“Pass the popcorn, loser.”
ZoŽ glared at Thalia. “I do not appreciate thee calling me a ‘loser,’ daughter of Zeus.”
“It was a joke. Lighten up. I don’t think you’re a loser.” Thalia settled herself more comfortably into her beanbag. “Can you please pass the popcorn, ZoŽ?”
“Yes, of course.” ZoŽ handed Thalia the enormous bowl. “See how much you can get when you are polite?”
“I thought you guys would get along better, since you’re both Hunters now and all,” Hazel said, adjusting her pajama top, which was dark gray and decorated with pictures of various jewels. “Let me know if I’m pulling too much,” she added to Reyna, whose hair she was braiding.
“You’re fine,” Reyna said around a spoonful of mint chocolate chip ice cream.
“We can still poke fun at each other,” Thalia said, tugging her oversized Green Day t-shirt down over her flannel shorts. “That’s what sisters do, right, ZoŽ?”
“Of course,” ZoŽ said, as though it were obvious. She wore a flowing, silvery tank top and matching drawstring pants.
“Not all Hunters are like this,” Bianca, whose pajamas matched ZoŽ’s, muttered to Rachel. “I promise.”
Rachel stifled a giggle behind her hand and finished painting small moons and Hades symbols on Bianca’s nails. “Just give those a little while to dry,” she told her. “I’m going to get some candy.”
“Bring extra!” Bianca called after her.
Rachel gave her a “yes, of course” wave as she disappeared into the kitchen.
“Am I late, guys?” Calypso peeked into the living room, taking in the riot of pillows and blankets strewn over the floor.
“Nah. C’mon in.” Thalia gestured around. “Make yourself comfortable.”
Calypso sat on a pile of cushions, smoothing her white cotton nightgown underneath her. She promptly sank several inches into the pile. “Help!”
Reyna sat forward and pulled Calypso free. “There you go.”
“Thanks. I like your pajamas.”
Reyna brushed her hands down her pj’s—royal purple with pegasii flying around them—with some pride. “Thank you.”
“Don’t start without me!” Rachel returned from the kitchen, holding a bowl of Skittles. “Oh, hi,” she said, spotting Calypso. “I don’t believe we’ve met.”
“I’m Calypso,” she said, shaking Rachel’s hand. “I’m not surprised we haven’t met. I don’t get off my island much.”
“You could say that again,” ZoŽ said. “She is my half-sister and I had not met her before this evening.”
“Hm,” Rachel said. She frowned down at her pajamas. “Rats, I think I got nail polish on my pants.”
“How can you tell?” Reyna asked dryly, making Rachel grin—like much of her other clothing, her flannel pants and tank top were splattered with paint and marker stains.
“Is this everyone who’s coming?” Hazel asked.
“I think so,” Thalia said. “Did we forget to invite Annabeth? Or Piper?”
“Why would we invite them? They’ve got perfect boyfriends. They don’t think boys suck,” Reyna said, a little grumpily.
“Easy, Reyna,” Bianca said gently. “There’s no need to be jealous of them.”
“We should be happy they made it out of the dating game in one piece,” Rachel said. “I mean, who else do we know who did that?”
Hazel buried her face in her hands. “I’m doomed.”
ZoŽ put a hand on her shoulder. “It will be all right,” she said. “If things do not turn out well for thee, you can always join the Hunt. Lady Artemis is always looking for new recruits.”
“Annabeth would have been here if we did this before she started dating Percy,” Thalia said decisively. “She would have been up in here complaining about how his head was full of kelp and he had so much going for him but it was like he had no idea what was going on around him.”
“Piper would’ve been here too, I bet,” Hazel said. “She told me about her and Jason before they started going out. She was just as confused as some of us about how he felt.”
Reyna looked a little embarrassed at this. “I guess some of that was my fault, huh?”
“No, it was Jason’s fault,” Thalia assured her. “Trust me.”
“Speaking of, what is this prophecy I hear about?” ZoŽ asked. “Is the end of the world coming again?”
“Probably,” Hazel said. “We’re trying to stop it.”
“That’s the best we can ask for,” Calypso said.
A solemn silence settled briefly over the girls as they pondered this. Then ZoŽ said, “I am sure you will all do just fine.”
“Is everyone settled? Can I call this thing to order now?” Thalia asked, breaking the suddenly-serious pall that had momentarily fallen over the girls.
“I think so,” Bianca said, looking around.
“Good. Welcome to the first official meeting of the ‘Boys Suck’ club,” Thalia said, her mouth full of popcorn. “May we last as long as our bitterness and general apathy towards the males of the species.”
“Hear, hear,” Reyna said, raising her spoon.
“Can we not call it the ‘Boys Suck’ club?” Hazel asked. “That just sounds so…negative. Not all boys suck, after all.”
“I agree,” Calypso said. “Let’s pick another name.”
The girls considered for a moment, the only noise being the sounds of thoughtful chewing.
“How about the Single Ladies club?” Rachel suggested.
Bianca gasped. “That’s brilliant!”
Thalia solemnly raised her glass. “Half-bloods, mortals, and goddesses, I officially induct us into the Single Ladies club. Sisterhood is everything. Tell fellow females about us if you wish, but no male shall ever get wind of our endeavors here. Do you swear to abide by these rules?”
As one, the other girls said, “We do.”
“Cheers, then,” Thalia said, taking a drink.
The others laughed and followed suit with popcorn, candy, ice cream, and whatever else they had nearby.
Reyna paused after swallowing. “Hazel, I hope you didn’t mention anything about this to Octavian.”
Hazel’s eyes went wide. “Do you think he’ll try to crash the party?”
“He does like pajama parties.”
“I would like to see him try,” ZoŽ said darkly.
“ZoŽ, I don’t think it would be good if you killed Octavian,” Reyna said.
“Much as I sometimes wish someone would,” Hazel muttered.
“Hey, let’s not talk about them,” Thalia said. “We’re here to hang out, have a good time, and eat.”
“And pass the Bechdel Test,” Rachel added with a grin.
“Exactly. So let’s just put boys out of our minds for a while and enjoy being single girls with nary a care in the world.”
“If you don’t count saving that world as a care, then sure,” Hazel said.
“Easy there, Bling Girl,” Reyna said. “No need to be a wet blanket.”
Bianca looked up, confused. “‘Bling Girl?’” she repeated.
“It’s, ah, a long story,” Hazel said. “So you’re a daughter of Pluto, too?”
“Hades,” Bianca said. “But yeah. And my brother told me you’re from another time, like we are?”
“Oh, yes,” Hazel said, and the two settled in and began swapping stories about their lives before and after getting pulled out of time for a while.
“Can I play with your hair, Calypso?” Rachel asked. “It’s so pretty.”
Calypso blushed. “Certainly,” she said.
Rachel grinned, pulled out a blue plastic hairbrush, and began running it through Calypso’s long, caramel-colored hair.
“Everyone quiet,” Reyna ordered. “We’re putting in a movie.”
Bianca turned off the lights. Whispers of “Where’s the popcorn?” and “You’re sitting on my foot” flickered through the room for a few minutes until everyone settled down, curled up together on cushions or under blankets, a new sisterhood forged by bachelorettehood and bonded by beanbags.
Late that night, after the other girls had dropped off to sleep, Thalia and ZoŽ sat on the balcony to talk. “I should do this more often. I had more fun than I’ve had in ages.”
“Yes,” ZoŽ said. “Though I still do not know where you found thy apartment.”
Thalia shifted in her seat. “Let’s just say we’ll probably hold the next meeting somewhere else.”
ZoŽ just shook her head, smiling slightly.
“Single Ladies Club…” Thalia mused. “Yes, I can definitely see this being a recurring thing. We girls have to stick together, after all.”
“Now that, I will drink to,” ZoŽ said. She and Thalia grinned at each other and then looked up at the sky, where the stars glittered brightly. The apartment was quiet, everyone asleep and dreaming, able to forget about the troubles they faced for a night. That, after all, had been the intent.
Across town, Leo poked Nico in the side to wake him up. “You have any idea what the girls are up to?”
Luke grumbled and threw a pair of jeans in their general direction. “Shut up and go to sleep, Valdez.”
“I mean, Percy and Annabeth are double-dating with Jason and Piper, right? So what are the other girls doing?”
“Hazel said something about a pajama party at Thalia’s,” Frank said.
Luke groaned and buried his head under his pillow.
Octavian sat up in his sleeping bag. “A pajama party?” he said, sounding interested. “At Thalia’s?”
“They’ll kill you if you crash it, plushie boy,” Nico said.
“Are your ears burning or something, Valdez?” Ethan asked sleepily. “Why do you care?”
Leo shrugged. “Just wondering. I’ve never known what girls got up to at sleepovers.”
“They’re probably doing makeovers and talking about boys,” Luke growled. “Now everyone zip it or you might wake up naked in the middle of Central Park.”
Everyone immediately quieted. After a few minutes, though, Nico whispered in the dark, “I really don’t think the girls are the type for makeovers and boy talk. Call me crazy.”