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This is the last chapter of the story!
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Chapter 19 - The Reunion
She was up at dawn. Awake, alive. She felt better than she had in years. She was almost free now. In a few hours she would be. As though that childish promise had held her all this time. It had held her for so long, and only because she had let it. Its only power had been the power she had given it.
She didn't even bother with breakfast. She only drank two cups of coffee, and got into the rented car. She could be there in two hours, by ten o'clock. Back at the hotel at noon. She could catch a plane back to San Francisco and be home by the next day. She might even be able to look for Thalia while she's here in the Philippines.
She found herself thinking about her friend as she drove along. No more thoughts for Percy. After today, she could face the world with peace in her heart. Maybe after today things would change too. Or was it that … she didn't even let herself finish the question. Of course, she loved him. That wasn't the point.
She drove through Palawan, to the countryside, barely noticing anything she passed. The landscape was still gray and dark; the new leaves had not yet emerged. It was as though the countryside too had lain buried for two years. It was nine thirty when she arrived at the beach, and she felt a little jolt in her heart when she recognized the place. She followed an old road which wandered along the coast, and then she came to a stop, and got out of the car. She was stiff, but not tired. She was exhilarated, and nervous. She had to do this… had to… she could already see the tree from where she stood. She stood staring at it for a long time, as though it held all the secrets, knew her story too well, as though it had waited for her return. She walked slowly toward it, as though going to meet an old friend. But it was no longer a friend. Like everything and everyone she had once loved, it was a stranger. It was just another marker on Annabeth Chase's grave.
She stopped when she reached it, and then walked the last steps across the sand to the rock. It was still there. It hadn't moved. Nothing had. Only she and Percy had moved, in opposite directions and to different worlds. She stood there for a very long time, as though trying to summon the strength and the courage to do it. And at last she bent down and began to push. The rock moved after few moments, and quickly, with a stick, she dug under it for what she sought. But there was nothing there. She blinked an eye, dropped the rock, breathless, and then with fresh strength, she pushed it again, until this time she could see that they were gone. Someone had already taken the beads! There was a sad note in her heart as she let the rock slip back into place. It was then that she heard his voice.
"You cannot have them. They belong to someone else. To someone I loved. To someone I never forgot." She looked up to see Percy, with tears in his eyes. He had waited half the night for her to come. It had taken a chartered jet to get him there before she arrived. But he would have flown on his own wings if he had to. He held out a hand now, and she saw the beads, still caked with the sand from under the rock. It glowed in his hand their small crystals sparkling in the sunlight. She slowly touched the beads feeling its core as she looked at them, tears filling her eyes too. "I promised never to say good-bye Annabeth. I never did." His eyes never left hers as he stood there.
She just stood there staring at the beads when finally with lump on her throat she said "You never tried to find me."
"They told me you were dead."
"I promised never to see you again if … if they gave me a new face. I promised because I knew you'd find me. And then… you… didn't."
"I would have, Annabeth if I'd known. Do you still remember your promise to me?"
She closed her eyes and spoke solemnly, like a child, and for the first time in a long time, it was the voice of Annabeth Chase, the voice he had loved, not the smooth new one she had learned. "I promise not to forget you and not to forget everything that is here, what it stands for and to never say goodbye. Till death do us part."
"Did you forget?" The tears were sliding slowly from his eyes now. He was thinking of the two years that had passed. The agony. The pain.
But she shook her head. "No. But I tried very hard to."
"Are you willing to remember now? Annabeth, will you—" But then he couldn't speak. He only walked toward her and took her very tightly into his arms. "Oh god, Annabeth, I love you. I always have. I thought I would die when you did … when I thought you had. I died the moment they told me."
But she was crying too hard to speak, remembering the endless days and months and years of waiting for him, and then giving up hope. She held tightly to him, like a child to a doll, as though she would never let go. And at last she caught her breath and smiled. "I love you, too Percy. I always thought you'd find me."
"Annabeth … Sophia … whatever the heck your name is—" They both laughed like children through their tears. "Do you know that I fell in love with Sophia too? And imagine I fell in love with the same woman twice? You will never leave me again Miss Annabeth Chase." He hugged her like he never did, the years of waiting not enough to fill in the moment. They stood there as waves splashed through their feet, the cold sea breeze sending shivers through their skin. "You will marry me Annabeth. I will never let you go again. " He was thinking of living a life with her forever. Sally Jackson will be very happy for him. She had always said she longed for the day when Percy will get married and have kids and train them to be the third generation heir to the Jackson empire. Yes, she would love that. He had Annabeth back now. That was all he cared about. He smiled down at her in his arms, thinking of their wedding. But she was shaking her head, and he thought his heart would stop.
"Do we really have to wait that long? Do all that stuff about music and people and—"
"Are you suggesting—" He didn't even dare say it, but she nodded in his arms.
"Yes. Why not? Maybe now we could start planning. By the way, where is Thalia?"
"She's working at Jackson Group. With Nico. Do you know that Nico almost ended up with the wrong girl marrying her just to spite Thalia?"
"Oh..he did that? "
"You never knew with those two."
Their wedding was set in three months time. It had been the talk of the town. But before that date arrived, news of Paul's death came in between the planning and festivities. Sally had made sure he was given due respect in his last day of demise. The whole business district mourned for one of the most respected banker in the country.
"He may not be perfect. He may not be an ideal father. But he had always in mind the welfare of Percy and the business as top of his priority. Just as he promised Jim Jackson, he had trained and loved him like his own son and a loving husband to Sally. Now that he joined God in heavens…"
Annabeth was listening intently to the priest as they gave last homage to the man who made a great impact on her life. Yes, she had forgiven Paul Blofis for all his sins. She had forgiven him that day when she glanced back at the hotel room and saw him crying repenting for all the mistakes he had made and feeling sorry that he made her life lonely and miserable. Back there in the hospital room when she laid there regretting she agreed to all his plans. But that was past. It was all over now.
Inside the memorial, they had their last ceremonial rites. One by one each present threw a small white flower on the ground beside the casket as a symbol of peace and as the last flower was thrown by Sally Jackson, a bunch of white balloons flew in the air. It carried with it a picture of Paul Blofis as they flew in the air and everybody watched as the small white bunch departed from the earth…
Annabeth and Percy were the last to leave the grounds of the memorial. Sally went ahead for a much needed rest. And as they were about to leave, an unknown stranger wearing a trench coat and a hat pulled low above his head walked towards them. And as he came nearer, Percy was surprised to see an image of him, an elder version. The same built, the same sea green eyes, the same colour of hair.
"My name is Poseidon. I am your father."
Percy and Annabeth looked at him in disbelief. Poseidon, his father is alive?
With Paul not around, Sally found it hard to concentrate as she lay in bed in her hotel room thinking of Percy and Annabeth. It had been a tiring day and now everything was back in its stillness. Soon, after their wedding, Percy will now sit in the board as the new chairman of the Jackson Group. He is now ready. She had seen to that. All those years of hard work had made Percy one of the best in his generation. And she could have her vacation at last. She shuddered at the thought of retirement. Maybe, she will just play with the kids. The children of Percy and Annabeth. The Jackson kids. She smiled at the thought when her phone rang. It was Percy.
"Mom, did I wake you up? You've got a party of visitors here at the hotel lobby. A woman named Maize and her husband Benny Joe Thomas. They need to see you. And a surprise guest."
"Maize? With Benny Joe Thomas? Wow! What a surprise! I'll be there in a minute."
She made herself up and went down the ground floor. She walked through the fine marbled floor of the lobby and from the distance she could make out the figure of her old friend. Maize looked so stunning in spite of four big kids. And Benny Joe Thomas still fit and athletic as ever. After the days of mourning, she's now all smiles meeting her long lost friends.
And then, a man approached her from behind. When she recognized him, she was shocked. A ghost of Poseidon! But he didn't seem to be a ghost. He looked so real.
"Sally," was all he said.
He just took her in his arms as she stared at him in shock. "Poseidon?... Is that you?... How…you're alive?"
"Yes. I was stranded in an island and the waves took me there. My memory was lost and it was just lately that I was back in shape. Benny here with Maize took me in and help me regained all the missing pieces of my memory. And I heard that you married Paul Blofis."
"Yes. After all these years Poseidon you're alive. I can't believe it! You have made me the happiest woman here on earth."
"And I'm the luckiest man ever."
It made me sad to know I don't need to update anymore. This story had lived inside my heart everyday that I will miss thinking, brooding, getting out all those emotions as if watching the movie in front of me. I'm a Percabeth, Thalico. Thank you for all the nice reviews and criticisms. They constructively made me a better person, more persevering and more mature. Through this story I have made a lot of new friends. I may not be able to PM all of you but rest assured you will always be remembered for sharing this story with me. Thank you very much!