The bells of the cafe tinkled quietly as I walked in with Dmitri following me. Even though he'd let me know that he was the twin of his snobby Selvite brother, I was still slightly cautious around him and couldn't shake off the feeling of suspicion - maybe it's because of how alike he looked to his older brother.
We made our orders, with Dmitri looking slightly confused when the man asked what he'd like. "I'll have what's she's having, thank you."
With a small smile on my lips, I said, "Why do I have the feeling you don't get out as much?"
Dmitri smiled back, resting his face in his hands as he leaned forward, closer to me. "It's because I don't. It's hard to find time for leisure when you're a Durman but that, you should know already."
I nodded and looked down at my palms which were rough and almost always red as a result of hard manual labor under the sun. Tending to the gardens wasn't as easy as most might believe and though I'd gotten used to it, the sting of a blister and the heat of the sun on my back were still things I'd struggled against. I never had time to do what I wanted.
"But I guess there's another thing we share in common apart from both of us being Durmans," I spoke softly. "Having a sibling of higher class, that is."
Dmitri looked surprised that I'd brought it up in the conversation so soon. I didn't blame him; I hated talking about Celeste to the other Durmans, to have them look down on me with pitiful expressions on their faces. There were countless times where I'd hoped that I'd been in her shoes, as a Selvite as well but then I'd reprimanded myself for thinking that at all.
What was there to pride oneself for in being a Selvite anyway? Yes, maybe she could practice more magic than me but she'd also abandoned our family, disowned us. Once, when mother and I had run into her in the marketplace, mother had approached her to ask how she was. I'd warned her but she'd foolishly thought that Celeste would be a faithful daughter. Mother had come back home with a heavy heart and suppressed tears that day, after Celeste had denied knowing the woman.
Stirring myself out of my thoughts, I met Dmitri's gaze. He was observing me curiously, probably wondering what I must have been thinking but he didn't ask if that were the case. Our drinks arrived and I mumbled a 'thank you' before taking a slight sip out of my glass. The liquid oozed into my mouth, burning my tongue slightly but I savored the slightly sugary taste of it.
"Your sister is engaged to Avan, right?"
I nodded. "I believe so. I pity him."
Dmitri's brown eyes widened upon hearing that. "Why?"
I shrugged. "She's played a bad enough role as a daughter, I can't imagine how she'd be as a wife."
"Well, Avan says she's quite well-behaved, very friendly and hospitable."
"To him." I hadn't meant for it to come out sounding spiteful in tone but it had. "Of course she's like that to him. She puts on a facade of an angel to her fellow Selvites because she believes they're worthy her time." My eyebrows lifted as I looked at Dmitri who looked downright shocked to hear this. "You should know this, being one of us. We've always been treated differently and it's no exception when it comes to our siblings."
Dmitri looked away, his eyes fixing on a spot on the table. "Forgive me Safiya but...Avan never treated me that way. He treated me as an equal."
"Oh, sure he did," I scoffed.
"Avan isn't like the other Selvites. He's...different."
False hope was the last thing I needed, and placing it on a Selvite was just downright idiocy. But Dmitri sounded so genuine, and when his eyes met mine, there was an honesty in them that I hadn't seen in any Durmans' before. And for the slightest moment, even if it were just for a second...I believed him.