Chapter no 24 – I Brush My Teeth

The Chalice of the Gods

After an uneventful weekend, Annabeth broke into my room at 4:30 A.M.

Monday morning, which sounds a lot more exciting than it actually was.

I’d been having this weird nightmare about the gods. The Olympians were all sitting around my family’s dining table announcing that they were pregnant. Hera was pregnant. Aphrodite was pregnant. Hephaestus was pregnant. Apollo was pretty sure he was having twins. After every announcement, Zeus would raise his Himbo Juice to-go cup and yell, “A toast!” Then all the gods would throw burnt toast at me like we were at a midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

I woke to the sound of Annabeth’s knife blade sweeping across the lock of my bedroom window. She could have just knocked, but I guess she liked the challenge. She slid the bottom pane up and climbed in from the fire escape.

“But soft,” I said, “what light through yonder window breaks?”

She flashed me a smile. “I’m impressed you can quote Shakespeare.”

“I can quote SparkNotes.” I rubbed my eyes. I still had the smell of burnt toast in my nose. I was really glad I’d woken up before Dream Poseidon could show me his baby bump.

Then I looked down and started to feel self-conscious about the ratty T-shirt I was wearing. I wondered if I had saliva crusted on my chin. As Annabeth had often told me, I drool when I sleep.

“Uh, what’s the occasion?” I asked.

Annabeth was wearing cargo pants, a tank top, her backpack, and a pair of running shoes, which made me suspect this wasn’t just a social call.

“I couldn’t sleep,” she said. “Figured we might as well get a head start.” She slung her backpack from her shoulder and produced Iris’s vial of glowing golden liquid.

“That stuff freaks me out,” I said. “It looks like radioactive honey.” “No, it’s not radioactive, honey.”

“I see what you did there.”

She shook the jar, which made it glow brighter. “I wanted to find out more about how concentrated nectar works, so I talked to Juniper.”

I sat up. “You went to camp this weekend?”

“Just sent an Iris-message.” Annabeth sat on the edge of my bed. “Turns out the Dryadic Coven keeps concentrated nectar in their root cellar for special emergencies.”

“The Dryadic Coven? That’s a thing?”

I imagined a bunch of ladies in billowy green-and-brown dresses dancing around a tree hung with healing crystals, like a Stevie Nicks cosplay convention.

Annabeth put a finger to her lips. “You didn’t hear about it from me. Apparently, concentrated nectar can heal a nature spirit on the verge of death, but it’s risky. One time, this badly burnt oak dryad got revived as a chunk of granite.”

I rubbed my eyes. I wondered if I was still asleep, because it seemed like Annabeth was sitting on my bed talking about trees and rocks. “Okay.”

“Also, the word nectar means overcoming death. Did you know that?” “I’m going back to sleep.”

“Wait, this is the important part. Juniper said this stuff is so fragrant that one whiff can put a demigod into a coma.”

That got my attention. “Why didn’t Iris mention that?”

“She probably didn’t even consider it,” Annabeth said. “But since we don’t have time to go comatose this morning . . .” She dug around in her backpack and brought out a packet of tissues and a jar of menthol rub. “We plug our noses before we uncork this stuff.”

“Smart,” I said, though I was thinking how great we’d look walking around Greenwich Village with Kleenex tusks sticking out of our nostrils.

“Yeah,” Annabeth agreed. “Crisis averted. Anyway, I owe Juniper a favor now.”

She looked like she was thinking about how to repay her . . . and whether dryads liked cupcakes.

“How’s she doing?” I asked.

Annabeth patted my knee. “You must have given Grover good advice. He apologized to her, spent some quality time with her planting seedlings in the forest. Sounds like they are back on good terms.”

“Hey, when it comes to advice on being the perfect boyfriend—”

She laughed, then glanced at the wall self-consciously. “Too loud? I don’t want to wake Sally and Paul.”

“It’s fine,” I assured her.

The walls in the apartment were surprisingly thick. And if my mom heard Annabeth in my room, the worst consequence would be that she’d offer my girlfriend a cup of tea.

It’s weird what happens when your parents just accept you and support you and assume you will do the right thing. You end up wanting to do the right thing. At least that’s been my experience, and this is me we’re talking about. My mom has more reason to worry than most parents. After years of boarding schools, summers at camp, and months fighting monsters on the road, I still wasn’t used to being at home full-time, but I had to admit that living with my mom and Paul was a pretty sweet gig.

“Second thoughts?” Annabeth asked me.

I realized she’d been reading my expression. “About what?” “Leaving New York, with the baby coming and all.”

“No. . . . I mean, no. I was just thinking how nice it’s been to live at home for a while. And they looked so happy at dinner. I wonder what it’ll be like for my mom to have a regular kid.”

“I don’t think Sally could ever have a regular kid,” Annabeth said. “Because she’s not regular. Neither is Paul.”

“True. The baby’s probably going to be born like Batman—no superpowers but still a complete beast with six PhDs.”

“Now I’m picturing the kid in a onesie with pointy ears.” “Grover would be pleased.”

She snorted. “All I’m saying . . . it’s okay if you’re feeling conflicted about leaving—”

I leaned over and kissed her. “No conflict. No second thoughts. I told you. I’m not leaving you ever again.”

“Okay.” She wrinkled her nose. “Although it’s fine if you want to leave for a few minutes to brush your teeth. Your breath is a little . . .”

“Hey, you woke me up.”

“Which reminds me.” She held up her vial of concentrated nectar. “We ought to get going soon.”

“It’s earlier than early—”

“I know,” she said. “But thirty minutes for you to get ready, because you’re slow.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Forty-five minutes to make it to Washington Square Park. Then to do our job and get you back in time for school—”

“Ugh with the math.”

Annabeth has this magic power where she can look into the future and figure out how long it will take to do certain things. She calls her power “scheduling,” which directly overrules my magic power of procrastination.

I went to the bathroom to get ready. Thirty minutes, right. Sure. Quick shower. Grab my clothes. Brush my teeth. Put on my shoes.

It took me thirty-one minutes. Stupid magical scheduling power.

At five fifteen, we slipped out of the apartment and headed to the train, toward what might be my last chance to find Ganymede’s chalice . . . or maybe we wouldn’t find Gary, and it would turn out to be just another Monday at school. I honestly wasn’t sure which scared me more.

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