Most of the ceremony is conducted in silence, the room echoing with the movements of those involved, but I swear that amongst the shuffling of the crowd and the whispers of admiration, I can hear Marissa clicking her nails and breathing deeply to calm herself. For half of the ceremony, she kneels on the mosaic floor, Akantha and Calliope reading famous scriptures of luck and prosperity. Calliope's voice is soft as if she has had not need to raise it in many years, and each of her words bring peace to us.
I know I have to pay attention throughout, and though some of the rituals and readings aren't that interesting, I make sure to listen attentively to anything involving Marissa. I am glad I have, as I only manage to look up and see that the four of them are walking towards Ideón, and halfway there, the adults stop and allow Marissa to proceed alone, as is tradition. All they do is gesture at her back, blessings that she cannot see. Like a wave, every member of the audience sinks to their knees for this, the most sacred of moments. I lower myself, but as I do, I hear a whisper from a gather of women beside me,
"She did not choose her,"
"I had been so sure,"
"Such a shame."
I know what they mean, and confusion fills me as I try to angle my head so that I am both respectful and can see what is happening. Calliope hasn't selected Marissa. Whatever it is that she is supposed to do to signify it, it has not happened. I realise my worst fears; I will never see her again. My vision of Marissa walking towards the huge roots of Ideón is blurred by tears, but I realise that she carries something, an item that is sacred only to her, a gift given by her sponsor at the start of her training. For the rich, we are part of a betting game, to guess who becomes Calliope's apprentice, and who inspires a protegee to shape this human world we know little of. I imagine that Marissa's sponsor is furious, but in me there seems to be a perpetual and consuming sickness.
I watch as Marissa kneels at the base roots of Ideón, placing into its hollow her sponsor's gift, a relinquishment of any dependence she once had. The most amazing sight comes before me, the sight of the great tree shuddering, caught in a wind that is not there. Then we see it, dropping from the branches comes a fruit, an Idea, shining red with a visible golden core as if the skin is made of glass. There are murmurs of approval and awe through the crowd; Ideón has delivered. There is only one task left.
Marissa turns to the crowd, to Akantha, to Calliope, to me, and with a slight smile that I know is shared just between us, she brings the Idea to her lips and inhales, making it disintegrate in her hands. Her eyes close, and there seems to be a look of pure understanding on her face, before she fades.
Just like that she is gone, as if all along she was a ghost whose time has finally been expended. There is no trace of her but her name on my lips as I begin to cry, rising with the crowd and trying to hide it from the sponsors who would probably gawp and take pity on me, a sensitive little girl that never truly understood what she was involving herself in. But I had always known it would be like this, deep down in my soul that knowledge had always been there, and yet now I feel a loss within me greater than I ever thought there could be; my true and utter abandonment.