It's only been a day since Marissa left to a place I cannot follow, and I miss her like I would a part of myself. I know she'll be safe, Marissa takes everything in her stride and never lets it show when she's troubled. It took me years to figure out when she was hiding something, her hands always gave it away, a channel of all that she was afraid to say or do, or didn't know how to say or do. When she clicked her nails, she was bothered by something, when kneading she was nervous, and when clenching, there was a fury inside of her that I knew to stand well back from when it eventually broke free.

Nothing is the same without her, and it feels to me as if the mentors are trying to cover any trace of her existence. Her bed next to mine is quickly filled by a girl from the dormitory below, her items have all been returned to her family, and everybody's started using "was" when they talk about her. As each day passes, it feels more and more like they're mourning her, recovering from the loss of her, making it harder for me to conjure happy images of her with her new protegee. I wonder if they're getting along, or if they even know each other yet...

Muses can choose two paths in their missions, it is said we can become incorporeal, a power given by the Idea, or we can become once again mortal and work alongside them. There are rules, of course. We can't tell our protegees who we are unless it puts them in mortal danger, and we can't force them to do anything. We persuade, and then they make the decision themselves, and in that state, we can deliver the Idea. After that, I'm not sure what happens. Those that return are the Nine's apprentices, like Amaryllis, and from then on they don't need to reach an age to deliver Ideas. They can come and go as they please, or they can never go back and live out the rest of their lives in Oneirus.

I paid at least that much attention in Akantha's class.


After lunch on the sixth day after the ceremony, I sit up in the dormitory where I would usually talk with Marissa. Now, the only ones left are the other apprentices, who I admit I never took much interest in. A lot of them were mean to me when I first arrived, days after my twelfth birthday when my name had been drawn. I wasn't of the typical selection, for some reason Ideón liked to choose girls from richer families who don't see much difference in the acropolis from their homes. For me, I was humbled, but girls like Iliana and Arista met my looks of awe with smirks and mockery. I was from the lower village after all, and some of them see me as no better than the street rats. How embarrassing it must be for them to be in the same class as a street rat, which is why Marissa and I - both from the village - made our presence constantly known.

"So when's your birthday, Netea?" asks Iliana as I am left to talk to her and her primped, decorous bunch. It's either this or I'm mocked as the outcast, and I won't give them that satisfaction.

The End

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