Home > The Elite (The Selection #2)(7)

The Elite (The Selection #2)(7)
Author: Kiera Cass

“Yes. I’m sure there would need to be certain requirements, but perhaps we’d get more out of an army of men who wanted to be soldiers as opposed to boys who were only doing what it took to stay alive and get back to the life they left behind.”

A hush of consideration fell on the studio. Apparently, I’d made a point.

“That’s a good idea,” Elise chimed in. “Then we’d also be sending out new soldiers every month or two as people sign up. It might be invigorating to the men who’ve been serving awhile.”

“I agree,” Marlee added, which was usually the extent of her comments. She clearly wasn’t comfortable in debate situations.

“Well, I know this might sound a little modern, but what if it was open to women?” Kriss commented.

Celeste laughed aloud. “Who do you think would sign up? Would you be heading into the battlefield?” Her voice dripped with an insulting disbelief.

Kriss kept her head together. “No, I’m not soldier material. But,” she continued, to Gavril, “if there’s one thing I’ve learned from being in the Selection, it’s that some girls have a frightening killer instinct. Don’t let the ball gowns fool you,” she finished with a smile.

Back in my room, I allowed my maids to stay a little later than usual to help me get the pile of pins out of my hair.

“I liked your idea of the army being voluntary,” Mary said, her nimble fingers hard at work.

“Me, too,” Lucy added. “I remember watching my neighbors struggle when their oldest sons were taken. It was almost unbearable when so many didn’t come home.” I could see a dozen memories flash before her eyes. I had some of my own.

Miriam Carrier was widowed young; but she and her son, Aiden, managed all right, just the two of them. When the soldiers had shown up at her door with a letter and a flag and their meaningless condolences, she’d caved in on herself. She couldn’t make it on her own. Even if she had the ability, she didn’t have the heart.

Sometimes I saw her begging as an Eight in the same square where I had said my good-byes to Carolina. But it wasn’t as if I had anything to give her.

“I know,” I said to Lucy’s reflection.

“I thought Kriss went a bit too far,” Anne commented. “Women in battle sounds like a terrible idea.”

I smiled at her prim face as she focused intently on my hair. “According to my dad, women used to—”

A short burst of knocks came at the door, startling all of us.

“I had a thought,” Maxon announced, walking in without waiting for an answer. It appeared we had a standing date Friday nights after the Report.

“Your Majesty,” they said together, Mary dropping pins as she sank into her curtsy.

“Let me help you,” Maxon offered, coming to Mary’s aid.

“It’s all right,” she insisted, blushing fiercely and backing out of the room. Far less subtly than I’m sure she intended, she made wide eyes at Lucy and Anne, begging them to leave with her.

“Oh, um, goodnight, miss,” Lucy said, tugging on the hem of Anne’s uniform to get her to follow.

Once they were gone, Maxon and I both broke down into laughter. I turned to the mirror and continued to work the pins out of my hair.

“They’re a funny lot,” Maxon commented.

“It’s just that they admire you so much.”

Modestly, he waved the compliment away. “Sorry I interrupted,” he said to my reflection.

“It’s fine,” I answered, tugging out the last pin. I ran my fingers through my hair and draped it over my shoulder. “Do I look okay?”

Maxon nodded, staring a little longer than necessary. He came to his senses and spoke. “Anyway, this idea …”

“Do tell.”

“You remember that Halloween thing?”

“Yes. Oh, I still haven’t read the diary. It’s well hidden though,” I promised.

“It’s fine. No one’s looking for it. Anyway, I was thinking. All those books said it fell in October, right?”

“Yes.”

“It’s October now. Why don’t we have a Halloween party?”

I spun around. “Really? Oh, Maxon, could we?”

“Would you like that?”

“I would love it!”

“I figure all the Selected girls could have costumes made. The off-duty guards could be spare dance partners since there’s only one of me and it would be unfair to make everyone stand around waiting for a turn. And we could do dancing lessons over the next week or two. You did say there wasn’t much to do during the days sometimes. And candy! We’ll have the best candies made and imported. You, my dear, will be stuffed by the end of the night. We’ll have to roll you off the floor.”

I was mesmerized.

“And we’ll make an announcement, tell the entire country to celebrate. Let the children dress up and go door-to-door doing tricks, like they used to. Your sister will love that, yes?”

“Of course she will! Everyone will!”

He deliberated a moment, pursing his lips. “How do you think she would like celebrating here, at the palace?”

I was stunned. “What?”

“At some point in the competition, I’m supposed to meet the parents of the Elite. Might as well have siblings come and do this around a festive time as opposed to waiting—”

His words were cut off by me barreling into his arms. I was so elated by the possibility of seeing May and my parents, I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm. He wrapped his arms around my waist and stared into my eyes, his own glittering with delight. How did this person—someone I’d imagined would be my polar opposite—always seem to find the things that would make me the happiest?

“Do you mean it? Can they really come?”

“Of course,” he answered. “I’ve been longing to meet them, and it’s part of the competition. Anyway, I think it would do all of you good to see your families.”

Once I was sure I wouldn’t cry, I whispered back, “Thank you.”

“You’re quite welcome …. I know you love them.”

“I do.”

He chuckled. “And it’s clear you’d do practically anything for them. After all, you stayed in the Selection for them.”

I jerked back, putting space between us so I could see his eyes. There was no judgment there, only shock at my abrupt movement. I couldn’t let this pass though. I had to be absolutely clear.

 

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