Home > The Elite (The Selection #2)(13)

The Elite (The Selection #2)(13)
Author: Kiera Cass

“It’s wonderful. May used to braid my hair all the time, too. She’s very talented.”

May shrugged. “What else was I supposed to do? We couldn’t afford to have dolls, so I used Ames instead.”

“Well,” Lucy said, turning to face her, “while you’re here, you will be our little doll. Anne, Mary, and I are going to make you look as pretty as the queen.”

May tilted her head. “No one’s as pretty as her.” Then she quickly turned to me. “Don’t tell Mom I said that.”

I chuckled. “I won’t. For now, though, we have to get ready. It’s almost time for tea.”

May clapped her hands together excitedly and went to settle in front of the mirror. Lucy pulled her hair up, managing to keep the braids together as she made her bun, putting her cap on to cover most of it. I couldn’t blame her for wanting it to stay as it was a little bit longer.

“Oh, a letter came for you, miss,” Lucy said, handing an envelope to me with great care.

“Thank you,” I replied, unable to keep the shock out of my voice. Most of the people I expected to hear from were currently with me. I tore it open and read the brief note, its deliberate scratch completely familiar.

America,

I have found out belatedly that the families of the Elite were recently invited to the palace, and that Father, Mother, and May have left to visit you. I know that Kenna is far too pregnant to travel, and Gerad is much too young. I’m trying to understand why this invitation wasn’t extended to me. I’m your brother, America.

My only guess is that Father chose to exclude me. I certainly hope it wasn’t you. We are on the edge of great things, you and I. Our positions can be very helpful to each other. If any other special privileges are ever offered to your family, you ought to remember me, America. We can help each other.

Did you happen to mention me to the prince? Just curious.

Write soon.

Kota

I debated crumpling it up and tossing it in the trash. I had hoped Kota might be getting over his caste climbing and learn to be content with the success he had. No such luck, it seemed. I threw the letter in the back of a drawer, choosing to forget about it entirely. His jealousy wasn’t going to spoil this visit.

Lucy rang for Anne and Mary, and we all had a wonderful time getting ready. May’s effervescent attitude kept us all in good spirits, and I found myself singing while we dressed. Not long after, Mom came by, asking all of us to double-check that she looked all right.

She did, of course. She was shorter and curvier than the queen, but she was every bit as regal in her dress. As we walked downstairs, May clutched my arm, looking sad.

“What’s wrong? You’re excited to meet the queen, aren’t you?” I asked.

“I am. It’s just …”

“What?”

She sighed. “How am I supposed to go back to khakis after all this?”

The girls were animated, and everyone was sparkling with energy. Natalie’s sister, Lacey, was about May’s age, and they sat in a corner, talking. I could see how Lacey resembled her sister. Physically, they were thin, blond, and lovely. But where May and I were opposites personality-wise, Natalie and Lacey were so similar. I would have described Lacey as a bit less whimsical, however. Not quite as clueless as her sister.

The queen made her rounds, speaking to all the mothers, asking questions in her sweet way. I was in a small group listening to Elise’s mother talk about her family back in New Asia when May tugged on my dress, pulling me away.

“May!” I hissed. “What are you doing? You can’t act like that, especially when the queen’s present!”

“You have to see!” she insisted.

Thank goodness Silvia wasn’t here. I wouldn’t put it past her to admonish May for something like this, even though May didn’t know any better.

We made our way to the window, and May pointed outside. “Look!”

I peered past the shrubs and fountains and saw two figures. The first was my father, speaking with his hands as he either explained or asked something. The second was Maxon, pausing to think before responding. They walked slowly, and sometimes my dad would put his hands in his pockets or Maxon would tuck his behind his back. Whatever this conversation was, it seemed intense.

I glanced around. The women were all still engrossed with the experience, with the queen herself, and no one seemed to notice us.

Maxon stopped, stood in front of my father, and spoke deliberately. There was no aggression or anger, but he looked determined. After a pause, Dad held out his hand. Maxon smiled and shook it eagerly. A moment later, they both seemed lighter, and Dad slapped Maxon on the back. Maxon seemed to stiffen a bit at that. He wasn’t used to being touched. But then Dad put his arm around Maxon’s shoulder, the way he did with me and Kota, the way he did with all his kids. And Maxon seemed to like that very much.

“What was that about?” I asked aloud.

May shrugged. “It looked important though.”

“It did.”

We waited to see if Maxon had a conversation with anyone else’s father; but if he did, they didn’t go to the gardens.

CHAPTER 8

THE HALLOWEEN PARTY WAS AS amazing as Maxon had promised. When I walked into the Great Room with May by my side, I was stunned by the sheer beauty before me. Everything was golden. Ornaments on the walls, glittering jewels in the chandeliers, cups, plates, even the food—everything had hints of gold in it. It was nothing short of magnificent.

Popular music was playing through a sound system, but in the corner a small band waited to play the songs for the traditional dances we’d learned. Cameras—both for photography and video—dotted the room. No doubt this would be the highlight of Illéa programming tomorrow. There couldn’t be a celebration equal to this one. I briefly wondered what it would be like if I was still here at Christmastime.

Everyone’s costumes were gorgeous. Marlee was dressed as an angel and dancing with that guard I ran into, Officer Woodwork. She even had wings that looked like they’d been made out of iridescent paper floating behind her. Celeste’s dress was short and made of feathers, with a large plume behind her head announcing she was a peacock.

Kriss was standing with Natalie, and they seemed to have coordinated. Natalie’s dress had flowers blossoming on the bodice, and her full skirt was fluttery blue tulle. Kriss’s dress was as golden as the room and covered with cascading leaves. Guessing, I’d say they were spring and fall. It was a cute idea.

 

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