Rhonda examined him - but not in a checking-him-out kind of way. It was more like he was mystery she wanted to figure out. "There's nothing to apologize for. But maybe you've got time for a reading of your own?"
With our similar views on religion, I expected Dimitri to tell her he had no time for her scam-artist fortune-telling. Yet the look on his face stayed serious, and he finally nodded, sitting down beside me, letting me smell the sweet scent of leather and aftershave. "Thank you." His words were still perfectly polite.
"I'll be brief." Rhonda was already shuffling up my useless cards. In record time, she had them ready for cutting and had dealt out three cards in front of Dimitri. The Knight of Rods, the Wheel of Fortune, and the Five of Cups. I couldn't get a feel for these. The Knight of Rods was what it sounded like, a man on horseback with a long wooden spear. The Wheel of Fortune was a circle with strange symbols floating in the clouds. The Five of Cups showed five knocked-over cups spilling some kind of liquid out while a man stood with his back to them.
Her eyes flicked over the cards, looked at Dimitri, then looked back at the cards. Her expression was blank. "You will lose what you value most, so treasure it while you can." She pointed to the Wheel of Fortune card. "The wheel is turning, always turning."
The reading wasn't as good as Lissa's, but he'd gotten a hell of a lot more than me. Lissa elbowed me in a silent warning to be quiet, which startled me at first. Without even realizing it, I'd opened my mouth to protest. I shut it and glowered.
Dimitri's face was dark and thoughtful as he stared at the cards. I didn't know if he knew anything about this stuff, but he was staring at the images as though they really held all the secrets of the world. At last, he gave Rhonda another respectful nod. "Thank you."
She nodded back, and then the three of us rose to catch our flight. Ambrose told us the readings were on him and that he'd settle up with Suzanne afterward. "It was worth it," he told me. "Worth it to see you think twice about your fate."
I scoffed. "No offense, but those cards didn't make me think much about anything." Like everything else, this just made him laugh.
We were about to leave Suzanne's little waiting room when Lissa suddenly dashed back to Rhonda's open doorway. I followed after her.
"Um, excuse me," Lissa said.
Rhonda looked up from more shuffling, her face troubled. "Yes?"
"This is going to sound weird, but...um, could you tell me what element you specialized in?"
I could feel Lissa holding her breath. She so, so wanted Rhonda to say she hadn't specialized, which was often the sign of having spirit. There was still so much to learn, and Lissa loved the ideas of finding others who could teach her - and she especially loved the idea of someone teaching her to foretell the future.
"Air," said Rhonda. A soft breezed rustled through our hair to prove the point. "Why?"
Lissa let go of her breath, disappointment washing over me through her link. "No reason. Thank you again."
OUT ON THE RUNWAY, Christian stood near the entrance to the plane, along with a few of the other guardians. Lissa ran off to talk to him, leaving me and Dimitri alone. He hadn't said a word the entire way back from the spa. Strong and silent were typical behaviors for him, but something about his mood struck me as unusual this time.
"Are you still thinking about what Rhonda said? That woman's a total scam."
"Why do you say that?" he asked, stopping not far from where the others stood. A sharp wind blasted us all in the face, and I hoped we could board soon.
"Because she didn't tell us anything! You should have heard my future. It was, like, one sentence stating the obvious. Lissa had a better fortune," I admitted, "but it wasn't really anything that profound. Rhonda said she'd be a great leader. I mean, seriously, how hard is that to figure out?"
Dimitri smiled at me. "Would you be a believer if she'd given you a more interesting reading?"
"Maybe if it was good." When he just laughed, I asked, "But you're taking it seriously. Why? You really believe in that kind of stuff?"
"It's not so much that I believe ... or that I don't believe." He wore a black knit cap over his head today and tugged it down to better cover his ears. "I just respect people like her. They have access to knowledge other people don't."
"She's not a spirit user, though, so I'm not really sure where she's getting this knowledge. I still think she's a con artist."
"She's a vr?jitoare, actually."
"A..." I wasn't even going to touch that one. "A what? Is that Russian?"
"Romanian. It means...well, there's no real translation. 'Witch' is close, but that's not right. Their idea of a witch isn't the same as an American's."
I had never expected to have a conversation like this with him. I just didn't think of Dimitri as the superstitious type. For half a moment, I thought that if he could believe in something like witches and fortune-tellers, maybe he could handle me seeing ghosts. I considered saying something to him but promptly decided against it. I wouldn't have had a chance to say anything anyway because Dimitri kept talking.
"My grandmother was like Rhonda," he explained. "That is, she practiced the same kind of arts. Personality-wise, they're very different."
"Your grandmother was a ... v-whatever?"
"It's called something else in Russian, but yes, same meaning. She used to read cards and give advice too. It was how she made her living."
I bit off any comments about frauds. "Was she right? In her predictions?"
"Sometimes. Don't look at me like that."
"You've got this look on your face that says you think I'm delusional, but you're too nice to say anything."
"Delusional's kind of harsh. I'm just surprised, that's all. I never expected you to buy into this stuff."
"Well, I grew up with it, so it doesn't seem that strange to me. And like I said, I'm not sure I buy into it 100 percent."
Adrian had joined the group by the plane and was protesting loudly about us not being able to board yet.
"I never thought of you as having a grandmother, either," I told Dimitri. "I mean, obviously, you'd have to. But still...it's just weird to think about growing up with one." Contact with my own mother was rare enough, and I'd never even met any of my other family members. "Was it weird having a witch grandma? Scary? Was she always, like, threatening to cast spells if you were bad?"