AS WE TRUDGED up Madison Avenue, my mind swirled with questions: Why hadn’t Zeus given me a winter coat? Why did Percy Jackson live so far uptown? Why did pedestrians keep staring at me?

I wondered if my divine radiance was starting to return. Perhaps the New Yorkers were awed by my obvious power and unearthly good looks.

Meg McCaffrey set me straight.

“You smell,” she said. “You look like you’ve just been mugged.”

“I have just been mugged. Also enslaved by a small child.”

“It’s not slavery.” She chewed off a piece of her thumb cuticle and spit it out. “It’s more like mutual cooperation.”

“Mutual in the sense that you give orders and I am forced to cooperate?”

“Yep.” She stopped in front of a storefront window. “See? You look gross.”

My reflection stared back at me, except it was not my reflection. It couldn’t be. The face was the same as on Lester Papadopoulos’s ID.

I looked about sixteen. My medium-length hair was dark and curly—a style I had rocked in Athenian times, and again in the 1970s. My eyes were blue. My face was pleasing enough in a dorkish way, but it was marred by a swollen eggplant-colored nose, which had dripped a gruesome mustache of blood down my upper lip. Even worse, my cheeks were covered with some sort of rash that looked suspiciously like…My heart climbed into my throat.

“Horrors!” I cried. “Is that—Is that acne?”

Immortal gods do not get acne. It is one of our inalienable rights. Yet I leaned closer to the glass and saw that my skin was indeed a scarred landscape of whiteheads and pustules.

I balled my fists and wailed to the cruel sky, “Zeus, what have I done to deserve this?”

Meg tugged at my sleeve. “You’re going to get yourself arrested.”

“What does it matter? I have been made a teenager, and not even one with perfect skin! I bet I don’t even have…” With a cold sense of dread, I lifted my shirt. My midriff was covered with a floral pattern of bruises from my fall into the Dumpster and my subsequent kicking. But even worse, I had flab.

“Oh, no, no, no.” I staggered around the sidewalk, hoping the flab would not follow me. “Where are my eight-pack abs? I always have eight-pack abs. I never have love handles. Never in four thousand years!”

Meg made another snorting laugh. “Sheesh, crybaby, you’re fine.”

“I’m fat!”

“You’re average. Average people don’t have eight-pack abs. C’mon.”

I wanted to protest that I was not average nor a person, but with growing despair, I realized the term now fit me perfectly.

On the other side of the storefront window, a security guard’s face loomed, scowling at me. I allowed Meg to pull me farther down the street.

She skipped along, occasionally stopping to pick up a coin or swing herself around a streetlamp. The child seemed unfazed by the cold weather, the dangerous journey ahead, and the fact that I was suffering from acne.

“How are you so calm?” I demanded. “You are a demigod, walking with a god, on your way to a camp to meet others of your kind. Doesn’t any of that surprise you?”

“Eh.” She folded one of my twenty-dollar bills into a paper airplane. “I’ve seen a bunch of weird stuff.”

I was tempted to ask what could be weirder than the morning we had just had. I decided I might not be able to stand the stress of knowing. “Where are you from?”

“I told you. The alley.”

“No, but…your parents? Family? Friends?”

A ripple of discomfort passed over her face. She returned her attention to her twenty-dollar airplane. “Not important.”

My highly advanced people-reading skills told me she was hiding something, but that was not unusual for demigods. For children blessed with an immortal parent, they were strangely sensitive about their backgrounds. “And you’ve never heard of Camp Half-Blood? Or Camp Jupiter?”

“Nuh-uh.” She tested the airplane’s point on her fingertip. “How much farther to Perry’s house?”

“Percy’s. I’m not sure. A few more blocks…I think.”

That seemed to satisfy Meg. She hopscotched ahead, throwing the cash airplane and retrieving it. She cartwheeled through the intersection at East Seventy-Second Street—her clothes a flurry of traffic-light colors so bright I worried the drivers might get confused and run her down. Fortunately, New York drivers were used to swerving around oblivious pedestrians.