Annabeth leaned against the wall of the van, the smell of animals clogging the air. She put her head against the metal interior, sighing heavily; Grover and Percy talked quietly in the corner, something about ... a tree? Annabeth felt her throat close up at the thought. Thalia. They're talking about Thalia ... they don't have the right to talk about her, Annabeth thought angrily, closing her eyes so they wouldn't know she was awake. It wasn't any of Percy's business, what happened to Thalia. The girl who had saved Annabeth from the streets; from her stepmom and the spiders.
Annabeth shuddered. The car rolled along at a good pace - they would be in Vegas by morning, Annabeth knew. As the car drove on, Grover and Percy began speaking less. And, soon, Annabeth could hear the snores of Grover from the other end of the car. But what about Percy? Annabeth opened her eyes, sitting forwards and shifting on the ground. She caught sight of Percy looking over at her, his eyes holding a strange emotion. "You're still awake?"
"Never stopped being so, Seaweed Brain," she mocked. Percy frowned. Annabeth sighed, bringing her legs up to her chest. "I'm sorry. This whole thing is just stressing me out," she admitted. Percy nodded in agreement, turning so he face her. He was still next to Grover, with at least seven feet of space between them. "I never thought I would get to be on a quest - and if I never was, I supposed it would be something stupid. But to be taking back Zeus' bolt ... stopping a war between the gods ... and making my mom proud ... it's a lot to take in."
"I get it."
"No, you don't."
"You don't get it," Annabeth snapped, sniffing. When had she begun to cry?
Percy got to his feet, hesitantly making his way over to her. Annabeth tried pulling herself together, wiping her cheeks on her shoulder. Percy paused in front of her. She looked at him from beneath her curly blonde hair. Percy wisely pretended he couldn't see the tears in her eyes. He sat in front of her, crossing his legs underneath him. "Annabeth?" She quirked an eyebrow, motioning for him to continue. "...What don't I get?" he asked quietly.
"You know the only gift my mom ever gave me?" Annabeth asked, sitting up straighter. "A hat. That makes you invisible. You put it on and no one can see you. Seemed appropriate," she said, her voice small. Percy's gaze softened as he moved next to her, leaning his back against the wall. There was a corner - she was on one wall, he was one the other, staring at her. Wanting her to continue the story. That's never happened before. "I've always been a smart girl," Annabeth continued, looking at the floor. "I've always made the grade or always got the gold star in class. That's why a lot of the kids didn't like me. I was the teacher's pet."
"They just weren't good enough," Percy interrupted. "Or smart enough."
Annabeth smiled at the gesture. "The term 'smart girl' only gets a girl so far," Annabeth revealed. "I won every single game by using strategy; that got me bullied, because I wasn't girly enough, not like the other girls. I thought ... I thought my wits would get me a quest, but they told me 'tough luck, kid' or 'no.' But here's the thing, Seaweed Brain - if you don't go you'll never know if you'll ever be good enough." Percy frowned, nudging her foot with his own. Annabeth choked up for a moment before she swallowed, her head bowing.
"That's my grand plan, Percy. I want to be remembered." She looked up at him, eyes shining in the darkness. "Just you wait and see. I'll rise up and on any challenge just for someone will notice me." She paused, looking over at Grover, who was still asleep. "I've always been a tough girl - tough and smart. They're a good mix. Bullied and braved through it. I've never run from a fight, not once in my life. Most girls never win if they're polite, so I learned to stand my ground when I was young. My stepmom ... she wasn't a bully. She wasn't a monster. She's worse."
"...What did she do?"
"I'm not ready to tell you that," Annabeth muttered. Percy backed off, nodding in understanding. "Percy ... who was this quest given to?"
"...Me?" Percy questioned, looking confused. "Is this a trick question?"
Annabeth chuckled softly. "No. Percy, this isn't my quest. But maybe ... just maybe it's mine to win ... I will be remembered, Seaweed Brain. I'll stand up and take on any challenge because one day the world will notice me. I'm sure of it." She took a shaky breath. "Even if my step-mom treats me like some freak, or my dad won't give me the time of day, or when my mom denies my wish for a quest ... and the best thing I can do is run away..."
"I didn't have a plan back then. I was young. Scared. My dad didn't care about me and my stepmom treated me like some sort of crazy person. But now I have a plan, and I will be remembered. I will be great."
Percy smiled. "You're already great, Wise Girl."
Annabeth smiled back. "Someday soon, I swear - I don't know when or how - but I promise you, I'll never be invisible again. Someone will notice me," Annabeth promised, looking up at the ceiling. You hear that, mom? I don't care what you have to say - I'm not going to be invisible. And maybe I won't make you proud. But I make myself proud ... and I'm okay with that. "We should get some sleep."
Percy nodded, getting to his feet. He went to the other side of the truck again. Annabeth looked up when he paused in the middle, turning around with a determined look on his face. "For the record, I don't think you're the smart girl or the tough girl." Annabeth opened her mouth to protest, but Percy quickly continued. "You're Annabeth Chase. You don't need a label."
Annabeth smiled, watching Percy disappear in the darkness as she closed her eyes.
I guess someone has noticed me.