Search

Chapter no 11

The Elite (The Selection, 2)

HEY KITTEN,

I’M SO SORRY WE DIDN’T GET TO SAY GOOD-BYE. THE KING SEEMED TO THINK IT WOULD BE SAFEST FOR THE FAMILIES TO LEAVE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. I TRIED TO GET TO YOU, I PROMISE. IT JUST DIDN’T HAPPEN.

WANTED TO LET YOU KNOW WE GOT HOME SAFELY. THE KING LET US KEEP OUR CLOTHES, AND MAY IS SPENDING EVERY SPARE MOMENT IN THOSE DRESSES. I SUSPECT SHE’S SECRETLY HOPING SHE NEVER GROWS ANOTHER INCH SO SHE CAN USE HER BALL GOWN AT HER WEDDING. IT REALLY LIFTS HER SPIRITS. I’M NOT SURE I’LL EVER FORGIVE THE ROYAL FAMILY FOR MAKING TWO OF MY CHILDREN WATCH THAT FIRSTHAND, BUT YOU KNOW HOW RESILIENT MAY IS. IT’S YOU I’M WORRIED ABOUT. WRITE US SOON.

MAYBE THIS ISN’T THE RIGHT THING TO SAY, BUT WANT YOU TO KNOW: WHEN YOU RAN FOR THE STAGE, I’VE NEVER BEEN SO PROUD OF YOU IN ALL MY LIFE. YOU’VE ALWAYS BEEN BEAUTIFUL; YOU’VE ALWAYS BEEN TALENTED. AND NOW KNOW THAT YOUR MORAL COMPASS

IS PERFECTLY ALIGNED, THAT YOU SEE CLEARLY WHEN THINGS ARE WRONG, AND YOU DO EVERYTHING YOU CAN TO STOP IT. AS A FATHER, I CAN’T ASK FOR MORE.

LOVE YOU, AMERICA. AND I’M SO, SO PROUD.

DAD

How was it that Dad always knew what to say? I kind of wanted someone to rearrange the stars so they spelled out his words. I needed them big and bright, and somewhere I could see them when things felt dark. I love you. And I’m so, so proud.

The Elite were given the option of breakfast in their rooms, and I took it. I wasn’t ready to see Maxon yet. By the afternoon I was a bit more put together and decided to go down to the Women’s Room for a while. If nothing else, there was at least a television, and I could stand to be distracted.

The girls seemed surprised when I walked in, which I guessed was to be expected. I did tend to hide from time to time, and if there was ever a moment to do that, it was now. Celeste was lounging on a couch, flipping through a magazine. Illéa didn’t have newspapers like I’d heard other countries did. We had the Report. Magazines were the closest things we had to printed news, and people like me could never afford them. Celeste

always seemed to have one on hand, and, for some reason, that irritated me today.

Kriss and Elise were at a table drinking tea and talking as Natalie stood in the back, looking out a window.

“Oh, look,” Celeste said to no one in particular. “Here’s another one of my ads.”

Celeste was a model. The idea of her flipping through pictures of herself drove my irritation deeper.

“Lady America?” someone called. I turned and saw the queen and some of her attendants in the corner. She looked like she was doing needlework.

I curtsied, and she waved me over. My stomach did a flip as I considered my behavior yesterday. I’d never intended to offend her and was suddenly afraid I’d done just that. I felt the eyes of the other girls on me. The queen usually spoke to us as a group, rarely one-on-one.

I gave another curtsy as I approached. “Majesty.”

“Please sit, Lady America,” she said kindly, motioning to an empty chair across from her.

I obliged, still very nervous.

“You put up quite a fight yesterday,” she commented. I swallowed. “Yes, Your Majesty.”

“You were very close to her?”

I choked back my sadness. “Yes, Your Majesty.”

She sighed. “A lady ought not to behave in such a way. The cameras were so focused on the action at hand that they missed your conduct. Still, it doesn’t behoove you to lash out like that.”

It wasn’t the order of a queen. It was the reprimand of a mother. That made it a thousand times worse. It was like she felt responsible for me, and I’d let her down.

I bowed my head. For the first time, I truly felt bad about how I reacted.

She reached over and rested her hand on my knee. I looked up to her face, shocked by the casual touch.

“All the same,” she whispered, “I’m glad you did it.” And she smiled at me.

“She was my best friend.”

“That doesn’t stop because she’s gone, sweetheart.” Queen Amberly patted my leg kindly.

It was exactly what I needed: motherly affection.

Tears bit at the corners of my eyes. “I don’t know what to do,” I whispered. I nearly let everything spill out right there about how I was feeling, but I was conscious of the eyes of the other girls on me.

“I told myself I wouldn’t get involved,” she stated, and sighed. “Even if I wanted to, I’m not sure there’s much to say.”

She was right. What words could undo all that had happened?

The queen leaned in to me and spoke sweetly. “Still, go easy on him.”

I knew she meant well, but I really didn’t want to discuss her son. I nodded and rose. She smiled at me kindly and gestured that I was free to go. I wandered over to sit with Elise and Kriss.

“How are you doing?” Elise asked sympathetically. “I’m fine. It’s Marlee I’m worried about.”

“At least they’re together. They’ll make it as long as they have each other,” Kriss commented.

“How do you know Marlee and Carter are together?”

“Maxon told me,” she replied, as if it was common knowledge. “Oh,” I said, disappointed.

“I can’t believe he didn’t tell you, of all people. You and Marlee were so close. Besides, you’re his favorite, right?” she said.

I glanced at Kriss, then at Elise. They both carried a look of concern in their eyes but also maybe a sense of relief.

Celeste laughed. “She’s obviously not anymore,” she muttered, not bothering to look up from her magazine. Clearly, my fall was to be expected.

I changed the subject back to Marlee. “I still can’t believe Maxon put them through that. It was disturbing how calm he was about it.”

“But what she did was wrong,” Natalie remarked. There wasn’t anything judgmental about her tone, only a quiet acceptance, like she was following instructions.

Elise spoke up. “He could have had them killed. The law is on his side in that one. He showed them mercy.”

“Mercy?” I scoffed. “You call having your skin torn apart in public merciful?”

“Yes, all things considered,” she continued. “I bet if we could ask Marlee, she’d choose caning over dying.”

“Elise is right,” Kriss said. “I agree that it was absolutely terrible, but I would rather have that than death.”

“Please,” I sneered, my anger coming to the surface. “You’re a Three. Everyone knows your dad’s a famous professor, and you’ve lived

your whole life in libraries, completely comfortable. You’d never survive the beating, let alone a life as an Eight afterward. You’d be begging to die.”

Kriss glared at me. “Don’t pretend that you know anything about what I can and cannot tolerate. Just because you’re a Five, you think you’re the only one who’s ever suffered?”

“No, but I’m sure I’ve experienced far worse than you,” I said, my voice rising in anger, “and couldn’t take what Marlee went through. I’m saying I doubt you’d fare any better.”

“I’m braver than you think, America. You have no idea the things I’ve sacrificed over the years. And if I make a mistake, I own up to the consequences.”

“Why should there be any consequences at all?” I posed. “Maxon keeps saying how difficult the Selection is for him, how hard it is to make the choice, and then one of us falls for someone else. Shouldn’t he be thanking her for making his decision easier?”

Natalie, seeming distressed, tried to interject. “I heard the funniest thing yesterday!”

“But the law—” Kriss called over her.

“America has a point,” Elise countered quickly, and the ordered conversation crumbled.

We were speaking over one another, trying to make our opinions heard, justifying why we thought what happened was wrong or right. This was a first, but something I’d been expecting from the start. With this many girls together, competing against one another, there was no way we wouldn’t fight eventually.

Then, in a disconnected voice, Celeste mumbled to her magazine as we continued to argue, “Got what she deserved. Whore.”

The following silence was as charged as our quarrel.

Celeste looked over her shoulder just in time to see me lunge at her. She screamed as I landed on her, knocking us both into a coffee table. I heard something, probably a cup of tea, smash onto the floor.

I’d closed my eyes midjump, and when I opened them, Celeste was underneath me, trying to grab at my wrists. I pulled back my right arm and slapped her as hard as I could across her face. The burning sensation in my hand was nearly overwhelming, but it was worth it to hear the satisfying smack that erupted when it made contact.

Celeste immediately let out a shriek and started clawing at me. For the first time I regretted not keeping my nails long like the other girls did. She made a few cuts on my arm, which only angered me more, and I

struck her again. This time I cut her lip. In response to the pain, she reached for something—the saucer from her cup of tea—and slammed it against the side of my head.

Thrown off, I tried to grab at her again, but people were pulling us apart. I was so consumed, I hadn’t noticed someone calling for the guards. I took a swing at one of them, too. I was tired of being manhandled.

“Did you see what she did to me?” Celeste cried.

“You keep your mouth shut!” I screamed. “Don’t you ever talk about Marlee again!”

“She’s crazy! Don’t you hear her? Did you see what she did?” “Let me go!” I said, struggling against the guard.

“You’re psychotic! I’m going to tell Maxon right now. You can kiss the palace good-bye!” she threatened.

“No one’s seeing Maxon right now,” the queen said sternly. She looked into Celeste’s eyes and then into mine. Her disappointment was clear. I hung my head. “You’re both going to the hospital wing.”

The hospital wing was a long, pristine corridor with beds against the walls. Pinned by the head of each bed was a curtain to wrap around for privacy. Cabinets of medical supplies were scattered throughout.

Wisely, Celeste and I were placed at opposite ends of the wing, with Celeste being closer to the entrance and me near a window in the back. She’d pulled her curtain partially around her bed almost immediately so she wouldn’t have to see me. I couldn’t blame her. I did have a rather smug look on my face. Even while the nurse tended to the sore spot behind my hairline where Celeste had hit me, I couldn’t bring myself to grimace.

“Now, hold this ice here, and that will help keep the swelling down,” she offered.

“Thanks,” I replied.

The nurse looked up and down the wing quickly, seeming to check that no one could hear us. “Good for you,” she whispered. “Most everyone’s been waiting for something like this to happen.”

“Really?” I asked, my voice as low as hers. I probably shouldn’t have been smiling this much.

“I can’t begin to count the horror stories I’ve heard about that one,” she said, nodding her head toward Celeste’s curtained bed.

“Horror stories?”

“Well, she provoked that one girl who hit her.”

“Anna? How do you know?”

“Maxon’s a good man,” she said simply. “He made sure she was checked out here before she went home. She told us what Celeste said about her parents. It was so filthy, I can’t repeat it.” The look on her face conveyed her disgust.

“Poor Anna. I knew it had to be something like that.”

“One girl came in with her feet bleeding after someone slipped glass in her shoes in the night. We can’t prove it was Celeste, but who else would do something so mean?”

“I never heard about that.” I gasped.

“She looked terrified that she might get worse. I suppose she chose to keep her mouth shut. And Celeste hits her maids. Not with anything more than her hands, but they come in for ice from time to time.”

“No!” All the maids I’d encountered were sweet girls. I couldn’t imagine any of them doing something that would provoke getting hit at all, let alone regularly.

“Suffice to say, your antics are making the rounds already. You’re a hero around here,” the nurse said with a wink.

I didn’t feel like a hero.

“Wait,” I said suddenly. “You said Maxon had Anna checked out before he sent her home?”

“Yes, miss. He’s very concerned that you’re all taken care of.”

“What about Marlee? Did she come here? How was she when she left?”

Before the nurse could answer, I heard Celeste’s pouty voice pierce the room.

“Maxon, sweetheart!” she called as he marched through the doorway. We shared a brief moment of eye contact before he approached Celeste’s bed. The nurse walked away, leaving me alone and aching to

know if she’d actually seen Marlee.

The sound of Celeste’s whiny voice was almost too irritating to bear. I heard Maxon murmur his condolences, comforting the poor thing before extricating himself. He made his way around her curtain and focused his eyes on me, seeming exhausted as he walked down the wing. “You’re lucky my father had the cameras barred from the palace, otherwise there’d be hell to pay for your actions.” He ran his hand through his hair, exasperated. “How am I supposed to defend this,

America?”

“Are you going to kick me out, then?” I played with a piece of my dress while I waited for his answer.

“Of course not.”

“What about her?” I asked, nodding my head toward Celeste’s bed. “No. You’re all stressed after yesterday, and I can’t hold that against

you. I’m not sure my father will accept that excuse, but that’s what I’m going to say.”

I paused. “Maybe you should tell him it was my fault. Maybe you should just send me home.”

“America, you’re overreacting.”

“Look at me, Maxon,” I urged. I felt the lump rising in my throat and fought to speak past it. “I’ve known from the beginning I don’t have what it takes, and I thought that I could—I don’t know—change, or somehow make it work; but I can’t stay here. I can’t.”

Maxon moved to sit on the edge of my bed. “America, you might hate the Selection, and you might be mad about what happened to Marlee; but I know that you care about me enough not to just abandon me in this.”

I reached for his hand. “I also care enough about you to tell you you’re making a mistake.”

I could see the pain in Maxon’s face as he held my hand tighter, as if he could hold me there and keep me from disappearing. Hesitantly, he leaned in and whispered, “It’s not always so difficult. And I want to show that to you, but you have to give me time. I can prove that there are good things to this, but you have to wait.”

I inhaled to contradict him, but he cut me off. “For weeks, America, you’ve asked me for time, and I gave it to you without question because I had faith in you. Please, I need you to have a little bit of faith in me, too.”

I didn’t know what Maxon could possibly show me that might change my mind, but how could I not give him more time when he’d done that for me?

I sighed. “Fine.”

“Thank you.” The relief in his voice was obvious. “I have to get back, but I’ll come see you soon.”

I nodded. Maxon stood and left, stopping briefly to tell Celeste good- bye. I watched him go and wondered if trusting him was a bad idea.

You'll Also Like