Chapter no 17

The Crown (The Selection, 5)

I RAN DOWN TO BREAKFAST the next morning, gripping the paper in my hand. I buzzed past the guards and the Elite, plunking it down in front of Mom and Dad.

“Look,” I urged, pointing to the headline.

What Do They Know That We Don’t? it read, the photo beneath it a shot of the boys all standing and cheering on the Report.

Dad picked up the paper, popped on his glasses, and read the article aloud, though not projecting his voice for the room to hear.

“‘When you think of Princess Eadlyn Schreave, the first words that come to mind might not be congenialenthusiastic, or beloved. She certainly has class and beauty, and while no one could argue her intellect, one might have cause to question other traits, such as her devotion to her people. So we have to ask, what is it that these young men—indeed, these Sons of Illéa—know about her that we have missed?’”

Mom looked up at me, smiling.

“‘When the five remaining gentlemen in the Selection instantly rose to their feet and applauded at the announcement of the princess’s ascent, I will admit, that was not this reporter’s initial reaction. I was worried. She’s young. She’s distant. She’s not in touch with her people.

“‘But if these boys, all but one of them strangers to her up until recently, immediately decide to celebrate, then there must be more to our upcoming queen than a pretty face. Recently the Elite spoke of her being considerate and engaging. Are these qualities she’s had all along that merely haven’t been easy to translate on screen? Is she a genuine leader, prepared to sacrifice for her people?

“‘The nature of her rise to the crown would suggest the answer is yes. The king and queen are still young. They are still physically and mentally able to continue their reign. To see the princess take over early so that they can enjoy their time together as a married couple shows not only her love for her family, but her commitment to her work.’”

I could see Mom’s eyes welling with tears now.

“‘Only time will tell if these assumptions prove true, but I can say that my faith in the crown has been—at least temporarily—restored.’”

“Oh, honey,” Mom exclaimed.

Dad passed the newspaper back to me. “Eady, this is great.”

“It’s the most encouraging thing to happen publicly for a long time,” I agreed with a contented sigh. “I’m trying not to get my hopes up too high, but it makes going to work today that much easier.”

“I hope you’re planning to take it easy this morning.” Mom gave me a pointed look. “I don’t want you getting burned out before you even start.”

“I’d tell you I have a simple morning planned, but it’d be a lie,” I admitted. “I’m off to a Finnish lesson right now. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to count in Finnish?”

Dad sipped his coffee. “I’ve listened to it for years. I applaud you for trying.”

“Henri’s very sweet,” Mom commented. “Not the direction I was expecting you to go in, but he’ll certainly make you smile.”

Pfft.” Dad turned to her. “What do you know about picking husbands?

Last time you tried that, you got stuck with me.” She smiled and hit his arm.

“You two are so gross, you ruin everything.” I spun and headed toward the door.

“Have a great day, honey,” Mom called after me, and I raised a hand in acknowledgment before pausing by Henri.

“Umm. Lähteä?”

He beamed. “Yes! Good, good!” He dropped his napkin by his plate and took my arm.

“Wait up!” Fox called, and Kile was right behind him. “I’m looking forward to this. I think I did pretty well last time.”

“Erik’s such an encouraging teacher. Though you could just be stringing together random sounds, he’d tell you ‘nice try,’” Kile said with a laugh.

I nodded. “Maybe it’s a Swendish thing? Poor Henri was stuck helping me last time, and he had to grab my face because I was making the shapes wrong.” I mimicked the action, and Henri caught on, smiling at us. “But was he bothered? Nope.”

A second after I brought it up, I remembered that Henri and I might have been on the verge of a kiss in that moment. And while I was relieved to see neither of them seemed to have noticed it, I was struck by the fact that I hadn’t thought about that almost kiss at all.

When we got to the library, Erik was already in there, writing on the board.

“Good morning, Professor,” I greeted, walking over him. “Your Highness. Or do we say Majesty, now?”

“Not yet!” I exclaimed. “Just thinking about that gives me the shivers.”

“Well, I’m thrilled for you. We all are. I mean, they all are,” he corrected, nodding toward the Elite, including Hale and Ean, who were walking in behind everyone. “I didn’t intend to lump myself in with them. I just get to see everyone’s reactions up close.”

“Don’t be silly. You’re part of the gang.” I laughed, looking around the room. “Sometimes this feels more like a weird little club than a competition.”

“You’re right. But that doesn’t change the fact that it is.”

His somber tone drew my eyes back to his face, though he was avoiding my gaze. Instead he picked up a handful of papers and gave them to me.

“And how lucky am I to be able to say I got to help the new queen learn Finnish?” His eyes glowed with pride.

I peeked over at the others, watching them choose seats, and stepped a little closer to keep my words between the two of us.

“I’ll miss you, too, you know. When it’s all over. You mean as much as the others. More than some.”

He shook his head. “You shouldn’t say that. I’m not like them.” “You are exactly like them. As common and as elevated, Eikko.”

He stilled at the sound of his given name, and, just barely, the corners of his lips hitched up into a smile.

“Hey, Eady,” Kile called. “Want to be my partner?” “Sure.” I walked over to him, and Erik followed.

“We’ll spend a few minutes going over what we learned last week,” Erik began. “Then we’ll move on to some basic conversational questions and answers. I know a few of you were studying other things, and I’m happy to help with any of that, too. For now, let’s go back to the numbers.”

“Okay, here we go. Yksikaksikolmeneljäviisi,” Kile recited proudly. “How do you do that? I’m so jealous.”

“Practice. What, you don’t have a spare hour to devote to counting in Finnish?”

I laughed. “I’m taking showers at a breakneck speed these days. I miss my time. But it’ll be worth it, getting Mom and Dad a chance to breathe.”

“I feel weird saying I’m proud of you, but I am.” He tried to suppress his grin and failed. “It’s like this lets me know that I’m not falling for some figment of my imagination, that you’re really as smart and selfless and determined as I’ve started thinking you are.”

“As opposed to Eadlyn circa this time last year?” I said slyly.

“Don’t get me wrong, she was a fun girl. Knew how to party, knew how to light up a room. This girl does that and a hundred things more. And I like her. But you already know that.”

“I like you, too,” I whispered. I caught sight of Erik out of the corner of

my eye and turned back to the paper. “Eight and nine trip me up because they’re similar but really different at the same time.”

“Okay. Let’s look at those again then.”

Erik walked away, and I felt guilty for wasting this class time when it was something I genuinely wanted to learn.

“Speaking of liking you, I’m sorry I haven’t been able to make much time.”

Kile shrugged. “Don’t worry about me, Eady. I’m still here.” With that he pointed to the paper in front of me, forcing me to focus on the syllables. I watched him exaggerate the shapes of the words with his mouth, all the while feeling grateful for language and time and everything waiting on my horizon.

I pushed open the office door to find Lady Brice on the phone. She waved at me as she continued speaking.

“Yes . . . yes . . . one week from today. Thank you!” She plunked down the receiver. “Sorry. Your desk is the biggest, and with the coronation in a week, there’s a lot to take care of. Flowers are ready, the church is booked, we have three designers working on dress options; and if you want Neena to oversee any of that, I’m sure she’d be thrilled.”

I stared at the piles of folders she’d set out. “Did you do all this in a day?” “More or less.”

I made a face at her, and she grinned before confessing the truth.

“I had a feeling it was coming, so I had a few things hammered out just in case.”

I shook my head. “You know me better than I know myself.”

“Part of the job. Side note,” she said. “I got a call this morning from Marid. He thanked you for his family’s invitation to the coronation but wasn’t sure his parents would be completely welcome.”

“I spoke with Dad. He knew that, right?” “He did.”

I sighed. “But Marid’s coming?”

“Yes. And once this has all passed and you’re settled in as queen, you can keep reaching out to them if you want.”

I nodded. “If that’s a bridge that can be mended, I want it done.” “That seems very wise.”

I took a deep breath, basking in the praise. I’d need to keep the kind words I received close to me, like armor, if I was going to survive.

“I’m ready to work. Hit me with it.”

“Actually, I think the best use of your time might be to speak with some of the Elite, or go on a date or something.”

“I was just with them,” I protested. “They’re all fine.”

“I mean more in the one-on-one sense. Besides the coronation details, which you shouldn’t even be bothered with, there’s nothing that can’t wait until Monday. Your professional life is moving forward, and you were the one who said that it went hand in hand with your private life.” She raised her eyebrows at me.


“Why so glum? If I remember correctly, you think all five of them are front-runners.”

“It’s complicated. The one I most need to talk to might not even want to speak to me.” I sighed. “Wish me luck.”

“You don’t need it.”

You'll Also Like