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  • Chapter 14: Lexy and Becoming One

    Chapter 14 Lexy and Becoming One I awoke slowly. There was an ache that just filled my whole body, and I couldn’t help but feel an incredible need for water as my throat hurt a ridiculous amount. “She’s waking!” I heard someone whisper eagerly. “Shhh!” Someone else shushed. “Oh, for god’s sake,” A louder, harsher voice cut in. “Lexy, can you hear us?” “Yes.” I grumbled, feeling annoyed that I had to wake up. “How do you feel?” Annabeth asked eagerly. I opened my eyes, but the light was bright, and my eye lids were heavy, so I more so just squinted. “Can I have water?” I asked. I heard a scramble, but I couldn’t see who got up, they were out of my limited sight. “Here,” Seth’s deep voice registered in my head as an arm looped around my waste and helped me sit. I took a big sip, then sighed. “Much better.” I looked around at the anxious faces around me. “Oh good!” Annabeth breathed an excited sigh of relief before throwing her arms around me, uncharacteristically. “You scared me.” “Sorry,” I told her. “I didn’t know what else to do.” “You could have died!” She exclaimed. “But I didn’t,” I smiled. “It’s all fine.” “But it’s not all fine! Everything’s a mess.” I nodded. Simply put, everything was a mess. “Okay, how long was I out?” I asked. “A couple of hours.” Seth replied. There was something in his voice that upset me. I could tell he was upset, but why I wasn’t quite sure. “Okay, and has anyone come looking for us?” “Just once.” Jake answered tersely. “What did they want?” I asked, rubbing my head. “To know when we’d be ready.” Jake said again. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. “Do we have a plan already?” A look was exchanged between Seth and Jake, and Annabeth’s gaze immediately dropped to her hands. “Annie?” I interrogated. “What’s the plan that you all don’t want me to know?” “We’re sending you home.” She replied, still not looking at me. “To the base I mean.” “Like hell you are,” I argued, feeling angry that I had just taken on the challenge just to immediately lose my place. “Look, it’s safest for you there. Nobody here likes you, it’s just not safe. It’s the right thing to do.” “No.” I felt like a child. “No. I’m not leaving. If I leave, she’ll think she won. And she did not win.” “If she thinks she won, maybe it will help us more?” She offered, half-heartedly. “That’s a lie, and you know it. I’m not leaving.” “Lexy…” Seth tried. “Just think for a moment. Is this really worth dying for?” “YES!” I shouted. “YES! I can’t just stand by and watch everything I care about burn to the ground!” “Alexandra,” Seth raised his voice too. “Do you even hear yourself? You know next to nothing about Calina. You’re not in deep enough to be stuck yet. You have an out. Take it, for god’s sake take it!!!” “You think after you turn me loose that my Aunt won’t come for me? You think she’s happy that I chose my best friend over my family? Sure, okay, kick me out. I’ll go elsewhere to save my family.” I could hear the coldness in my voice, but I was angry. “Enough.” Jake interjected. “She said no, go on to plan b, already.” “What’s plan B?” “We go out and follow the plans like nothing happened,” Seth said quietly. “I stay?” I gave him a pleading look to try and understand what was going on, and that it was far more than what was on the surface. “You stay.” But he didn’t look at me. I squeezed Annie’s hand, and took a breath. “So where are we expected?” I asked. “The same meeting room as yesterday.” Jake answered. “And what’s happening there?” “Probably the Bwenzi Nkhondo ceremony,” Jake once again spoke instead of the two people I actually knew. The tension was obvious, and uncomfortable, and we had to figure it out fast. “Do we need to change or are our outfits sufficient?” “I would say they’re fine.” Jake answered easily, he put his hand on Annabeth’s shoulder, taking me by surprise. “Come on, Annabeth, let’s go check your room, and make sure it’s all good before we go.” She gave him a curious look but didn’t argue. She let go of my hand and left the room without another word. The door shut loudly behind them, and I couldn’t help but cringe at the sound. The door was barely shut before Seth started again. “If you’re doing this to torture me, please, you win. I’ll leave you alone. I’ll do fucking anything. Just stop whatever this is.” I frowned. “Torture you? I’m not doing this to hurt you, Seth. I’m doing this because I know I have a role in all of this, and I won’t be silenced and sit on the sidelines.” “Please… Lex… You have no idea what any of these people are capable of. We need to get you out of here. Hide you away somewhere.” I felt shaky, but I moved so I was kneeling right in front of the standing Seth, and I touched his face gently. I don’t know what I was trying to do exactly, but I was trying to ease his worry, at least a little bit. “I will not hide away, Seth,” I said gently. “I told you, you can stand with me or don’t. But if you stand with me, you can’t do this anymore.” “Can’t do what?” “Stand in my way. Stop me.” I twirled his hair in my fingers. “I need to do this, and I need to figure out my boundaries myself, and you have to let me.” “If anything happens to you, Lex,” He breathed. “I don’t think I’ll be able to live with myself.” “I’m going to be just fine,” I whispered, wrapping my arms around his neck. “Promise me you’ll be careful,” His forehead touched mine. “I promise I will be as careful as I can,” I told him earnestly. “You terrify me, you know that right?” He asked, with a slight laugh. “I terrify everybody, it’s kinda my thing,” I laughed, letting go of his neck, and moving off the bed. He rolled his eyes and gave me his hand as I climbed off the bed. “So, uh,” He cleared his throat. “Are we good, Lex? Are you still mad at me?” “What do you think?” I asked, feeling more myself, despite the shakiness, and very mischievous. “I think you can’t stay mad at me,” He smiled. I smirked, but I was glad my back was to him as I walked toward Annabeth’s room. “I think you’re on thin ice, Steele,” I teased. “Watch it, Marks,” He shot back. “I still know you’re secrets.” It was my turn to roll my eyes, but I didn’t reply simply because I was already at Annabeth’s door. But when I opened it, to my surprise, Annabeth had her lips locked with Jake. His hands were in her hair, and I realized I had just 100% walked in on something I had not been meant to see. And I could not help the “Oh,” that left my lips without permission or the slam of the door behind me, closing on Seth. I tried to turn out of the room, but the door had slammed closed in my surprise, and I heard an “Ow!” Come from the other side, meaning Seth had either run into it or I had hit him with it. Jake and Annabeth pulled away immediately at my abrupt entrance, and I could not help the 9 shades of red I was turning with embarrassment, so I turned away so I was staring at the door I had just walked through. “I’ll uh be outside waiting Princess,” Jake stuttered, and hurried out of the room. His usual cool attitude and nearly non-existent emotions seemed to be teetering off the edge, and he was as flustered as I’d ever seen him. “What the hell?!” Both Seth and I exclaimed at the same time. “What happened to you?” Annabeth looked at Seth in confusion as he clumsily shut the door behind him, rubbing his head. “Lexy hit me with the door!” He informed her, confused as to why Annabeth had no idea as to what had just happened. “Oh, well she walked in on me and Jake kissing, so I win,” Annabeth responded with a shaky laugh. “What?!” Seth’s eyes got wide and it was truly a comical sight between the two of them. “Oh please,” I rolled my eyes. “Don’t be less dramatic than it was, I caught them making out, and I hit you with a door, so I am the real winning right now.” Both of them shot me a glare, but it didn’t matter. All in the world felt right, despite the fact that I had nearly just died hours ago. And my epi pen wasn’t typically the end all solution, but it was gonna have to be for the time being. “Come on, we’ve kept everyone waiting long enough, let’s go.” I linked arms with Annabeth, and she gave me a small smile as we made our way out of her room. “Are you sure you’re feeling okay?” She asked in a low voice for just me to hear. “I’m sure, are you?” “I can literally feel you shaking right now,” She answered in exasperation. “I’m fine.” I told her easily, as if it was the truth, even though I was honestly trying not to throw up. “Promise.” “I don’t believe your promise.” She reproached. “I’m not great, but I’m not horrible. And I might throw up right on the Queen.” Annabeth let out a laugh that caused all the maids around to look at us. “I’d love to see that,” She said still laughing. “Oh trust me, it might happen.” Jake stopped abruptly in front of us causing us to nearly run into him, and to my surprise it was the Queen herself standing before us. Jake and Seth both bowed, but Annabeth and I stood straighter, our arms still linked. In everything that could or could not happen, we were stronger together. “Ah,” She sneered, looking down at us. “I was just coming to find you all. Did you decide to come to the meeting after all?” “Has Lexy been approved to be my Bwenzi Nkhondo?” Annabeth asked, sounding quite bold. “Not yet.” The Queen answered shortly. “Then no. Jake and Seth were just giving us a tour before we leave.” Annabeth stated firmly. “You do not have permission to leave child,” Her mother tried, but her own authority seemed to be wavering. “I don’t remember asking for permission,” Annabeth said coldly. “If this is the path you choose child, I can only help you so much.” “Should I make a speech to the country about how Lexy is not her aunt or will you stand by my choices,” Annabeth sounded angry. In all the time I had known her, she had never shown much anger or frustration ever, despite her constant array of complicated situations. But right now, she was angry. “This is my team, Mother,” She said again before the Queen could speak. “Lexy is my Bwenzi Nkhondo. And Seth and Jake are my guards and my counsels. And Matthew if he chooses as well, though I have not talked to him yet. It is not up for debate. It is not under questioning. The prophecy was clear that I am the answer to everything. So, you can not boss me around. You can not threaten my counsel. You may be the Queen, but they are under my protection, and my reign.” I did my best to hide my surprise. I wasn’t sure exactly what had happened while I had been out, but for the first time Annabeth seemed to be taking charge of what was happening. “Do you know what you are doing, Annabeth?” The Queen asked. “You already know the answer to that,” Annabeth said seriously. “Very well. And Miss. Marks isn’t coercing you into this?” “Again, you know the answer to that already,” Annabeth responded in irritation. “Very well then, head to the meeting room, and we will tell them the decisions have already been made. They had a few people in mind to be part of your counsel already. Perhaps you would be willing to add to it?” “Not at the moment,” Annabeth said coolly. “I have no trust for your people at the moment.” “I see,” The Queen narrowed her eyes, but simply turned away and gestured to follow. I could hear her thoughts moving a mile a minute and they had a similar feeling to Annabeth’s, but they were less clear. She was purposefully blocking important information from being able to be heard by people like me, however, it wasn’t quite good enough. I stole a look behind me to see Seth was less than a foot behind us, far closer than he had been before the Queen had showed up. And I knew it was because she scared him. She had already attempted to kill me, he was terrified that Annabeth’s word was not enough. And honestly, so was I. “So how exactly does the Bwenzi Nkhondo ceremony work?” I spoke up for the first time, but my voice didn’t sound as confident as I would have liked. I was fighting nerves that I didn’t know I had till I had spoken. “It’s quite invasive actually.” The Queen answered smugly. “The idea is that Princess Annabeth and yourself will become, let’s say, one. You will be able to feel what the other feels. Clearly hear the other’s thoughts. Have each other’s strengths and hopefully void each other’s weaknesses.” The Queen paused. “It is a beautiful ceremony, however, Miss. Marks, you are looking a little pale. Are you sure you want to continue?” There was a fake sweetness in her voice, and it made me angry. She was being manipulative, trying to see how I felt after she had tried to poison me. And god, that was irritating. “I’m sure, Your Majesty.” I answered, trying to keep the bitterness from my voice. “Very well. This is where it will happen.” She gestured to a room that neither Annabeth or I had been in yet, which shouldn’t have been surprising seeing how big the castle was, but I had been expecting to go back to the same meeting room as before. “Wait here, and I will summon everyone. Annabeth, dear, take your friends and go stand on the stage, please.” With Annabeth’s arm still linked tightly in mine, we approached the small platform. This seemed to be a theater of sorts, however, it was smaller than I might have imagined a theater in a castle to look. It could hold only maybe 100 people, which was wild because my high school had a bigger auditorium than this. “Lex,” Annabeth’s voice brought me out of my head. “Yea?” I asked. “Do you need to postpone this?” “No, why?” I asked, feeling confused. “You look like you’re going to pass out, and you are leaning into me a lot.” I shook my head and immediately let go of her arm, backing away. I hadn’t realized what I was doing. “Oh, sorry,” I apologized immediately, but I guess I couldn’t hide the total confusion on my face. “Are you okay?” She asked hesitantly. And I took another step back. There were so many voices in my head, and I couldn’t make sense of a single one of them. “I-“ I stepped right back into Seth feeling really unsteady. “Lex?” His deep voice rang out with concern. “I don’t know.” I said finally when I could make out at least my own thoughts. “I it’s so loud.” I knew Seth give Annie a worried look, but I could barely figure out what was going on. I wasn’t sure if this was still allergic reaction shit or if it was something else entirely. “Lexy,” It was Jake’s turn to try and pull me out of my head. “We need you to become Annabeth’s Bwenzi Nkhondo. And it needs to be today. The stronger you two are the better. The more protected she is. And the more protected you are. You are her protector. That is what you are choosing. So you need to block whatever’s going on in your head. Imagine a wall going up between you and the voices. It’ll help block them out a little. But you need to focus.” Despite his advice to focus, it wasn’t coming easily. I knew this was important, but I felt really weak for the first time since I got up. And I was not sure that I could do this.” “I bet she’s hearing the people starting to arrive for the ball,” Seth said quietly. “Yes!” I exclaimed breathlessly. “Yes that makes sense.” “That’s an annoying thing to hear,” Jake mumbled. “Yes, it is,” I agreed, still struggling to block it out, but I knew I was running out of time. The Queen was going to be back any moment with more people, and I was a mess, trying really hard not to just pass out. I stumbled slightly, and Seth pulled me into him, and started singing softly in my ear. At first I couldn’t even tell what he was singing, but after a minute it started getting clearer. It was blocking out the thoughts the way my headphones often did. When I finally could think straight again there were voices in the hall coming closer. “How did you know I usually use music to block out thoughts?” I asked him breathlessly. “I still know you, Lex. It’s been a long time, but I still know you.” I smiled and took a deep breath. I was exhausted which is why it was harder to fight the thoughts right now. “Can you get through the ceremony?” Jake questioned uneasily, refusing to look at anyone, especially not Annabeth. “Can you sing in your head?” I asked Seth as the voices drifted closer to our room. “Of course,” He nodded. “Then I can, but I still think I’m going to throw up.” I said honestly. “So after this, I need to just go do that.” “Probably your body just trying to get rid of the allergen,” Annabeth stated calmly. “I’m sorry, I’m ruining your moment.” I told her. “Are you kidding?” She looked aghast. “I just want you to be okay.” “I’m fine,” I told her with a smile. “Just casually taking a ride on the struggle bus.” She rolled her eyes at me. “You are impossible,” She teased, but her face was slightly serious. “Not changing your mind on me now, are you girls?” The Queen demanded as she walked through the double doors. I tried not to show my amusement as I came to the realization that nearly every door in the castle was a double door made purely for the purpose of dramatic entrances, and the Queen was the Queen of them. “I find you unamusing, Alexandra,” The Queen said in a bored tone as she took a seat in the center of the middle row. “You heard that did you?” I couldn’t help the heat the was rising to my cheeks, despite my comment. “As I said, I am unamused.” She berated. “Good thing it wasn’t for you then, isn’t it?” I smirked. “Leave it alone, Harriet,” The King who I hadn’t seen enter stated. I really wanted to say back ‘Yea, leave it alone, Harriet.’ But I already wasn’t a favorite here, so I didn’t want to push my luck anymore. Plus, she might have been able to hear the thought anyway. “Right, shall we get started?” I asked, knowing that if we didn’t get this show on the road I was going to pass out, and we would have some major problems on hands. The Queen, being a lovely, polite woman, did not roll her eyes at me, despite how much she wanted to. She did, however, signal to all those just coming in to take their seats, we were ready to begin. I did my best to focus on Seth’s singing, and I shot a smile in Annabeth’s direction as she seemed to be a little nervous. When everyone had taken their seats, I took initiative and started the damn meeting. “Hello!” I called out, placing myself in the center of the stage, giving my friends a smile because they were glad to not be in the spotlight just yet. “Some of you may know me, others may not, so let me introduce myself,” I stated confidently. If only I had felt this at ease during all my presentations in school, I would have done a hell of a lot better. I also knew there was a hell of a lot more at stake now than a bad grade so I had no choice but to pretend that I felt comfortable, and in a way, I kinda was. “My name is Alexandra Marks. You may call me Lexy. I am the niece of Viviana, however, I do not agree with her beliefs, hence why I am here. I have been chosen to the Princess’s Bwenzi Nkhondo, making me the Princess’s Protector. This is non-negotiable. The Princess has also chosen the first official members of her personal guard as well as who will be on her counsel. Her counsel will consist of myself, Alexandra Marks, her guard, Seth Steele, and her other guard, Jacob Graening. These are also non-debatable. Does anyone have any questions so far?” Nearly every hand in the room went up. I shook my head in disbelief, and then pointed to a woman who was wearing a grey suit jacket and matching skirt. “Yes?” “Why?” She asked. “Why those picks?” I looked at Annabeth to see if she wanted to answer, and she shook her head nervously, so I took the question. “The Princess trusts us. I have been friends with her for a long time. I’ve known Seth nearly my whole life, and Princess Annabeth trusts me, and I trust Seth, who has know Jacob much longer than both of us, however, he has proved himself to us in the short time we’ve known him.” “How do we know you aren’t lying? Why isn’t the Princess speaking about this?” Someone called out. “She’s the Princess, so she can choose when she wants to speak, and she has chosen not to at this moment. She can do as she pleases. As for if I’m lying, I’m well aware that I am in a room with people who have mastered their gifts, so bias getting in the way of the truth is the issue, not me.” “Was that an insult?” Someone shouted. “No, simply a statement,” I tried to focus on Seth still singing in his head, but it was getting harder to block, and I would have killed for my headphones right then. “We are ready to begin the ceremony.” “The Ceremony?” A man in a plaid shirt questioned. “Yes, the one where Annabeth and I become Bwenzi Nkhondos.” I replied patiently. “Today?” “Right now, actually.” “Did the Queen approve?” I motioned to the Queen for the answer. “The prophecy is thought to be about my daughter. I trust that she has the right amount of information to be successful.” I nodded in agreement. I had heard an awful lot about a prophecy I hadn’t heard yet, but I just added it to my mental list of things I needed to do. For a split second, I thought about how my sisters were also my responsibility and I had just left them in a house full of strangers. But as quick as it had come, I pushed it away. This was for them. This was how I could protect them, and I couldn’t feel guilty about that. “Alexandra Marks are you sure you are ready to become Princess Annabeth’s Protector and Bwenzi Nkhondo?” The King asked this time sounding far less confident than the Queen ever did. “I am.” I responded. I had been pairing the two things together all day, but the truth was, they weren’t the same. They weren’t even close really. But I needed Annabeth to think they were together. Alex had asked me to become her protector the first day I had arrived at the base. He had told me that it would give me a higher ranking than just Bwenzi Nkhondo and it would put Annabeth’s safety in my hands. It would be the most responsible thing to do for her. There were a few reasons to do it, even though I wasn’t trained yet. One was simply, as her Bwenzi Nkhondo, we’d be connected and in sync. We’d know each other’s feelings and thoughts which would keep both of us protected. Plus, adding the protector piece, they can’t kill one without serious complications. It isn’t exactly known what the implications are as there have been very few protectors throughout history, however, it is very well know that it is dangerous. So basically, it makes us both unkillable at least for now. And 2. I am related to Viviana. She was my aunt. My dad is with her and my mom. So maybe, they don’t want to kill me either. I think they would if they had too. But they don’t want to. And that’s kinda what were banking on. On the downside, they know what I’m capable of. They know my strengths and weaknesses. But they know that I am fiercely loyal and if they could get me to their side, they would destroy Annabeth, making her defeatable. So, me being the protector, is imperative. “Annabeth, come out to the center of the stage dear,” The Queen called out. Annabeth approached slowly, looking nervous, but there was also grave concern on her face telling me that I must be looking paler by the minute because I was feeling worse by the minute. “You are both lefties, am I correct?” The Queen asked. “Yes ma’am,” I answered for the both of us. “Wonderful. So take each other’s wrist, similar to how you would shake hands, but at the wrists. And hold it there.” We did as we were instructed, and a red string of light weaved around out wrists from about the mid-forearm. “As Bwenzi Nkhondos you will be able to feel each other. You will be each other’s strength when the world seems to be too much. You will be each other’s mind. You will be able to pull from one another more. You will be able to access each other’s gifts to a degree. You will protect each other from harm, and fight for one another when it is needed. You will work as one and maneuver as one when necessary. When you doubt your abilities, you will be able to see the other’s feelings through your wrists and communicate in ways that others cannot.” A woman spoke firmly, standing at the base of the stage. “Do you agree to these terms?” “I agree,” I responded. Annabeth looked slightly more hesitant, but I gave her a nod of encouragement and she also agreed. “Are you certain, Annabeth?” The Queen called out, she had read Annabeth’s hesitation like a book. Annabeth smiled back at her, though it was hard to see into the crowd now that there was a spotlight on us. “Of course, I’m sure,” Annabeth sounded fake, but I knew it was because she was irritated with her mom. “Lexy will be my one and only Bwenzi Nkhondo for life.” “Should I continue?” The woman in front asked nervously. “Please do,” Annabeth smiled, ignoring the nerves I know she was feeling. The woman cleared her throat nervously and continued, “With this bond that you have both accepted, you will always be linked to one another. When one is happy, the band will glow green. When one is down, it will burn pink. When you are warm it will be yellow, cold it will be blue. It will be tan if one is feeling neutral or indifferent, orange if one is confident, and teal if there is fear or anxiety. It will be purple when one is calm and burn red when there is pain either physically or emotionally. You two will be as one. This band will not be able to be removed until the bond between you two is broken. This band unites you, and will always remind you of the person you must protect. We are a country of constant war, but may you not be at war with each other. Let you be individuals who share a bond of care and power. Let the world not slow you down as for now you are both stronger than you ever were apart.” The rope like bracelet then solidified itself to our wrist – and for a brief moment I thought that we would be tied together forever – but then it snapped and secured itself on both of our wrists’. I realized then that I couldn’t see the band on Anna’s wrist anymore, I could only see mine. We let go of each other’s hand and I immediately felt the spot that the band had just been. It was now burned into my skin, and I realized only I could see it, which was probably a good thing because it was teal. “We did it,” I whispered, pulling her in to a hug. “We did,” She whispered shakily back into my ear. “Do you think we can leave now?” “I’m not sure,” I frowned. I had forgotten in those few moments that I wasn’t feeling great, but it was coming back, stronger than ever. We’d pulled a part, and Annabeth immediately grabbed my hand, and started pulling me off stage behind her. “Where are you going?” The Queen demanded, causing us to freeze. “We are done, are we not?” Annabeth questioned, sounding extremely confident that I almost believed it. “The ceremony is done, yes.” The Queen answered, but there were questions in her tone. “And were we not told to go back to our rooms at 3 to prepare for the ball?” “You were.” The Queen said, her voice harder this time. “And isn’t it after 3?” “Yes.” This time the Queen’s annoyance was very clear. “Then we must go get ready.” Annabeth held her head up, and started off the stage again. “Wait,” The Queen’s cold voice cut in again, making us stop. “I thought since you missed most of today’s meetings that you would attend some this afternoon.” “Whose fault is it that I missed those meetings?” Annabeth sounded cold. “We have no intention of going to anything else today other than the ball. Then we will be leaving.” Annabeth then practically dragged me the rest of the way, her anger evident. “Let’s go.” The anger still in her voice when she approached the guys, and she dropped my hand. “You look like hell,” Seth muttered to me, but he was looking at Annabeth. “I just need a nap.” I told him. And the world seemed to move in slow motion as we exited. Jake led the way, Annabeth, directly behind him, and Seth and I took up the rear walking slightly slower. I didn’t share Annabeth’s anger. I just felt exhausted. And it seemed like it was nothing that a nap couldn’t fix.

  • The Importance of My Family

    Growing up, I didn't realize the importance of family, or how it would shape my life and myself in general. I didn't realize that things that were normal for me, were not the norm for the average person. I grew up having two parents that were together still, my middle sister, Jillian is autistic, and I grew up incredibly close to both my sisters. I also have an extremely supportive extended family that I have come to realize not everybody has. and then there's the family you create. These are the people you pick up along the way and they never leave. All three pieces are important, and all have different aspects in how we become who we become. My Immediate family It was brought to my attention recently, that many siblings don't talk on a regular basis. This shouldn't have come as a surprise to me, but it did. A family friend was telling me that his kids don't talk, and the only way they ever know what's going on with one another is if he or his wife says something. In my family, that is not the case. From the time my sister Jillian was born, I was her biggest fan. I called her 'my baby' when my parents brought her home from the hospital, and she was. We are only a year and a half a part, and we did everything together. She has always been different, and at times that was really hard to understand, especially growing up, but she has always needed that extra support and love that I could give. Now, we live in the same house again, and it's been lovely because we rarely fight, and I know she's always there. My younger sister, Jenny, and I didn't have that same, right off the bat relationship. She and I grew close because we both understood what it was like to have a disabled sister, and we were really the only two in the world who could really get what it was like for the other person, even though we handled it very differently - I was more combative because I wanted to understand, but I couldn't, and she hated/hates conflict, and internalized everything. And I think it's because we all leaned on each other so much, that we are so close today. In fact, despite my sister, Jenny, living 8 hours away, I facetime with her at least once a week, depending on our weeks, and we never go more than 10 days without a facetime. We also text, send instagram posts and tik toks, nearly daily about things we think the other will like or will want to know about. And I am so incredibly lucky to have that. I am also lucky to have my parents. Growing up, my mom and I fought like cats and dogs. My mom likes things done her way, and I am a very 'why' oriented person, and if there's not a logical explanation for why it has to be done right then or a certain way, then I was going to fight it. My dad has always been my rock and the mediator between me and my mom, but as I've gotten older, the less combative I am. I also have realized that my parents weren't perfect, but they did the best they could with the cards they were dealt. They tried to be superheroes, and the fact that they tried means a hell of a lot to me, especially now as a grown up. Extended-Family My extended family is also pretty unique. You have never met a group of such extremely different people in the world, yet everyone loves and cares for each other, putting aside differences of belief and most judgement. Of course, there are some clicks. There's an obvious gravitational pull toward some people more than others, but you know if it's a hard time, anyone of them will have your back without a second thought. My Grandma has always been the most supportive person in my life. She always made sure that I had an outlet to vent, and gave me a safe space from an early age. Though she and I have never lived closer than 3 hours from each other, and for the majority of my life have lived over 7 hours, she has always had an uncanny understanding of what living in my household was like. She has been to this day, the only person who understood how hard it could be at times growing up with an autistic sister. She understood my frustrations over meltdowns and how my parents would 'cave'. She understood the burdens I felt as the oldest, and how it all always seemed to fall on me. She was always positive. She never made fun of the things I liked, and we often bonded over reading. I talk to her usually once a week to this day, and I always hang up the phone with a smile. She may live far away, but she has always been there for me, and I try never to take that for granted. Then there's the tradition on my dad's side of the family that has been happening since before I was born. Once a year, over July 4th week, we go to the Outer Banks. All 29 (give or take) of us, stay in one house, and it's a practically a week long party. My favorite tradition in recent years is the night we go out to the gazebo and we play music. Everyone puts in requests, though we try to pick ones most people will like. It's more fun if everyone knows it. There are classics like American Pie and Puff the Magic Dragon to newer things like Luke Combs and Olivia Rodrigo. It's hard to explain the bond that has formed between all of us, and that gazebo will probably always hold a special place in our heart. It's where we celebrated my Nana's life, and my Poppop's. It's where we've laughed till we cried on many occasions, and watched beautiful sunrises after staying up all night. I know very few people who have ever had the same opportunities with their extended family. I am honored to be in snapchat groups with them, and our random zoom calls when we miss each other just a little more than normal. None of us live near each other, but for one week a year, we all come together, and most of us will never miss it. We all know how lucky we are to have grown up together, and to continue to grow together with each passing year. And I am happy to know that we are so close, I mean just the other day my cousin called me, and it wasn't weird. I didn't think, 'why is he facetiming me? Is something wrong?' It really made me realize that my family is special like that. The Family You Make I realize that a lot of people don't have amazing families. And I hate that because I don't know where I'd be without mine. However, it's so important to realize that family isn't always blood. There's a family that I've known since I was born. They aren't related by blood, but if there was ever an emergency, they'd be the first people I call. I call them aunt and uncle because to me they are family. My uncle has known my dad since they were in 4th grade remedial reading together, and my mom met my aunt while working in the hotel industry and my parents introduced them, and they've pretty much been together since. I haven't seen them in a couple years now, but I know if I texted them today and said 'can I come stay at your house tomorrow?' There would be absolutely no doubt that if they were in town that answer would be yes. Then there's my best friend, Anna. We've been friends since 7th grade, now over ten years. She's the one person who knows probably every side of me. She's seen me at my best and at my worst. She knows my mental health nearly as well as I do. We've gone on a thousand adventures together, from abandoned houses, to Washington, DC to Disney World. She's the one person in the world that I trust the most, and in the past few years, she's gone from just a friend to family. She knows all my secrets, and I am incredibly lucky to have her in my life. And lastly, there's Ham. Ham started off as my youngest sister, Jenny's best friend. It started with soccer, then she was at our house nearly every day. She joined us for dinners, then traditions like getting pumpkins, and picking out our Christmas trees. To joining us for family game nights, bringing her mom along. To now where they usually spend holiday evenings with us, from Christmas Eve to Christmas day to New Years Eve and Thanksgiving. It now feels weird to have a holiday without our people anymore. We live so far away from blood relatives; the nearest is 6 hours away, so we created our own family. I am so privileged to have family from immediate family to extended to the ones we made family. I wouldn't be half the person I am today without them. Is you're family dynamic similar to mine? Are you close to your siblings? Do you have siblings? Or is your family more something you created? I'm interested to hear your thoughts, and how you feel your family has impacted your life. Let me know in the comments or comment on my instagram post!

  • Chapter 13: Annabeth and the Unexpected Challenge

    Chapter 13 Annabeth and the Unexpected Challenge I sighed in frustration as the door’s vibrations reverberated through the room hurt my ears. “What is her problem?” I mumbled more to myself than to anyone else. I turned and looked at Seth, who’s eyes were darting from the door to me, repetitively. “What do you know that I don’t?” I asked him, for the first time feeling out my rank. “I’m not sure,” He frowned, looking no less uneasy. “Did something happen last night that has her all weird?” “A lot has happened,” He mumbled under his breath, not realizing I could hear him. “Not helpful, Seth,” I grumbled back rolling my eyes. “Well, I don’t know what you want me to tell you,” He said defensively. “She doesn’t want to talk about what happened with her dad with me. So I know about as much as you.” I froze. “Her dad?” Seth froze too. “Maybe I do know more than you…” “What happened with her dad?” I asked slowly, dreading the answer. “What are you talking about?” “Listen,” He dropped his voice to a whisper as if he was afraid she was simply on the other side of the door listening to whatever was about to happen. “I know you’re the Princess and all, and if I thought telling you would help, I would. However, if she hasn’t mentioned it, then she’s probably simply not ready to.” “What happened with her Dad?” I commanded, ignoring everything else he had just said because I was in need of information. “If you tell her, I promise you, I will not speak to you again and everything that happened earlier will never happen again.” A voice rang through the closed door sounding slightly shaky. “Sorry Princess,” Seth said, giving me a slightly sheepish smile as his ears turned red, “I know you’re all powerful, however, I’m more afraid of her.” I glared at him and then at the closed door that I knew she was somewhere behind. “You’re being ridiculous,” I called back, knowing she was still listening whether with her mind reading abilities or her physical ears. There was no answer, so I looked at Seth pleadingly. “No,” He responded, putting his hands up in surrender. “She’ll tell you when she’s ready. A lot has happened. She’s processing these things herself. When she’s ready, she’ll tell you.” He then disappeared through the door leading to her room, and the barricades that had been in front of both of our doors this morning flashed through my mind. I moved to follow him, but Jake moved to block my way. “I don’t think you should go in there yet, Princess.” He said, his voice firm, taking me by surprise. I crossed my arms in irritation. “Why?” I asked. “Let him calm her down first,” He answered. “I should be the one helping her,” I retaliated bitterly. “Clearly that went so well the first time,” Jake muttered under his breath. “Excuse me?” I felt myself defending myself again. It was far too early for this. “I didn’t do anything wrong.” “You didn’t do anything right either, Princess,” Jake told me hotly. “She’s right. You were far too careless about your door. This is the castle. It’s a cutthroat place full of tests, and you are severely underprepared. And the quicker you realize that, the better off you’ll be.” I looked at him coldly as the door reopened and a blank looking Lexy reentered the room followed by Seth. “Don’t let anyone else hear you talking like that, Jacob,” She said quietly. “Or they’ll have your head.” She then proceeded to drag her finger across her neck, letting it go limp as if she had cut it off. “Very funny, Alexandra.” Jake responded looking slightly disgruntled that they had come back. Her serious face smirked slightly before she said, “Breakfast?” I nodded feeling out of place again. I didn’t feel like a princess going down to breakfast with her family. I felt like a stranger. An outsider. An intruder. My heels clicked softly on the carpeted floor of my hallway that lacked the grandeur of the rest of the castle. Perhaps it was simply to muffle the sounds that would surely echo throughout the hall every time someone would walk on it if it wasn’t there. Lexy must have sensed my uncertainty for she linked her arm with mine, and we continued on. There was something calming and unnerving about Lexy. There was no emotion showing itself despite her wishes. There was no glimmer of happiness or hurt. There was just nothing but this almost eerie calm that I had never seen before. “Are you okay?” I whispered. “Of course,” She gave me a tight smile, but it was not a believable one. She must have read my mind because she added, “We have more important matters at hand.” I shot her a look, but she wasn’t looking at me. She was looking ahead at the double doors that would lead to the dining room that were fast approaching. Was something waiting on the other side that we wouldn’t like? Would my family be less intimidating today or would they be worse? Would they have even noticed my absence, or did Lexy and Seth cover it up? A million questions pulsed through my mind, each leading to another question. I felt Lexy take in a deep breath beside me, and I did the same. Jake and Seth opened the double doors for us, and without hesitating we walked in. “Ah, look who finally arrived,” My mother, the Queen announced when we entered her field of vision. “Please, sit, sit.” Lexy reluctantly let go of my arm as we approached the table. A man I didn’t recognize pulled a chair out for me, and another moved one out for Lexy. I nodded my thanks as Lexy murmured a thank you and we both turned our attention to my mother. “Good morning,” I smiled, trying to hide my nerves. “I didn’t realize it was,” My mother said almost coldly. I looked at her in surprise. “Did something happen that made it not?” I asked trying to be polite. “You disappeared last night. Your friend here said you were angry at how you were treated. Is this true?” I did my best to hide the surprise I felt by Lexy’s cover. The truth was, I had absolutely no idea how I felt. “It was not a very welcoming first day with my long-lost family.” I said finally finding the right words to say. “Are you still considering leaving?” There’s was an uncertainty in my mother’s voice that I didn’t know what to do with, but I knew it was rare. “I have reached no conclusions,” I responded, trying my best to be the opposite of uncertain. “Then we will continue with today as planned.” My mother stated. “And the ball tonight.” “Ball?” I felt my confidence wavering. “Yes, the welcome ball. You may join whatever meetings you like today. But around 3 pm you will need to go, so you have enough time to get ready. I nodded and she continued. “I strongly encourage you to pick a new Bwenzi Nkhondo. One who is not so deeply enthralled in the other side. And who doesn’t make a spectacle of herself in the gym.” The last comment brought on some confusion however, I didn’t really have time to dwell on it since Lexy, whose face was slightly flushed, was already answering. “I have already proved that I am loyal to Annabeth.” Lexy said softly, but there was something in her tone that I almost didn’t recognize. “You did. However, you could easily change your mind once you start to miss your parents.” My mother brushed her aside. “I already miss my parents,” Lexy said in the same quiet voice with a darker undertone. “However, they have made their choice. And that isn’t something they can take back. And neither can I.” If my mother was surprised, she didn’t show it. She simply nodded and looked to me. “Lexy is my ride or die.” I said, but I cringed at my own word choice. “I mean, where I go, she goes. She saved my life twice when Vivian came looking for me. She even tried to pretend to be me when my life was in danger. She invited me to dinner nearly everyday for the last 2 years, and she had no idea who I was. Her parents might have, but it wasn’t their choice. It was Lexy who got me when no one else could even begin to understand what I was going through. It’s been Lexy for nearly as long as I’ve known her. And that’s not up for debate anymore, your majesty.” I felt bolder than I had ever been in my life, but I also had never really had trouble standing up to authority either. “Very well then. The ceremony will commence this afternoon. I suggest after breakfast you children go clean up in your rooms. You look like you haven’t slept in weeks, and I simply cannot have that.” It took everything in me to not just roll my eyes at her comment. However, I was trying my hardest to remain on her good side so that meant not doing anything ‘stupid’ or ‘unladylike’ to piss her off more. “Thank you for the understanding.” I replied. It sounded strange even to my own ears, but what else was I supposed to say to that? It was then I realized that my plate was full of waffles, fruit, and a sauce/syrup like thing that I didn’t recognize but looked exquisite. I dug right in after realizing how amazing it was and did my best not to just scarf it down. “Eat.” I heard someone mutter to my left. “You’ll feel better.” I looked slightly that direction, and saw Seth whispering into Lexy’s ear, and Lexy looking like her plate had a human head on it, her meal completely untouched. “I don’t remember inviting you to the table, Mr. Steele.” My mother said coldly. Seth bowed to her and backed away; however, his eyes were still trained on Lexy. “He is right though, dear,” My mother continued, putting her own fork to her mouth. “You should eat.” For some reason, Lexy looked incredibly uncomfortable with the idea of eating right now, and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why or if she was just being dramatic. For a moment, she looked uneasy, but then she straightened up, and brought her fork to her mouth, all while looking straight at my mother. I then realized, stupidly, that there was clearly a reason for Lexy not eating, but even as I wracked my brain for an answer, I couldn’t figure out my best friend’s struggle right now. “It tastes lovely, doesn’t it?” My mother smiled, but an unsettling smile. “Lovely indeed,” Lexy responded, taking another bite. The meal then progressed in silence, and out of the corner of my eye I saw Lexy pick at her meal. Her eyes on my mother, and my mother’s on her. There were no questions about how I felt about all this change. No personal questions about what my life was like before. Or even what my favorite color was. No. It was just some ongoing battle between my mother and Lexy and I didn’t even seem to exist. “Are you happy?” Lexy finally asked when her plate was empty. I looked up in surprise. Lexy never talked to adults like that. I had rarely ever even heard her raise her voice like that to her parents. My mother simply shrugged, and Lexy stood up. “If you’ll excuse me, I think I’m done now.” There was an anger in her voice that I was not familiar with. “Me too,” I stated, trying to match whatever she was bringing to the table. “Annabeth!” My mother gasped. “Are you a leader or a follower?” Her question sent real anger through me this time. “Where she goes, I go.” I retaliated. “And if she chooses to jump off a bridge, I guess I choose it too.” “Why would she jump off a bridge?” My mother questioned, an edge in her voice. “It’s an expression,” I sighed, pushing Jake away and my own chair in. “I guess I’ll uh see you later.” I looked to Lexy, who hadn’t said anything at my defense of her. At first, I felt annoyed by the lack of a response, but when I looked at her, I noticed her face was incredibly pale, and she was leaning hard into Seth. The double doors swung open, and I marched out, pretending not to have noticed. It was too imperative that we seemed strong, so when one of us was failing, the other had to pick up the pieces. The doors closed behind us, but the hallway was filled with people. I could physically feel Lexy was struggling, so I picked up the pace, only to realize that Lexy was not able to keep up. I made eye contact with Seth and made a “what the hell is happening?” face. He just shook his head at me and shrugged. Suddenly Jake left my side and just swept her up, causing a bit of a spectacle. Everyone was staring, so Jake smiled and kissed her forehead. My stomach churned. What the hell was happening? Both Seth and Jake were suddenly back at my sides. “Come on, Princess,” He grumbled. “We’ll be late.” I didn’t know what he meant by that, but I picked up the pace. Jake was whispering something to Lexy who turned her head into him. I felt stupid. Lexy had liked Jake this whole time, and I was just standing in her way. A weird, strangled noise caused me look at them again, and I realized Jake was all but running. “Seth,” Jake said as we approached my room. “Get off your damn high horse and open the fucking door.” A disgruntled Seth took a couple steps ahead of us and swung open the door with a little more force than necessary. I was about to scold him however, Jake was already rushing into the room, leaving me little room to follow. To my surprise, he went immediately to Lexy’s side, and I felt my stomach do another flip. Wow. This was really happening. The first guy I like in forever, and all he wants is my best friend. Despite feeling as unwanted as Seth, I followed anyway. “Was I just a joke to the both of you?’ I asked, but Jake ignored me. “Where is it?” He demanded as he laid her on the bed. “Where is what?” I inquired feeling totally lost. “The Epi pen! Where the hell does she keep it?” He was rummaging through drawers and slamming them shut as he was running out of luck. I then looked at my best friend and felt sick to my stomach. Her face was pale and clammy, and her lips had a blueish hint to them. And her eyes were closed. “Shoe,” Lexy gasped. Jake frowned, pausing briefly before heading to the closet. “No.” Seth stated as he walked in, his own face also pale. “Not the ones in the closet. The ones she’s wearing. She keeps it in her shoes.” He immediately moved to her, gently taking off her shoes and revealing a small little injection. “Will this work here?” He asked Jake, looking uncertain. “Medicine is different here. It may not work.” “Dude, we can’t get out of here right now. So you better pray to god that this works.” Without any further hesitation, Seth lifted her dress and gave her the shot. “What now?” I whispered feeling scared. I had never seen her have an allergic reaction. I wasn’t even sure what she was allergic to. “We wait for it to kick in.” Jake said through gritted teeth. “How did you know?” I asked in a small voice. I felt small. “It was obvious.” Jake answered. “She was upset about her breakfast. She just stared at it. So whatever it was, the Queen knew. It was a purposeful thing.” “I know I don’t know my mother well… But do you really think she’d try to kill my best friend?” “Yes,” Both Jake and Seth answered simultaneously. “She hates her,” Seth added quietly when I looked at them in surprise. “The Queen thinks she’s scum. I just wanted her to eat because she hasn’t really been. I thought after her workout today that she needed food. I didn’t realize the syrup had a fruit that is similar to pomegranate. But she must have heard the thoughts of somebody. She knew what was happening. She always knows.” “Then why did she eat it?” I whispered. “Because if she didn’t, she’d have to accuse the Queen of knowing she was allergic to something and trying to use it against her. She didn’t want to start that yet, so she made a choice to challenge the Queen silently.” “That was so stupid.” I murmured as I climbed into bed next to her. “You haven’t been here long yet, Princess,” Jake said quietly. “But there’s a lot you don’t know yet, that you need to learn… Fast.” I felt beyond frustrated and as close to tears as I’d come so far. “Well everyone’s talking so freaking cryptic! Start telling me what I need to know before someone dies, and it’s my fault!” Jake gave me an awkward look. Like he didn’t know what to do either. He didn’t know what to say. He didn’t know how much to say. He was scared. As scared as I was. And in that moment, I was terrified. “Look,” Seth said quietly after a moment. “When she wakes up, we can come up with a plan. The 4 of us will be a team from here on out. It’s not a question anymore. It’s not a choice. We need to have each other’s backs, or we’ll all be dead.” “Who said I wanted to be on her team?” Jake sneered. I wasn’t sure which her he was referring to, Lexy or me, but either way, it was unacceptable. “Get the hell out.” I snapped. “What?” Jake looked taken aback. “If I can’t trust you 100%, then get out.” “It’s not that simple Annabeth…” Jake tried. “No. It is.” I stated angrily. “You are either with us, or you’re against us. And I would hate to find out what will happen if they find out you’re against me.” “Please stop yelling,” Lexy mumbled, her eyes still closed. My heart stopped for a moment. “How do you feel?” I breathed, uneasily. “Like hell.” She answered, still sounding raspy. “You knew that you were allergic, didn’t you?” I asked. “Yea.” She whispered. “Yea, I knew.” Her eyes were still closed, and it seemed to be taking a lot of energy for her to be talking to me. “Rest, okay?” Seth interjected before I could ask any more questions. “We can talk when you feel better.” “Just 5 more minutes, okay?” She mumbled. “Sure. I’ll wake you in 5 minutes.” Seth looked a wreck, but he seemed to be trying to hold it together for her, and she was back asleep before he had even finished his sentence. When he noticed that, he turned to me and said, “If you and Jake would like to keep fighting, please go do it in your room. Let her just rest. Please, just let her rest.” “We’re done fighting,” Jake grimaced. “I’m in.” I looked at him in surprise but didn’t say anything. From here on out, the 4 of us were a team. I knew things would be tough and challenging. But it was nice to know I had at least 3 people in my corner right now. Because 3 was better the 0 and 1 had nearly died for me tonight. I needed as many people as I could get because I had no idea what was going to come next.

  • Feeling like Navy Blue

    I recently saw a writing prompt that asked "What color do you feel like and why?" And I had to think about it. My favorite color in the world is Navy Blue. I like all shades of blue, but royal blue, but does it represent me? Does it showcase my feelings? Or is there a better answer? And the truth is, I do think I feel like navy blue, but I also don't think if someone looked at me, that they'd see it, and I'm not sure I'd want them too. To me, navy blue is as close to black as you can get without being that dark. When I think of the color black, I think of goth, and darkness, and drowning in your own head. I'm not quite drowning in my own head, nor do I always wear black, or find the color super appealing. It's just there. But Navy, navy can still hide the things I don't want seen. It can hide my scary thoughts, but it's still extravagant. No one questions a navy blue. Navy blue is just the right amount of elegance and power to hide what ever you need to, but also not look suspicious. People and yourself can say you're okay, but it doesn't have to be true. It's a color dark enough to cover the ugly, but pretty enough to not be questioned. And that's often how I feel. I know all the right things to say. I know how to play the games, whether I want to or not. And I'm constantly trying to hide the anxiety and depression and whatever other feelings that plague me on a daily basis. So I'm dark, but not dark enough where people should be concerned. I can hide the scars, and navy blue embraces it all. However, I don't really want people to see me as navy blue. I love the color. I love what it means to me, but I don't want other people to see me that dark. I want to be seen as yellow. Yellow is a happy color. Yellow means that you are a brightness in this dark world. That you are 'good'. I want to be yellow. I want people to see me shining, and I'd be a bright spot in their day. Whether they just saw me, or talked to me, I want them to think, wow, my day just got better. And I'm not saying that I'm so great and all that and that's why. No, I just want people to see happiness is contagious. And I want to be so kind that that's what people remember. Yellow is kindness. Yellow is going out of your way to make the world a better place and doing it with a smile. Unrealistic, I know. But that's what I want to be seen as. And maybe one day, it will be true. Do you have a color that you want to be seen as? And maybe you also have a different color that you actually feel like. Share in the comments or on my instagram what color you feel like and what color you want to be seen as. I look forward to seeing your answers! Till next time, CC

  • Chapter 12 Lexy and the Newest Problem

    Chapter 12 Lexy and the Newest Problem I woke up slowly just a couple hours after Annabeth had gotten back. Jake had come back seemingly drunk and Annabeth’s mood was odd, even to me. She didn’t feel like her usual self, but I couldn’t put my finger on exactly was different. I pushed myself up onto my forearms determined to get up, despite the earliness of the morning. I was determined to be prepared for everything that I needed to be. Despite a lack of formal training, I was going to figure it out. I knew cases like Annabeth and I were rare in themselves. All the people we had met from this world had been educated and trained since they were children. And that meant that I was very behind, and so was Annie. I made myself move to my room, trying not to stumble over a sleeping Jake who happened to be right in the middle of the room. I was not a morning person, but I was someone who understood when things needed done, and this sadly was one of those times. I opened the door to my room quietly. I didn’t want to wake anyone else yet. It was early still, and Annabeth and Jake had only been back for about 2 hours. Normally, I would have been getting ready for school about this time, but this was different. This had a lot higher stakes than a bad grade or even not getting into a good college. This was something that actually mattered. I rummaged the closet that supposedly was all mine. It felt strange to have such nice clothes at my disposal, but I also knew there was a very fine line that I had to be very careful about crossing. I was not royalty. I was solely there as Annabeth’s guest. And if she wanted to get rid of me, she could at any moment. So, I had to look nice, but not too nice. I had to be smart, but not too smart. I had to take a stand but be willing to back down. It was plain and simple politics. But I didn’t want to play that game. I wanted to just be me. But clearly that wasn’t an option. And I hated that more than anything. I ended up picking a pair of leggings though and a t-shirt. Figuring while everyone was still asleep, I could get a workout in. I hated working out, but it was clearly necessary for this life that was now mine. “Hey, what are you doing?” Seth popped head into my room, still looking half asleep. “Getting ready,” I answered as I pulled my hair up into a high ponytail. “Okay.” He answered slowly. “For what?” “The day.” I replied shortly. “What’s with the attitude?” He grumbled. “I don’t have an attitude.” I snapped. He raised his eyebrows at me in questioning. “I heard it. I’m sorry.” I mumbled in defeat. “It’s okay,” He flashed me one of his classic smiles. “You know I’m not a morning person,” I looked at him seriously. “I do,” He responded. “So why are we up?” “Because today, we have a lot to do.” I reminded him. He looked at me, his blue eyes so sleepy. “Like?” “Starting with training,” I told him. He furrowed his eyebrows in confusion. “What do you have in mind?” He asked looking like he was dreading my answer. “Right now, it’s time to work out.” I told him. “That’s -“ He paused for a second. “Actually, not a bad idea.” I smiled as I tied my shoes. There was still a twinge of pain in my side, but today it felt bearable. “I’m going to go change.” He told me as I heard him move toward the door and pushed the lounge chair away. I nodded, but I realized he couldn’t see it, he was already gone. I was ready, and now it was the hard task of waking up Anna. “Anna,” I whispered, gently shaking her. “Annabeth, wake up.” “Why?” She grumbled at me. “It’s still dark out.” “We have training.” I told her. “Please don’t make me go,” She begged, pulling the blanket up over her head. I tried really hard to keep the surprise to myself, but I didn’t understand. “You don’t want to know how to protect yourself?” I asked. “No, not really,” She replied sleepily. I didn’t understand. She had almost died. She was lucky to have as few injuries as she did. But she had no intention of being able to protect herself? I guess she was the Princess, and she had people who would do it for her. But how could she trust people she literally just met? “Okay,” I got off her bed. “I’ll uh see you later.” She did some half-hearted wave thing, and I turned around and left. As soon as I was out of the room though, I felt immediately out of place. I was in physically training clothes. Not royalty approved. But it didn’t really matter to me. I was struggling hard with the idea of wanting to not lose whoever I was and to not succumb to the pressures of this new life. I also knew that I was putting a lot of the pressures on myself, but I wanted to make the right choices. I was the oldest of my sisters. And I was older than Annabeth by just a few months, but still I was older, and she was like a sister to me. I was the big sister. And that meant everyone was in my care. My protection. I needed to get them all out of this alive. And the more I had learned, the more it was seemingly impossible. I truthfully had no idea where the gym was or if there even was one, but I had assumed there was. I mean, training had to happen somewhere, right? But where that somewhere was, I had no idea, so I just wandered aimlessly. “Can I help you Miss?” A guy in his mid-thirties wearing a black tuxedo asked me. I couldn’t help it, I knew my face showed my surprise at the interaction of another person. “Um no, I’m okay.” I answered. I know I could have asked him, but my distrust for everyone in this place was way more of an issue than me not being able to find the gym. “Well, you need to get out of here then, because this area is off limits.” I sighed. “I’m sorry,” I told him and turned my back. I could hear that he was hiding something in my head. But I didn’t care. There were so many secrets in this damn castle I was shocked the castle was even still standing with all this dirty laundry in it. It made me glad Annabeth hadn’t grown up here. There was no way her and I would have ever been friends if she had. And I might have even ended up following my family because I wouldn’t have known any better. “Lex?” I heard Seth’s familiar voice call down the steps. I turned to him and smiled. I couldn’t help it. It was nice to have just one thing left of my childhood. “Hey.” “Where did you go? I’ve been looking for you everywhere.” He stated, slightly out of breath and a little frantic. “I was looking for the gym and didn’t realize till I started wandering that I didn’t know where that was.” I told him. He shook his head at me in disbelief. “Come on, it’s this way.” He told me, nodding to the opposite direction I had just come from. We walked in silence through the beautiful halls of the castle, and I took it all in, memorizing all of the pieces we passed. I wanted to remember it all. I had a feeling it would matter one day, and I wanted to be able to tell my children about it. And my sisters. And really anybody. That this was my life now. And I wanted to remember these moments when everything got too crazy. “Let’s start by going for a run,” Seth suggested as we finally stopped in front of a set of double doors, made of the same mahogany that lined the castle. I wasn’t in a place to argue, so I agreed. I mean, I had had so little athletic training in my life that I didn’t have the slightest idea where to start. And a run seemed like a good place to start. So, I nodded, but when he opened the doors to the gym, I was taken aback by how incredible it looked. The long wall across the room from us was lined with weapons of all types. I didn’t even know what most of them were. There was a track outlining the room. And then there was every type of weapon imaginable against the back wall. There was a space for shooting bows and arrows, for throwing knives, for hand-to-hand combat. There were weights, and ellipticals, and bikes. There were boxes to jump up to and off of. It was like I had stepped into a whole other world, which was saying something since I was already in a whole other world. “Wow,” I couldn’t help but whisper. Seth looked over at me as I looked around in awe and smiled. I shook my head mentally and pulled myself out of the amazement, creating a blank outward appearance again. Seth must have noticed because he frowned, however he did not comment. He just rolled with it. The run was much longer than the one I had made countless times with Annabeth from school to my house over the years. I struggled to keep up with Seth who I knew was jogging slower than his usual pace to lead me to an attainable goal. That did not mean that I wasn’t struggling though. After 16 laps – 3 miles, Seth said we could be done with that. As soon as he gave me the okay to stop, I didn’t take so much as another step, and my body bent over putting my hands on my knees as I attempted to catch my breath. “Tired?” Seth asked, handing me a water bottle that appeared to be solid gold. “I should have mentioned,” I panted, “That I am not even slightly in shape.” “You did good,” He encouraged after nearly choking on his water from laughing at me. “You tried to kill me,” I stated, still breathlessly. He feigned offense and I rolled my eyes. “That earned you another mile,” He gestured to the track. “Torture me another way please,” I pleaded with a slight laugh. “Hand-to-hand combat?” He asked, raising his eyebrows at me. I sighed. “Sure, why not?” The smirk on his face made me want to punch him, but I knew in a few moments I would have the opportunity to maybe make up for 6 years of him being absent from my life, and maybe then we would be even. He led me to the rink across the gym and handed me a pair of gloves. It looked like we were going to be sparing. “Okay,” He stated, looking at me with his intense blue eyes. “Try a jab, cross, hook, cross.” “English please,” I said looking at him dumbfounded. He had the nerve to smile! And I furrowed my brows in annoyance. “Are you going to teach me or not?” He shook his head with laughter but began to do the combination slowly. He then did again, and I did it with him, matching what he was doing. “In case you’re ever in a fight,” He told me, “We’ll call that combination, Soul.” I froze. “Will I be expected to be in a fight?” I felt the nerves of not knowing enough hit me at an alarming rate. He looked at me, taking a step into my personal space, his eyes never left mine. “Probably, yes.” He said gruffly. His voice had suddenly seemed to have left him. I tilted my head up a little, feeling something I didn’t know what to do with come over me. “Maybe,” My voice was barely above a whisper, but I was feeling dangerous. “Maybe, I can just do this.” I stood on my tippy toes and kissed his cheek. He closed his eyes as I moved to kiss his lips. It was soft at first. But when I went to pull away, he deepened it, his arms holding tight to my body in a way they hadn’t before. It was desperate. Like we were desperate, and maybe we were. Finally, I pulled away. My leg was wrapped around his knee and I pressed in. The unexpected movement caused him to go off balance and I pushed him backwards, landing on top of him in a straddling position. He looked at me in surprise and distrust, but I just smiled. “I win,” I whispered feeling dangerous. He looked at me, his face flushed. “That was all to win?” I shrugged, starting to get up with a smile. “Why tell you? What fun would that be?” He pulled me down, back on top of him, and I couldn’t help the gasp that escaped my lips as he rolled putting me under him. “That is quite mean,” He stated, his voice serious. “It worked, didn’t it?” I teased. He leaned in and kissed me again. There was something in his kisses that sent electricity through me. That made me feel at home. Suddenly the door of the gym was thrown open. I pushed Seth off of me immediately and stood up. Two people walked in, but they didn’t even look our way. I breathed a sigh of relief and gave Seth my hand, helping him up. Things were suddenly weird, and I realized I might have just started something I couldn’t finish. “I think I will run some more,” I told him, and took off toward the track before he could stop me. I could hear the hurt overtake his thoughts, but I couldn’t even look at him. I had won, but why did I feel like I had just lost? When I decided I had trained long enough for the time being, I headed back to my room, and where Seth went, I wasn’t sure. I opened the door, and to my surprise, Annabeth was sitting on my bed. “Annie?” I couldn't keep the surprise out of my voice. “What are you doing here?” “Where have you been?” She demanded. She looked angry, and I couldn’t help but feel confused. “I went to train with Seth like I told you I was doing?” “When did you tell me that?” She furrowed eyebrows trying to remember. “This morning when I woke you up to come with me and you told me no?” She shook her head but relaxed a little. “I don’t remember. Sorry, I was just –“ “Worried? Like I was last night when you just fucking disappeared?” I couldn’t keep the bitterness out of my voice. It wasn’t fair to her, and I knew that, however, I had the worst night of my life, coming face to face with my father and she was off galivanting with the first hot boy who threw himself at her. “Look, I’m sorry,” She said, sounding genuine. “I can tell you all about my adventure if it will make you feel better?” I smiled. She knew the way into my heart. “It would yes,” I responded, “However, I need a shower, and then I think we’re expected to be at breakfast.” She made a pouty face. “I don’t wanna go.” I laughed. It was funny to think we had a choice. However, I humored her. “You don’t have to go.” She rolled her eyes at me. “Of course I have to go,” She responded sounding like a true adult, being responsible and stuff. “We don’t have a choice. We have to make good impressions.” “We?” I raised my eyebrows. “Yes, we!” She sighed. “You’re my partner in crime. Don’t forget it.” I felt a small smile pull at my lips. “How could I?” I paused, taking a breath. “Come on, we should get ready.” She nodded at me. Her eyes scanning the room quickly as she walked out. “Did something more happen last night?” She asked. I hesitated. Did I really want to tell her about what had happened with my Dad? Or with Seth? Was it necessary? Would it effect how she saw me? She raised her eyebrows at me in questioning and I felt myself squirm under her scrutiny. “I suppose you could say that…” I said finally. “We need to get ready,” She stated, “But we’re not finished with this.” She closed the door to her side of the room, and I let out a sigh of relief. I wasn’t sure I was ready to talk about it all yet. So much had happened in the last week. I wasn’t sure I should be speaking at all. I shook my head and made my way to the shower. I let the warm rushing water take away all of my worries and pain. And when I finally got out, I felt like a new person. I had taken longer than I had intended, so I felt a little rushed to pick out something appropriate to wear. Eventually, I settled on a navy blue high/low dress , though the height difference wasn’t crazy. I don’t know what it was about the dress, but when I put it on, I felt powerful. I knew I wasn’t untouchable by any means. However, being best friends with Annie, meant I really had to try and present myself to be. So, I braided my hair and made my way back to Anna’s room. To my surprise, Jake was still there, sitting in the same spot Anna had placed him hours ago. “Whoa,” I couldn’t stop the word that escaped my lips, when she turned around. She was wearing a dress that was shiny and sequenced on top, but the bottom was a deep royal blue that touched the floor. And on her head was a small tiara, that looked like it was made for her. “Good whoa or bad whoa?” She frowned, looking at me. “Good whoa,” I smiled easily at her. “You look unbelievable.” She smiled, a lot of her hesitancy disappearing with my words. “You look amazing yourself,” She told me, but I didn’t have the same satisfaction as she seemed to. So, I just rolled my eyes, and played it off, like I didn’t have fear coursing through my body right now. “What about you? Mr. Drunk man?” I teased. “Do you have a plan for how you’re going to get out of this one?” Jake’s face flushed with anger at me, but I knew he wouldn’t say much in front of Annabeth. There was one thing I was good at, and it was pushing other people’s buttons. “Are you done?” Annabeth rolled her eyes. “No, why do you ask?” I tried, knowing I was pushing her buttons but also, I was trying to be funny. As if on cue, there was a knock-on Annabeth’s door. And she simply shouted, “Come in!” “Are you kidding me?!” I exclaimed in disbelief as I bolted to the door, pushing back against whoever was on the other side. Jake was immediately on his feet as well, looking at Annabeth as if she had officially lost it. “Ow!” I heard someone on the other side mumble, who I immediately recognized to be Seth, so I opened the door. “Sorry,” I told him, only slightly apologetically before turning back to Annabeth. “What were you thinking?” “One, why are you yelling at me? And two, I knew it was Seth.” She spat back at me. I couldn’t believe her words. “One, we are not in our small town anymore. It’s not safe to just tell people to walk right in your room. Two, your door should be locked at all freaking times. And 3. How on earth would you know it was Seth?” Annabeth looked completely unphased by sudden outburst, but I realized nobody was moving. As if they weren’t sure if I’d yell at them too, even if there was a very important point to it. “I get your concern,” She shrugged, “But I knew it was Seth.” I felt infuriated by her lack of ability to see the problem. We were in so much danger, and she didn’t even seem to care. “How did you know it was Seth?” I said each word slowly, trying to not totally lose my temper. “I just knew.” She answered simply, adding to my furry. “Anyways, here’s your clothes, Jacob,” Seth said uneasily, looking around the room at each of us. “Lexy, can I talk to you?” Seth asked nervously. “No.” I said shortly, still fuming. “I’m going to my room, let me know when we’re leaving.” And with that, I slammed the door behind me, heading to my room, hoping to get my millions of feelings under control in a matter of the couple minutes that I would be allowed. [CC2]


    So, a while ago, I had this thought; how do ghost wear clothes and where do they come from? I did make a small tik tok on this ages ago, but it's a question that just leads to many more questions to me. Now, maybe you don't believe in the paranormal, so if that's the case, you might hate this article, or you might just find it fun to look at this question as an entertainment. If you are into the paranormal, this is probably also a very pressing question to you, and I invite you to follow my thought process and theories that I have come up with, some potentially more realistic than the others. Also, some of you might be wondering what I am even talking about, so let me explain. Have you ever seen a ghost? Or seen a picture of a supposed ghost? In every single experience I've personally ever heard of, the ghost is always wearing something. Whether it's recognized by a hat, or a dress or overalls, there is always some form of clothes on the ghost. So, my real question is how do they wear clothes? And where do they come from? I grew up in a Methodist church, and I was always kind of told that when you die, your soul leaves behind all physical possessions, which would mean you have no body, and to this argument's sake, no clothes. I also grew up fascinated with Egyptian culture though, and recently when the question of where do these clothes come from, I was reminded that the Egyptians bury their dead with a whole array of things that they might need in the afterlife, specifically pharaohs. So does the fact that ghosts that can be seen wearing clothes in one capacity or another prove that the Egyptians were right that physical possessions are useful in the afterlife? Let's now jump into some of my theories of where the clothes come from. 1. There's a ghost store. So, to me, the least likely theory here, but is still just as plausible as the rest, is that there's a ghost store. After you die, you go to this store and you pick the clothes from the decade you died in or your favorite decade. This would follow the theories that physical possessions are irrelevant in the afterlife and they have their own possessions of sorts. I would also say this store is probably only available immediately after death because ghosts appear the same in a lot of places, saying that there's no outfit changes. It's like a one and done kind of store. 2. You wear what you die in. This theory is a fair one, however, it does not account for the people who die naked. I've never heard of anyone claiming to have seen a naked ghost before. That's not to say it hasn't happened, or people just thought they were crazy for seeing it and didn't want to share that information. Or maybe very few people ever die naked, and when they do, they just simply decide they don't want to be ghosts. I'm not really sure the process of deciding to become ghosts or if it is even a choice someone gets to make, but it does simply put a small wrench in my theory that you wear what you die in, seeing how no one has seen a naked ghost before. 3. You wear you're favorite outfit This one is probably my favorite theory. I'm not sure why, but it makes the most sense to me. Where your favorite outfit comes from? I have no idea. Perhaps the ghost store or perhaps the universe keeps track of some thing like that so you're comfortable throughout eternity. Of course, this is an outfit you would have had while living, and it would have been something iconically you. A staple of your past. For me, this would be a pair of grey or black leggings, a tank top and a grey or black cardigan with either black boots or tennis shoes. It's my favorite outfit combination without question, and I wear it an awful lot. The outfit would represent the ghost in both it's past and it's present, which is why I feel like this is my favorite theory, since there are a lot of elements to it. A ghost could pick something the wore daily, or something fancy they only ever wore once, and regardless it would still represent them. Or perhaps this theory goes even as far as the outfit being an imprint on their souls, which is why we can see it. 4. What you're buried in This theory also makes some sense. It would follow along with what the Egyptians believed, that physical objects could follow you to the afterlife, and it had to be what you were buried with. And since ghosts are fairly transparent, so we couldn't tell if they were wearing black or not, and it isn't usually the people who buried the person who sees the ghost, it would be challenging to prove or disprove this theory. Also, then what about the people who are cremated? Is that outfit just what they died in then? Or do you dress up a cremated person? And typically aren't people buried in the best outfits? So most guys would be in suits, and girls in dresses. To be fair, most ghost women are seen in dresses, however, I've heard of a lot of male ghosts not always being dressed up. But again, that might be simply because they were buried in what the died it. Of course it would be incredibly challenging to prove or disprove any of my theories, unless you are a ghost, which I am assuming my readers are not. However, if I am wrong about that, please let me know in the comments. Also, let me know what your favorite ghost and clothes theory is or if you have one that I didn't mention. Have a lovely day all! Till next time, CC

  • Chapter 11: Annabeth and the Calina Experience

    Chapter 11 Annabeth and the Calina experience The setting sun blinded my eyes after having walked in total darkness for what had seemed like forever. I felt more comfortable now that I was out of the dress, and into clothes that were actually mine to my surprise; I had no idea how Jake had even gotten them. But my feet were tired and achy and I was beginning to feel incredibly grumpy. I wasn’t one to complain, especially to a stranger, but I was seriously starting to have doubts about where Jake had just led me to. “Come on, you’ve gotta see it from the top,” Jake nudged me forward. “You want me to climb up this thing?” I realized I was standing next to a tall platform thing, that had seemed sort of like a look out post with the most wobbly ladder I had ever seen in my life. A diving board at the cheap pool in my hometown had a more stable structure. Hell, I would rather climb a tree than that rickety thing. “Yea,” He gave me a gentle shove forward. “I want you to climb it before the sun sets all the way.” I sighed and grabbed onto what I was now convinced was a death trap and made my way to the top. Jake followed closely behind, and the ladder wiggled beneath us as we climbed. “Are you sure this is safe?” I called back to him, freezing for a second when I heard it make a loud CRACK. “Yes!” He shouted up to me. “Now go!” I finally reached the top and scurried to hold onto the ledge as if it could save me from this death trap. “I wouldn’t hold that so tight, it’s not really as stable as it looks,” Jake commented when he finally reached the top of the ladder. I let go of it quickly and moved to the center where he was standing. “Why are we here?” I finally asked. “Welcome to Calina, Princess Annabeth,” He breathed looking out at the world. I couldn’t contain the gasp that left my lips. It was beautiful. The grass was so green, and the sky was purple with pink streaks and puffy clouds, turning dark as the night sank in. And in the distance, there was the outline of what I could only be described as a city. It was no New York, but still a small city, nonetheless. “Wow,” I breathed. “Yea,” Jake closed his eyes, and I looked at him closely. For the first time in my presence, he seemed relaxed. His green eyes were closed, and the sun was shining on his face leaving him looking golden and his jet black hair was blowing gently in the slight wind. “I come up here when I need some perspective,” He told me, without looking at me. “I can see why,” I responded. “How did you ever find this place?” “I grew up in the castle, and sometimes, I just needed out,” He stated, as he sat down on the ledge he had told me to be careful around just minutes before, but I joined him there anyway. We sat there in total silence as the sun disappeared. There were so many things I wanted to say. I wanted to ask. But I could tell now wasn’t really the time. There had been people chasing me in a place that was supposed to be a safe place. I had been scared out of my mind; I still was, but there was something about the peacefulness of this random platform just a few miles from the castle. “Come on,” Jake said finally, once the sun had nearly disappeared from sight. “It’ll be a lot harder to climb down if we wait any longer. I’ll go first then you follow once I’m on the ground.” “Aye aye captain,” I saluted jokingly. Even in the now low light I could tell Jake rolled his eyes in annoyance, but it didn’t bother me. He could be mad all he wanted. I really didn’t care. It seemed like he would never not be mad at me. Climbing down the ladder was way scarier than climbing up it, especially since it was nearly completely dark. Maybe it was better not to see though. That way I didn’t know just how far I was from the ground. “You can let go of the ladder now, Beth,” Jake said sounding amused at my intense grip on the ladder. “You’re on the ground.” My heart fluttered at the nickname, but I didn’t comment since it was the first time he hadn’t called me Princess. “I know. I’m just trying to wake up from this nightmare.” I told him. He let out what sounded almost like a forced laugh. “Is being with me really that bad?” He asked. “I didn’t say that.” And despite my best effort to relax, I felt myself stiffen. I saw Jake shake his head in amusement, thinking I couldn’t really see him in the low light. “Come on,” He said, the gruffness back in his voice. “This way.” “Where are we going now?” I asked, struggling to keep up with his long strides. “Well we can’t go back to the castle yet, so we might as well have some fun,” He replied simply. “What is that supposed to mean?” I interrogated. I did not like surprises. And I had had enough of them today. “Calm down, don’t you trust me?” He teased. “No!” I replied, struggling to keep up with his long legs. “I hardly know you.” “You don’t know how much our lives are entwined Princess. And they have been for a long time.” “What are you talking about?” I asked inquisitively not quite understanding. “I have no intention of telling you yet,” He answered cryptically. “Yet? So you will tell me eventually?” “If you earn it,” He teased again. The amount of teasing took me by surprise. He always seemed so cold, but right now, he seemed so relaxed. “How do I earn it?” I played along. “Show me you are not a Princess,” He responded as if it was simple. “What does that even mean?” “You tell me,” He looked at me with a smile that again made my heart skip a beat. What seemed very sudden, I found myself among buildings, houses I assumed. And we didn’t stop. Not till we were in the middle of the said town did we stop, and I was reminded of my achy feet. I hadn’t walked so much in my entire life. “Jake, what are we doing here?” I asked when he finally came to a stop. “Having fun,” He answered, but he sounded slightly tense. He was looking at the building to our right very carefully. As if it didn’t make sense to him, or he was lost. But he moved to the side of it anyway and pulled at the siding. “Jake seriously, what are we doing here?” I questioned starting to feel like we didn’t belong here. Like we were doing something we weren’t supposed to. “Shhh,” He shushed me, “Just be quiet a minute.” I sighed uneasily, but as he pulled at the siding, a little window was revealed, and I could hear music. “What the hell?” I muttered. “Come on,” He grunted. “Climb in.” “Through the window?” I looked at him in disbelief. “Yea.” He looked at me like I was the crazy one. But I had to admit, my curiosity was getting the best of me, so despite my better judgement, I climbed through the now open window. My feet hit the ground with a thump, but I realized despite the insane amount of people, no one seemed to have noticed my abrupt arrival or Jake’s as he landed beside me. There were disco lights going, and they were already hurting my head. Plus, the music was so loud the room was vibrating. I could hardly believe how many people were packed into this tiny place. And that we had barely even heard it when we were standing just outside. “Where are we?” I demanded, looking at Jake who had a large grin on his face. “Relax Princess!” He shouted over the music. “We’re here to have fun!” He then grabbed my hand and began pulling me through the crowd of people till we reached a counter that someone was behind. “2 rum and cokes please,” He told the guy behind the counter. This place seemed to be a legit bar or club, but why would we have had to climb through a window to get here then? “Here!” Jake handed me the drink and I couldn’t help but make a face. “I don’t drink!” I shouted back. He didn’t answer. He just shrugged his shoulders, and downed both the drinks before grabbing my hand again and dragging me out on the dance floor. “I also don’t dance!” I told him, my voice already straining from having to shout. “You seem to know what you’re doing to me!” He smirked. God, I wanted to wipe the laughter right off his face, but there was something about this Jake that I liked. It was like he was actually a human, and not a total jerk. “You look beautiful!” He whispered in my ear, taking me completely off guard. I looked at him in confusion as he pulled away and kept swaying with the music. I was in jeans, a light pink V-neck and combat boots. Which he had somehow gotten from my house and snuck into a random tunnel. I shook off the comment and smiled. There was something about this moment that felt like I was supposed to be here. Like there was no where else I could have been that would have been better. And truthfully, it was the best night of my life, despite the obnoxiously loud music and crazy disco lights. We danced, and we danced till I was certain my feet had to be bleeding. But eventually the crowd started to thin out, and Jake took that as our cue to also leave. His face was flushed from the alcohol, and I could feel the warmth coming off his body. And I wasn’t really sure how he intended to get us back to the castle in his state, but his happy mood wasn’t something I wanted to ruin, so I just went along with it. The long walk back to the tunnels didn’t seem as long this time as we danced our way through the darkness. I didn’t care that I had no idea where I was. I didn’t care about anything. The feeling I felt was nothing like I had ever experienced. I couldn’t describe it even after all this time. It was like nothing mattered for the first time in my life. And somehow we made it back to the entry of the tunnels. I felt myself stumble as Jake began to put more of his weight on me as his drunkenness began to overtake whatever else had been driving him. “Whoa,” I stated, trying to hold his heavy self up. “I don’t know how to get back to wherever we need to go, so pull it together.” “You are doing justtt fine Princess,” Jake slurred, flashing me another smile. “No,” I replied, starting to feel annoyed. “No. I do not know my way through the tunnels. I do not know where I am going or where I should go. And I am beginning to feel very exhausted.” “Well it is 4 am, so no wonder you’re tired.” I gasped in surprise which caused Jake and I both to stumble. “It is not. There is no way.” I claimed in shock. “Mhm. You are one hell of a partier, Princess,” Jake chuckled. “Come on,” He leaned right, “This way.” We made the rest of the journey silently except for the random directions Jake would call out. And the sloshing of our feet into nearly constant puddles, which I had no idea where they had even come from, since I didn’t think it had rained. It was a wonder no one could hear us because I felt like we were being so loud, but it was just the echoes of the tunnel as we moved. Finally, we reached where Jake wanted to come out of the tunnels, and I opened the door very carefully, not quite sure where he was leading us out and if it would get us into trouble. To my surprise though, we had made it back to my room. As my eyes adjusted to the slightly brighter room, I could make out a small figure in my bed, and I hesitated, wondering if it really was my room until the figure spoke. “Where the hell have you been?” Lexy’s sleepy voice mumbled from across the room. I fully climbed out of the tunnel, pulling Jake along with me, and gave her a sheepish smile. “Why are you in my bed? Don’t you have a perfectly good one right through that door?” I asked as I looked around and realized she had made a mess of my room and I had only been gone a few hours. “Because I was worried about you,” She grumbled, “And I knew you’d come to your side and not wake me up to tell me you were alive.” “What happened to my room?” I questioned. “Improvision.” She replied. “That’s not a real word, Lex.” I told her, as I set up some blankets on the floor for Jake seeing as who I could only assume was Seth was asleep in a chair in front of my door. “Do I look like I care?” She answered grumpily. “Do you have any idea how late it is or how worried I was?” “Worried enough to go to sleep?” I teased. Even through the dark, I could see her shoot me a death glare. “Well both of us being exhausted didn’t sound smart to me either,” She replied. “I’m sorry for worrying you,” I told her as I plopped into bed beside her. “Where did you go?” She asked, turning to look at me. “On an adventure,” I responded cryptically. “Goodnight, Annabeth,” She replied in an exasperated tone. “Goodnight, Lex.” And with that I let the exhaustion I was feeling take over, and everything else just disappeared. I just hoped that feeling I had felt wasn’t going to disappear in my sleep. And would hang around just a little while longer.

  • Saying Just Enough

    The other day, my mom told me something interesting. She said that me and my youngest sister, have an incredible ability to say just enough. We have perfected the ability to tell people just enough so they don't worry, or ask more questions. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was a defense mechanism of sorts that we both had perfected over years. If one can say, just enough to keep themselves from getting in trouble, then why wouldn't you choose that option? If you don't want someone to keep asking 'are you okay?' or you just don't even want it to be a question that you are okay, you say what you think they want to hear. Or you say the things you know they want for you. "Yea, of course my mental health is good." "Yea, I'm not depressed, it's just been a rough couple weeks, no big deal." You find ways around the things you don't want to talk about. You become a master of changing the conversation so it doesn't revolve around you. Is this a healthy solution? No, probably not. Is it something I even realized I did? No, I absolutely didn't. But when my mom said such a seemingly innocent comment, my brain took it and analyzed it, like it does with most things people say to me. The other problem is, now that I'm aware that I do it, am I going to stop doing it? Am I going to be more honest about how I'm feeling or what's going on? The whole point of starting this blog was to be honest about my feelings and the things I'm going through. But I also don't want the questions. The 'why are you like that's and the super intimate part. There's reasons that I don't want people to necessarily know who's behind the blog because these are real, intimate pieces of myself. These are things that I wouldn't necessarily always be comfortable sharing with anyone other than my best friend. And isn't as though I am ashamed that I struggle with depression and anxiety. It isn't as though I'm ashamed of my life or whatever. Part of it is, I've only shared a lot of my feelings with only two people. I'm just starting to bring my family into my mental health struggles. I struggle with being vulnerable. I struggle with the 'someone always has it worse' mentality, and that I know I am lucky. So I say just enough to keep myself from getting those words thrown back in my face. It's a tightrope walk. This blog is a place for me to be vulnerable. To express myself. I know that so many others do the same things as I do. They aren't always honest with others, but they themselves know the truth. This blog is to tell you that you are not alone in these feelings. You are not crazy. You are doing just fine. Let's work on this together, okay? I hope you all have lovely days. And I will talk to you in the next blog. Till Next Time, CC

  • Poem 1:

    Whether you know it or not, I am the music that is stuck in your head. I am the song you have on replay. The one you can't remember the name of But also can't forget I am the beat to your heart And the lyrics to your day. I am your song.

  • Chapter 10: Lexy and the Unexpected Guest

    Chapter 10: Lexy and the Unexpected Guest I tapped the tip of the handle of the sword and kneed the guy right here no guy wants to be kneed. And we took off down the hall. I was not in any way shape or form in shape, but god damnit, I sprinted because my life depended on it. “Turn here!” Seth all but yelled. I made a sharp turn, but the guy was hot on our tails. Our only choice was to find a room without him seeing or blocking off one. I was doing my best to make it back to the one I had been given, but part of me felt like that was also a trap. Everyone would know that that was my room. And on top of that, I had no idea where Jake had taken off with Annabeth, but I was trusting that it was somewhere safe. I felt Seth reach for my hand, and I let him hold onto it, solely for the purpose of so we didn’t get separated. Also, he knew his way around the castle better that I did so I was more than happy to let him take the lead. He must have had the same idea as I did because he pulled me through an entry way, sharply. I bumped the wall but I kept moving. Never in my wildest dreams had I ever thought I would be running through as castle being chased by a mad man trying to kill me. “Lexy!” A voice made me stop dead in my tracks. Seth’s hand flew from mine, and I felt chills down my whole body. “Dad?” He was standing in the corner, the shadows hiding most of him, but he stepped out when I froze. “What’s wrong? Are you hurt? Have they hurt you?” He asked, moving closer to me, though his voice sounded so distant and detached. “What?” I stumbled backwards. “No. Why would they do that?” “He was just chasing you.” He gestured to the man in the doorway breathing hard. “It was a test,” I replied, feeling very overwhelmed and sick to my stomach. “About loyalty, and our ability to protect Annabeth.” “Well, you can come with me now, where you belong.” He said the words, but there was no feeling in his voice. It was indifferent and almost cold, something I had never heard him sound like before. He took another step forward, and I took another step back. “Come on, Lex,” He coaxed. “Why are you being like this?” “You abandoned us… You left them to die…” I stuttered. “It was a necessary risk, and I take it by the way you said that they are still alive. We can go get them and be a family again.” My ears were ringing. I couldn’t believe this was happening. “A necessary risk? THEY COULD HAVE DIED!” I shouted angrily. And then I heard why he was really there. I lowered my voice with the accusation, “You just want me on your side because having me as an enemy is bad for your cause. You know I am a threat, and you’re scared of me.” He made face before saying, “As if I would ever be scared of my own daughter.” “Then tell me you love me,” I challenged. “Of course, I love you. You’re my daughter” He responded almost automatically, but his face was blank and his voice was empty. I fought the tears that threatened to fall. I fought the anger that was simmering in my soul. I fought every ounce of my body to remain in control. “Of course, I love my dad too,” I responded, but the bitterness was evident even to my own ears. “But I cannot go with you. Because I also love my sisters, and Annabeth. And they need me right now. And if I thought, for even one second that I could fix you, maybe my choice would be different. Maybe I would try and bring you back to the dad I know and love. But whoever you are, you are not him. And I don’t know how to fix that.” “Okay,” The Queen’s voice suddenly cut through to us. “Get him out of here. And so help me, Eric, if you ever cross into our lands again, there will be hell to pay.” Her voice was cold, and it sent chills down my spine. The guards grabbed my dad, but he had enough dignity left to not scream and make a scene. “Are you okay, dear?” There was only one acceptable answer, and it meant lying through my teeth. “I’m fine,” I responded. “Good. Where’s Annabeth?” My stomach clenched. I wasn’t sure where she was. “She’s with Jake,” I replied carefully, “He got her to safety, and we will meet back up in our room.” “Are you sure it wasn’t a trap and you trusted the wrong person?” She interrogated. “No,” I replied honestly. “But I trust Annabeth.” The Queen seemed satisfied with that answer, and she shooed Seth and I off to my room. I didn’t hesitate to leave either. And I sure as hell didn’t look back. I had so many emotions and felt so beyond overwhelmed, I had no idea how to even handle it. Seth seemed to know I didn’t want to talk because he stayed just a couple steps behind me. I threw open my bedroom door and made my way straight to the bathroom. I couldn’t help it, I needed to vomit. “Oh Lex,” Seth murmured as he walked in. He immediately made sure my hair was out of my face and rubbed my back till I was done, then handed me a towel to wipe my face. “Are you okay?” He asked, his worry obvious. I waved him off. “I’m fine now. Thanks.” I stood up, but I still felt shaky. “Are you sure?” He questioned, but I sent him a death glare, and he stopped asking. “Is Annabeth in her room?” I asked, ready to ask my own question. “I don’t know,” Seth stated uncertainly. “I didn’t check, I followed you.” I stood up, ignoring the unbelievable amount of shakiness I was feeling. “Well, don’t just stand there, let’s go check,” I pushed past him. “Lexy…” He didn’t move, other than to reach for my hand. “Stop.” I replied sharply. “I don’t know what you think is going on between you and I, but I don’t need you to take care of me. I don’t need a savior. If you wanna be my friend again, fine. But I still don’t trust you completely. I don’t know your story, and truthfully, I don’t really care anymore. I have too much else on my mind to really give a damn about anything else. So you can either stand by me, and help when I need it, or you can get lost and just leave me alone because I can’t give you what you want.” “You don’t know what I want,” He said quietly, pulling me a little closer. “You don’t know how much I’ve missed you. And how much I’ve regretted leaving the way I did. You were my best friend. And I owed you more than what you got.” For the first time, I felt truly angry. I don’t think it was actually at him. It was at everything. I was frustrated. My dad was someone I didn’t even recognize, and he was the one person I was supposed to. But the truth was that the only person I recognized was the one I wasn’t supposed to. The one who had left and was now back, standing right in front of me, and when I looked at him, I still saw him as the little sandy haired, blue eyed boy I had known as the one who had been by my side since I could walk. But I shouldn’t have cared. I kept telling myself, he had disappeared before, and he could again, but my heart didn’t want to listen. “You’re right, you did,” I responded finally. “But it’s too late, now were both in a situation we never thought we’d be in. Now, I need to go find Annabeth, are you coming or not?” Seth sighed, but gestured for me to lead the way, and I didn’t hesitate to do it. I was learning quickly that if I wanted something, I was the only one who could get it. I couldn’t rely on anyone’s protection. I mean, the castle sure as hell wouldn’t protect me, many of them wanted me dead, and I was well aware of that. I couldn’t rely on Seth sticking around because he hasn’t in the past. And I couldn’t expect Annabeth to in the long run. She was a Princess and sooner or later that was going to be enough. So, whatever I was, whatever I wanted to be, I needed to figure it out, and fast. “Your mind is racing,” Seth commented as we walked through the small hallway that led from my room to Anna’s. “It never stops,” I told him. He paused, but then continued to move behind me as I opened the door to Annabeth’s room. “Annie?” I called out. “Annabeth?” I scanned the room with my eyes, and Seth did a walk around, but she wasn’t here. Once I realized that she for sure not here, I moved to her door, locked it, then headed back to my side, slamming the in between door, frustratedly. “Damnit!” I shouted. Seth opened my door slowly and moved in as if he wasn’t really sure what he was supposed to do. “I’m sure she’s fine,” He said as he sat down on the bed. “Jake is really good at his job. I’m sure they’re somewhere safe, and are just waiting things out a little.” “I should have never left her side. That was dumb.” I was yelling at myself, I had no one else to blame for such stupidity. “No offense, Lex,” Seth sighed, “But she’s in better hands with Jake than she would have been with you.” I turned to face him, stopping my pacing immediately. “Excuse me?” I snapped. Seth looked like he regretted his choice of words immediately, but I demanded a follow up. “What the hell does that mean?” He threw his hands up in surrender. “I just meant, Jake knows things. More than you do about this world. You only found out about it days ago. You wouldn’t know about the secret passageways, or other safe houses, or who to even potentially trust. You don’t know much yet, you’re new. And that’s okay. You’ll figure it out soon, but you can’t expect to have it all figured out in 4 days. There’s still so much you don’t know.” I shot him a glare, but I knew he was right. I had this strong desire to learn everything. I knew it came from being blindsided about this world in the first place. Because I had to protect my family and knowing everything was the only way to do it. “You’ve gone quiet,” He commented after a few minutes of silence. “I’m just thinking,” I replied. “Want to elaborate?” He questioned. I turned away from the door I had been staring at to look at him. “I need you to train me,” I stated seriously. “What?” He looked taken aback. I let out a sigh, but I still felt very amped up. “I need you to train me. You know this world better than me. You grew up immersed in it. At least you seem to be. But I have a lot riding on me. I have a family who needs me to be at my best. I have a best friend who needs my help, and is just feeling, well, lost. I know that I can handle it. I need to know everything. The history of these lands, alliances, the prophecy. I need to know how to fight and defend myself. I need to be able to do it all.” “That’s a lot, Lex. You shouldn’t be putting so much pressure on yourself.” He was being hesitant. And that surprised me. The boy I had known was never hesitant. He would have never shied away from an opportunity like this. But then again, I wasn’t the girl I had been even four days ago. Everything had changed. “Either you train me, or I find someone else who will,” I negotiated. Seth rolled his eyes, and I knew I had won. Another silence fell over us again and I turned back to stare at the door that was locked. That I had locked. And sitting there was Seth, I didn’t feel afraid. I felt a little anxious that I wasn’t sure where Annabeth was, and that I couldn’t be with my sisters in this time of uncertainty, but I wasn’t afraid of dying in that moment which was a first in days. And truthfully, I wasn’t actually scared to die. I just felt that there was more I was being called to do. “So when do you want to start?” Seth questioned. “As soon as possible,” I replied in surprise as he moved and joined me on the floor. I knew there was a comfy bed, and even a couple chairs I could be sitting in, but none of them felt quite right. “What do you wanna start with?” He questioned. “I don’t even know where to start,” I told him uncertainly. “Hey, look at me,” He whispered, touching my face gently. “With me, you don’t have to be uncertain. You don’t have to put on that brave face that you have to have on for everyone else. With me, it can be just us and whatever it is you’re feeling. Because Lex, I know you. I’ve known you for a long time. And I know your scared. And I know you feel the pressures amounting to more than you think you can handle, but I’m your friend. I have always been your friend. With me, you don’t have to pretend to be anything you’re not.” I looked at him as he read me like a book. I looked at him as he exploited my moment of uncertainty for a moment of vulnerability. But looking at him was like being 6 again. I felt so many things, but most of all, I felt safe. And that was something I wasn’t sure I’d feel often anymore. But with Seth, I knew I was the safest I could ever be. “Okay,” I whispered back finally. I wanted to lean in and kiss him. And I could hear that he wanted me to too. But I was hesitant. Was this really the right moment? I couldn’t help the small laugh that escaped my lips. Seth looked extremely taken aback, and it made me laugh harder. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” I waved my hands in the air apologetically. “It’s just I was thinking in my head, like is this really the best time to be kissing, like with everything that has happened, and then I was like wait, everyday is going to be like this for the rest of forever, so what difference does it make and I just,” I tried to explain, but I couldn’t stop laughing. I was lucky Seth still knew me after all these years though, because he cracked a smile at my idioticness and just rolled with it. Suddenly though there was a knock at the door, and the mood immediately shifted from laughter to seriousness. “Lady Alexandra?” A voice called out that I recognized to be the Queen. “Yes?” I responded breathlessly as I moved closer to the door. “Is Princess Annabeth in there with you?” She questioned. I panicked for a split second. I didn’t know what the punishment for lying to royalty was, but I was going to do it anyway. “Of course,” I paused trying to get some of my fake confidence back. “And she is very mad at the way she has been treated today by everyone here. She is the Princess and she deserves respect, no matter anyone else’s opinions of her choices. She will decide in the morning if we will be leaving or staying. Perhaps she is not who the prophecy has spoken about.” I heard an audible gasp from what must have been some servants who were accompanying the Queen, but I refused to open my door to actually see. “I see,” The Queen responded, sounding a little unsure of herself. “Well I will see you both at breakfast in the morning.” I stood at the door and listened till I heard the footsteps fade off into the distance. Seth looked like he wanted to speak, but I put a finger to my lips to tell him not yet. There was still someone on the other side trying to listen in, and I could hear it loud and clear. And I didn’t feel comforted by it at all. So, I gestured to the giant chair in the corner, and Seth helped me move it to block the door. “Why did you lie?” He finally whispered, once the door was blocked. “Because if what you say is true, and Jake is keeping her safe somewhere, they will find a way back here. If not, we face that in the morning. And we go from there.” I whispered back. “Your plan is to just wait till morning?” Seth looked at me in disbelief. “Yep.” I responded, moving to Annabeth’s side again. “You really think that’s the answer?” “It’s the best I’ve got,” I answered simply, pulling down the covers to Annabeth’s bed, and Seth started a fire in the fireplace. “We could go look, what if they went back to the safe house and are there waiting for us?” “They aren’t.” I told him. “How do you know that?” He asked. “I can hear her thoughts,” I told him as I now climbed into bed. “What?” “She’s with Jake and they are fine, and that is all I hear. Where they are, I have no idea, but her plan is to come back. And until she does, I’m going to sleep because I am exhausted. And training starts tomorrow.” “It does?” He inquired. “Yes. Early. So we can start figuring everything out.” “You mean, so you can figure things out?” He clarified. “Because I already know what’s going on. And I’ve been training my whole life.” “Do you know everything?” He looked at me with a frown. “No, of course not,” He replied. “And do you have a plan on how to help Annabeth and the Royal family in general against my family?” “No…” “Well then, I do mean both of us,” I replied simply. “Now, you can go sleep in my room in my bed or in the lounge chair over there,” I gestured to a chair I hadn’t put in front of Annabeth’s door. Why I didn’t lock up her door as well as my own, I didn’t know, but I felt comfortable with there not being anything blocking the door. Seth grabbed a blanket off the bed and made his way over to the chair. But to my surprise, he didn’t feel as comfortable as I did, and moved the chair in front of the door and locked the door. “Just in case,” He mumbled, and I smiled slightly. But I was already drifting off to dream land. A place I really did not want to be.

  • Missed You in Silence

    The way I missed you wasn't a big show or anything. I didn't yell or scream or make a scene. I didn't key your car or throw eggs at your house. I didn't call you drunk begging for your love. It was more like I sat in my room and cried for awhile. It was like drowning in memories, forgetting you can swim. It was dialing your number but not hitting call. It was loving you at a distance. Checking social media to make sure you were okay. I missed you. Of course, I missed you. But no matter what I did, I couldn't make you come back. So, I missed you in silence.

  • From Losing to Winning (at least for a day)

    I recently spent a few days in small town Tennessee. It's a long drive from where I live, and I had mentioned to someone as I had been heading out of state that I was going there, and they asked me, "What does Tennessee have that we don't have?" And the short and only answer is simply, my sister. I honestly would never have any interest in Tennessee if my sister didn't live here at the moment. Not that Tennessee isn't cool or anything because it is a beautiful state, it's just not really my typical cup of tea. However, my sister lives here, and she could live in the middle of a jungle and I would find a way to go see her. So, I made the 8+ hour trip without a second thought. And I should have known how my little trip would have turned out, based on the weather. I have made the long drive many times now, however, every single time, I have always had bad weather. Snow, rain, fog, you name it, I've probably driven in it. However, for the first time ever, my drive had clear skies and was absolutely beautiful. The weather was lovely. The temperature was warm and nice. And virtually, there was nothing ominous about the drive, except my flip-flop broke at the last stop I made of the drive as I walked out of a gas station. However, I have been in Tennessee for 3 days now, and it has not stopped raining since I unloaded my car. It has been gloomy and just bleh. My sister happens to play for her school's soccer team, and I came down pretty specifically for this game. She's had a really rough semester so far for a lot of reasons, and I wanted to be supportive. And to be quite honest, this was not the first soccer game I've sat in the pouring rain through, and most likely, it will not be the last. However, when I came down to Tennessee, I was simply prepared for warmth and sunshine. I did not bring a rain jacket. I did not pack an umbrella or enough socks, and my other pair of shoes broke on the drive here. Not really the start to the trip I wanted. On the other hand though, my sister got to play in that game. We got dinner together and hung out for a while before she had to go back to school. Then me and my dad watched a movie, Die Hard 2 I believe, which was highly unbelievable, however, I needed to know how it ended lol. Then the next day was also not the most predictable or relaxing either. My sister came to the hotel, and informed us that her phone wasn't really working and was getting worse. So, instead of just watching football at Bdub's as was planned, we went on a new phone hunt. Luckily, my dad was also in town, so we had a third person's assistance if needed. So, three hours in the car later, we got back to my next hotel with a new phone. I was able to set it up for her completely within a few hours as we watched football, and the day just sort of just flew by. So far, the absolute best part of the trip so far, has been the Raven's game. Now, we didn't attend it in person or anything like that. Those tickets are hella expensive, especially when your broke lol, and you know location is kinda an issue, since we were in Tennessee. But after a not so great couple days of just bleh, there was this like light at the end of the tunnel. Right before the game started, my sister ran back to her dorm to go get her jersey. We are avid Ravens fans, and also incredibly superstitious. So, as the tradition has been for many years now, I ordered us pizza to be delivered shortly after the game started. My sister came back with her jersey, and to surprise me, she had stopped at dairy queen and gotten us ice cream, which was the sweetest thing ever. We then were cheering on our team, a game that we didn't have high hopes for due to our teams extensive injury list. During the game, our family group chat is going off, talking about good and bad plays, giving virtual high fives, and then some, when my mom sends this picture of our dog. I though the picture was adorable, until my sister zoomed in on the dog's face. My sweet little Jojo, looked ridiculous. This then led to hysterical laughing in our little corner of the hotel, which then led to my sister looking at even more ridiculous photos of our dogs, and they had us cracking up and hardly paying attention to the very important game at hand. Once we started, we couldn't stop. And that good vibe energy carried us through the game, which our team pulled out a W at the last second to make us super stressed but also so excited. Sports are a big deal in my family. lol. And the point of all this was, things haven't been going either of our ways for a while. We needed a win. We needed time to just decompress and let go of everything else. So, exciting for her, she got a new phone. Exciting for me, I got a new laptop this week because my died the day before my trip. The rainy weather isn't ideal. The gloomy vibes had their hold. But for a couple hours of a meh, okay, day, things were fine. Things were good. We decided not to let the things that were happening to us lately, not ruin our day. And in reality, most of that day was inconvenience, sure, but it was also a win. And even if it was just for a few hours, we went from losing to winning. And it's all about the things we do now, that hopefully keep us on the winning path. I hope you also go from losing to winning, and are able to sustain it. I hope that today is a good day, and you have lots of little wins. Till next time, CC

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