We came into a big room where the whole front wall was windows. The back wall was covered in mirrors, so the room seemed to go on forever. There was a bunch of expensive-looking white furniture, and on a table in one corner was a large wire pet cage. The cage seemed out of place, but I didn’t think about it too much, because just then I saw the lady who’d been singing … and whoa.
She sat at a loom the size of a big screen TV, her hands weaving coloured thread back and forth with amazing skill. The tapestry shimmered like it was three-dimensional – a waterfall scene so real I could see the water moving and clouds drifting across a fabric sky.
Annabeth caught her breath. ‘It’s beautiful.’
The woman turned. She was even prettier than her fabric. Her long dark hair was braided with threads of gold. She had piercing green eyes and she wore a silky black dress with shapes that seemed to move in the fabric: animal shadows, black upon black, like deer running through a forest at night.
‘You appreciate weaving, my dear?’ the woman asked.
‘Oh, yes, ma’am!’ Annabeth said. ‘My mother is –’
She stopped herself. You couldn’t just go around announcing that your mom was Athena, the goddess who invented the loom. Most people would lock you in a rubber room.
Our hostess just smiled. ‘You have good taste, my dear. I’m so glad you’ve come. My name is C.C.’
The animals in the corner cage started squealing. They must’ve been guinea pigs, from the sound of them.
We introduced ourselves to C.C. She looked me over with a twinge of disapproval, as if I’d failed some kind of test. Immediately, I felt bad. For some reason, I really wanted to please this lady.
‘Oh dear,’ she sighed. ‘You do need my help.’
‘Ma’am?’ I asked.
C.C. called to the lady in the business suit. ‘Hylla, take Annabeth on a tour, will you? Show her what we have available. The clothing will need to change. And the hair, my goodness. We will do a full image consultation after I’ve spoken with this young gentleman.’
‘But…’ Annabeth’s voice sounded hurt. ‘What’s wrong with my hair?’
C.C. smiled benevolently. ‘My dear, you are lovely. Really! But you’re not showing off yourself or your talents at all. So much wasted potential!’
‘Well, surely you’re not happy the way you are! My goodness, there’s not a single person who is. But don’t worry. We can improve anyone here at the spa. Hylla will show you what I mean. You, my dear, need to unlock your true self!’
Annabeth’s eyes glowed with longing. I’d never seen her so much at a loss for words. ‘But … what about Percy?’
‘Oh, definitely,’ C.C. said, giving me a sad look. ‘Percy requires my personal attention. He needs much more work than you.’
Normally if somebody had told me that, I would’ve got angry, but when C.C. said it, I felt sad. I’d disappointed her. I had to figure out how to do better.
The guinea pigs squealed like they were hungry.
‘Well…’ Annabeth said. ‘I suppose…’
‘Right this way, dear,’ Hylla said. And Annabeth allowed herself to be led away into the waterfall-laced gardens of the spa.
C.C. took my arm and guided me towards the mirrored wall. ‘You see, Percy … to unlock your potential, you’ll need serious help. The first step is admitting that you’re not happy the way you are.’
I fidgeted in front of the mirror. I hated thinking about my appearance – like the first zit that had cropped up on my nose at the beginning of the school year, or the fact that my two front teeth weren’t perfectly even, or that my hair never stayed down straight.
C.C.’s voice brought all of these things to mind, as if she were passing me under a microscope. And my clothes were not cool. I knew that.
Who cares? part of me thought. But standing in front of C.C.’s mirror, it was hard to see anything good in myself.
‘There, there,’ C.C. consoled. ‘How about we try … this.’
She snapped her fingers and a sky-blue curtain rolled down over the mirror. It shimmered like the fabric on her loom.
‘What do you see?’ C.C. asked.
I looked at the blue cloth, not sure what she meant. ‘I don’t –’
Then it changed colours. I saw myself – a reflection, but not a reflection. Shimmering there on the cloth was a cooler version of Percy Jackson – with just the right clothes, a confident smile on my face. My teeth were straight. No zits. A perfect tan. More athletic. Maybe a couple of centimetres taller. It was me, without the faults.