After my conversation with Zeus, I put on my pajamas and climbed into bed. I sat there for a while, trying to will myself into being tired. I’d barely slept the night before, but still I just wasn’t tired in the slightest. I knew that if I didn’t sleep, I’d probably collapse from exhaustion tomorrow, which would be pretty embarrassing.
But it was hard. I’d gotten accustomed to the sound of my son’s soft breathing lulling me to sleep. I was used to going up to his crib and stroking his beautiful black hair to help myself feel safe and comforted. I didn’t have that comfort anymore.
My door started to crack open, and the person turning to knob caught me by surprise.
“Hey, can I come in? That garage is cold as fuck.”
“Sure, take a seat. Though, I won’t be doing much sleeping tonight.” I told Artemis as she came and pulled herself onto my bed.
“I figured. None of us can really sleep either.” She sighed and pulled her legs up to her chest, almost identical to the way I had mine. Before that moment, I’d never really realized how much we looked alike. I mean, we were twins after all. “This really sucks, dude. I’m sorry.”
“Why are you sorry?”
“I mean, I don’t know. I’m just sorry this happened to you. I’m sorry for how I’ve treated you. I know I’ve given you such a hard time while we were growing up, but you’re still my sister. You don’t deserve this, Jj doesn’t deserve this.” She blurted out. I’d never once in my life heard my sister apologize to me. Ever. It was nice.
“I know I should’ve been nicer to you our whole lives, I don’t know why I was so bitter towards you. I don’t think I’m that self-aware yet.” She laughed, making me chuckle slightly as well. “But I promise, I’m gonna try to be nicer to you. And I’m not doing this because I pity you, because I don’t. But this whole situation has made me realize how important family is.”
“Yea, I mean, I’m gonna have a family of my own pretty soon, but that doesn’t mean I want to abandon this one. I want us to be closer, I actually want to have a sister.” She admitted to me.
“What do you mean you’re gonna have a family of your own?”
“Anson proposed to me, we’re getting married next year.” She smiled excitedly. I smiled for the first time in a few days.
“Oh my god, that’s amazing, Artemis. Congratulations.” I smiled at her. I didn’t particularly like the guy, but I was happy my sister was happy.
“Thank you. Both the engagement and Jj going missing has made me realize how much I love you guys. I want you in my wedding. I want Jj as my ring-bearer, if you’ll let him.” She smiled sheepishly.
“Of course I will.”
“We’re gonna find him, Thena. I know we are, Grandma is an amazing witch. I think she’s got a few tricks up her sleeve.” She alluded, making me wonder if there was something she knew that I didn’t.
“I hope so.” I said softly. I didn’t want to think about it right now. It made me feel like a terrible mother to feel that way, but I needed a break from the constant grief. I just wanted to have girl-talk with my twin sister, like I’ve always dreamed.
“Do you have a date set for the wedding?” I asked her after a moment of silence.
“No, but probably a summer wedding. I want the sun to be out and I want to be able to wear a strapless dress without being cold.” She smiled. “I’ve always dreamed of that.”
“Where would you want the wedding to be?” I asked. Artemis stretched out and started to turn around.
“Do you mind if I lay down?”
“Not at all.”
We laid down next to each other and it felt like a scene from a movie. Like when two sisters or best friends in a movie have a sleepover and just talk about boys and gossip. It was something I always wanted.
“Well, I was thinking the old gazebo in town.” She answered my question as soon as she got situated. “I was thinking about doing a location wedding, but that would be too expensive.”
“Where would you want the location to be, if you did have a location wedding?” I kept asking her questions, it was nice to learn about what my sister was thinking.
“Egypt, maybe. I don’t really know though. I never really thought about it since it seemed so impossible.”
“What about you though, what’s your dating life like?” She asked, it was so strange to see my sister asking me questions in a friendly way. I wasn’t used to her being nice to me. It was a nice kind of strange, though.
“No dating life, really. I’m more focused on being a good mom.”
“No cute guys at your school?” She sounded slightly disappointed.
“Nope, not really. Just super nerdy guys in my pre-med program.” I laughed.
“Isn’t that your type though, I mean you went for Zeus when he was super nerdy. He’s not so much anymore, but he used to be.” She giggled. Zeus had changed a lot since the last time I’d seen him.
“Nah, not really interested right now.” I reiterated. I really wasn’t. I didn’t really have my eye on anyone there just yet.
“Oh okay.” She went silent for a few moments. “Do you ever wonder about our parents? Like what they were like and what not?”
“Of course. Why?”
“I don’t know. I’ve just been thinking about it, the wedding and all. I won’t have Dad to walk me down the aisle, or Mom to help me do my hair and tell me how beautiful I look before I go out there and marry him. It just… sucks.” She sighed.
“I know. It does. I’ve thought about that too. And how my son doesn’t have his grandparents. I mean, you have grandma to do those things, and he has Winter, but still. It’s not the same.”
“You’re right, it’s not.” She sighed. “I mean, yea, I do have Grandma. But she’s getting old, Thena. She’s putting on a brave face for you because this situation is shitty enough as it is, but she’s not doing too well.”
“What do you mean?” My heart dropped, I couldn’t lose my grandma too.
“I don’t think it’s too serious.” She quickly responded, noticing the fear in my voice. “Probably just arthritis, or something like that. But you know grandma’s tough.” She smiled at me.
“Okay.” I sighed, I knew she was just saying that to make me feel better. But I didn’t want to delve into that right now, so I believed it for the time being. “Why do you think she did it?”
“Our mother. Why do you think she killed herself?”
“She couldn’t live without Dad, I guess. It’s tragic, but romantic in a sense.” She tsked. “It sucks, since she left us without either parent. But I guess it makes sense.”
“Do you forgive her? For leaving us?” I asked.
“No, do you?”
“Do you forgive me?” She sounded timid, like a small child.
“You tortured me throughout my life, Artemis. I really appreciate that you’re trying to make things right, but it’s gonna take some time for me to forgive you.” I told her honestly. Maybe it was a little brutal, but she needed to hear it.
No one could sleep that night, especially not after a random knock at the door at three in the morning. The cop who’d been staying with us nearly had a heart attack, but it turns out it was a visitor for my grandma. They gave her a package, and left, before any of us could even see them. She had all of us gather in the kitchen, except Winter who was working on her novel before a deadline.
“What is this, Elsa?” Zeus asked suspiciously.
“It’s a lamp. It’ll help me see where Jj is.” She said carefully, I knew she was using to see if he was still alive.
“Athena, are you sure you want to be here for this?” My grandma asked, kindly. I didn’t appreciate the pity though.
“I’m staying. I want to know where my son is.”
“Okay.” She gave me one last look before deciding to move on with her ritual. My grandma started to chant some strange language. It sounded like gibberish. There was no way it was a real language.
Suddenly, the lamp started to glow a bright red. My grandma’s eyes opened wide and her jaw dropped.
“What is it grandma? What’s happening?” I asked frantically.
“I-I can’t see where he is. He’s alive, but he’s under a protection spell. I can’t track him.” She still looked terrified.
“Why do you look so scared?” Hillary asked bluntly.
“Because, red means he’s in danger.”
Not long after that, Hillary rushed outside. We were all upset, and I assumed she just needed to be alone. But after almost half an hour, I decided to go check up on her. Yes, I was upset myself but I cared about Hillary. I didn’t want her to freeze to death.
“Aren’t you freezing?” I commented as I came up to stand besides her.
“What does it matter?” She sighed. “I feel so useless, just waiting around here. I feel like I should be out there, helping search. Doing something.”
“Then why are you here?” I asked, gently. I didn’t want her to feel like I was accusing her of anything.
“Because, I want to be here if we get any news at all. Also…” She paused slightly, glancing at me quickly. “I want to be here for you. If you need me.”
“Thank you.” I smiled. It was nice to know she was here for me. It made my insides tingle, for some strange reason.
“Of course. I care about you. And Jj. That kid brings so much light into my life. You both do.” She blushed slightly as she smiled at me.
“He really is such a bright presence.” I felt myself on the verge of tears again.
“He is, and he will be again. He’ll be back before we know it.” Hillary pulled me into a tight hug.
“Do you think I’m a bad mother? I mean, someone was in our house, my bedroom! And I didn’t even notice.” I gripped onto her for dear life. It felt like she was an anchor, and I was a ship about to float away.
“Not at all. How could you have known? It’s not like we live in a bad area. It’s not your fault at all.”
“It feels like it is.”
“Then if it’s your fault, it’s my fault too.” She told me firmly.
“No, it’s not your fault.”
“Why? I should’ve known there was someone in the house too. I live there too, Athena.”
“They didn’t go into your room, though.” I reasoned.
“We don’t know that.”
“I guess, but it’s still not your fault.”
“Then it’s not your fault either, Athena. You’re an amazing mother, to an incredible little boy. This is going to have a happy ending, I promise.” She got on her tippy-toes and kissed me on the forehead.
“Thank you.” I choked out a small sob. It was hard to keep myself from crying.
“Of course, I love you, Athena.”
“You… love me?”
“Of course, you’re my best friend.” She smiled at me and gave me another hug. “Now, get some sleep please. We need you well rested if we’re going to find our Jj.”
“Goodnight, Athena.” She told me before heading inside.
Hillary told me she loved me, that I was her best friend. I’d never had a best friend that wasn’t family before. Her saying I’m her best friend is a good thing, right?
Then why did I feel so heartbroken about it?