I am tiny and everything is warm and fuzzy, a cottony wooly haze. I see Mama and she is beautiful like the sun I haven't even discovered yet. She defines everything I can conceive of.
I see another person. This person is not Mama, but I heard this voice when I was floating in the warm dark sea before. He holds me and I touch his face. He has shiny black things where Mama has an eye and her other thing, and his face is rough instead of smooth. He feels funny, I laugh, my tiny round hand knocks the black things from his face. He has two eyes while Mama has one eye and one not-eye. Mama's eyes are white with brown in the middle and black at the centers. His eyes are black with hot red at the center. I stare, not understanding but not afraid. Now he laughs, Mama laughs, we all laugh.
I am small, three years old, and I know so much more now. My mom is the coolest lady in the world, even if every other child's mom is bigger than her. She is strong and kind and warm and she wears an eyepatch. Sometimes I see her with it off and there is just an empty hole. Sometimes she hides things in it and takes them out, and it's like magic to other kids. But I smile because I know where she hides the little rubber ball that seems to appear from nowhere.
Other kids have a dad, but I have never seen mine. Mom has no pictures of him, and when I ask she tells me he was a very strong man and I might see him again someday.
I hope so.
I am six and things have changed. I feel shy so often around other kids, but I have some friends. Some kids are mean to me and I don't understand why. Erica tells me it is because they feel bad, so they put others down to feel better.
Erica is my mom's best friend. Mom is short and red-haired and loud and full of energy, and Erica is tall and blonde and quiet and calm. She's always with Mom, but that doesn't bother me because I like her a lot. Mom seems happier with her here, and I smile when I see her napping with her head on Erica's chest or pretending to be mad at Erica being so much taller. Sometimes Mom is busy and can't help me with things, but Erica comes and helps me with my homework or plays with me or picks me up from school.
Once or twice I think I've seen them kiss, but I don't think much of it, not yet. I'm okay and I'm happy.
I am nine and things are getting really confusing. Sometimes I look at other girls and feel strange, nervous, full of butterflies. There's a thirteen-year-old girl down the street with wavy brown hair the color of autumn chestnuts and I feel funny when I look at her. I ask my friend Tammi if she understands and she tells me she sometimes feels that way about boys, but not girls.
I come home and ask Mom and Erica about it and they tell me that there are girls who like boys, girls who like girls, girls who like both, girls who like neither. Mom likes both, Erica likes girls. Now things make more sense, and I ask them if they like each other. They blush and look at each other and then nod, and I smile and hug them.
I'm still shy, and I still get bullied. I just feel so powerless and small, and the girl who bullies me most is pretty. It's confusing and upsetting and I wish she were nice or not as pretty.
I am eleven and things have happened so much. I've been in a couple small fights and I have a few little scars, though I never start the fighting. Mom and Erica say I should try not to, but Mom looks worried and sighs and says I get it from my dad (he sent me a birthday card once).
I have fallen in love a few times. My friend Janie was first (I kissed her and she said no thanks, so we rode our bikes instead), then the brown-haired girl down the street (I was too shy to say anything), then a pretty older girl at the library (who I asked to be my girlfriend and she said I was nice but not old enough to date a girl twenty-five years old).
The biggest thing is that I have two moms now! Erica and Mom got married six months ago and it was one of the happiest days ever! Erica was in a pretty cream-colored dress and Mom was in a tux (Erica could never hope to fit into a tux with her chest, Mom says) and everything was so amazing. There was cake and dancing and I was the ringbearer. A bridesmaid told me I looked pretty and kissed the top of my head, and my whole face felt hot.
Mom and Erica spent a week alone in Iceland for their honeymoon. I stayed with Tammi that week, which was like a sleepover over and over, and when Mom and Erica came back they had so many pictures to show me. Iceland is pretty green and beautiful for a place called, um, Iceland.
I am twelve and things are a little scary now. I am just arriving at a place called Camp Half-Blood.
Mom says the reason I never really knew Dad is because he wasn't a normal man, he was a god. A Greek god, Ares---and because of that I have to go to this camp to be safe.
I've gotten more scars by now, and I feel scared and self-concsious here... but things make sense now, I guess, in a way. I always loved Greek mythology, and here it is being real!
An older boy, a satyr, leads me up to the Big House. A centaur, Mr. Chiron, talks to me and explains what's going on, where this is, what I'm going to do. They can tell that I'm Ares's child---Mr. D mutters something about not fitting the mold, but Chiron interrupts to tell me that whenever I need help and guidance, he and the other campers are always here for me. He feels more like a father than my actual father does---or maybe like an uncle or grandfather, wise and calm. He says Felandria will be showing me around, and in walks in the prettiest girl I have ever seen.
Felandria is so tall and beautiful, seventeen years old and a daughter of Zeus; my knees feel weak and my hands sweat and I stumble over my words. She puts an arm around my shoulder and calls me 'hon' and shows me everywhere in Camp, the rock wall and the arena and the forge, the lake and the pavilion and the forest. I try to remember, to take the information in, but I'm busy falling and tripping and tumbling in love with this girl. Finally she shows me to the Ares cabin and I go inside this rough-looking, hard-edged place that smells like old pennies and dry blood.
I ask if this bunk on the girls' side is taken, shyly and quietly and stammering a little, and they laugh at me. My half-brothers and sisters laugh, ask me if I'm really an Ares kid. I stare at my feet and don't say anything, but a tan boy in nothing but shorts sits down right next to me and puts his arm around my shoulders. I jump a little, but he smiles and tells me his name is Rick, calls me 'sis', says not to listen to them. I lean against my big brother and he ruffles my hair, pinches my skinny arm, tells me we have to work on those muscles. "Guys respect a fit, lithe girl," he tells me, "besides the obvious combat necessity of being in shape."
"But... but I-I like girls."
He shrugs, standing and helping me up. "Girls might like fit girls more than guys do, I'unno."
I laugh, I feel so much safer with Rick, my big brother, even in this cabin of callouses and scraped knuckles.
I am fourteen and things have changed and stayed the same.
When I was twelve, a fight happened and I was in the middle of it. I got cut and hurt all over, and I have so many more scars now because of it. I feel like I got involved to prove to Dad that I'm not a bad daughter, and he gave me a gift for it.
I woke up in the infirmary with a big sheathed sword on my bed and a note. It said this was mine now, mine to prove myself with if I really had the stuff. It won't come unsheathed, but that's okay---I've learned to use it like a polearm, sort of, hit with the hilt, hold the scabbard.
I'm still so shy around my siblings and people I don't know, especially pretty girls. I have another brother that I feel safe with, though, a year younger than me (but he's really tall!) called Kanji. He and Rick are the only Ares kids that really feel like family to me, and I love them like I've known them all my life... but...
Sometimes I get so jealous of Rick. He's so strong and fast and cool and experienced and I feel so inadequate next to him. I tamp down the bubbling envy and it builds up and goes sour and I feel so sick of him. Kanji is so cool too, but for some reason I don't get the same flashes of resentment and jealousy---I guess it's because I can see hints of a side he doesn't want to show anyone. I know he's sensitive inside too, perhaps that's why.
I keep falling for girls and it's honestly getting really tiresome---the few I work up the guts to admit it to always aren't interested. I still feel nervous around Felandria, but I don't think I'll ever be able to tell her.
My mothers are happy to know I'm safe at camp and they tell me how much they love me all the time. I try to hide the bad parts from them as much as I can so they can stay happier.
I am fifteen and things are getting a little better.
Kanji and Rick and some others have been helping me train, and it shows---most girls don't get the same muscular bulk that guys do, but I can tell I'm a lot more fit now! I'm still thin and bony and I have the womanly curves of a dowel rod, but at least I'm a thin and bony girl that doesn't get tired as fast.
I'm a pretty good fighter with Laudanum, even if most of my siblings say I'm lame. I can hold my own now!
I'm still single as all hell and not good with the ladies, but I kissed one of the Demeter girls once---that's something, I think. A weird-pretty girl named Neiz hit on me for a few days, but Rick told her off---he told me she's not really interested in people she flirts with, she just wants to get something from them.
I still get jealous of Rick, though I know it's not like he's intentionally trying to show me up---things are just this way, it seems.
I am Caroline Joy Andrews, daughter of Ares.