: The Girl with the Fishtail Braid :
Percabeth, AU, AH
June 10, 4:00 pm
If he hadn't tripped and fell on his face, he probably never would have noticed her. On summer afternoons like these, he always ran through the park at a consistent speed, never slowing down to admire the view or observe intriguing people. He always ran, looking straight forward, and never letting his eyes wander from the trail.
So at the sight of a dog racing across his path, his focus was broken, and he unceremoniously tripped over his feet, landing on the gravel concrete in front of him. It was hot outside, and he was sweaty, and now little pebbles stuck to the exposed skin of his legs, chest, and arms. (The owner of the dog raced by bench where he had fallen without a word of apology.)
Cringing, he used the palms of his hands to push himself up off the ground. By doing this, he came face-to-face with a slender knee, belonging to the occupant of the bench. While maintaining this half-upright, half-on-the-ground position, his eyes trailed up the person's body, landing on the soft face of a girl.
She was curled up on the bench, her legs bent to the side of her, and a book tucked into her lap. He glanced down at the colossal novel she was reading: Everything You Need to Know about Architecture. His nose crinkled with disinterest, and his gaze rested upon the girl's face again.
From her face alone, he gauged that she was about his age, and her blonde hair was styled neatly back into some kind of intricately woven braid. Her cheeks were tan, her mouth narrow and solemn, and her eyes were a startling gray, as they scanned the page of the book, unwavering.
It almost seemed as if she hadn't noticed him face-plant onto the ground – there was no way he could have told. Her focus remained on the book, never breaking contact from the white sheets, and the only movement she made was the precise hand gesture as she flipped to the next page.
A dog barked somewhere to the left of him, and suddenly, he realized that he was stupidly in some kind of awkward position. Suddenly, he was aware of all the odd glances he was getting from people strolling through the park. (However, the girl's attention did not stray from her book, and he remained presumably invisible to her.)
He jerked upwards, wincing as he dusted grime from his chafed skin. Once he was on his feet again, he took off and resumed his daily run. But rather than keeping a blank mind, his thoughts revolved around the girl in the braid, who wouldn't look at him.
(And he didn't know why.)
June 11, 3:30 pm
It was a fishtail braid. That was the name of the braid the girl was wearing.
Ever since he first saw her, he couldn't take his mind off of her. He was engrossed with her – she was all he thought about for the past twenty four hours. And he couldn't figure out the reason behind his strange fascination.
He didn't know her name! She didn't even know he existed! Her concentration had been focused solely on her book, and it seemed as if she was completely sucked into another fictional universe (despite her "novel" being more of a textbook).
As he prepared for his daily run, he wondered if the girl with the fishtail-braid was going to be there, or if he would be able to catch her attention.
June 12, 4:00 pm
While putting on his athletic wear for his run, he had selected bright colors, hoping that they'd be eye-catching enough to capture the girl's attention. He ran through Central Park, searching for the bench where she always sat, and grinning, he spotted her.
He was wearing a bright neon yellow tank-top that clashed horridly with his bright neon green running shorts. Heads turned as he ran, and he received many disapproving stares from strangers. These looks didn't faze him, for if his clothes had gotten all the other's attention, surely the girl would notice him too!
He slowed his pace as he ran by the bench, even stopping for a moment to "tie his shoelace." (Both of them were already securely tied.) Today she was reading Crime and Punishment, but her gaze was as intent as ever, and her braid was present as it had been all the other times.
After lingering for longer than what would be considered normal, he sighed and trudged on. She still hadn't glanced up at him – for even a mere second – and he wondered why he wanted to capture the girl with the fishtail-braid's attention in the first place!
He quickened his pace as he ran back to his apartment.
(This was because he had dressed like a fool – and a fool he had been!)
June 13, 3:45 pm
It was raining today, and he didn't feel like going for a run.
For some reason, he had this feeling that the girl would be in the haven of a bookstore or coffee shop, curled up on a couch, a new novel in her lap. For some reason, he longed to capture her attention even more. For some, completely outrageous reason, he… missed her? It was a strange feeling, really, and he wondered why he was feeling like this. (He still didn't know her, and she still didn't know he existed.)
And for a single second, he wondered if the girl with the fishtail-braid maybe… missed him? He quickly squelched the thought, killing it before it had a chance to bloom.
(For there was no way that it was true.)
June 14, 4:00 pm
He resorted back to his normal running attire, a pair of shorts, sans t-shirt, and he ran by the bench where the girl was sitting. Her hand was playing with the hairs that were loosened from her fishtail; this was new. She was always so stoic, so oblivious to the outside world. Never had she seemed anxious, and never had she played with her hair.
This movement sparked a sense of hope within him, and he held his breath as he slowed his pace. She stopped twirling her stray bangs around her finger. And she still didn't look at him.
(His hopes were squashed because of this.)
June 15, 4:00 pm
He knew better than to get his hopes up this time, although there was that small small small part of him that wished he could get to know her. And even almost a week later, he still wasn't entirely sure why he did, but the urge to do so had not faltered; in fact, it had strengthened.
So he jogged by the bench where she sat, and had been sitting, and he only slowed his pace a little bit this time. He couldn't help it when his eyes strayed towards her bench; the girl with the fishtail-braid had a new book and a bag today. He couldn't help it when he nearly stopped to stare at the bag; the front was almost strategically facing the sidewalk, and on the bag was an eloquently embroidered name.
He couldn't help it when he turned around to jog backwards, and decipher what the bag said. And he couldn't help the grin on his face as he turned back around.
(It had said her name.)
(Her name was Annabeth.)
June 16, 5:00 pm
Due to the fact he had visited his mom and his step-dad for lunch, he had gotten a late start in his running schedule. He had started nearly an hour later than usual, and as he ran in the general direction of the bench, he wondered how long "Annabeth" usually stayed.
By the time the bench was in view, his grinned dropped, he shook his head to himself, and kept on running without pausing or slowing down. He really had to stop getting his hopes up, only to so often get knocked down.
(She wasn't there.)
June 17, 4:00 pm
After a week of running past Annabeth's bench, she surely must have noticed him!
And on the seventh day of "knowing" her, he was able to assume that she knew he existed. She had probably gotten tired of his almost-stalkerish runs, and did the easiest thing to do to get rid of him.
(Annabeth wasn't there.)
June 18, 4:00 pm
In attempt to get Annabeth off his mind – now that he knew she was probably ignoring him – he changed the path he usually ran.
(Annabeth probably wasn't there.)
(He definitely wasn't there.)
June 19, 5:00 pm
He exited his apartment later today, deciding that he'd keep the same trail, but just leave later. She wasn't at the bench past five – as he had observed three days prior – and so he would be able to stay consistent with his path, as well as not encounter her.
As he ran past the empty bench, he wanted to grin, but at the same time, he felt… hollow? He had never talked Annabeth, he didn't know what kind of personality she had, what she was like… and yet, he missed her. He missed running by her, missed trying to capture her attention, missed knowing, without a doubt, that she was there.
Now, she wasn't; he had scared her away without even directly interacting with her once.
(And he didn't know what to think about that.)
June 20, 5:15 pm
This time, he had left even later than usual, getting held up back at home by an unexpected phone call from his cousin. But as usual, he continued with his run, jogging through Central Park and running past the empty bench.
By knowing that Annabeth wasn't going to be there, he was able to restore his focus and concentration as he ran. (When he had first noticed Annabeth, it had abruptly left him.)
He headed back towards his apartment, running past an outdoor café. There was a girl, with her long, blonde hair down, reading a book quietly. His eyebrows furrowed, and he suddenly stopped, crashing into a waiter, who dropped the metal tray they were carrying.
It was Annabeth. (Her hair wasn't in a fishtail-braid.)
He couldn't help but pause to stare at her – at the way her loose, flowing hair framed her heart-shaped face, or the way she held the coffee mug to her lips…
His cheeks flushed, but he grinned, smiling the rest of the way home.
(Annabeth had glanced up at him.)
June 21, 4:00 pm
He had decided to fall back into his normal running schedule after the previous day. For some reason, he felt like Annabeth would be there today, sitting on her usual bench, as if nothing had ever happened. Well, if something had happened in the first place – he wasn't completely sure.
And so as he rounded the corner and approached the bench, he wasn't all that surprised that Annabeth was sitting there, book in lap, bag on bench, braid in hair. As he had done a multitude of times before, he slowed his pace as he passed, this time, making a pointed cough.
Her head turned to look up at him for the smallest second, before she reverted her attention back to her book. Turning around to run backwards, he chuckled to himself as he saw the small smile on her face. He called out a single word, faced the right direction again, and ran back towards his apartment. He could feel the heavy weight of her stare on his back, and he wondered if she was mouthing the word.
(He had told her his name, Percy.)
June 24, 4:00 pm
After two weeks, Percy's fascination with Annabeth had yet to dim. In fact, rather than fading away, it only grew as everyday passed, until one day – today – he decided he would press pause on his daily run to engage in an actual conversation with her.
He came to a stop at the bench, awkwardly standing at the side. She hadn't looked up at him yet, but inside, Percy knew she would eventually. He settled for watching her profile view and dry-heaving in attempt to regain his breathing equilibrium.
When three minutes passed by, and she had yet to say something, Percy decided to take initiative and speak first. Glancing quickly at the cover of the book she was engrossed in, he opened his mouth to talk. "So you're reading Animal Farm?"
She looked up at him with calculating gray eyes, which soon changed to a look of recognition, and the corners of her lips quirked upwards. "Mhmm," Annabeth murmured, adjusted herself so she could face him. "Have you read it?"
Percy wanted to keep the conversation going, so he lied. "Yeah, a while back."
It looked like she was trying to fight a smile back, or perhaps even a laugh. She stared at him – or his maybe his naked chest, he thought self-consciously – and gestured for him to sit down beside her. Percy gratefully accepted, stretching out his sore muscles. She held up the book, her fingers pinching the thick bundle of pages she had read already. "So what did you think of it?"
He shifted uncomfortably, unknowingly causing his muscles to flex. "It was pretty good, if I remember correctly." Percy shot her a smile, in attempt to relieve his uneasiness. "What do you think so far?" he asked, redirecting the question at her.
Annabeth raised her eyebrows, shutting the book. "Well, I'm only in the beginning parts, and I don't really understand it…" Her voice trailed off, leaving him space to fill.
"Oh, yeah, it was kind of a complex read, especially with all the talking animals and stuff," he mumbled incoherently, not even realizing that words were coming out of his mouth until they had all tumbled out.
She looked like she was about to laugh at him, and Percy decided that was better than disgust or indifference. "Hmm, I guess I'll just have to read on, huh?"
He nodded, almost desperately trying to find a subtle place to change the topic. "You come here a lot?" Percy instantly reprimanded himself at his stupidity – the answer was glaringly obvious.
Either way, she pursed her lips in a smile and nodded, playing along with him. "Quite a bit, actually. You run here often?"
Percy grinned at her, running a hand loosely through his near-dry hair. "Yeah, I'd say it's pretty often."
When he finally decided it was an appropriate time to leave – not that he wanted to leave, that is – he couldn't help but give her a wink, full of promises of next time. Percy all but sprinted the way back to his apartment, fighting the urge to look back. Once in his apartment, the first thing he did was google the plot overview of Animal Farm.
(It wasn't just about talking animals.)
August 10, 4:00 pm
It had been nearly two months since he had first met Annabeth… and honestly, Percy was able to say it was the best two months he had ever experienced.
Over the course of two months, he had discovered more than enough about Annabeth, all the way down to the nitty-gritty sentimental stuff, and all the way up to her little quirks that made him love her even more. And in return, she learned more and more about him as time passed.
Somewhere along the way, Percy had realized that his fascination with Annabeth wasn't just because he thought she was interesting, or even that she didn't notice him at first. It was more that… he thought of her romantically? Perhaps from the very start he had thought of the girl with the fishtail-braid as a potential life-partner. (He was a big romantic at heart.)
It had also been quite stressful the past couple of weeks. Ever since he had discovered and reflected upon his feelings for Annabeth, he couldn't help but question if she, by some odd chance, felt the same way? And at times, he felt like such a girl for thinking so.
He was sitting beside her on the bench, suddenly realizing he had accidentally zoned out while she was poking teasing jabs at what he was wearing. Percy could only focus on the way her lips moved, or the free strands of hair that framed the front of her face. Her hair was still in the fishtail….
"... I suppose it's not half-as-bad as the one time you wore that neon-yellow shirt and neon-green shorts… Percy, are you even listening to me?" Annabeth grinned at him, her gray eyes vibrant.
Percy blinked, processing what she just had said. "Wait, you saw that?!"
She rolled her eyes at him, lightly fingering the hairband that held her braid in place. "Of course I did! You were like a huge blinking sign! Oh gods, it hurt to look –"
Her words were instantly muffled by his sudden, unplanned, absolutely spontaneous movement. He hadn't even meant to do it… but he did, and it just felt so right, and his heart felt so alive as he comprehended her words.
(The girl with the fishtail braid had noticed him way before he had thought, and in this moment of realization, he had kissed her.)
(And by god, she was kissing him back.)