Athena Mortem Chapter 13: Family Matters

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.”

“Really?”

“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?”

“Who?”

“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?”

“No.”

“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.

“That’s fair.”


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.”

“Okay, goodnight.”

“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?

Athena Mortem Chapter 12: Get Your Sh*t Together

That phone call was absolutely devastating. Someone had my son. There was no lead on who it could possibly be. The police were trying to trace the call, but they couldn’t. They needed him to call again. So far, he hadn’t. But there was a police officer staying here with us tonight just in case anything else happened.

Everything was so overwhelming for me, it was too much to take in so I retreated into my room. Seeing his empty crib made my heart break all over again. I just sat on my bed and cried. This room felt so empty without my son. It hadn’t even been twenty-four hours yet but I felt like my life was ending.

“Athena?” I hadn’t even heard her come in, but there was my grandma standing right in front of my bedroom door. She looked tired and stressed. Her face was red and raw, like she’d been crying. She probably had been.

“Y-yea?” I replied hesitantly. I wasn’t exactly in the mood for conversation but I wasn’t about to be rude to my grandmother.

“Can I sit down? I’d like to talk to you.” She spoke softly, like she was trying not to upset me.

“Sure.” I scooted over to make room for her.

As she sat down on my bed, my cat Dexter, followed suit. I smiled slightly at the sight of my cat. He was such a calming presence, I was glad he followed her in here.

“I’m so sorry Athena. I should’ve protected this place. I didn’t even think to. I’ve gotten so complacent with the peace we’ve had in recent years. I thought I didn’t have to fear for your safety anymore. I thought we were finally being left alone. I’m so sorry you’ve had this happen.”

“It’s not your fault, Grandma. I’m a witch too. I could’ve protected this place but I didn’t.” Sure, I didn’t really know all that much about protection spells, but I could’ve learned.

“I didn’t teach you very much. I worked so often during your childhood and teenage years that I didn’t have time. But I want to change that.”

“What? What do you mean?” I asked hesitantly. Now didn’t seem like a good time to learn something new.

“I’m gonna teach you. Defensive spells, offensive spells. All of it. I know it’s a little late, but if we’re gonna find Jj and get him back, we’re going to need all the knowledge and all the witch power we can get.” Grandma told me confidently. I wish I could’ve shared the feeling.

“I don’t know Grandma, are you sure I can handle this?” I asked. My hands were still shaking, my legs felt numb. I didn’t feel like this was something I could do right now.

“Get some rest. We’ll start in the morning.” She told me, matter-of-factly.

“How can I sleep at a time like this?” The thought of sleeping, while my little boy was with that creep… It didn’t feel right.

“You need your strength, Athena. I’ll wake you if we get any news. Now, get some sleep.” She ordered. Grandma kissed me softly on the forehead and smiled.

“I love you.” She told me.

“I love you too.” I replied, though my thoughts were elsewhere in that moment.

Where was my son?


That night I didn’t sleep much. My body was exhausted, but my mind was racing too fast to rest at all. So when my grandma came in my room early in the morning, I almost cried from exhaustion. But I didn’t want to stay in bed all day, I needed to get up and work towards getting my son back. I knew I’d never rest normally until he was back in my arms.

It was hard to concentrate while so exhausted. The spells were not incredibly hard to remember, but there were quite a few.

Maybe it was petty, but I was trying extremely hard to beat my opponent. I was absolutely just doing this to learn how to fight to get my son back, but the idea of finally being superior to my sister was so appealing.

I kept hitting her with a blinding light spell, and she was starting to get frustrated. “Goddamn Athena, give me a chance to get my shit together!” She yelled, though she wasn’t looking in my direction. She couldn’t see, it was quite amusing to see her looking so lost.

“Attackers aren’t going to give you a second to get your shit together, Artemis.” I told her condescendingly.

“Ugh.” She pointed her wand in my direction and cast a blinding light spell as well.

But, my reflexes were better than hers. And, well, I could actually see. I blocked her spell with a shielding one.

“Athena! Geez, just let me get one good shot in!” Artemis exclaimed with frustration.

“This isn’t a ‘lets take turns blinding each other with spells’ exercise. This is a battle, Artemis. You’re my enemy right now and I’m not gonna let you win.” I told her, while sending another blinding spell her way.

“Don’t be a poor sport, Artemis. That’s not gonna fly in a real battle. You’re gonna end up dead if you keep talking like that.” Hillary chimed in from next to me, while masterfully blocking all of Zeus’s spells.

“Have you done this before?” I asked in awe.

“Nope. Zeus here just sucks.” She chuckled, while sending a freezing spell his way.

“Oh shut up.” Zeus grumbled, while trying his hardest to actually hit Hillary with his spells. It wasn’t easy, she was good and he had terrible aim.

“If anyone should be shutting up, its you and Artemis. You guys should be focusing on actually trying to beat your opponents.” Winter sighed from behind the two of them.

So, for the rest of the day, we all shut up and worked on our spells. I felt ready to take on the son of a bitch who had my son.

All we had to do was find him.


That night, I sat alone in the kitchen after everyone was asleep. They’d set up some sleeping bags in the garage and were staying there. I offered my grandma my bed but she refused to take it, she was so stubborn.

It was hard for me to be in my bedroom. My son’s cold, empty crib was a sore reminder of how I screwed up. I wasn’t diligent enough. I should’ve set a protection spell, or at the very least an alarm system. I felt like such an awful parent. How could I let someone kidnap my toddler?

“Hey, can we talk?” Zeus came through the garage door and stood by the table. He looked sheepish, like a young child being scolded.

“Sure.” I sighed, I was so exhausted and didn’t want to get into it, but I didn’t really have a choice.

“How’re you holding up?” He asked tentatively.

“Oh, I’m just fantastic.” I rolled my eyes at him, I knew it was rude and childish, but he asked a dumb question.

“Okay, yea I deserved that snark.” He smirked slightly for just a split second, before looking remorseful.

“Listen Athena, I’m so sorry. I’ve been such a dick. I’m sorry for the way things went down.” Zeus couldn’t make eye contact, he just stared down at the table.

“You were an asshole to me. To both of us. You didn’t make any time for us, you blamed me for keeping him, and you said you didn’t want any of this. That sucked, Zeus.”

“I know. I wish I could take it all back. I’m not much older than I was then, but I still feel like I’ve grown. I don’t feel that way anymore.” He sighed.

“What way?”

“I don’t think keeping him was a mistake. I don’t blame you. I was an asshole, I should’ve spent more time with both of you, I should’ve helped more.” He ran his fingers through his hair in frustration. “I wish I could take it back.”

“I wish you could too. You hurt me, Zeus.”

“I’m sorry Athena. I know I was cold to you. I just couldn’t handle the amount of stress I was under.”

“You’re making excuses, Zeus. You’re only saying all of this because he’s not here. He’s missing, and you only give a shit about him now because now you don’t get to decide if you ever get to see him again. Before, we were just in the background of your life. If you ever wanted to see us, the option was there. But now that option is gone and only now you give a shit about it.” I ranted. It was rich that he was doing this now. How he only cared now that Jj was missing.

“Maybe you’re right. Maybe I only care now because he’s not here. But, we’re going to find him. We’re going to get our son b-” He started, but I stopped him.

My son. You gave up the right to call him your son when you decided to never call us or see us.”

“That’s not fair Athena. He’s still my son. Give me another chance. I promise, when we get him back, I’ll come around a lot more. I’ll be a part of his life.” He was practically begging me.

“I’ll think about it. I don’t want to set my son up for heartbreak.” I told him. And with that, I got up and went to bed.

That was the moment I realized I was absolutely, completely over Zeus Garnett.

Athena Mortem Chapter 11: Lost Cub

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Immediately after realizing Jj wasn’t in the house, I dialed Zeus. Maybe he decided he wanted him in his life after all? I wasn’t thinking straight, but I had to know if he was with his father.

The phone rang, and rang, but there was no answer. My next line of thought was to call Winter. Maybe she was with them.

“Hello?” Winter answered groggily, I must’ve woken her up.

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“Winter, is Jj with you guys?” I didn’t even bother to greet her, this was too important.

“What? No, why would he be here? Is everything okay?”

“Are you sure? Is he with Zeus? Can you check?” I fired my words so rapidly I wasn’t sure if she even understood what I said.

“I’ll check but I don’t think so. What’s going on?” She sounded much more awake than before, panic rising through her voice.

“He’s not here, I can’t find him anywhere!” I started to feel myself lose control. My son was missing and we had no idea where he was.

“He’s not here. Call the police. We’ll be there as fast as possible.” Winter said, before hanging up.

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“What’s happening?”

“They don’t have him.” I told Hillary quietly. I almost forgot she was there.

“Call the police, Athena. We don’t know how long he’s been gone for. We need to start searching now.”

“Already dialed.” I held the phone up to my ear. I just hoped I could hold myself together.


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After calling the police, Hillary made sure I got dressed. She told me there would be people talking to me all day, and I probably wouldn’t want to be in my bra while they did. She was right, and I was so thankful to have her in my life in those moments.

It wasn’t long after that before the cops arrived, then my family. Even Zeus. I was surprised to see him, I had no idea he even cared. My heart ached slightly, I hadn’t seen him in a while and he looked good.

The police got all our statements, then the crime scene investigator started searching my room. The rest of the cops went out to canvas or something. I wasn’t really paying attention, I was in shock.

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“Don’t worry ma’am, we’ll find your son. There’s never been a missing person’s case that the Riverview police couldn’t solve.” The cop who stayed at our house with us assured me.

“You’re damn right you will.” Hillary retorted. She was just as protective over him as I was.

“I assure you we’re doing everything we can. He’ll turn up.”

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“You’re damn right. He better come back without a scratch on his perfect little head or else I will raise more hell than this town has ever seen.” Hillary rubbed my back comfortingly, “Don’t worry Thena, we’re getting our Jj back.”

“Are you his mother as well?” The cop asked. Hillary blushed a deep shade of red and dropped her hand from my back.

“No, just the roommate and babysitter. But I love that kid like he’s my own.”

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I’m his other parent.” Zeus chimed in from his spot near the desk. “I-I haven’t been around, t-this is a-all my fault.” He started to sob. No one jumped up to comfort him.

“It’s not. It’s mine. I was the one caring for him.” I chimed in. The cop looked uncomfortable and announced he was going to check on the crime scene investigator.

“That’s not true. You were caring for him, but it isn’t your fault. He needed me and I wasn’t there for him. I fucked up.” Zeus buried his face in his hands. I didn’t know what to say.

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“I don’t think anyone is at fault here. This isn’t the first case of this happening.” Artemis chimed in from her place on the floor. She’d brought her laptop with her, and was doing some research on it apparently. “The towns around us have missing toddler cases as well. All witches too.”

“W-were they ever found?” Zeus asked hopefully.

“No. But, maybe it’s different this time. Maybe they’re not related.” She turned to me and smiled, something she’d never done before in our lives.

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“Hopefully, Artemis. Why don’t you go pass that information onto the cop? They might know already but it’s still a good idea to tell them.” My grandma suggested. She looked so old in that moment, so tired. I knew she’d been through hell in her life and this was no exception. I hoped she would live long enough to at least see Jj start school, hopefully even more than that.

“Okay Grandma, I’ll be back.” Artemis closed her laptop and stood up. “I’m so sorry, Athena. We’ll find him.” She stopped before me and smiled slightly. I wondered where my sister was and what kind of alien was in her place.

“T-thank you.” I replied softly, trying to keep myself composed.

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But it didn’t work. My son wasn’t here. We had no idea where he was. I couldn’t handle the idea that I might never see him again, or hear his laugh again. It was too much.

“We’re gonna find him. I’ll search the entire world myself if that’s what it takes. But we’ll find him.” Hillary told me quietly.

“Thank you.”

Just as she was about to respond, our house phone rang.

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I jumped up and immediately made my way towards the phone. Just as I reached to answer, I stopped myself. Did I want to know what the person on the other side of the phone was gonna say? Was it good news? Bad news? Was my son dead? Was he hurt? So many possibilities ran through my head.

“Answer it, Athena.” Winter pushed slightly.

I grabbed the phone with shaky hands and pressed the talk button. “H-hello?

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“Athena, you don’t sound so great. Mama bear lose her cub?” The voice teased through the phone.

“Who is this?” I answered angrily. Right now was not the time for a prank call.

“Doesn’t matter right now, sweetheart.” The voice replied. It sounded familiar, they had a deep manly voice and a strange accent, but I couldn’t place who it was.

“Who the fuck is this? This isn’t funny.” I felt myself grow angry.

“Oh, dear I know this isn’t funny. But don’t worry, your cub is in good hands.

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“What!” I screamed into the phone. “Do you have my son?”

“He’s not your son anymore.” The man turned angry. “He’s ours. There’s nothing you can do to get him back. Don’t even try.”

“Who are you! Is he alive? Give me my son back!” I screamed as loud as I could into the phone.

“I can’t do that, darling.” His voice returning to that creepy, faux-pleasant tone it was at before. “He’s ours now. Don’t you dare come after him. We’ll know if you do.”

And with that, he hung up.

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I dropped to my knees and started to scream. Behind me, I could hear my family jumping up to comfort me, asking me what happened. I could hear the cop and my sister running from the next room.

But the only thing I could focus on was the fact that my son was gone, he was in that man’s creepy little hands and there was nothing I could do.

My precious little James was gone.

Athena Mortem Chapter 8: Not That Bad

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Being pregnant wasn’t as awful as I thought it would be. I was already used to throwing up, so morning sickness wasn’t a terrible thing for me. I spent a lot of my first trimester reading about pregnancy and what I needed to do to prepare for my baby. It was a little intimidating, but I knew I wasn’t alone.

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Dexter spent a lot of time with me. I think he knew that there was something going on. We spent hours together up in the library, just reading pregnancy and baby books.

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Occasionally Zeus would join us as well. He wasn’t as strong of a reader as I was but he was definitely trying to read as many as he could. I was glad he was my partner in this.

———-

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As my pregnancy progressed, I switched to online school. Artemis told everyone once she found out, and people were mocking me all through the halls. My grandma and I decided that online school would be best, especially after the baby was born.

When I wasn’t doing my schoolwork, I was practicing some alchemy. With the baby coming, I wanted to know how to protect it. The setup was in Winter’s office, so we spent a lot of time together.

“How have you been holding up?” Winter asked me after a long period of silence.

“I’m doing better now that I’m out of school.” I told her.

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“How are you and Zeus?” She looked up from her writing.

“We’re good. I don’t see him much though, since he has a part-time job now. But I’m glad he does, we need the money.”

“Just be sure to make time for each other, that’s really important.” She reminded me.

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“Of course, I care about him and we need to work together if we want to stay together. He has a few nights off a week and we usually spend those together.” I assured her.

“That’s good. You’re a smart girl Athena, you’re really mature for your age. I have no worries about whether or not you can pull this off.”

“Thank you, that means a lot.” I gave her a sincere smile. It was nice to hear something like that from her.

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“Have you guys thought of any names yet?” She asked.

“Not yet, we’re just focusing on preparing ourselves and saving up money. We don’t even know the sex yet.” I chuckled.

“Alright, well if you need any ideas I can help. I’d love to be involved. This is my first grandchild.” She laughed.

“Oh of course.” I assured her. “I’d love your input.”

“Trust me, I’ve been waiting to have a grandchild. I didn’t think it would be this soon, but nevertheless I’m excited. I’ve got plenty of ideas.”

————

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One of her ideas was having Zeus and Artemis switch rooms. She got his old room and he moved in mine. Of course, we had separate beds, but it would be a nice set up once the baby came. We’d gotten a crib and a few small toys, we were actually very excited for the baby.

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“Wow, I can feel him kicking.” Zeus gently laid on hand on my growing stomach as the baby kicked.

“How do you know it’s a boy?” I teased, we didn’t want to know the gender just yet.

“Trust me, a father just knows.” He gave me a cheesy half-smile that made me roll my eyes.

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“But on a serious note, how long do you want to stay here?” He asked me.

“Like, living here?”

“Yea, I mean we can’t raise our baby in this house. There’s too many people here. We’ll have to move out at some point. The sooner the better, really.” He explained.

“I guess yea, but you might change your mind once it’s born. Babies are a lot of work, and here we have a lot of support. I think we should stay at least a year. That gives us time to save up and get used to having a baby.” I reasoned. Moving out too soon could add too much stress.

“Yea I guess.”

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“We’re not gonna stay here forever babe. I’ll finish school, take care of the baby during the day while you’re at school. Then I’ll get a night job while you stay at home with the baby.” I reasoned.

“What about my job?”

“You don’t have to stay at it. But if you really want to, we can have someone watch the baby while we’re working.” I offered.

“Okay. I mean we’ve got time. I’ll make up my mind about it soon.”

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“Yeah definitely. We can do this.” I wrapped my arms around him.

“Of course we can. We’re gonna be amazing parents.” He smiled at me, with that goofy half-smile.

“We will be amazing parents, especially since there’s two of us. Neither of us ever had that, and I’m glad we get to be that for our baby.” I said.

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“We’re gonna give this baby everything.” He pulled me in for a kiss. “I love you.”

“I love you too.”

————–

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The closer I got to my due date, the more sore I got. I could barely stand at the alchemy station anymore. So I spent most of my time in the living room, since climbing the stairs all the way to the library was a struggle.

The worst part about this was that I was always right in Artemis’s sight when she came home.

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“Hey fatty, still sitting on your ass all day?” She sneered as she made her way towards me.

“Leave me alone Artemis. I’m just trying to relax.”

“Look at yourself, you’ve been doing enough relaxing lately.”

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I don’t know if it was the hormones, or if I was just tired of her shit, but I snapped at her.

“Leave me the fuck alone, Artemis. I’m pregnant for gods-sake. Of course I’m fat and lazy, I’m supposed to be. Now stop being an evil bitch and get out of my face!” I yelled at her.

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“I may be an evil bitch, but at least I’m not a whore!” She yelled back.

“Oh I’m the whore? I’ve only been with one guy. Rumor has it that you’ve had the whole football team at once. You have no right to call me that.” I accused.

“You are such a bitch! I am not a whore, I’m not the pregnant one.” She glared at me.

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“Don’t even go there. I got pregnant my first time, it’s not like I’m some sex freak. Just leave me alone.”

“You’re the worst. Why did you even keep the baby? You’re ruining Zeus’s life.”

“How am I ruining his life? He loves me, and we’re in this together. You’re just jealous that my boyfriend actually gives a shit about me.” I yelled at her, her boyfriend barely spent any time with her anymore. The guy was sketchy as hell.

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“You really think that? You’re such a dumb, naive little girl. Of course he’s not going to stay with you, they never do. He’ll eventually realize that he can just leave and have a better life. Then it’ll just be you and the little brat.”

“Fuck you. I hate you. You know nothing about Zeus and I.” I balled my fists. I would punch her, but I didn’t want to hurt myself or the baby.

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“Trust me, Zeus and I have been friends longer than you’ve been dating. He’s a coward. He’s gonna leave as soon as shit gets serious.”

“That’s not true at all. You’ve been too far up your own ass to give a shit about anyone other than you, so how the hell do you know what Zeus is like?”

“Fine. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.” She yelled, then stormed off. I sat back down on the couch, fuming. But I wouldn’t let Artemis come between me and my family.

She was wrong about Zeus. He’d never leave us. He was better than that… Right?

———–

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All of my doubts about Zeus went out the window as my due date approached. He gave me massages whenever I needed them. He helped me get all of our baby stuff organized to prepare for the arrival. Most of our time together was spent on the couch, just relaxing and talking about our future.

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About a week before my due date, the two of us were watching a movie, but not really paying attention. We were making out while we still had time to ourselves.

But in the middle of our make-out session, I felt a painful twinge in my stomach.

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“Z-Zeus, I think it’s time.” I clutched my stomach.

“What? Are you serious?” He asked, audibly panicked.

“Of course I’m serious, do I look like I’m joking?” I snapped at him.

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“Oh god. Oh god. We’re gonna have a baby. Oh my god.” He grabbed his hair and looked like he was gonna pull it out.

“Can you calm down and go get your mom? We need to get to the hospital.” I urged at him through gritted teeth.

“Okay. I’ll be right back.” He ran off to her office.

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“Grab my bag while you’re at it, Zeus.” I yelled after him. I slowly started making my way to the door so we could get to the hospital as soon as possible.

I was going to have a baby.

————-

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James Jorge Mortem was born six hours later. He was seven pounds even, and he was absolutely perfect. Zeus and I were completely in love with him. I was so excited to start my life with the two of them.

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My life was absolutely perfect.

I just wish it stayed that way.

Athena Mortem Chapter 6: Rules

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“Morning.” I quietly walked into Zeus’s room the next morning.

“Morning Thena. How’re you feeling?” He yawned and stretched as he got out of bed.

“Good, you?”

“Good.” He responded, things were only slightly awkward between us.

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“So, if you want, we can pretend last night never happened. If you want to just go back to normal I’ll completely understand.” I said quickly. We both got caught up in our emotions, and I knew Artemis would not be happy.

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“Are you kidding? Last night was amazing, I never want to forget it.” He gave me a cheesy grin.

“Really?”

“Yea, and I was hoping this could actually be a serious thing, if that’s what you want.”

“You mean like, boyfriend and girlfriend?” I asked, stunned.

“Yea.” He answered.

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“I’d love that.” I answered honestly. He leaned forward and gave me a quick kiss.

“But, on one condition.” He said when he pulled back.

“What’s that?”

“Please try to get better. Try to stop throwing up. I’ll help you, if you need it. I just want to make sure you’re healthy.” He told me. I was hesitant, I still wasn’t at my weight-loss goal but I also really wanted to be with him.

“I’ll try.”

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“That’s all I ask.” He grabbed my hand. “But we can’t keep the relationship a secret. I’m not down to sneak around behind my mom and your grandma’s backs.”

“I’m okay with that. They might not be happy about it but they’ll deal.”

“Artemis won’t be too happy either.” He bit his lip nervously.

“No, she won’t.”

“Will you come with me to tell her?” He asked.

“When? Right now?”

“In a little bit, when she’s awake.”

“Sure, but it’s not going to be pretty.”

—————-

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 “Hey Artemis.” Zeus said nervously a little later that day.

“What’s up?” She responded, eyeing me suspiciously.

“Well, since you decided to play an awful prank on Athena here, I comforted her and long story short, we’re dating now.” He explained.

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“You have got to be kidding me! I thought you were better than this, Zeus! She’s disgusting, how could you betray me like this?” Artemis started screaming.

“She’s not disgusting, Artemis! How could you say such terrible things about such an amazing person? What the hell is wrong with you?” Zeus yelled back.

“She’s not amazing, what the hell are you on? I thought you were cool, now you’re just a loser like her.”

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“You’re the loser here, Artemis. You’re constantly talking shit about your sister and its awful. She’s a good person and she doesn’t deserve it.” He glared at her. “You’re probably just jealous of her.”

“I would never! I can’t believe you would say such a terrible thing to me!” She screamed, her voice getting more and more shrill with every word. “This is all your fault, what have you done to my best friend?” Artemis turned to me.

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“I haven’t done anything to anyone!” I snapped. “What you did to me was awful, you’ve caused my entire life to be hell and I deserve to be happy for once.”

“I didn’t expect you to be dumb enough to fall for it! A guy like Ricky would never go for you, I can’t believe you thought you were in his league!” She laughed.

“I don’t care about that anymore, I care about Zeus. We’re dating whether you like it or not!”

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“What the hell is going on down here?” My grandma’s voice asked angrily from behind me. Our screaming must’ve woken her up.

“Zeus and Athena are dating!” Artemis exclaimed with frustration.

“Is this true?” My grandma raised an eyebrow at me, and I nodded.

She sighed. “I knew something like this would happen. Artemis, go to your room. We’ll talk later. Athena, Zeus, sit down on the couch. I’m gonna go wake Winter and we’re all gonna have a chat.”

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“Elsa is it necessary that we do this right now? I just fell asleep.” Winter groaned like a teenager being woken up early.

“Yes dear, our children are dating. They live in the same house, we need to put down some ground rules.” My grandma responded curtly.

“Alright, alright.” She sighed defeatedly. “So obviously no staying in each other’s rooms. Keep the doors open when you hang out. One at a time in the bathroom.” Winter started.

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“This is all pretty standard stuff, Mom.” Zeus rolled his eyes.

“I know dear, but we have to remind you so you don’t try to tell us we didn’t.”

“Take things slow. And keep in mind that if you break up, you still live together. That won’t be easy.” My grandma told us.

“I understand. I’m pretty sure we’re mature enough to handle that.” I answered. At least, I knew I was. I hoped he was too.

“Now that that’s settled, I’m so happy for you guys!” Winter smiled. “Natalia and I always wanted this.” She smiled sadly at the mention of my mom. Grandma placed a hand gently on her shoulder.

“I know, she would’ve loved this. She was a sucker for romance.” Grandma added. They chuckled to themselves and smiled at us.

“Alright, now you guys go about your business. I’m going back to sleep.” Winter said with a laugh.

“I’m gonna go talk to Artemis.” Grandma sighed and headed up the stairs behind Winter.

————-

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Having a boyfriend was awesome. He included me in the things he did, and I finally had someone my age who listened to me. I knew he was sincere, since Artemis trashed his room and he still didn’t break up with me.

Artemis was not happy that we were dating, but she also didn’t want to lose Zeus as a friend so she reluctantly let me tag along with the things they did. I bet she was feeling pretty dumb, her awful prank backfired in the best possible way.

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“Ew, do you guys really have to do that? It’s bad enough that I have to see your face, I don’t want to see it all over my best friend.” Artemis whined from the lawn chairs.

“Shut up Artemis, you and Anson practically hump each other all the time.” Zeus yelled back with a laugh.

“He’s right.” Anson replied, his accent still sending a slight chill down my spine. I just couldn’t place it, and it creeped me out.

“Shut up.” She smacked him on the shoulder, making the rest of us giggle.

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“They’re not that bad Artemis, why do you care so much?” Katherine asked from her beach towel.

“Yea, it almost seems like you’re jealous.” Brooke giggled.

“I am not, shut up! I just don’t like hanging out with Athena.” She admitted.

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“Artemis, you act like she’s literally the devil. Athena’s pretty cool, I don’t see why you dislike her so much.” Hillary chimed in from a raft.

“Jesus, Hil, who’s friend are you?”

“That’s not really the issue here. I can be friends with multiple people. I think you’re just being unreasonable and mean for nothing.” I think everyone was slightly shocked, I didn’t know her very well but she was still standing up for me.

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“Whatever.” Artemis rolled her eyes and pouted. I shrugged at Zeus and jumped in the water. I splashed him until he joined me in the pool. Then it turned into a full on splash war.

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“Hey guys, mind if I get in on this?” Hillary jumped off her raft and swam over to us. I didn’t respond, I just splashed her straight in the face. That move started an all out war between the three of us. I couldn’t remember the last time I had this much fun.

I could feel Artemis glaring daggers into the back of my head, but I ignored her. I was too happy to care.

Athena Mortem Chapter 4: Suspicious

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Later that night after dinner, the family sat down to talk. We did this pretty often, with so many of us in the house it was easy to miss out on parts of each others lives.

“So, how was school today kids?” Grandma asked us all.

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“It was great.” I answered with a smile on my face. I couldn’t wait to tell her I’d actually been asked out.

“Oh? And why’s that?”

“I got asked to homecoming!” I exclaimed.

“Oh honey, that’s awesome! Who is he?” She shared my excitement.

“His name is Ricky Fernandez.” I smiled.

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“Ha! Yea right, he’d never like a girl like you.” Artemis laughed.

“Artemis!” My grandma and Winter both scolded at the same time.

“What? He’s one of the cutest guys in school, next to Anson anyway. There’s no way a guy like him would be interested in her.” She said, her voice dripping with disgust.

“Well, I’m happy for you Athena. That’s going to be a really fun night.”

“Thank you, Grandma.” I smiled softly.

“You’re freaking delusional, Athena. It’s pathetic.”

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“Artemis, would it kill you to be nice to your sister for once in your life?” My grandma sighed.

“Probably, yea.” She mumbled.

“If you don’t start changing this attitude, you’re not going to homecoming.”

“That’s not fair!” She whined.

“I think it’s completely fair.” Winter chimed in. “You have such a bad attitude. It needs to change.”

“Whatever.” She crossed her arms and pouted.

“Anyway, what did everyone else do today?” Grandma looked around the table.

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“I tried out for the orchestra. My audition went extremely well, I think I’m gonna get in.” Zeus announced.

“That’s amazing, baby!” Winter wrapped her arm around his shoulder and gave him a kiss on the cheek.

“Mom…” Zeus grumbled, embarrassed.

“Oh chill out.” She laughed. “You’re my only son, I think I have the right to be proud of you.”

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“I passed my math exam today.” Sebastian said proudly.

“That’s a surprise.” Artemis huffed from her end of the table.

“Jesus Artemis, what did I just tell you?” My grandma glared at her. “I swear to God, one more comment like that and you’re not going to homecoming, or any school function for the rest of the year.” Artemis rolled her eyes, but didn’t say anything else.

“That’s awesome, Sebastian. You’re really improving.” Winter smiled at my uncle.

“Thank you.” He smiled back, but he was obviously still hurt about what my sister said.

“Can I go to my room now? I really don’t want to be here.” Artemis complained.

“Fine. Goodnight.” My grandma waved her off. “I’m going to be painting in the living room if anyone needs me.” She said, signaling the end of the day talk was over.

—————-

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“Wait, Athena, can I talk to you?” Zeus called out to me before I could reach my room.

“If you’re going to lecture me again, save it. I don’t wanna hear it.” I scoffed.

“No, listen. I need to tell you something. It’s important.”

“Fine.” I gave up and followed him into his room.

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“What is it?”

“Please don’t get angry with me, okay? I’m just trying to look out for you.” He stalled.

“Just tell me.” I sighed.

“I don’t like Ricky genuinely likes you.”

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“You’re such an asshole, Zeus!” I yelled. “Is it really that hard to believe someone would actually have a crush on me? Jesus, you people act like I’m the ugliest person in the world.”

“Athena, it’s not like that, I swear. It’s just, I think Artemis is behind this. I think she bribed him to ask you out.”

“Wow, so you think someone would only ask me out if they were paid?” I was getting angrier and angrier. Why wouldn’t anyone believe someone would actually like me?

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“Athena, I really don’t mean to upset you. I just don’t want to see you get hurt or humiliated.”

“I’m not going to be, stop worrying about me. We’re not even friends, why do you care so much?” I crossed my arms.

“I’ve known you my whole life, I do care about you.”

“That’s hard to believe.”

“Look, if you really want to go to homecoming, come with me. I just don’t think this Ricky guy is good news.”

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“I’m not going to be anyone’s pity date! I’m going with Ricky, because he does actually like me, I know that’s hard for you to grasp. Now please, leave me alone.” I clenched my fists in anger.

“Alright, but if things don’t work out, I’ll be here and the offer is still on the table.”

“Whatever.” I spun on my heel and left the room, still fuming.

————-

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By the next morning, I had managed to calm down enough to talk to my grandma. She was always honest with me, I hoped she would give me some advice on whether or not I should believe Zeus. I thought about it, and it did seem like something my sister would do. But Ricky just seemed so nice, I doubt he’d do something so awful.

“Hey Grandma?” I asked quietly as I entered her room.

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“Hi Sweetheart, everything alright?” She asked while petting Dexter’s head.

“I just wanted to talk to you before school.”

“Come, sit.” She patted the spot on the bed next to her.

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“What’s up?”

“Well, Zeus pulled me into his room last night and told me he thinks Artemis paid Ricky to ask me to homecoming. He doesn’t think Ricky actually likes me.”  I sighed. “What do you think?”

“Do you really know this boy?”

“Not really, I’ve only really talked to him a few times but he seems really nice.”

“Do you trust Zeus’s judgement?”

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“Honestly, not really.” I admitted.

“And why is that?”

“Because, he acts like a jerk when he’s around Artemis and he tries to be nice when it’s just us. It’s sketchy and I don’t like it.”

“Understandable. I wouldn’t trust someone who did that either. If you’re having doubts about this boy, maybe you should get to know him a little better before you make any decisions.” She suggested.

“Okay. I’ll ask if he wants to hang out after school today.”

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“Great idea. I’d say bring him over here, but we’re always full of teenagers and I bet you’d prefer somewhere private. It’s hard to get to know someone in a huge group.”

“Yea, and like I’d ever willingly hang out with Artemis and her group.” I chuckled.

“Well, we should get going. I hope you have a good day, Sweetheart.”

“You too Grandma, thanks for listening.”

“Anytime.” She smiled and kissed me on the head before heading out to start her day. I scratched Dexter behind the ears while I thought about the day ahead of me. Asking him to hang out was a good idea, but it was also kinda nerve-wracking. I just hoped Zeus’s suspicions were wrong.

Athena Mortem Chapter 3: Why Me?

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“Are you sure you guys have to leave for the whole weekend?” I asked Winter as I sprawled across her bed.

“Sorry kiddo, your grandma and I need to go to this meeting, you know we have to help keep the human government and the wolves out. They need all the adult witches they can get and your grandma and I are running the whole thing.” Winter explained as she fixed up her face in the mirror.

“Can I come with you? Maybe I could help.” I wanted to do anything I could to get out of the house for the weekend, the thought of being home while Artemis and her friends had a party sounded like hell.

“I wish you could, Thena, but it’s just for adults. If anything were to happen we wouldn’t want the kids getting hurt.”

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“Yea, I get it. I’m just not looking forward to spending the weekend alone with Artemis.” I sighed. It was no secret that my sister and I didn’t get along.

“I know, and I’m sorry. You could always stay upstairs with Sebastian. You guys can have the game room, the gym and the library to yourselves.” She suggested.

“Yea that’s true, I guess I’m worried about what she’ll try to do to me without anyone watching us.”

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“Call us if anything goes down, we’ll come home as soon as possible. Also, call us if she throws a party, I know that girl and I know she’ll try.”

“I will.” I lied, I knew if I snitched on my sister I’d be getting my fair share of stitches. Also, the cutest guy in school was coming to her party. Even though I knew I had absolutely no chance with him, I at least wanted to get a glance at him.

“Good, I trust you and Sebastian. Artemis and Zeus on the other hand, well they’ve been trouble lately.” That was a bit of an understatement, if you ask me.

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Winter walked over and sat in the reading chair across from me. “So, how’ve things been?” She asked.

“Good.” I responded curtly. I knew she was worried, I didn’t have any friends other than Sebastian and I spent most of my time at the library here or the public one. My grandma wasn’t really around much either, she was always working to make sure we had a good life.

“That’s good, but if you ever need anything your grandma and I are here for you.”

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“Thanks, Winter.” I smiled at her.

“Well,” She stood up, after realizing I wasn’t going to open up to her. “I’m gonna go get your grandma, we’ll be out of here in a few. We’ll come say goodbye.” She turned on her heel and headed out of her bedroom.

I sighed and pulled myself off her bed. My weekend of hell was about to begin, and I needed to find cover before shit hit the fan.

————

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Sebastian, Dexter and I holed up in my room in front of the TV. We could feel the vibrations from the music downstairs pulsating through the floor. We were tense, the party was just starting, it was just Artemis and her friends so far, but they were already getting rowdy.  We were hoping they would be too focused on each other to come up here and bother us.

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 “Hey, Thena, can I ask you something?” Neither of us were paying attention to the movie, so I didn’t mind his interruption.

“Of course.”

“Do you think Artemis is right?” He bit his nail nervously.

“What about?”

“Y’know, how she’s always telling her friends I’m retarded. Is she right? Am I?” Sebastian was autistic and had ADHD, but that did not give my sister the right to use slurs against him.

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“She is not right, not at all. She’s an ignorant, terrible person. Never listen to her.” I was trying to stay calm, I didn’t want him to misinterpret my anger as anger towards him. I hated her, and how she could make my amazing best friend doubt himself.

 “Okay.” He avoided eye contact and started to pet Dex.

“Why do you ask? Did someone say something?”

“No, I was just thinking. You always take what she says personally. I thought maybe I was missing something, like maybe she was right about me.” He explained. My heart broke, I never knew that he noticed I took what she said to heart.

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“If I stop believing what she says, will you too?” I offered. It would be hard for me not to, but I had to try for him.

“Ok, I promise.” He looked up at me and smiled, then continued to pet Dex.

————–

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After we finished our movie, Sebastian decided to go to bed. Since everyone else was downstairs partying, I decided to work out in the home gym. I was down to a hundred pounds, and my goal was ninety. I wanted to look good in a dress for Homecoming, which was coming up soon. Not that I’d get asked, but I could still go stag.

Halfway through my workout, the gym door opened from behind me.

“Hey, this floor is off limits.” I called out, assuming it was one of Artemis’s annoying friends.

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“Oh, sorry. You just have such a nice house, I thought I’d take a break from the party to explore a little.” A familiar voice responded from behind me. Richie Fernandez, the hottest guy in school. Also, the cousin of Artemis’s boyfriend, Anson.

“Oh, it’s ok. I can see why you’d need a break, it seems like parties can be a little overwhelming.” I took a deep, shaky breath as I turned off the treadmill. He was so cute, I didn’t have a chance with him but I still didn’t want to look like an idiot in front of him.

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“Have you never been to a party before?” He asked, and I realized I probably seemed like a huge loser.

“Well, not really. Artemis has had a few parties before, but I’ve never actually been a part of them. We’re not exactly besties.” I admitted.

“She can be hard to get along with.” He chuckled. “Your name’s Athena, right?”

“Yea. Yours is Richie?” I asked, and he nodded. “Well it’s nice to meet you, I’ve seen you around school but we’ve never actually spoken.”

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“Well that’ll have to change, you seem very sweet, Athena.” He flashed a smile, making my heart skip a beat.

“T-thank you.”

“I’ll see you around, have a good night.” He smiled again and walked out with a wave. I stood there a few seconds, trying to process what happened. I couldn’t believe that someone like him would want to talk to me.

————-

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“Really, Richie Fernandez?” Sebastian scratched his head early the next Monday after the party. I didn’t tell him until now, because I didn’t want Artemis or Zeus to find out.

“Yea, he talked to me, and he wasn’t mean at all. I still don’t believe it.”

“Do you think he likes you?”

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“I don’t think so, he was probably just being nice. I mean, why would he go for me when there are so many pretty girls at this school?” I gestured over to Artemis’s group.

“You’re pretty, Athena.”

“Thank you, but not like them.”

“I think so. Maybe he wants to ask you to homecoming.” He smiled.

“I really doubt that, Seb.”

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“Oh gosh, he’s here.” I said as Richie walked into the school. Sebastian started to turn around but I stopped him. “Don’t look, he’ll know we’re talking about him.”

“Oh, ok. That makes sense.” He chuckled.

“Oh god, he’s coming over here.” I took a deep breath as I noticed him heading in our direction.

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“Uh, hey Athena.” Richie smiled his famous smile at me as he approached.

“Hey Richie, how was the rest of your weekend?” I asked.

“Good, thanks for asking. I was wondering if I could talk to you?” He looked over at Sebastian, as if cueing him to leave.

“Hey Seb? Why don’t you head to class, I’ll talk to you during lunch,okay?”

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“Oh, okay. See you then.” He understood that we needed a minute alone. He walked off to class and gave me a smile and a wink before heading up the stairs.

“He’s your uncle, right?” Richie asked when Sebastian was out of sight.

“Yea, but he’s only a few years older than me, so I consider him more of a brother than an uncle.”

“Oh, cool.” He moved into the space where Sebastian was standing only a few moments earlier.

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“So, I wanted to ask you something.” My heart almost stopped, what could he possibly want to ask me?

“W-what is it?”

“Well I don’t have a date for homecoming yet, and I was wondering if you would be mine?”

I’m pretty sure this time my heart actually did stop. Was I dreaming? This couldn’t be real. Why me, of all the girls in the school? Why would the cutest guy in school choose me?

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After a few seconds, I realized I hadn’t given him an answer. “Y-yes! I’d love too.” I responded, maybe a little too enthusiastically.

“Awesome, I’ll pick you up that night at seven.”

“Sounds great. I can’t wait.” I smiled nervously at him.

“Me too, it’ll be fun.” He winked at me, then headed off for his morning class. As he walked away, I pinched myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.