The Head of Medusa – Michelle Madow

What was it like growing up in Georgia? You lived on a farm—a peach tree farm. Right?” Blake sat across from me at dinner, watching me as I dipped a piece of bread into the fondue pot of cheese. I spun the bread around so the cheese was evenly dispersed, unable to keep myself from chuckling as I thought about the answer to his question. “What?” He leaned forward, clearly concerned. “It was a peach tree farm, right?” “It was.” I nodded. “But that’s not why I was laughing.” “Hm.” He dipped a carrot into the cheese and popped it into his mouth, chewing thoughtfully. Once finished, he said, “Since you’re obviously not volunteering the information, then I guess I’ll ask —what’s so funny?” “This.” I motioned around the fancy fondue restaurant, where people ate and chatted as if they had no cares in the world. “Us. Trying to pretend like we’re normal.” “I thought that was the point of this first official date?” he asked. “For us to go out like a ‘normal’ couple.

” I smiled when he said it—a couple. After all the craziness these past few months since I’d moved to Kinsley, Massachusetts and discovered that I was a witch descended from the Greek gods, Blake and I were finally an official couple. Up until recently, I didn’t think it would happen. Because when I first met Blake, he had a girlfriend. Danielle. Their relationship was on the rocks, but even so, they were still together. He eventually broke up with her, but by then, me, Blake, Danielle, Kate, and Chris had been gifted with elemental powers by the gods themselves. As Darius—the Elder of our town and the person in charge of teaching young witches how to use our powers—explained to us, we’d been chosen because the gods believed we were the five who could stop the Titans from returning to Earth from the prison world—Kerberos—that they’d been locked in thousands of years ago. The only thing keeping the Titans from Earth was a sealed portal between Earth and Kerberos, but that portal was weakening enough that a few less powerful monsters were able to sneak through. Our job was to destroy those monsters before they harmed anyone in the mortal world.

We also have a larger job—to seal the portal before it opens completely on the summer solstice. We still weren’t sure how we were supposed to do that, but along with training every day, we were researching to find the answers. We had a lot on our plates. So after Blake and Danielle had broken up, I’d considered him offlimits. We had to focus on our mission, and I didn’t want any personal drama between the three of us to mess that up. There was also another reason why I’d been hesitant to let Blake in. Soon after receiving our elementals powers, I’d realized that my power to heal with a touch wasn’t all that I could do. I had the ability to kill with a touch, too. But to kill, I had to call upon black energy, which, according to witch law, is illegal. Witches caught using black energy could have their powers stripped.

Or worse —they could be killed. Terrified of the consequences, I didn’t tell anyone about the darker side of my ability. Not even Blake. And since it would be impossible to get close to him without telling him the truth about my power, I’d kept my distance, making sure we were never alone together. But last month, we realized that the monsters we thought we’d killed weren’t really dead—they were just being sent back to Kerberos, where they could escape again. We learned that we needed to gather three magical items to create a potion for our weapons that would put the monsters in limbo for a year so they couldn’t come back. The three items could only be found on the hidden, magical islands in Greece, so the five of us journeyed there to retrieve them. Blake and I grew closer during that journey. After a talk I had with Danielle where she told me that she wouldn’t let any personal drama between us distract her from our mission, Blake and I finally decided to be together. And now, two weeks after returning home, Blake and I were on our first official date as boyfriend and girlfriend.

I’d been anxious about the date for the past few days. I’d never been on a real date before. The adult kind of date, where he made a reservation at one of the nicest restaurants in town for a Saturday night, picked me up, and we sat down to talk and learn more about each other. It always looked so romantic in the movies—and when Blake asked me out earlier that week, I jumped to say yes. The date was supposed to be perfect. But so far, it was going terribly. In an attempt to be “normal,” we’d agreed to avoid mentioning magic… but because magic had brought us together, we were straining for things to talk about. It was awkward. And “awkward” was not how I wanted our first date to be. “I was laughing because my life in Georgia doesn’t feel like it was mine anymore,” I finally said.

“I’ve changed so much since moving here. Now that I know what I am, I feel like I have a real purpose in my life. I’d never had that before. So it seems silly to pretend like we’re a ‘normal’ couple, when we’re so much more than that.” He rested his elbows on the table and leaned forward, his gaze locked on mine. His warm, burnt brown eyes were becoming so familiar that I’d memorized the placement of each fleck of gold within them. “Does that mean you’re ready to stop forcing all this small talk?” he asked. “Because I definitely am.” “Yes,” I said, not needing to think twice about it. “I hate pretending that everything that makes us us—the magic, our abilities, and the adventures—doesn’t exist.

Pretending makes me feel like there’s a wall between us. Besides, why should we try to be normal? Normal is boring.” “Good,” he said, holding his hand above the fondue pot. “Because this cheese is getting cold, and I know just how to fix it.” Seconds later, the cheese simmered, fresh waves of steam drifting up from it toward the ceiling. I dipped another piece of bread into it, pleased to find that it was now the perfect temperature. “How did you do that?” I asked once I’d finished chewing. “I thought these stoves were electric.” None of us could create our element—we could only manipulate it. Chris, Danielle, and I were lucky, since our elements surrounded us at all times.

It was a bit more difficult for Danielle, because if she wasn’t around liquid water she had to pull the water out of the air, but she’d eventually gotten the hang of it. Kate needed to be near the Earth to use her ability—she’d been powerless at sea, so far away from her element—and Blake carried his lighter at all times so he wasn’t at a disadvantage. Thanks to electricity, people rarely relied on actual fire anymore, unless it was for aesthetic purposes. “There’s a spark of fire in electricity,” he said. “To control fire, all I need is a spark.” “But I thought it was too hard to do that with electricity without making it short circuit or explode?” “I’ve been practicing.” He smirked. “Why—are you impressed?” “Very.” I leaned forward, feeling more energized than I had all night. “Especially since you did it without even seeing the burner.

” It was amazing how far we’d come in using our powers. My ability was unique because it was the power over spirit—and spirit wasn’t something that could be seen—but the others each could control a physical element. Blake was fire, Danielle was water, Kate was Earth, and Chris was air. Until recently, we thought they had to see their element to use it. But in Greece, we were in a life or death situation while fighting the hydra, and Kate made tree roots grow into the cave even though the trees weren’t in her line of sight. That moment taught us that with more focus, it was possible to control elements without having to see them. “Does it take up more of your energy to do that?” I asked. “It does.” He nodded. “But warming up our cheese is hardly going to drain my energy completely.

” “So you were just showing off, then?” I teased. “Of course,” he said. “After all, I have a hot date to impress.” His words made me blush, and I reached for the sun pendant on my necklace, running my fingers over the charm. The pendant had been sent to me by Apollo—my father. Yes, that Apollo—the Olympian god. But even though my father was a god, my mom was still a human… which made me a mix of the two. A demigod. I was the only demigod in our group of five. The others were descendants of the gods, like most witches.

Actual demigods were rare. I’d only met two others, Ethan and Rachael, who were twin children of Zeus. We met them in Greece, when we saved them from being trapped forever on the Land of the Lotus Eaters. To thank us for rescuing them, they helped us on the rest of our mission, but Rachael, who had been impulsive and quick to show off, lost her life during the battle with the hydra. She and Blake had been injured at the same time, but Blake’s injury was worse, so I’d rushed to save him first. What I hadn’t known was that the bite of the hydra was poisonous, and that it killed quickly. By the time I went to Rachael to heal her, she was already gone. At that point, there was nothing I could do. My ability to heal didn’t extend to resurrecting the dead. Ethan blamed me at first.

But after sleeping on it, he told me that he understood why I’d saved Blake first. Then he went back home to Australia, and none of us had heard from him since. I wanted to reach out to him—after all, he was the only other demigod I knew—but I was afraid he wouldn’t want to hear from me after his sister’s death. So I kept my distance. But there was so much I wanted to ask him. Because unlike me, he’d met his father. We’d all met his father, when Zeus had dropped by our yacht in Greece to help us on our mission. Sure, Zeus hadn’t raised Ethan and Rachael, but at least he’d bothered to introduce himself. What had I done to make my father want nothing to do with me? Blake watched as I toyed with my necklace, and his expression turned serious. “Have you tried to contact your father again at all?” he asked.

His voice was softer than before, as if he were afraid that bringing it up might upset me. “Yeah.” I pulled my hand away from the necklace, and the pendant fell back onto my chest. “I’ve been trying every night, before I go to bed. Nothing ever happens. I should probably give up, since he’s obviously ignoring me… but I can’t bring myself to do that. Because what if the night I give up is the night he would have replied?” Blake frowned, and he grabbed my hand, stopping me from reaching for the pendant again. “You have to remember that the gods are busy,” he said. “Especially with the portal to Kerberos weakening. When Ethan and Rachael used their pendants to call for Zeus, we needed his help.

Maybe Apollo hasn’t come yet because you’re strong enough that you don’t need him.” “Thanks.” I chuckled, although it felt hollow. “You somehow managed to turn that into a compliment.” “Well, it’s true,” he said. “Maybe.” I shrugged. “But I don’t know. Part of me hopes that Apollo is stuck in an Olympian god prison, and that he wants to see me, but he’s trapped and he can’t. At least that would be a good reason for him staying away.

But he managed to send me this pendant, and the letter that told us how to use the Book of Shadows, so that can’t be it. He really is just ignoring me.” “Or he trusts that you can handle yourself,” Blake said, his gaze unwavering. “You’re strong, and you have a lot of people on your side—me, Kate, Chris, Darius, and even Danielle. You don’t need Apollo. Because you have us.” “I know,” I said. “But I would still like to get to know him. So I refuse to stop trying, even if it does seem hopeless.” “It’s only been a few weeks,” Blake said.

“Gods don’t see time the same way we do. They’re immortal, so a few weeks must feel like nothing to them. He’ll come eventually. He wouldn’t have given you that pendant if he didn’t want you to use it.” “I guess,” I said. “It would just be nice to have one family member who I could talk to about everything.” “You always have me,” he said. “And the others, too.” “I know.” I smiled.

“You all understand more about all of this than I think they ever could.” We finished off the cheese fondue in comfortable silence, savoring each delicious bite. I could tell that Blake was thinking about something important—he had that far-off look in his eyes, as if he was trying to figure out how to put his thoughts into words. But I knew not to pry. He would share his thoughts once he sorted them out in his head. In the meantime, I was happy enjoying the food. My mom didn’t cook, so a meal out was always a treat. “Have you considered telling your family the truth?” Blake asked after the waitress had cleared the table. My heart dropped at his question. I’d hoped he was going to say something else … maybe something about his feelings for me.

Blake wasn’t always the most open with his feelings—we were the same in that way—but we knew that we cared about each other. I’d never cared for anyone as much as I cared for Blake. When I first met him, it was just a crush—I found him attractive, and it was thrilling to know that he felt the same. But when we were in Greece, we saved each other’s lives on countless occasions. Blake’s feelings for me were strong enough to pull him out of the haze of the hypnotic lotus fruit so we could escape the island. The moment he told me how that was what brought him back into focus, I knew I was falling for him, and that there would be no turning back. “Nicole?” he asked. “Is everything okay?” “Yeah.” I smiled at him, trying to push away the disappointment. It was too much to expect him to tell me some revelation about his feelings for me here, in a restaurant, surrounded by strangers.

I probably shouldn’t expect anything at all. After all, what did I know about love? Blake had been my first kiss, and now he was my first boyfriend. Yes, we’d been through much more than what other teens our age had to deal with, and we were more powerful than any witches in recorded history, but that didn’t make me an expert on love. I didn’t even know what love was, at least not in a romantic sense. I was probably getting ahead of myself because this was my first relationship. But I’d also never cared for anyone as much as I cared about Blake. He had quickly become one of the most important people in my world, and I would never risk losing him. Ever. “I’m not going to tell my family,” I finally told him. “Why not?” he asked.

“Because by the summer solstice, we’ll have closed the portal to Kerberos, and we can get back on with our normal lives,” I said, even though we had no way of knowing if would be true. “As it is now, I don’t want to worry them. They wouldn’t even be able to do anything to help me, since they’re all human. It’s safer for them not to know.” “I guess,” he said. “And I know it’s different for me, since my parents are witches, but I’m glad that they know about the five of us and what we’re doing. At least if everything doesn’t go to plan, and I don’t make it back from one of our missions, they’ll know it was for a good cause.” “Don’t say that,” I said, refusing to think about the possibility. “Nothing’s going to happen to any of us. We were given these powers for a reason—because the gods know we’re the ones who can complete this mission.

We’re all going to make it. We have to.” Blake said nothing, and I worried that he wasn’t convinced. “Of course, it helps that we have you on our side,” he finally said, smiling at me. “Our healer. If it hadn’t been for you, I would have died in the hydra’s cave. You saved my life. I don’t think I can ever tell you how much that means to me.” “You don’t have to.” I reached for his hand again, giving it a squeeze.

“Because I already know. I saved you first in that cave, and I would do it again in a second.” “Even if you knew Rachael was going to die?” he asked. “Yes.” I held his gaze, not having to think about my answer. “I would never risk losing you. Ever.” “I wish I could tell you that you should have saved Rachael instead of me,” he said. “It would be the noble thing to say. But I can’t, because if you’d saved her instead of me, we wouldn’t have this chance to be together.

And I wouldn’t give up this chance for anything.” His eyes didn’t leave mine, and I could feel the words on the tip of my tongue. I love you. I wanted to say them out loud. It would be so easy—so natural. But then the waitress came to serve us our main course, and I pulled my hand out of Blake’s, jolted at being brought out of the moment so suddenly. I had to blink a few times to reorient myself. I couldn’t believe how close I’d been to making such a huge confession. If the waitress hadn’t come over right then, would I have said it? Maybe. And I knew, deep in my heart, that I would have meant it.

.

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