She thinks back occasionally, back into her tear-laden memories and lonely afternoons, but it feels as if she were remembering a distant dream once dreamt. The details are hazy, yes, seen as if through a screen of smoke, but they are there.
She will smile now, maybe even laugh, and tell you the story of her life with a glint in her eyes:
(She sang him to sleep countless times.)
She would lie his head in her lap and run a hand through his hair and beard; she would trace the line of his jaw to his cheekbones to the tip of his nose as if tracing stars into constellations.
She taught him the constellations, too, one by one, and he pretended not to notice the way her eyes would occasionally cloud over with yearning, with longing (because, oh, how she wished she could sail along with him having the stars as their only guide!), and she would pretend not to notice how he seemed suddenly weighted down with grief as he remembered her.
Penelope, Penelope--- the name spun in her head and manifested itself in his now slightly tearful eyes.
So she would sing until her throat ached (until he forgot the outer world), would pull him up from his reveries and dance with him under the blazing sun until his laughter pierced the quietness of her island.
She would, she would, she would. What wouldn't she have done for him to stay?
It was not until Hermes came and delivered the gods' message to her that her carefully constructed illusion crumbled. He will be gone, never to come back.
Nevertheless, she helped him get out (away).
Odysseus didn't even look back.
(Tender , pure, delicate-- she thought of the small flower as a manifestation, or a message, perhaps, of her love.)
He was, quite literally, fallen from heaven.
She must admit she had started when she heard the splashing sound of water, running towards the sound, and, foolishly enough, she had dared to hope.
She took care of the fallen hero (how cliché! she will now smile to herself), she showed him her garden and what's more, she showed him piece of herself. Even so, she had been careful.
But one night, she was caught off-guard by one of his comments:
"What does it do?"
She had glanced over at him, her lips twitching upwards in the tiniest of smiles as she saw his contemplative expression, defined only by the moonlaces' silvery glow.
"Do?" she had found the idea amusing. What exactly did a moonlace do? "It doesn't really do anything, I suppose. It lives, it gives light, it provides beauty. Does it have to do anything else?"
"I suppose not."
She had cupped the plant into her hands and delivered it to him, their fingers touching briefly.
He looked at her with such expression in his eyes afterwards that she couldn't help but think if he had thought of herself described somewhere along those lines.
A name. There was always a name that sent her heart plummeting to her feet and commanded tears to her eyes. Countless times she had chided herself for being so foolish--
"The fates are cruel," she had said, countless times also. But only he demanded an explanation. Only he looked at her with such compassion. And so she couldn't help but explain.
She had been careful, yes, but not careful enough.
He went away.
He went away, but seconds before he was completely engulfed by the mist, Percy Jackson turned, a promise half-formed in his lips.
She had pursed her lips and looked away.
(She now thinks of herself as a phoenix: born from the ashes of her former self, vigorous, bold, alive.)
He infuriated her.
Perhaps they had started off with the wrong foot (she doubted that crashing down into her dining table was a good start), but there was something different in him.
She had cursed loudly, raised her voice to the skies and asked the gods if they had no shame-- sending her this charbroiled runt! It must have been a mistake, she thought bitterly.
(She wondered, although barely, faintly, where had her last shred of innocence and hope gone.)
"Just say, 'I want to leave Ogygia'," she had snapped, glancing at the surf and ignoring the look of hurt that flashed through his eyes. He obliged.
But no magical raft appeared, and she grew more flustered by the second.
So she turned and ran, giving no more explanation.
He found her eventually, furiously shoving at the earth, her eyes stinging.
He had asked a lot of questions, but they seemed out of harmless curiosity, not malice. Even so, she had acted harshly, not caring what he thought because why should she?
He brought up that name again, and the memories that came with it: Percy.
(She then realized that that last shred of innocence and hope had sailed along with him.)
She told herself she didn't really care, but even so she sent her servants with plates of stews and goblets of lemonade to the edge of her garden. She even wove him new clothes in her loom.
She visited his makeshift working place every now and then (she just had to follow the sound of hammering). The first time was partly out of grudging curiosity, partly slight worry (he hadn't eaten in two days, for the god's sake. She wasn't sure what would happen if he continued like that, but she didn't want to find out, either.)
"You're scaring the birds!" she shouted over the sound of hammering.
"Oh no, not the birds!" he had grumbled, and she felt an urge to engage into another pot-throwing rage.
Instead she left him a basket of freshly baked bread and grapes with a brief explanation.
The conversation died quickly after that; not that it mattered.
The second time she had gone to visit him it was to return some favors.
She wove him inflammable clothes to fit his crazy hammering and scouting needs and excused herself with harsh words and the remembrance of a favor. He had fixed her fountain, and her curtains, and her gardening tools-- and she couldn't just leave him jogging around her island in smoldering rags. At least that's what she told herself.
"You're really warming up to me," he had said, looking at his new clothes in awe, and she felt herself go beet red.
She returned that one when he tried to excuse himself out of fixing her tools. "'You're really warming up to me'," she had imitated him, and the smallest of smiles threatened to show on their lips.
"I suppose that is your girlfriend?" the words rushed out of her mouth, bitterly rolling off her tongue. She looked at the mirror again, but it only showed her own reflection. "Your Penelope? Your Elizabeth? Your Annabeth?"
He looked at her as if she were raving mad. "What? That's Reyna. She's not my girlfriend! I need to see more! I need-"
But then Gaia showed up, all offers and prizes, and she remembered. Annoying as he was, he was needed somewhere. His friends needed him: he should get going.
She shouldn't be "warming up" to him.
"You could sing and I could, like, randomly burst into flames."
She had laughed, a clear, happy sound that pierced the afternoon's immaculate quiet.
How long had it been since she last laughed?
But just as the moment came, it was gone.
To get back.
The words resonated in her head, echoing loudly, making it impossible to think of anything else.
"What do you mean get back?" her tone bordered on hysterical, her heart beating wildly against her chest.
So she told him the truth. "You can't come back."
His smile dropped. "Because I'm not welcome?"
"Because you can't." Another hollow explanation, rehearsed time and time again.
An involuntary flicker of hope ran through her.
It is only routine, she thought sadly, not meeting his eyes but instead looking wistfully at the sand.
He continued talking about the future. About their future shop, about provisions--
A sudden realization:
She loved him.
She almost laughed then, bitterly. The raft had arrived. Perfectly on time, as always.
"Go," she had wheezed.
"The raft finally got here," he said, disbelieving.
She snorted and blinked rapidly, trying to stop the flow of tears. "You just noticed?"
"But if it only shows up for guys you like-"
"Don’t push your luck, Leo Valdez. I still hate you."
"And you are not coming back here," she confronted him, and, for good measure, added: "So don’t give me any empty promises." Her voice almost cracked, her tears nearly spilt from her eyes.
"How about a full promise?" he said. "Because I’m definitely –"
That's when she snapped completely, grabbing his face in her hands and pressing her lips into his.
He tasted like bonfires, and, had it had a taste, happiness and laughter.
(At the end, Leo Valdez kept his promise to Calypso.)