#1 in the Oh. My. Gods. series
What if the Greek gods were more than myth? What if they lived among us? What if you had to go to high school with them? Phoebe Castro is about to find out.
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When I'm running I can almost feel my dad at my side.
He's been gone for nearly six years, but every time I lace up and slap sole to pavement I feel like he's right there. I can feel him talking about my inner strength and how I will be a world-class athlete when I grow up. That's part of why I love running--why I'm running right now, pushing myself a little harder than usual to win this race.
This isn't just any race--it's the final race of the USC cross-country summer camp. Every winner of this race for the last seven years has wound up with a full scholarship offer. Since USC is the only college I've ever considered attending, I plan on winning this race.
With the nearest runner almost fifty yards back, I'm not worried.
The finish line comes into sight. Dozens of people are waiting--coaches and trainers from the camp, campers who competed in the shorter races, parents and friends. As I get closer I see Nola and Cesca--my two best friends--cheering like crazy. They've never missed one of my races.
I'm closing in on thirty yards.
Victory is guaranteed. I pull up a little bit, not really slowing down but relaxing enough to let my body begin its recovery.
That's when I see Mom.
She's standing with Nola and Cesca, smiling like I've never seen her smile--at least not in the last six years.
Why is she here?
It's not that Mom doesn't come to my races, but she wasn't supposed to be at this race. She's supposed to be in Greece, getting to know Dad's extended family at a gigantic family reunion while I'm at cross-country camp. Trust me, the choice between running eight hours a day and spending a week with creepy cousin Bemus was not a hard decision. Meeting him once was more than enough.
I wonder why she's home two days early.
Then, suddenly, I'm across the finish line and everyone surrounds me, cheering and congratulating me. Nola and Cesca push through the crowd and pull me into a group hug.
"You are such a superstar," Cesca shouts.
Everyone is so loud I barely hear her.
"Is there anything you can't do?" Nola asks. "You just beat the best in the country."
"You are the best in the country!" Cesca adds.
I just smile. Could a girl ask for better best friends?
The next runner crosses the finish line, and some of the crowd goes to congratulate her. Now that I'm not fully surrounded I see Coach Jack waiting to talk to me. Since he's my ticket to USC I pull out of our group hug.
"Hey, Coach," I say, my breathing starting to return to normal.
"Congratulations, Phoebe," he says in his gruff tone. "I've never seen anyone win so decisively. Or so easily."
He shakes his head, like he can't quite figure out how I did it.
My cheeks blush. Sure, I've been told my whole life that I have a special talent for running--from my dad, my mom, my friends--but it feels a lot more real coming from the head coach of the USC cross-country team. There's a rumor that he's going to coach the next Olympic team.