Marissa looks up worriedly at Akantha, all her faith resting at the surface. "What if it goes wrong? What if I trip, or Ideón does nothing -,"
Stopping her at the height of nerves, Akantha takes her by her shoulders in a comforting gesture. "Child, all that will be insignificant. All you need to worry about," she tilts Marissa's chin up so that their eyes meet, "is holding your head high and enjoying a day that belongs to you."
Marissa smiles meekly. "Yes, teacher,"
"You know the steps?" Akantha's voice deviates to seriousness. "You know the words?"
She nods, proud of at least that. "Yes, I walk in time with the drums, and on the penultimate beat, I kneel and then -,"
"And then you leave it up to us. And trust Ideón, He will do the rest."
Marissa turns to me, and I smile as best I can, even though there's a widening hole in the pit of my stomach that I feel I'm going to fall through. "Netea, you need to know. Once the fruit falls, I must accept it, and then I am gone -,"
"Don't say it -,"
"But Netea -,"
"I'm not going to be thinking about that. We might see each other in the human world, it's happened before." Marissa looks at me sadly, and I know that she doesn't believe it. Her eyes begin to fill with tears, threatening to smudge her golden-lined hazel eyes. "I bet you'll be drawn back, like Amaryllis. You'll be fine, Ris -,"
My words are cut off as she embraces me. Her arms lock around my neck, knocking the wind from me. For a long time, I tried to ignore the reality that I was going to lose my best friend, and I know it's childish to say, but it's just not fair. None of us know what awaits in the human world, wonder, disaster, it's all speculated, and those that have returned, like Amaryllis, say very little like it's some secret that they don't want to spoil for us. Somehow, everybody expects us to be alright with it, we might have been prepared for this for years, but I refuse to believe anybody who says they aren't terrified.
There's no time for any more sentiment between Marrisa and I, as in front of me, I see the sun rising higher like the sands of an hourglass dripping away.
"Bless you, Netea," Marissa whispers.
Akantha touches me on the shoulder, silently asking me to leave.
"You may walk with Marissa through the crowd, but no farther. Understand?" Her voice has the classic tone, chiding no matter the subject, but I refuse to believe she doesn't like me at least a little. With Marissa's hand tightly in mine, the door opens and let through is the thunderous noise of a waiting crowd, each step we take one step further from each other's destiny.