Chapter no 4

The Elite (The Selection, 2)


“No, no, you’re doing great,” I lied.

I’d been giving Marlee piano lessons nearly every day for more than a week, and it genuinely sounded like she was getting worse. For goodness’ sake, we were still working on scales. She hit another sour note, and I couldn’t help but wince.

“Oh, look at your face!” she exclaimed. “I’m terrible. I might as well be playing with my elbows.”

“We should try that. Maybe your elbows are more accurate.”

She sighed. “I give up. Sorry, America, you’ve been so patient, but I hate hearing myself play. It sounds like the piano is sick.”

“More like it’s dying, actually.”

Marlee collapsed into laughter, and I joined her. Little did I know that when she’d asked for piano lessons, my ears would be in for such painful—but hilarious—torture.

“Maybe you’d be better at the violin? Violins make very beautiful music,” I offered.

“I don’t think so. With my luck, I’d destroy it.” Marlee rose and went over to my little table, where the papers we were supposed to be reading were pushed to one side and my sweet maids had left tea and cookies for us.

“Oh, well, that’s fine. The one here belongs to the palace anyway.

You could throw it at Celeste’s head if you wanted.”

“Don’t tempt me,” she said, pouring us both some tea. “I’m so going to miss you, America. I don’t know what I’ll do when we don’t get to see each other every day.”

“Well, Maxon’s very indecisive, so you don’t have to worry about that just yet.”

“I don’t know,” she said, turning serious. “He hasn’t come right out and said it, but I know that I’m here because the public likes me. With the majority of the girls gone, it won’t be long before their opinions change and they have a new favorite, and then he’ll let me go.”

I was careful with my words, hoping she’d explain the reason for the distance she’d put between the two of them but not wanting her to shut

down on me again. “Are you okay with that? With not getting Maxon, I mean?”

She gave a small shrug. “He’s just not the one. I’m fine with being out of the competition, but I really don’t want to leave,” she clarified. “Besides, I wouldn’t want to end up with a man who’s in love with someone else.”

I sat bolt upright. “Who is he—”

The look in Marlee’s eyes was triumphant, and the smile hiding behind her cup of tea said Gotcha!

She had.

In a split second, I realized that the thought of Maxon being in love with someone else made me so jealous I couldn’t stand it. And the moment after that—the understanding that she meant me—was infinitely reassuring.

I’d put up wall after wall, making jokes at Maxon’s expense and talking up the merits of the other girls; but in a single sentence, she found her way behind all that.

“Why haven’t you ended this, America?” she asked sweetly. “You know he loves you.”

“He never said that,” I promised, and that was true.

“Of course he hasn’t,” she said, as if this would be obvious. “He’s trying so hard to catch you, and every time he gets close you push him away. Why do you do that?”

Could I tell her? Could I confess that while my feelings for Maxon went deep—deeper than I knew, apparently—there was someone else I couldn’t let go of?

“I’m just … not sure, I guess.” I trusted Marlee; I really did. But it was safer for us both if she didn’t know.

She nodded. It looked like she could tell there was more to it than that, but she didn’t press me. It was almost comforting, this mutual acceptance of our secrets.

“Find a way to be sure. Soon. Just because he’s not the one for me doesn’t mean Maxon’s not a great guy. I’d hate for you to lose him because you were afraid.”

She was right again. I was afraid. Afraid that Maxon’s feelings weren’t as genuine as they seemed, afraid of what being a princess might mean for me, afraid of losing Aspen.

“On a lighter note,” she said, setting down her cup of tea, “all that talk about weddings yesterday made me think of something.”


“Would you want to, you know, be my maid of honor? If I get married someday?”

“Oh, Marlee, of course I would! Would you be mine?” I reached to grab her hands, and she took them happily.

“But you have sisters; won’t they mind?” “They’ll understand. Please?”

“Absolutely! I wouldn’t miss your wedding for the world.” Her tone implied that my wedding would be the event of the century.

“Promise me that even if I get married to a nobody Eight in an alley somewhere, you’ll be there.”

She gave me a disbelieving look, positive that no such thing could ever happen. “Even if that’s the case. I promise.”

She didn’t ask me to make a similar vow for her, which made me wonder as I had in the past if there was another Four back home who she had her heart set on. I wouldn’t press her though. It was clear we both had secrets; but Marlee was my best friend, and I would do anything for her.

That night I was hoping to spend some time with Maxon. Marlee had me questioning a lot of my actions. And thoughts. And feelings.

After dinner, as we all stood to leave the Dining Room, I caught Maxon’s eye and tugged my ear. It was our secret sign to ask for time together, and it was rare to pass up an invitation. But tonight Maxon’s expression was disappointed as he mouthed the word “work” to me. I gave him a mock pout and a tiny wave before leaving for the night.

Perhaps it was for the best anyway. I really needed to think on some things where Maxon was concerned.

When I rounded the corner to my room, Aspen was there again, standing guard. He looked me up and down, taking in the snug green dress that did amazing things for the few curves I had. Without a word, I walked past him. Before I could turn the handle on my door, he gently grazed the skin on my arm.

It was slow but brief, and in those few seconds I felt that need, that sense of longing, that Aspen tended to inspire in me. One look at his emerald eyes, hungry and deep, and I felt my knees start to go shaky.

I moved into my room as quickly as I could, tortured by our connection. Thank goodness I barely had time to think about what Aspen made me feel, because the moment the door shut, my maids swarmed around me, preparing me for bed. As they chatted away and brushed my hair, I tried to let myself forget about everything for a moment.

It was impossible. I had to choose. Aspen or Maxon.

But how was I supposed to decide between two good possibilities? How could I make a choice that would leave some part of me devastated either way? I comforted myself with the thought that I still had time. I still had time.

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