"I'm sixteen in a couple of weeks," I say after long moments of silence between us, wondering if he remembers. "I'm nothing like the others though. Marissa was a better student than me, so are the others. I bet Akantha just pities me,"
"She wouldn't have bothered to pity you for four years, Netty,"
"But what if she comes to me any day now and tells me that Calliope's decided I can't graduate? I'll be made class assitant, and Iliana will never let me live it down. I'll even watch her go, and I'll get left behind and -,"
My breath catches in my throat, and I turn to my brother. There's a look of sadness on his face, even...disappointment. "I never knew you to be so unconfident..." I knew I had changed, but Thatty had never been able to see it. He'd seen glances of me, his same little sister just taller with bigger hair and less blemishes. "Netea, you're not what you make yourself out to be. You might pretend that you don't want to leave, but since you were little, it's all you ever talked about,"
"But that was when it was a dream. Fear doesn't matter in dreams, but when my name was drawn...I just - I,"
"You were happy," he says. "Don't tell me otherwise. I still remember after the messenger delivered the names, and we went home. You went straight to bed, and when I went to check on you, I saw you with the bedsheets wrapped around you, pretending you were one of the Nine, walking around your room high and mighty on your tiptoes."
I blush. "I thought you didn't want me to go..."
"I don't. I wish you could be the most powerful Muse of them all, and get to stay in Oneirus, but I'm resigned to the fact that can't happen."
Tears well in my eyes. "I'll never see you again, Thatty. Not unless I do well enough to retire -,"
"So do it." He's so forward that I look up at him with a look of surprise on my face. "Let that be your motivation. Come back to me, to Mother, to Oneirus." I look away, embarrassed. Thatty had always been optimistic, whereas I am the cold realism in the family, always too embarrassed to admit any dreams I might have.
"You make it sound so easy..." Thatty's arms are around me, pulling me to his chest, twining my curls in his hands. It hasn't been like this in a long time, I barely feel I know my own blood. The closeness we share in this moment feels just like the day travelling up the mountain, my brother's hand so tight around mine that I wondered if he would ever let go when the time came. I know I have to wake up eventually and return to the life I have chosen, the life of an apprentice Muse, but for now, all I want is for Dawn to hold herself back, and for this moment to never end...