Chapter no 7

The Heir (The Selection, 4)

IN THE STUDIO, THE SET was slightly rearranged. Typically, Ahren and I were the only ones who sat on camera with my parents, but tonight Kaden and Osten were given seats onstage as well.

Dad’s officials were in a cluster of seats on the opposite side, and in the middle a bowl waited with all the envelopes I’d picked earlier. Beside it was an empty bowl for me to place them in as they were opened. I had reservations about reading out the names myself, but at least it gave the appearance of control. I liked that.

‌Behind the cameras, seats were filled with other members of our household. General Leger was there, kissing Miss Lucy on her forehead and whispering something to her. It had been a few days since I’d overheard their conversation, and I still felt awful for her. Of all the people in the world who ought to be parents, it was the Legers. And of all the people in the world who ought to have the ability to fix things, it was the Schreaves.

Still, I was lost as to how to help.

Miss Marlee was shushing Josie, probably for laughing at a joke Josie made herself that lacked any level of humor. I’d never understand how someone so wonderful had birthed such awful people. My favorite tiara? The one I was wearing? It was only my favorite because Josie bent my first favorite and lost two stones out of the second. She wasn’t even supposed to touch them. Ever.

Beside her, Kile was reading a book. Because, clearly, everything going on in our country and home was too boring for him. What an ingrate.

He peeked up from his book, saw me watching, made a face, and went back to reading. Why was he even here?

“How are you feeling?” Mom was suddenly beside me, her arm around my shoulder.


She smiled. “There’s no way you’re fine. This is terrifying.”

“Why, yes, yes it is. How kind of you to subject me to such a delightful thing.”

Her giggle was tentative, testing to see if we were on good terms again.

“I don’t think you’re flawed,” she said quietly. “I think you’re a thousand wonderful things. One day you’ll know what it’s like to worry for your

‌children. And I worry for you more than the others. You’re not just any girl, Eadlyn. You’re the girl. And I want everything for you.”

I wasn’t sure what to say. I didn’t want for us to fight right now, not with something this big coming. Her arm was still on my shoulder, so I wrapped mine around her back, and she kissed my hair, just under my tiara.

“I feel very uncomfortable,” I confessed.

“Just remember how the boys are feeling. This is huge for them as well.

And the country will be so pleased.”

I concentrated on my breathing. Three months. Freedom. A piece of cake. “I’m proud of you,” she said, giving me a final squeeze. “Good luck.”

She walked away to greet Dad, and Ahren strode toward me, smoothing out his suit. “I cannot believe this is actually happening,” he said, genuine excitement coloring his tone. “I’m really looking forward to the company.”

“What, is Kile not enough for you?” I darted my eyes at him again, and he still had his nose buried.

“I don’t know what you have against Kile. He’s really smart.” “Is that code for boring?”

“No! But I’m excited to meet different people.”

“I’m not.” I crossed my arms, partly frustrated, partly protecting myself. “Aww, come on, sis. This is going to be fun.” He surveyed the room and

dropped his voice to a whisper. “I can only imagine what you have in store for those poor saps.”

‌I tried to suppress my smile, but I was anticipating watching them squirm. He picked up one of the envelopes and bopped me on the nose with it. “Get ready now. If you have a basic grasp of the English language, you

should manage this part just fine.”

“Such a pain,” I said, punching his arm. “I love you.” “I know you do. Don’t worry. This is going to be easy.”

We were instructed to take our seats, and Ahren threw the envelope back down, taking my hand to walk me to my place. The cameras started rolling, and Dad began the Report with an update about an approaching trade agreement with New Asia. We worked so closely with them now, it was hard to imagine a time we were actually at war. He touched on the growing immigration laws, and all his advisers spoke, including Lady Brice. It simultaneously felt like it dragged on forever and passed in an instant.

When Gavril announced my name, it took me a second to remember exactly what I was supposed to be doing. But I stood and walked across the stage, and assumed my place in front of the microphone.

I flashed a smile and looked straight into the camera, knowing every TV in Illéa was on tonight. “I’m sure you’re all as excited as I am, so let’s skip

ceremony and get right to what everyone is dying to hear. Ladies and gentlemen, here are the thirty-five young men invited to participate in this groundbreaking Selection.”

I reached into the bowl and pulled out the first envelope. “From Likely,” I read, pausing to open it, “Mr. MacKendrick Shepard.”

‌I held up his photograph, and the room applauded as I set it in the other bowl and moved back for the next entry.

“From Zuni . . . Mr. Winslow Fields.”

There was a smattering of applause after every name.

Holden Messenger. Kesley Timber. Hale Garner. Edwin Bishop.

It felt like I had opened at least a hundred envelopes by the time my hands reached for the final one. My cheeks hurt, and I was hoping Mom wouldn’t judge me if I skipped dinner and ate alone in my room. I really thought I’d earned it.

“Ah! From Angeles.” I ripped at the paper, pulling out the final entry. I knew my smile must have faltered, but really, it couldn’t be helped. “Mr. Kile Woodwork.”

I heard the reactions around the room. Several gasps, a handful of laughs, but, most obviously, I could hear Kile’s reaction. He dropped his book.

I pulled in a breath. “There you have it. Tomorrow, advisers will be sent out to begin prepping these thirty-five candidates for the adventure before them. And, in one short week, they will arrive at the palace. Until then, join me in congratulating them.”

I began the applause, the room followed, and I retreated to my seat, trying not to look as sick as I felt.

Kile’s name being in there shouldn’t have shaken me the way it did. At the end of the day, none of those boys stood a chance. But something about this felt wrong.

The second Gavril finished signing off, everyone erupted. Mom and Dad walked to the Woodworks. I followed right behind them, Josie’s laughter acting as a homing beacon.

‌“I didn’t do it!” Kile insisted. As I approached, our eyes met. I could see he was as upset as I was.

“Does that even matter?” Mom said. “Anyone of age is allowed to put his name in.”

Dad nodded. “That’s true. It’s a bit of a strange situation, but there’s nothing illegal about it.”

“But I don’t want to be a part of this.” Kile looked at Dad imploringly. “Who put your name in?” I asked.

Kile shook his head. “I don’t know. It has to be a mistake. Why would I

enter when I don’t want to compete?”

Mom’s eyes were on General Leger, and it looked almost like they were smiling. But there wasn’t anything funny about this.

“Excuse me!” I protested. “This is unacceptable. Is anyone going to do anything about it?”

“Pick someone else,” Kile offered.

General Leger shook his head. “Eadlyn announced your name in front of the country. You’re the candidate from Angeles.”

“That’s right,” Dad agreed. “Reading the names publicly makes it official.

We can’t replace you.”

Kile rolled his eyes. He did that a lot. “Then Eadlyn can eliminate me the first day.”

“And send you where?” I asked. “You’re already home.”

Ahren chuckled. “Sorry,” he said, noticing our glares. “That’s not going to sit well with the others.”

“Send me away,” Kile offered, sounding thrilled.

‌“For the hundredth time, Kile, you’re not leaving!” Miss Marlee said in the firmest voice I’d ever heard her use. She put her hand to her temple, and Mr. Carter wrapped an arm around her, speaking into her ear.

“You want to go somewhere else?” I asked, incredulous. “Isn’t a palace good enough for you?”

“It’s not mine,” he said, raising his voice. “And quite frankly, I’m tired of it. I’m over the rules, I’m over being a guest, and I’m so over your bratty attitude.”

I gasped as Miss Marlee thwacked her son over the head. “Apologize!” she commanded.

Kile pressed his lips together, looking at the ground. I crossed my arms.

He wasn’t leaving until I got an apology. I’d get it one way or another.

Finally, after a forceful shake of his head, he muttered it under his breath. I looked away, hardly impressed with his efforts.

“We’ll move forward as planned,” Dad said. “This is a Selection, just like any of the others. It’s about choices. Right now, Kile is one option of many, and Eadlyn could certainly do worse.”

Thanks, Dad. I quickly checked Kile’s expression. He was staring at the floor, seeming embarrassed and angry.

“For now I think we should all get some food and celebrate. This is a very exciting day.”

“That’s right,” General Leger agreed. “Let’s eat.” “I’m tired,” I said, turning. “I’ll be in my room.”

I didn’t wait for approval. I didn’t owe anyone anything after tonight. I

was giving them everything they wanted.

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