Chapter no 28

The Crown (The Selection, 5)

EVERYONE LEFT IN A HUFF for lunch, and I stayed in the parlor, craving solitude. In truth, I craved Eikko, but there was no way I could get to him without raising suspicion. Gritting my teeth, I turned the TV back on. I muted it, watching the images of Marid play across the screen.

Maybe the people were right. Maybe I should step down now. If we trained Kaden for the crown, that might save everything. It would be humiliating for me to abdicate after less than a week, but it might at least keep the rest of my family from being shamed.

“Your Majesty?” Josie snuck up on me. “Can I get you anything? Some food? Coffee?”

“No, Josie. I’ve lost my appetite.”

“I don’t blame you,” she said with a tiny smile.

“I want to thank you for coming to warn me today. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but those extra five minutes helped me brace myself. It would have been a thousand times worse if Sir Andrews had found out first.”

She widened her eyes. “He’s horrible. Do they yell like that all the time?”

I nodded. “Not Lady Brice or General Leger. But the others were like that with Dad, too. It’s as if they think the only way to make you understand how adamant they are is to scream about it.”

We were quiet for a minute, watching Marid’s handsome face on the screen. He certainly had his wave down.

“I’m so sorry, Eadlyn,” Josie whispered, drawing my focus back to her. “For everything, and for how I’ve been, and for what you’re dealing with now.”

“You had no idea, did you?” I asked, my tone gentle.

Embarrassed, she shook her head. “I thought everyone did the work for you, and you just said yes or no.”

“That it was all parties and money and power?”

“Yeah.” She let out an almost laugh. “I can’t believe I spent my whole life wanting to be a princess only to see I could never, ever handle it.”

I shifted on the couch, finally putting to voice a thing I’d been almost positive about from the very beginning.

“Is that why you put Kile’s name in? So you could be a princess?”

She blushed fiercely. “I didn’t think he’d actually get drawn. And if he

did, I didn’t think there was any way you’d choose him. When I saw that kiss on the front page of the newspapers, I was so excited. I started designing tiaras in my notebooks.”

“And now?”

“I’d still like to have one of my very own, but I know I haven’t earned it.” She smiled slowly. “And I realize that even if he wins, I wouldn’t exactly be a princess, but it still feels like a big deal. I look at your aunt May, and how glamorous she is, traveling around the world and meeting all these people and looking like a runway model.”

“I can see the appeal,” I agreed. “Mom’s siblings definitely got a better deal than she did in certain ways.”

As I thought of my aunt and uncles, a wonderful idea struck me, and I was thrilled that at least one good thing might come from this day.

Josie played with the hem of her dress. “Yeah, it looks fun. But I was way too obsessed with it. I’m sorry I gave you such a hard time.”

“So am I. It was hard growing up with someone who wanted to be me without doing any of the work.”

“And it was hard for me growing up in your shadow.” She seemed sad, unsure of herself now.

“You know, Josie, it isn’t too late to fall in love with something else. You happen to have an excellent resource in me, and I’d like to help you find the right path. So long as that path is far away from my tiaras.”

She giggled. “I have no idea where to start.”

“Well, you’ve proven these last few days how helpful you can be. What if we put you on the payroll, as an office intern? Whatever you’re going to do, you’ll need your own money for it.”

“Really?” she gasped. “Really.”

Josie flung herself across the room, colliding with me in a hug. For the first time, I didn’t mind her being so close.

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. I’ve got to do the good I can while I’m here.” She pulled back. “I swear, if you step down, I’ll never forgive you.” I hadn’t meant to give that much away in a sentence.

“I realize that doesn’t mean much, but still. Don’t do it. You can’t.”

I shook my head. “I won’t. I promise. As tempting as it is, I’m too proud to do it.”

Dear Uncle Gerad,

This letter is long overdue. How are you? How’s work? How’s . . .

Okay, I need a favor. My lady-in-waiting’s boyfriend is also a talented scientist. I’m not completely sure if his field and yours are similar, but I thought you might at least have a connection that could get him work in Angeles. It would mean the world to her if he was closer, and it would mean the world to me if she was happier. Do you think you could help?

Friendly reminder, I’m your queen. Thanks bunches! Love you lots! Visit soon! Eadlyn

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