Chapter 8: Lexy and the Welcome Crew
I left the dining room to take my sisters to where Alex had said they could spend their days. I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of leaving them so soon, but I didn’t see that I had much of a choice. I had a feeling I was failing them just as much as my parents were. But still, I closed the door and moved to the small table in the kitchen and laid my head on my arms. Being around so many people was so draining, and I didn’t have any extra energy to spare. My focus had to be on protecting my family, not small talk.
“Hey, you alright?”
I looked up in surprise to see Seth standing on the other side of the round table.
“Perfect, Seth.” I replied shortly.
“Are you still mad at me?” He asked.
I looked at him. Honestly, I didn’t know what I felt toward him. I wasn’t angry. I was hurt. I was hurt that he had the audacity to just show up in the middle of my life just flipping upside down. The audacity to show up after all this time and act like nothing had happened. I didn’t get it. But at the same time, I had way bigger things to worry about than him being back.
“So, what are you doing here Seth?” I felt resigned to ask.
“We really don’t have to talk about that right now.”
“Oh, really? Because I am mad at you. And until I know what happened. What I did wrong, I can’t –“
“Wait, hold up,” He cut me off, and leaned over the table so he was just inches from my face. “You didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t cut off contact because you did anything wrong. I did it because I had to.”
“That doesn’t explain anything.” I responded, laying my head back down on the table.
“Hey are you ready?” Jake walked in, Annabeth just behind him.
“Yep,” I responded, jolting up again.
“Wait, where are you going?” Seth interrogated.
“To the Castle,” I replied simply.
“Ha,” A girl that I had only heard about laughed as she walked in, “They’re going to get themselves killed as soon as they get to Calina.”
Both Annabeth and Seth exclaimed at the same time, Annabeth in confusion, and Seth in panic.
“Don’t worry, Seth, Annabeth won’t get hurt. She’s with Jake and I,” I smirked, full well knowing what he meant.
“She’s not who I’m worried about,” He muttered, his cheeks turning pink.
“No one is going to die,” Jake rolled his eyes. “They’ll be fine, but if you want to come be my guest.”
“No!” I disputed, but Seth was already running through the door to change into an outfit I would assume to be similar to Jake, who was wearing a long sleeve button down shirt with a tie and khakis.
When I realized it was too late, and my opinion was irrelevant, I turned my attention to Annabeth’s barely asked question.
“It’s where were supposedly from.” I explained quietly. “Your family rules there.”
“Right.” She said slowly. “So, how do we get there?”
I shrugged. I wasn’t really sure, and I didn’t really care either. It was what it was, whatever it was.
“I’m back!” Seth exclaimed breathlessly.
I couldn’t help the chuckle that escaped my lips or the fact that I was slightly amused. His blonde hair was ruffled, and his blue button-down shirt matched his eyes, but in his rush, he had missed a few buttons, and his tie was crooked.
“Oh my goodness,” I sighed as I stood up.
“Help?” He asked.
I rolled my eyes, but I was already moving toward him. In that moment, he reminded me of the little boy I had known my whole life. Except we weren’t little anymore.
“Oh.” A voice interrupted whatever moment we may have been having.
I looked up to see Alex staring back at me. Since I had met him just days ago, he had continuously had the same intense look on his face, and I hadn’t seen him smile once.
“We’re almost ready,” I answered reading his mind. “Last minute addition.”
“Seth wasn’t invited.” Alex grappled.
“No, I invited him,” Jake replied.
He had his tough guy persona on, but I could hear the uneasiness in his thoughts.
“I hope you know what you’re doing Jacob,” Alex glared.
“It was me who invited him,” I butted in before Jake could answer. “I wanted someone I trusted to be with us and not lead us into a trap. I don’t know Jake, but I used to know Seth. Don’t take offense, but I still don’t trust you.”
“Point taken.” Alex stated, still tense, but his voice was calmer. “I’ll alert the castle to let them know he’s coming.”
“Why couldn’t you have done that in the first place?” I retorted, suddenly feeling frustrated.
“You don’t call the shots around here,” Alex snapped frustratedly.
“Hey, take it easy,” Seth stepped in, pushing me slightly behind him.
“I can take care of myself,” I stated in anger, pushing him back behind me. “I may not call the shots, but I am in charge of my own fate. So if you wanna try talking to me again, please go ahead, or I won’t be sticking around.”
Alex had the nerve to look sheepish and muttered an “I’m sorry.”
“That’s what I thought,” I replied more to myself than to anyone.
“Lexy.” Annabeth said through gritted teeth and wide eyes.
“I told you,” I replied, “I will not be treated like dirt.”
“Alright, enough!” Alex shouted over the room full of murmurs. “Lexy was right, I apologize. Now open the damn portal before the Queen has a heart attack over you being late.”
Jake nodded solemnly, and I couldn’t help but struggle to fight the tears I felt burning in the back of my eyes.
“Are you okay?” Seth whispered in my ear.
“Fine,” I responded, pushing all my feelings deep into my soul. One day, I would have to deal with them, but today wasn’t that day.
Seth didn’t push it, and it was then that I realized Jake had opened a portal right there in our kitchen.
“Whoa,” I heard Annabeth breath, and I moved to stand closer to her.
I grabbed her hand and gave it a squeeze. She looked at me gratefully, but I don’t think she even realized I was there until I had grabbed her hand.
“It’s going to be fine.” I told her quietly.
“What if they don’t like me?” She asked, I could feel her nerves.
“Hey, I’m the insecure one, remember?” I joked.
She let out a little laugh, but nerves were still freely flying off her.
“If they don’t like you, then that’s their loss. You are more than enough just as you are.” I reassured her.
She gave me a small smile and I gave her hand another squeeze.
“Ready?” Jake asked, looking at us with an uncertainty I hadn’t seen him have yet.
“Ready,” Annabeth and I stated at the same time.
Jake motioned for Seth to go through first, and then for us to follow. Annabeth gave me a nervous look and I tried to give her a smile as we moved forward.
I was just as scared to use the portal as I had been the first time, but I jumped first pulling Annabeth in through it after me.
It was just as strange the second time as it had been the first time too. I felt as though I was being pulled and stretched and then put back together. But this time, instead of landing flat on my face, I was able to land on my feet.
“Welcome,” A woman with dark wavy hair, and a long beautiful red lacey dress[CC1] , that cut sort of just jaggedly across her chest. The resemblance was uncanny. I was staring at the older version of Annabeth.
“Your majesty,” Jake mumbled lowly as he bowed.
I looked over to see Seth do it too, so Annabeth and I followed suit, but I had a weird feeling about it. I didn’t know this lady. I knew she was the Queen. I had found out everything I could before I had come in the last days. I knew she was a leader of the world I had just entered, but I wasn’t from here. And bowing to someone I didn’t know much about, felt strange to me.
“Mr. Jacob Graening, Mr. Seth Steele, Miss. Alexandra Marks, and Princess Annabeth Hawkins,” The man who stood next to her and I assumed was a servant stated.
“Seth Steele, you weren’t on the list for today.” The Queen stated, sounding almost a little bored.
“It was for the comfort of the girls, Ma’am.” Seth responded, and maybe just I noticed, but he sounded a little nervous.
“Hm,” The Queen all but huffed, looking down on me and Annabeth for really the first time.
Instead of looking at the queen though, I turned my attention to Annabeth. I could hear the disappointment going through her head. Her mother hadn’t even looked at her until that moment, and it wasn’t the warm, loving look I think she expected. She had never known her mom, but I knew she had waited a long time for this moment, and it wasn’t what she thought it would be.
“Walk with me, Annabeth, darling,” The Queen said after a moment.
Annabeth nodded, but the Queen hadn’t waited for a response. I wanted to grab her hand, like I had so many times in our lives when things got scary, but that wasn’t an option. We had to appear strong, or we would be eaten alive here. And that wasn’t something I wanted at all. So, instead, I gave her a small smile of encouragement and took the first step.
I jumped in surprise when I felt a hand on the small of my back, and I turned to see Seth.
He gave me a small smile, but it felt forced and nervous. In fact, it felt like everyone was nervous, but for some reason, I wasn’t. It felt like I was not where I belonged necessarily, but I was in the right direction.
“Lex,” Seth whispered in my ear and I turned again to look at him. He motioned his head slightly to the right and I followed with my eyes to see many people in the hallway just stopped and staring.
It was only then that I felt out of place. I didn’t have nice clothes on like everyone else. I was in jeans and a t-shirt, and both were dirty. I also was well aware that my hair was not as neat as I usually kept it. However, I decided there was nothing I could do about it right then, so I just held my head up and ignored the scrutiny I was under and kept walking.
Suddenly we stopped. For a moment, we just stood there staring at these large mahogany doors that were closed.
“This is where we enter, and you children stay behind.”
Annabeth sent me a panicked look, so before I could stop myself, I spoke up.
“Wherever Annabeth goes, I go.”
My own voice surprised me. It was serious, and almost cold. A tone I hadn’t used before, even in anger and frustration against my parents.
“You are not dressed properly. You shouldn’t even be here looking like that.”
Annabeth’s eyes were wide with fear, but I wasn’t backing down.
“Well then maybe our rescue mission should have been sooner so all of my things wouldn’t have been destroyed.” I snapped.
The Queen took a step toward me. I could tell that she was rarely challenged, and she certainly was not expecting it to be by child.
“Are you going to be a problem child, Alexandra Marks?”
I knew I might regret what I was going to say next, but I had already decided when this new life began, I was not going to be a pushover. I had loved ones to protect.
“Maybe. If Annabeth doesn’t get the respect she deserves. If she doesn’t want me somewhere, she can tell me. But we don’t know you. And you haven’t even acknowledged your own daughter since we arrived. So anywhere Annabeth goes, I go.”
The Queen gave me a hard look, and I was very aware of how fast my heart was racing. And I was quite certain everyone in the hall could hear it.
“You can’t go in looking like that. Both of you need to go change.” The Queen finally relented.
I couldn’t help but breathe a sigh of relief, and I looked to Annie to see relief visibly on her face as well.
"Jacob!” The Queen commanded.
“Yes ma’am?” Jake asked as he stepped forward.
I could feel his nervousness in my head, but he looked like the same apathetic person I had known the last few days. And truthfully, I was kinda impressed by his ability to appear so calm in front of that woman.
“Take them to their rooms, and make sure they are dressed appropriately for the meeting of the people.”
Jake nodded and gestured to us to follow. “This way, Princess.”
None of us spoke as we walked. I was taking it all in and I think Annabeth was too. Everything was so grand. We passed so many rooms. Too many to count. There was a ball room that had two levels. All the doorways were arches. I couldn’t imagine how much all this very nice wood I kept seeing had cost. Or anything else I was seeing for that matter.
“This is your room, Princess,” Jake said as he finally stopped
Annabeth shot me an uneasy glance but moved to open the door.
I couldn’t help it, my jaw dropped when I saw her room. It was a light blue color, with white trim and hints of gold. Her bed was huge, and her comforter was white and lacey. There was a desk in the corner that was white as well and on it sat what looked like an old record machine.
“Oh my god,” I exclaimed dramatically.
Annabeth smiled at my reaction, and she turned to Jake as I plopped on her bed.
“This is my room?” She questioned in disbelief. I mean, she was right to question it. It was gorgeous. It looked too beautiful to ever be lived in.
“Is it not satisfactory?” Jake furrowed his eyebrows in confusion.
“No. It’s beautiful!” Annabeth exclaimed. “This doesn’t feel real though.”
“Why not?” Jake asked.
His lack of understanding even the basics of people was killing me.
“Because we’ve never seen anything so grand before,” I replied, trying hard to keep the sarcasm and annoyance from my voice.
Annabeth let out a little laugh and did a little spin around the room. I smiled too. It was nice to see her so carefree, even if it was just for a moment.
“Okay, okay,” I looked to see Jake gesturing for us to ‘calm down’, but even he smiled at the sight of Annabeth’s blissful joy. “You need to get dressed to meet your people. I assume, there will be a meeting of sorts.”
Annabeth’s blissful joy faded quickly.
“This is your closet of choices. I think the Queen has one picked out for you already. And Alexandra, your room is actually through this door. The Queen said your room can be moved at any time away from Annabeth, but for the time being, your rooms are conjoined for your own comfort reasons.
I nodded, and saw Annabeth move to look at the dress Jake had signaled to be the one her mom had picked out. She made a face but moved toward the door I think we both assumed was the bathroom.
“Alexandra, your room is over there through that door. There should be clothes in there that are Queen approved.”
There was the sound of distaste in his tone that I didn’t quite understand yet. Instead of worrying about that yet, there was something that bothered me more.
“I’ve told you, don’t call me Alexandra. Lexy is sufficient.” I corrected as I sat up; I really didn’t want to leave her bed. It was so soft, and I was so tired.
Jake rolled his eyes and Seth looked as if he wasn’t sure what his place was in all this. And truthfully, I wasn’t sure either.
My room was a lot simpler than Annabeth’s, but it was still beautiful. There was no gold, but the walls were a navy blue, and there was a white four poster bed. And against the other wall was a small white desk in the corner, sitting catty-corner of my closet. It was so beautiful; I didn’t even have words.
On the bed, laid the dress the Queen had personally picked out for me. It was a simple black dress with long, shear sleeves. I was all for simple, I didn’t want anything extravagant, but this wasn’t for that reason. This was to remind me that my family was on the other side, and I was the black sheep on both sides.
Still, I put it on. I knew the reason behind it, but it wasn’t going to make me look weak. I had a feeling it would make me even more powerful than I already was. Whether the Queen wanted to admit it or not, she was scared of me. That’s why she was trying so hard to intimidate me. So even though I felt it a little bit, I would not be intimidated.
I carried the dress with me to the bathroom, but I struggled to put it on myself. The cut on my side from the other day was killing me.
“Here,” Seth said softly. “Let me help.”
I turned to face him, and butterflies filled my stomach as he reached for the hem of my shirt and lifted it up.
I could tell he wanted to say something, but even if I wanted to, I couldn’t read his mind. It was always hardest to read the people closest to me.
“Please don’t say whatever it is you’re going to say.” I was once again standing in front of him in only a bra and my jeans.
“How do you know what I was going to say?” He sounded breathless.
“I still know you.” I whispered back, feeling breathless myself.
I then slipped my arms into the dress and he helped maneuver it over my head. I pulled it down over my jeans then motioned for him to turn around as I lifted it back up and pulled my jeans down. I felt a searing pain as bent over to pick them up, but I just ignored it, the same as I had been.
“Okay, you can turn around,” I said once I knew I could keep the pain from my voice.
Seth raised his eyebrows at me giving me a questioning look, but I ignored it.
“I feel like I should be headed to a funeral or grieving or something in this dress,” I joked as I began to braid my hair.
“Well you kind of are, aren’t you?” He stated seriously, but he had meant it to be light. I could hear his intention in my head, and it wasn’t how it came out. “You only just lost your family and your life a few days ago. And she's doing this on purpose to point out the life you left behind, and to force you to appear grieving.”
I felt the color drain from my face and my stomach drop.
“I’m not grieving.” I said harshly as I pushed past him, my hair falling back.
“Lex, I didn’t mean –“ I heard him call after me, but I just kept walking till I got back to Anna’s room. I took a breath trying to recollect myself, but I felt very unsettled by what he had just said. But nonetheless, this was about Annabeth, not me.
“Whoa,” I stated when I saw her. She was in a long bright red dress that had a very revealing V front and a slit on the right side.
She looked at me horrified. “I look ridiculous!” She shouted. “My boobs are literally out for everyone to see!”
I did my best to stifle a chuckle, as I saw a blush creep into Jake’s cheeks.
“You look amazing,” I reassured her. “It’s different, that’s for sure. Different than your usual, but you look just wow.”
“I look like a whore,” She whined looking back at her very large mirror.
I rolled my eyes. “You do not.”
She then turned to me; her face very serious.
“Lex, I don’t know if I can do this. This isn’t me. I don’t feel like me.”
I gave her a small smile; it was all I could muster.
“I know it doesn’t feel like you. But the people we were yesterday, don’t exist anymore. The you you are today is the you that gets to determine your future. I know it’s all different. But this you gets’ to be braver and bolder. This you gets to be a true leader. And that’s pretty incredible. And if you want to change, you absolutely can, or you can embrace this new side of you.”
“But I look like a whore!” She exclaimed. “Why would my mother want me to go out like this?”
“You look like a woman who is confident and comfortable with her own body, and anything anyone says is absolutely irrelevant. You decide who the person underneath the dress is. No one else has that power.”
She looked at me with some belief on her face for the first time since we had gotten here.
“You really think I look amazing?” She asked, her eyes showing light again.
“Yes,” I responded, shooting her a smile. “You look more than amazing. You’ve got this.”
“May I escort you back to the meeting room?” Jake asked her, but his coolness seemed to be just a bit off.
“Are you going to spill spaghetti on me?” She teased as Seth crept his way back into the room.
“What?” The edge was slightly back as he shook his head. “No. I promise not to spill any spaghetti on you.” He replied.
“Then lead the way,” She replied.
There was a confidence that she had now that I hadn’t seen since she had arrived, but I was glad to see it because mine was waning fast. I wasn’t sure if I could hold myself to this standard day in and day out. But with my best friend on my side, nothing truly seemed impossible. [CC4] [CC5]