I sat in the driver’s seat of the sun-yellow 2022 Jaguar F-Type that Corey had purchased for me. It had been months since I had actually driven myself anywhere. The windows were down, and the wind whipped through my hair. The sun was on the horizon and was blazing through the windshield. It felt good to be in the driver’s seat again. I felt like I was in control of my own fate again. Maybe taking control was something I needed to do more of.
“You okay, boss?” Corey asked from the passenger seat. I glanced over at him and shot him a shimmering smile.
“I just get lost in my thoughts when I drive. Part of the reason I stopped driving,” I confessed. “I was tired of getting stuck in my own mind. And Corey?”
He nodded. “Yes, boss?”
“What did I tell you about calling me boss?” I asked him, slightly annoyed. “Time for you to start calling me Apollo.”
Corey beamed as he glanced at me from behind his wire-rim glasses. He ran a hand through his shaggy black hair and said, “Thank you, Apollo.”
I nodded. “You need to be prepared when we find Astraeus, Corey. If he’s gunning for me, he won’t be afraid to kill you in the process.”
I heard his breath hitch and glanced at his wide-eyed facial expression from the corner of my eye. I chuckled slightly. “I’ll do everything I can to protect you. Just be ready to run and leave me behind if need be.”
Corey shook his head as I pulled off into a rest stop with a tiny diner attached to it. “I can’t do that. I can’t leave you alone to die!” Corey said as he turned in his seat to face me. “I’m willing to sacrifice myself for you, Apollo.”
I shifted the car into park and let it idle for a minute. My hands remained on the steering wheel as I processed Corey’s words. What this mortal was proposing was noble and restored my faith that humanity wasn’t totally screwed.
“Corey, I’m immortal. It will take a lot to kill me, and if it can kill me, it will definitely kill you. Stop being a fool and just do as I asked, please,” I begged him. I opened the door of the car and looked back at him. “I mean it. Either you do as I say, or you stay at this truck stop.”
I turned back around and saw a group of three burly men that stood nearly a foot taller than their two female counterparts clad in denim overalls. The group was looking in our direction and whispering.
I turned back to look at Corey. “To be frank, you won’t last very long out here.” I chuckled softly and got out of the car. Corey followed my lead and piled out of the passenger. I shot a glance over at the group, who continued to eye us as we walked into the roadside diner.
A bell dinged above us when we opened the door, and a waitress straight out of the fifties appeared from around the corner. “How are y’all?” she asked as she shook the black curls out of her face.
I flashed her one of my signature smiles and said, “Tired and hungry. I’m hoping you can solve at least one of those problems.” I winked at her.
Her pale face lit up a bright Christmas red. She bit her lip and looked down, smoothing the sides of her red and white checkered dress. “Just two of you?” She finally mustered the courage to ask.
Corey looked from the girl to the ground a few times before looking back up at me. I laughed and said, “Yes, ma’am, just my friend and me.”
Corey cleared his throat and stood up straight. He smiled a crooked smile as he adjusted his glasses on the bridge of his nose. He was so adorable when he got flustered.
We followed the curly-headed waitress to a booth in the far corner of the diner. After she got our drink order and left the table, I looked at Corey. “How far are we from Astraeus?”
Corey pulled out a tablet and laid it on the table. He turned it towards me and pulled up a map showing our current location. He pinched his fingers together and spread them apart on the screen to zoom out. He pointed at a red pin on the map. “This is our target. His last known location.”
I bit my lip as I examined the map. I traced my finger across the map from our location to the red pin. When my finger touched the red pin, I felt a chill go down my spine. I shuddered and looked back up at Corey. “So we’re about an hour or so out?”
“Give or take, yes,” Corey replied as he stared down at the tablet. He chanced a look back up at me and continued. “So, what is the plan when we find him?”
“I just want to ask the old Titan a few questions about why in Tartarus he would be trying to kill me.” I laughed half out of amusement, half out of fear that the Titan would be expecting me, and this was all a trap.
“You don’t think Amphitrite could be setting you up, do you?” Corey asked as if he was reading my mind. He raised an eyebrow.
I shook my head. “No way she would betray me.”
Corey nodded in understanding. The waitress returned to our table with drinks, and we both went quiet. She looked between both of us and raised both eyebrows. Her eyes glanced at the tablet and back to us. “Oh! You’re going to that fortune teller Astraeus? He’s really good.”
Corey quickly turned the tablet off and slid it back into its case. “We’re traveling the country,” I said to her. “Visiting all of the most obscure landmarks.”
She laughed. “Sounds like a blast. Now, what would y’all like to eat?”