Love & War

"All is fair in love and war" | The beautiful daughter of Aphrodite is a regular camper at Camp Half-Blood in the summer. She has returned, once again, to face old friends and love-interests, as well as new ones, for a summer filled with choices and dilemmas.

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4. chapter three

Derek and I had finally made real time to catch up, just as he had said the other day. We were taking a stroll through the camp area as we caught the other up on events that had happened during the time since we saw each other last summer. After all, a lot of things could happen in a year. He had spent the whole year at camp, because he didn’t have much to go home to. His mother was a hothead who had married a man with an even bigger temper than Ares himself. Or so, Derek had told me once. Because of this, Derek only went home occasionally, and spent the rest of his time at camp. Unlike me, who spent most the year in Avignon with my family and only visited camp for three months during summer. But, to be perfectly honest, I don’t think Derek did mind all that much. Sure, we all want to see more of the world than just the small place where we live, every now and then, but home is usually better than the rest of the world anyway. Especially when home was Camp Half-Blood, where magic existed everywhere you turned, and demigods were completely free to be themselves. Out in the world we had to hide our true selves - or at least half of our nature - which could get rather tiresome, if I was to say so myself. That’s why I always looked forward to the summer, where I could go to this magical place and be almost totally carefree. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adored France and I adored my family even more, but the world outside would never be a safe and carefree place for me - or any other demigod, for that matter.

We ended up at the lake, where we sat down on the bridge. I took of my shoes, and dipped my toes in the water. It was comfortable, not cold at all. Unlike the last time we had been in it together. This was actually the first time we had been here together, alone, since that day all those years ago. I looked over at Derek, and I sensed from the expression on his face, that he might very well be thinking about the same thing. I cleared my throat in a pathetic attempt to loosen up the awkward tension, hanging in the air. He lifted his hand to scratch his neck, and I tried to think of what to say. This was probably the most obvious possibility for us to speak about the events of that summer, that seemed so long ago now. But I guess, it really was long ago by now, since several years had passed since then. “So maybe-” “Uhm, I guess-” we both spoke at once. Then we laughed a bit, both aware of what was causing the awkward tension between us, and apparently both finally ready to approach it - or at least as ready as we would ever be. On that account, we were way too alike.

“You first,” I said, more than happy to back down from being the first speaker in this conversation. He sighed, obviously not all too pleased with it either. But then he nodded, while scratching his neck one more time. It was a nervous habit of his, which I had learned to recognise over the years. “I guess I should start by saying that I’m sorry. I didn’t really handle that whole… thing, all too well. It wasn’t very mature of me to just avoid speaking about it altogether,” he then managed to get out. I nodded and bit my lip ever so slightly. One of my nervous habits. “I’m sorry too. None of us handled it very maturely. Good thing we’re older and smarter now, although it’s probably not a great sign, that it took us this long to actually approach the issue,” I said, while frowning a bit. He hesitantly shrugged his shoulders and looked away from me and out onto the lake. “I don’t know if I’d call it an issue, exactly. I mean, it was great, while it lasted. Just too bad, that it didn’t work out,” he stated, still not looking at me. My frown grew even deeper, and I tried to fathom what it exactly was, that he was saying. “And what would your definition of it ‘working out’ be? Because from where I’m standing, you seem to have been busy trying to ‘work it out’ with many other girls since then.” I didn’t mean my words as an attack or an insult of any kind, really. Although it might easily be interpreted as such, I just wanted to clear things up.

Derek had never displayed any interest in making our summer-flirt-thingy a longer lasting or repeated event, so it was a bit odd that he seemed to be doing exactly that right now. “I don’t even know. But you’re one to talk, missy. Don’t think I didn’t notice you using your Aphrodite voodoo powers on half of the male campers,” he snorted. I couldn’t help but chuckle a bit, as I raised one eyebrow and looked him directly in the eye. “Oh yeah? Are you jealous or just afraid that I might use some ‘voodoo’ on you as well?” I asked, with a tease. He snorted again, and rolled his eyes at me. “Please. I’m immune to that kind of manipulative trickery,” he said, as if he was superior to all the rest of the guys at camp. Thus, I decided that it was only in its place to give it a try and see what would happen. Of course, I knew that he would have to be very strong-willed to resist a deliberate use of both amokinesis and charmspeak. And not many people were this strong-willed, no matter what they might claim. Sure, some people might be harder to charm than others, but most people could be charmed with enough power.

So, I put two fingers under his chin, making sure to maintain eye contact, as I leaned in closer to him, and wetted my lips. I then broke eye contact, only to lean into his ear, as I let go of his chin and traced my fingers down from his chest and torso, until I felt the beginning of his jeans’ fabric. All while I mustered up all my charmspeak abilities and spoke into his ear in a hoarse voice: “You want to do all kinds of thing to me, right here, right now.” I felt the fabric of his jeans tighten a bit, and I smiled, satisfied with my work. And then, suddenly, I was gently pushed back, and a splash in front of me, caused some stray drops of water to hit my skin. My eyes widened, as a completely soaked Derek resurfaced, looking rather flustered. And that’s when I burst out laughing. The sight that I had just witnessed was simply too hilarious to not laugh at. Derek thumped back up from the lake and onto the bridge. He scowled at me, and I just shook my head, while laughing even more uncontrollably. He walked over to me and peeled off his t-shirt, which he then proceeded to wring the water out of and straight down on the top of my head. I shrieked, “Hey!” but I couldn’t stop my laughter much longer than that.

He laid out his t-shirt behind us, on the bridge, so it could dry in the sun. I managed to control my laughter just enough to muster out, “See, I knew you weren’t immune to my great powers. Just look, I even managed to get you out of your clothes in a matter of seconds.” I chuckled, finally able to control my laughter a bit again. He scowled at me again, but then his eyes lit up, as he finally spoke. “I guess that was your plan the whole time, then? Getting another glimpse of my flawless body? Yeah, I noticed you taking your time staring at my abs the other day.” His crooked smile made him look very mischievous. I rolled my eyes. “Oh yes, you caught me. Your naked body is all I ever think about,” I sighed in an exaggerated way. He nodded slowly, with a feigned seriousness. Then he leaned in and whispered in my ear: “Well, maybe not all you think about, but I bet it does cross your mind - perhaps in the shower or when you’re lying in your bed, late at night. As close as we have come in the past, I bet there are areas of my body you still imagine uncovering.” He placed a small kiss on my jaw, just below my ear. Probably just for good measure. I forced myself to keep my cool, as I turned my face towards him, with a minimal amount of space between us. “Maybe you’re right. But while I may or may not be thinking about you tonight, you will be dreaming about me. You will be tossing and turning in bed all night, while pictures of my naked body and what could have been, will haunt you all night. Perhaps several nights beyond this one.” I placed a kiss on my index finger, maintaining eye contact, and then put my finger on his lips. I then pulled back, stood up and walked away, figuring I would let the charmspeak work its magic in his thoughts and feelings, while I continued with my day.

When I got back to the cabin to change my clothes, Aileen was in the midst of doing the same. We both had battle technique lessons in less than 15 minutes, and thus we changed hastily, got our weapons out and rushed out of the cabin as we headed towards the arena together. We only just made it in the nick of time. As we stood in the arena, putting on our armours and waiting for the teacher to arrive and give us instructions, we discussed my recent experience with Derek by the lake. Aileen laughed at my rendering of the events and shook her head in disbelief. “You’re both feckin’ crazy, you know that? But even though you are an eejit, I can’t help but love you anyway, my dear deirfiúr,” she said, still shaking her head. I flashed her a big smile, trying to look as innocent as possible. “Je t’aime aussi, ma sœur,” I said in a sugary voice, and blew her a kiss. Even though that wasn’t a very advanced sentence, I knew very well that she would have been able to understand whatever I were to say in French. So, would all of Aphrodite’s other children. We had an inherent gift for speaking French, because of it being le langage de l’amour/the language of love. Which actually put me at a disadvantage, since it was also my mother tongue. Aileen, for example, spoke Irish/Irish Gaelic fluently, because that was her mother tongue. I was only fluent in French, English and, well, Italian - because my father had been adamant, since my earliest years, that I’d learn a third language as well.

I looked away from Aileen, when I spotted a guy coming towards us. He looked somewhat older than us, but not a day past thirty. I had never seen him before, and I do believe I would have remembered, if I had, because he was extremely good-looking. I nudged Aileen, and discretely nodded in the direction of the guy. Or perhaps man was more adequate. She looked at him, and then leaned in to whisper to me, with neither of us breaking our gazes at him. “Who is that beauty of a man?” I shrugged, wondering the exact same thing myself. “I have no idea, but I’m eager to find out. Luckily, he seems to be taking this lesson as well,” I whispered back to her. She nodded in agreement, and the man closed in and stood before the group of students who had gathered. He promptly captured everyone’s attention, and while scanning the group, he started to speak: “Hello, campers. I am your new teacher of battle techniques. My name is James Nolan and I am a son of Athena, so with the inherited help of my mother, I will do my best to prepare you for any and all battles you might be facing throughout your lives as demigods.” His voice was authoritarian, but kind and warm. Not to mention, British. He was obviously raised somewhere in England. “Any questions?” After asking, he waited a few seconds, to see if anybody raised a hand or spoke up. In the meantime, I looked over at Aileen, who had a faint blush on her cheeks. It was a bit embarrassing to find out that he was our teacher, after what we had both just been saying - and even worse; thinking.

When nobody seemed to have any questions, he went along with the lesson. He spoke about what his teaching of battle techniques entailed, and what makes battle techniques so important (something about the consequences of charging into a battle or fight without any plan or tactics). Then he made sure to answer whatever questions people might have, before basically just teaching. And honestly, he was probably the best teacher I had ever had, in all my 21 years on this planet. He made everyone listen and pay real attention to what he was saying. And I do mean every. last. one. of. us. How often can you truly say that about someone teaching a bunch of adolescents - and with ADHD, nonetheless. Not very often, that’s for sure. He was passionate, he was wise and was very aware of the crowd. He made sure to check every few minutes, if anybody had any questions. Although his teaching was so efficient, that very few questions were asked at all. Oh, and of course his strong, incredibly charming British accent didn’t do anything bad for his cause either. Not to mention his rugged, but clean and professional, and extremely handsome exterior. I mean, Athena must really have found a kickass mortal genepool to make that one. Although her children were literally created in the mixing of minds, so I don’t actually know how the mortal genepool would come into play. I guess it really doesn’t matter much anyway, though. I, and obviously, the rest of girls in the battle techniques group, were just very pleased and grateful, no matter what.

Of course, what was less fantastic, was the fact that he was my teacher. Because that made him completely unobtainable. I would not go for a teacher, because that would never end well. Of course, my male teachers had always been 40 years old or even older, but still. I’m sure he would never go for a student, either. Despite his obvious niceness, he was also incredibly professional and impossible to read any real emotions off from. This made him a bit intimidating, but as they always say; the forbidden fruit tastes the sweetest. So, an unobtainable, closed-off teacher, who was obviously some years older than me - although the exact number was very unclear - was painfully intriguing and desirable. I couldn’t quite figure out what I was going to do about this unhealthy desire for mu battle techniques teacher. I mean, obviously, the smartest choice would be to get rid of these feelings of desire towards him, but how would one go about doing that? Usually, when something like this would happen to me, I would just act upon it, and then it wouldn’t be as thrilling anymore, and simply disappear. But this time it wasn’t as simple as that.

After the lesson was over, Mr. Nolan congratulated us on a job well done and thanked us for a good first lesson. When he left, the girls immediately started to chitchat about our new, handsome teacher, and who he was. Of course, Aileen and I weren’t above gossip, so we picked out a daughter of Athena, whom we were acquainted with, because we figured she wouldn’t know the most about James Nolan. She didn’t know a whole lot about him, but it was still more than we would have known without her intel. She told us, that he had lived in the Athena cabin during summers, before he became a teacher. So, really, much like myself. She could also tell us his age, which was 28 years old. This made him seven years older than me, which I really didn’t think was all that much. It was clear that he was from England, but she couldn’t tell us from where in England. I guess, that really didn’t matter much anyway. And that was pretty much all she knew about him, so we thanked her and walked back to the Aphrodite cabin. On the walk, home - which wasn’t all that far away - we were, of course, discussing Mr. Nolan. I mean, how could we not?

The day was already half past, so when we got to the cabin, we went straight to the showers, so we could be clean before we ate our dinner at the dining pavilion. The dinner was pretty much as always - sacrifices to our divine parent, and all. The only difference was at the teachers table, where there was an addition to the former staff. The addition was, obviously, Mr. Nolan. Which also meant that many girls were rather fixated on him throughout dinner, and likely quite difficult to strike up conversations with. The guys seemed a bit displeased with that turn of events. Some of my half-brothers were just expressing this at the table, when another joined the conversation. “My dear, narrow-minded brothers. Don’t let your straightness get in the way of mere facts. As sons of Aphrodite, even you must be able to acknowledge the beauty of that man.” This particular half-brother of mine, was Brandon, a completely gay son of Aphrodite. He could be a somewhat odd fellow, but I didn’t mind. And he usually made some very good points, such as right now. The other guys also looked a bit disgruntled, which could only be because they knew Brandon was right. So, they just grunted a bit, and left it at that. Brandon rolled his eyes, but left it at that, as well.

That was pretty much the last thing being said, before Aileen and I finished our dinners and headed back to our cabin. On the way home, we came across Derek, who almost walked right into me, because he wasn’t paying attention to the road ahead. I averted the crashing of our bodies, by putting my hands out in front of me, where they made Derek pay attention again, when they landed on his chest. He looked at me, as if he was a bit surprised to see me. Hopefully, he was still thinking about our little rendezvous earlier. But just to make sure, I said: “Look where you are going, Murphy. Our bodies are gonna be crashing together plenty, in your dreams. They don’t need to be doing it when you’re awake as well.” The charmspeak abilities were, naturally, in use again, and I winked at him. He looked a bit flustered, and simply scowled at me before heading away. I couldn’t help but laugh. I really did enjoy making him squirm. But, of course, I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. The feeling was completely mutual, which also made me feel like my actions were justified. He would have done the absolute same thing to me, if he had the ability to. And it’s not like he didn’t try his best, even without my Aphrodite-given powers.

When Aileen and I finally made it back to the cabin, we didn’t do much for the rest of the evening. We just talked and discussed our day once more, as we tried to figure out why one of the most handsome beings we had ever come across, absolutely had to be chosen to be our new teacher of battle techniques. We both agreed, that it was indeed not fair. The gods must have decided to play a quite cruel joke on the girls at camp. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much we could do about it. So, after complaining quite a bit, we went to bed a bit earlier than usual. We decided that we might as well be fully rested and refreshed tomorrow, so we could surely speculate and complain even more.

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