you? I mean, like, I’m supposed to be here until this prophecy everybody keeps mentioning blows over, right?”
“Right.” He started walking toward the stairs before he turned to face me. “You coming?”
Without a second’s hesitation, I followed him.