Chapter no 21 – I Offer Relationship Advice

The Chalice of the Gods

No, Seriously. Why Are You Laughing?

Never give a satyr a photo op.

The next afternoon, Grover showed up to my second swim meet wearing

a black beret, sunglasses, and a white smock thing. He looked like he was ready to paint watercolors on the street in Paris or something. He cheered for me as I did my first race (I came in second, because I didn’t need the attention of winning), then chatted with me in the bleachers while we watched my teammates compete.

Every time there was a break in the conversation, Grover opened his portfolio (since when did he carry a portfolio?) and perused the contact sheets from his photo shoot with Blanche.

“Did I show you this one?” he asked.

“I’m pretty sure you showed me all of them.” I tried to be nice about it, but I could only look at so many shots of Grover pretending to be dead, draped over a burnt log.

“See, my hand is slightly higher in this one,” he said. “Blanche thought it made a nice shadow across my forehead.”

“Uh-huh. It’s great.” I clapped for my teammate, who was just starting his second lap. “Yeah! Go, Lee!”

“It’s Lou,” said another teammate on the bench, whose name I thought was Chris but with my luck was probably Craig. Hey, I’d just started at AHS. Most days I couldn’t even remember my own name.

“So anyway,” Grover continued, “I asked Juniper whether she preferred C-twenty-five or maybe A-six for the final print. They both have advantages.”

I didn’t want to ask, but I did. “And which one did Juniper prefer? Or have you told her about it yet?”

Grover scowled. “I did. It was weird. She seemed . . . angry.” Oh, boy, I thought. “Why do you think that was?”

Grover scratched his goatee. I could tell he was thinking about his answer, because he momentarily forgot about his contact sheets.

“I’m not sure,” he admitted. “I told her Blanche liked the prone pose more, but Blanche liked the light in the side pose, so—”

“How many times did you mention Blanche when you were talking to Juniper?” I asked.

Grover stared at me over the tops of his sunglasses, his bloodshot eyes completely lost. “It’s—it’s Blanche’s photography.”

“So a lot of times, then?”

Grover frowned. “You don’t think . . . You think Juniper is jealous?”

I imagined a chorus of Obvious Angels singing the Obvious Hymn above his head, but I tried to keep my expression neutral. “Could be?”

“But . . . Blanche is a demigod. I would never—” He swallowed. “I think I may have said her name a lot.”

The whistle blew for the end of the hundred-meter race. Lee/Lou had won. I clapped and cheered for him along with my teammates, but I decided not to call him by name.

When I turned back to Grover, he was scratching his head like there were ants crawling around under his beret.

“Maybe a dozen times?” he muttered. “Oh, no . . .”

“Did Juniper ask you for a photo for her bloom-day gift?”

“Well, sure, she . . .” Grover hesitated. “Actually, no. I think . . . maybe it was my idea. Oh. How bad have I messed up?”

I squirmed on the bench. I was the absolute last person who should have been giving advice on personal relationships. Well, maybe the absolute last after Zeus, my dad, and the rest of the Olympian gods. Mostly I just followed Annabeth’s lead, and so far that had worked out pretty well. With any relationship that wasn’t Annabeth and me, I didn’t feel qualified to offer an opinion.

But Grover looked at me with pleading eyes.

“Just be honest with her,” I suggested. “Apologize. Tell her you weren’t thinking. You were being stupid.”

“Right,” he said, nodding slowly. “Like you do with Annabeth.”

“Um . . . yeah. Maybe ask Juniper what she’d like for her bloom day.” “But the portrait . . .” He looked wistfully at his contact sheets—dozens

of takes of fake-dead Grover in fake-dead nature. He pulled off his sunglasses and tucked them into his smock. “I guess you’re right. There’s no place for her to hang it in her juniper hedge anyway. It’s just that Blanche worked so hard. ”

I cleared my throat.

“And I’m not going to talk about Blanche anymore,” he corrected himself. “Thanks, Percy.”

He sounded so miserable, I decided maybe a change of subject would be good.

“What about the cloud nymphs?” I prompted. “You said you were going to ask around for more info?”

He perked up. “Right. Right, of course! So I figured I could maybe narrow things down in Greenwich Village, maybe find out where this Gary might hang out. I talked to Phaloa, who talked to Euclymene, and she said she’d noticed some weird energy around Washington Square Park.”

“Weird energy kind of defines Washington Square Park,” I said.

“Yeah, but this . . . I dunno. She couldn’t give me specifics, but she said a lot of nature spirits have been leaving the place in recent weeks. Grass nymphs, flower nymphs, dryads they’ve either gone dormant, deep in the

soil, or taken a vacation.”

I pictured a crowd of nymphs in diaphanous, leafy dresses, lugging their suitcases up the gangplank of a cruise ship, bound for spring break in Cancún.

“Gary is so terrifying he can scare nature spirits away from their own life sources,” I mused. “You know any monster or god with a name that sounds like Gary?”


I shuddered, remembering the three-bodied rancher I’d met during my one and only trip to Texas. “Been there. Killed him. Anyone else?”


“That would be a plot twist. Let’s assume he didn’t steal his own chalice, though. Anyone else?”

Grover shook his head. “Maybe it rhymes with Gary. Larry? Harry?”

Considering that I couldn’t even get my own teammates’ names right, I decided not to play that guessing game.

Down in the pool, the next race had begun. My teammate Lindsey, or maybe it was Linda, was on her first lap for the five-hundred-meter freestyle. “Maybe we should hit the park early in the morning,” I said. “The fewer

people around, the better it will be if we end up in a fight.”

Grover nodded. “I wonder if Gary is some kind of nature spirit—a big angry one, scaring off all the little ones. If so, maybe I can get him to listen to me.”

I remembered how well things had gone with the big angry river god Elisson, but I didn’t mention that. There would be plenty of time for Grover’s hopes to be dashed later.

“How’s tomorrow?” I asked. “We could meet Annabeth at Washington Square Park.”

Grover winced. “I think I’d better get out to camp and spend a long weekend with Juniper. How about Monday?”

I wasn’t good at keeping a schedule. I was pretty sure I had a math quiz first thing Monday, but hey . . . surely I would be done with our monster encounter before school, right? And if the Minerva-feast thing on Olympus wasn’t until the following Sunday, that technically left us plenty of time to find the chalice and return it to Ganymede. . . .

“Okay,” I agreed. “Super-early o’clock on Monday. I’ll let Annabeth know. She’s coming to dinner tonight.”

“Cool,” Grover said, though he looked uneasy. “Do you think . . . ?” He didn’t seem able to finish his thought.

The satyr seemed so worried, I assumed about Juniper, that I wanted to give him a hug, wrap him in a warm fluffy blanket, and drive him to Camp Half-Blood myself. Since I didn’t have time to make the drive, and I also didn’t have a warm fluffy blanket, I racked my brain for helpful advice.

I remembered something Annabeth had told me months before, when I was trying to figure out what I could do to make up for disappearing our entire junior year.

“Look, man,” I told Grover. “Juniper will forgive you. She probably doesn’t want presents at all. She just wants you to be there for her. Listen to how she’s feeling. Be with her.”

From the pool, my coach yelled, “Jackson. You’re up again!” It was time for me to get ready for the high dive.

“I should go,” I told Grover.

“Yeah. Yeah, it’s just . . . I’ve been so stressed about me and Juniper, but honestly, we were fine until I started obsessing about her bloom-day present. What if that’s not what’s really bothering me? What if I’m worried about you and Annabeth leaving me next summer?”

Leaving him.

That hit me like a cold wave of Elisson water. I looked down at the contact sheets from Blanche’s photo shoots—all those images of Grover playing dead in a black-and-white landscape of despair.

“Ah, Grover . . .” I did give him a hug then. I felt a little awkward, since I was only wearing a swimsuit and I was still wet from my last event, but he didn’t seem to care. “We’re never leaving you, buddy. We’ll be back to visit. You’ll come see us in California. You’re like our life source, dude. We can only be away from you for so long before we start to wither, you know?”

Grover managed a faint smile. “Yeah . . . yeah, okay.” My coach yelled for me again.

“Go,” Grover told me. “You sure you’re good?”

“I’m good. I’ll see you Monday morning at Washington Square Park.

You wanna say six thirty?”

I didn’t want to say 6:30 A.M., and I definitely didn’t want to be awake then. The thought of how early I’d have to get up to make it downtown by that time made me want to stick my head in the water and scream. But satyrs are morning people.

“Sounds great,” I told him.

Then I jogged off toward the diving board. I hadn’t practiced my dive at all, but I figured I’d spent so much of my life plummeting downward, I’d be a shoo-in for first place.

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