This is Part 6 to a series I write with B.W. (also known as Blair Witch!)Find them in my followers/following lists to read their stories!
“Pumpkin spice?” Harmony asked. She sat across from Arren at a small table in the corner of a coffee shop.
His fingers fumbled with his warm cup. “Yeah. Um, what did you get?”
“S’mores hot chocolate.” She lifted her steaming mug to her lips and sipped. Arren did the same, though the pumpkin wasn’t as good as he remembered. Maybe they changed the recipe. Or he was just nervous.
Harmony discreetly took his hand. A blush reddened on her cheeks. Her smile was infectious, and Arren found himself relaxing a little.
“Did you used to come here a lot?” she asked, nodding at the restaurant.
“It was my favorite place. I used to come here with my mom when I was little.” He inhaled the airy aroma of coffee beans and cinnamon. “I missed it.”
She nodded. She fingered her shoulders, where her wings were hidden under a puffy blue jacket. “Normal seems so dull until it goes away, huh?”
“At least we get this time now. We’ll never be normal again, but we can pretend, at least.” He squeezed her hand and looked into her kaleidoscope eyes.
Harmony shook her head. “Arren, you don’t get it, do you?” Her voice cracked, and a fat tear rolled down her cheek.
“We could have had this.” Her chair screeched as she pushed it back. “But we can’t.” Her eyes glittered with sadness. “We’ll never have this again.”
“What are you talking about?” The floor began to tremble under his feet. “Harmony!”
But she was gone. Arren stood up, wobbly, trying to hold onto something to keep him balanced. But the world was shaking and furniture was sliding, and Arren was alone. “Harmony!” he screamed. “Where are you?”
Then he opened his eyes.
What was that? A nightmare? A premonition?
A black-haired boy looked down at him. His face was set in a grimace. He wore robes like an ancient Greek, and his skin… it was scarily pale.
“Yep.” He grasped Arren’s arm and helped him sit up. Arren glanced around and saw they were in the middle of a forest.
“The camp forest, yeah.”
“That isn’t what I meant.”
Zio ran his hand through his dark hair.
“What happened to the blue streaks in your hair?”
“Color doesn’t last long here.” He rubbed at his nearly stark-white chin.
“Is this the Underworld?”
Zio sighed. “Yeah. What happened?”
“I don’t really remember. It’s a blur, actually.”
“Are you okay?”
“I think so. It’s weird. It doesn’t seem real.”
“And Lia? Is she okay? What about Harmony?”
Arren thought about Harmony and Lia, Aella and Meg and Blake. Were they really going to be all right?
“They’re strong. They’ve got it.”
“If you say so,” said Zio. He helped Arren stand up and hugged him. “I missed you, man.”
“Come on, I’ll introduce you to Hades and Persephone. They’re actually pretty nice.”
Meg sniffled. He hated crying, but what else do you do when you’re alone in a barn and everyone hates you?
He’d only wanted to help his dad. Hercules could be very persuasive, and really, were the gods doing that great a job anyway? Just look at the Earth! Meg only wanted to make it better and help his dad… take over the world. He groaned and hit himself on the forehead with the heel of his hand. What had he been thinking?
The barn door creaked open. Setting sunlight peeked through the opening, silhouetting a figure in the doorway.
“Who’s there?” he croaked.
Meg’s heart stopped. He wiped his eyes and sniffled. “Oh… hi, Harmony.”
She walked toward him, the floorboards creaking under her feet. The horses swished their tails as she passed the stables. A rip on one of her wings had been stitched with ugly black thread, and she was still wearing her armor.
“What are you going to do?” Harmony asked, climbing up the ladder to the hayloft where Meg was. She sat down beside him. Her eyes, normally a rainbow of color, looked almost gray in the dim light. She didn’t look upset, which worried him. She looked… numb.
“What would I do?” he said. “I messed up. If I try to fix things, no one would trust me.”
“You have to try anyway,” she said flatly. “Otherwise, the campers will keep you trapped in here forever. They’re all pretty upset.”
“Is Blake okay?”
“Nobody’s okay, especially Blake. He’s confused about what you did and worried about Aella. But he’s not wounded at least.” Harmony bit her lip, as if debating whether or not to tell him something else. “Lia had a meltdown.”
“She’s dealt with a lot. She’s never had a normal life, then she made it here, where it was supposed to be safe. Then I died. Then Zio took my place in the Underworld. And now Arren is gone.”
Meg didn’t know who Zio was, but thought it better not to ask.
“Anyway. The rest of the parents left. They all went to Mount Olympus to discuss the attack with the Council themselves. Atalanta is furious about Aella.”
“Harmony. If I could do it again-” Meg’s voice hitched. His eyes burned. “I just, he promised not to kill anyone, and-”
“Shut up, please.” Harmony looked away from him. When she spoke, her voice was soft, gentle. “I don’t hate you for what you’ve done, Meg.”
“Really?” He wiped at his eyes.
“Yeah. I don’t think I have it in me to hate someone.”
Hope. “I don’t expect you to forgive me.”
“But you want me to, don’t you? I can tell.”
“Anything.” Meg was surprised at his own eagerness, but knew it was the truth. He’d never forgive himself, but if Harmony could, maybe…
“A quest. You, me, Blake and Lia.”
“A- a quest? Where are we going?”
“To rescue Aella.”
“Really? You’d do that? Wait, but, how do we know where to go?”
“I was hoping you’d know.”
Meg was silent as he thought. Then, “He still wants me to join him, so he won’t make it too difficult for me to find him. He’s probably still in his cave.”
“But if he’s not hiding, then he must be prepared for an attack.”
“So we won’t attack. Not at first. We can do this, Harmony.”
“I know.” She stood and climbed down the ladder, her boots clicking on the wood. “I’ll see you tomorrow. We’re leaving in the morning.”
“Harmony?” Meg called after her.
She paused just outside the exit.
“I’m really sorry.”
Harmony pulled the door shut behind her, the slam echoing throughout the barn.