"Thirteen days from now," I answer plainly,
"Oh, quite close to Marissa's then," says Arista, her full lips curving into a nasty smile. "Is there a mating season down in the village?"
Iliana playfully bats her, no real chiding behind it. "Come now, Arista. Netea's our sister after all, we're all sisters of Calliope." She rises from the dressing table chair, standing at the end of my bed where I sit cross-legged. I look up at her, so beautiful with shimmering brown hair smooth like running water, and hips that the temple attendants can never take their eyes off of. I'm no comparison since I haven't eaten well all my life, and I'm sure my body has fallen into a kind of stasis suited only to the energetic life of a village girl. Iliana can get anybody she wants twisted around her little finger and she doesn't even have to try. She's bathed in luxury from sponsors who are sure that, higher than Marissa, she has the best chances of becoming Calliope's apprentice. Akantha seems to know nothing of her true personality, how spiteful and arrogant she can be, and whatever happens to her, Iliana will be far better off than I ever will be.
Not that I care.
"Are you prepared for what's going to happen, Netea?" she asks me, smiling as if she already knows my answer, of course not. She knows as well as me that I'll spend thirteen days time spinning in circles and pretending that it isn't happening. Still, I smile in the way Marissa always would to Iliana, ready to have some fun.
I shrug nonchalantly. "Well, I can't be sure of what's going to happen, can I? After all, a lot can change, and Calliope hasn't even chosen her apprentice yet,"
Iliana chortles, high and derisive. "You say that as if you think you stand a chance." The others giggle at me with her.
"Why not? It could happen -,"
"No, Netea, it can't," her voice is soft like she's telling a child the cruel realities of the world. "why would you believe that? Did your sponsor get your - oh, wait - you don't have a sponsor, do you? The only one of us without a single one. I do admire your spirit,"
It was true, nobody has chosen to support me since I've come to the acropolis, so I have lived in the standard clothes made by mentors, and Akantha has given me her old robes for formal events so that I don't stick out like the embarrassment I surely am to her.
"I still have better odds than some, Iliana," I retort, and I see the instant change in her. Her lip quiver and purse, showing a lack of control over how to react. Arista and the others wait for her response, which eventually is to make a 'hmph' noise and stroll out of the room, her lackeys following like a herd behind her.
I will pay for that comment later on, but I don't care about that right now. I get up from my bed and look through the dormitory windows, past the marble spires and the altis walls to the temple, where my favourite attendant stands.
I sit down at the dresser, grab some parchment and a quill, beginning to write. Right now, I don't need Akantha, or even Marissa.
I need my brother.