Chapter 1 – BEN
"Lou," I said, as I burst in Lou's white and silver bedroom.
"Gosh, Ben. Do you have to always come in like that? Now I have to start all over again," she said, exasperated. I always thought she was the cutest thing when she concentrated on her nails. She was wearing a short black dress, poofing – or whatever it's called – at her waist. Her hazel eyes – the same as mine – were beautiful for whoever dared hold her gaze. Her long chestnut hair fell around her shoulders, some held back with a diamond hair-clip.
I sat next to her, pushing her playfully off her chair, almost making her fall down. She sent me a death glare I knew too well and I suppressed a laugh. Man, I loved that girl.
"Careful, Ben. Or I'll kick your butt like last night." She got out the nose wrenching nail polish remover to fix what I had made her do wrong. Again.
"You didn't kick my-"
"Yes I did. Why don't you ever admit that I'm better than you at Taekwondo?"
"Because you're not."
"Yes, I am! How do you explain how I kicked your-"
"Because I didn't have my eight daily coffees." I looked at her playfully. "I only had seven."
She rolled her eyes at me and focused on her pinkie nail. She stuck out her tongue in concentration – that's why I said she was cute – and applied the dark gray nail polish.
"Are you done yet?" I asked
"What do you want?"
"Mom and dad want to talk to us."
"Then go, and tell me what they say."
"They want to talk to us, together," I corrected.
She rolled her eyes at me. Besides Taekwondo, rolling her eyes at people was the other thing she was good at. She wiggled her hand in the air, because apparently, it helped the nail polish dry faster. Girls.
"If they talk to us about another fundraiser dinner we have to organize, I'm going to pretend to faint, okay?" she said, getting up. "Come on."
We walked the halls of the Palace, heading to mom's office. Lou's heels clicked on the marble floor, and I was pretty sure everyone in the Palace always knew where she was. You could follow her from a mile away, and four floors apart. I sighed, and let her enter first the study, as a gentleman would do. But truth was, she would simply kick my butt if I didn't. Yes, she was better than me at Taekwondo. I had only started it because she needed a partner to practice on. And she loved to kick my butt. Oh well, if it kept her happy, I didn't care. As long as no one knew about it, though.
"Hello, lovelies," mom said. Her cognac colored eyes always sparkled when she talked to her children. "Come sit."
Lou and I both looked at each other. Dad was already on one of the couches, reading some newspaper, probably a French one – he was the Ambassador of France when he married mom, and has kept France close at heart ever since – and she sat next to him. He instinctively put his arm around her shoulders and put his newspaper away, smiling at us with his crooked smile.
"I have a feeling you're not going to ask us to organize another fundraiser dinner," I said, eying them suspiciously.
Mom laughed and dad joined her. Lou and I exchanged a glance.
"No, we're not," dad said. "You do the honors, mon coeur," he said to mom.
Mom took a deep, nervous breath, and chuckled awkwardly. "We, um, your father and I, thought that, um, it was," she looked at dad for help, who chuckled.
"It's time for you two to hold your Selection," dad finished. "We think you're old enough and there have been several articles in the past months. The public is wondering if there is ever going to be a Selection."
Lou and I exchanged a quick look and grinned slyly.
"But we're going to do even better," dad continued, oblivious to our grins, only staring at mom, "because we're going to give them two Selections."
"Cool," I said. "Ladies, first?" I asked, like the gentleman I was. Lou beamed. She loved to be in the spotlight, and being the first to hold her Selection was going to be perfect for her.
"Actually," mom said, "we were hoping you would be holding your Selections together."
"Together?" we asked in unison.
"Yes, at the same time. It is going to be the biggest event in years this country has had."
I looked at Lou, but she smiled.
"Of course, it totally makes sense: we always did everything together, why not falling in love at the same time?" She chuckled.
I eyed her with concern. Was she being genuine, or was this another of her sarcastic and sassy attitudes?
"You really mean it?" dad asked, confused like me.
"Yes," she said giggling. "This will be a huge party for everyone! Imagine seventy guests at the Palace. We haven't seen that in a while." Now this was clearly sarcastic.
"There won't be seventy Selected in here," dad said.
"Why not? Mom had thirty-five suitors. And if I count correctly, thirty-five plus thirty-five is seventy," Lou said, sass filling her voice.
"You're not going to have thirty-five suitors, Lou," mom said. "You'll both have twenty. Forty guests here for an unlimited period of time is very much enough. And you'll see," mom continued, cutting Lou short on whatever she was about to say, "twenty is plenty enough." Dad chuckled, agreeing with her.
"But aren't you afraid that Selected boys might hit on Selected girls?" I asked.
Dad lifted an eyebrow. "There are going to be strict rules for this Selection, with sanctions for whoever breaks them."
Lou widened her eyes. "What kind of sanctions?"
"Public ones," dad said, dead serious. "Depending on the rule that has been broken, they can either be stripped from their Caste, or caned publicly. Because it's treason against the Crown. This should prevent them from doing anything, and I really hope that we won't have to go there." I had rarely seen dad this serious about something, except during meetings. But with us? I could count the times on the fingers of my hand. This was pretty serious business. And I knew dad would do what he said.
"Okay," Lou said. "When are we announcing that to the public?"
"We were thinking on the next Report, actually," mom said, all business-like, "and send the forms out to the suitable young people in Illéa the same day."
"And what do you call 'suitable'?" I asked.
"Young men and women between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two," dad said. I was about to say something but he cut me. "I was twenty-two when I entered your mother's Selection and she was seventeen."
Mom rolled her eyes – I had very rarely seen her do that before, but I then understood where Lou got that from – and chuckled. "I was way too young for that, at the time. But my own father forced it on me. So if you feel this is not the time, please tell us, and we can postpone it for a few months, until you get used to the idea."
"Are you crazy?" Lou said, suddenly aware of what she was about to miss. "We have been waiting for this for years, with Ben. We talked about it so many times, and we were actually wondering if you'd ever ask us to do it, at some point. I want this Selection."
"Yeah, me, too," I said. This was a crazy, brilliant idea, and I wanted to do it.
"Good," dad said, obviously relieved. "We'll announce it on the next Report. Good. Wow. I never thought we would actually be doing this, and this early." He let out a surprised chuckle, and mom joined him.
"My goodness," she said, going all emotional, "you two are growing up so fast. It was just yesterday that you had your first birthday, right?" She put her head on dad's shoulder. "Oh my French baguette, what did we do to have two beautiful kids like that, all grown up, already?"
Dad laughed. "Sweatpants and fireplace," he said, wiggling his eyebrows in a flirty way. Those two words always came up randomly, and it would always make mom blush and giggle. I didn't want to know what those two words meant. But I can't remember a time when those words were not mentioned. It must have been during their Selection. They both looked at each other with eyes full of love.
I sighed. "Well, thanks for the announcement, I'll see you tonight at dinner." I stood and took Lou's hand and we walked back to my room, leaving our parents to their own world. For some reason, mom and dad's relationship were kind of my relationship goals. They still loved each other after twenty-two years of marriage, and they looked like teenagers. It was like there never had been twenty-two years since they got married, or like they were living the same year over and over again. Not that they always did the same thing, but it was like age didn't matter. They loved each other no matter how they physically changed.
They even drank their hot chocolate in mugs that told exactly this: hers said I like his beard and his said I like her butt. I mean, what? They were in their forties… Relationship goals.
"So what do you think of the Selection?" I asked Lou, once I had closed the door to my room. She sat on my bed and laughed.
"Seriously? I've been waiting for this ever since Esteban broke up with me."
"Esteban? The Esteban Lodge?"
"General Lodge's only son?"
"What? You dated him?"
"Yes, for two years. But don't tell mom, or I'll-"
"Kick my ass, I know. How is this even possible?" I said, pacing in my room. "We were not supposed to have a relationship before our Selection."
She shrugged, "So what? Can't we try out things? He loved me, all right?"
"And did you?"
"That's not the question. He was absolutely gorgeous, and I thought a little adventure wouldn't kill me."
"Did you sleep with him?"
"No, of course not. I was not going to be a ruined goods kind of Queen, thank you very much."
"Hmm." I wasn't convinced. "But what about the Selection?"
She grinned. "I think it is going to be extremely fun. Imagine: twenty girls fighting for your heart. And twenty men competing for my hand. What a sight! Don't you think?"
I grinned. "Yeah." And I knew the effect I had on women. Any women who came to the Palace – a maid, a foreign Princess, or an Ambassador's daughter – all melted in front of me. I had been declared number one sexiest man in Illéa for the past two years. Yeah. A Selection could be pretty awesome.
"Why are you grinning like that?" Lou asked me, snapping me back to the present.
"For nothing. I have to go." I headed for the door. "Actually, this is my room. You go."
She chuckled. "Ben. It's not the first time you did this. You really have to look around, you pretty cinnamon roll," she said squeezing my cheeks like I was a baby.
"Don't do that, Lou," I said, hitting her hands away from my face. She sniggered and walked away.
I reclined on my bed and pictured myself with twenty girlfriends. Weird. I wondered how mom did it. Maybe I should have asked her? No. I didn't think I wanted to know all that went on during her Selection. All that I knew was that she lost her parents, her best friend and three Selected during the Selection. Well, two were Rebels, but one of them she was considering. It must have been awful.
What if something like this happened during our Selections? Then again, last time Rebels came, it was ten years ago. I was ten years old, and I could still remember that night as if it had occurred the previous day.
Mom had just tucked us all into bed – when Lou and I still shared a room – and little seven years old Tony was sound asleep already when the alarm went off. We all scrambled for a secret door to get to the safe room. Suddenly, midway there, I realized Tony was not with us, because he was deaf-mute: he hadn't heard the alarm. My heart had accelerated three times its normal pace, at least, and I ran back up the stairs, dad yelling at me to come back down. General Lodge blocked dad who tried to come after me, and I sprinted to Tony's room. I dragged him out of bed and he didn't understand anything that was happening. I signed as quickly as I could, telling him the Palace was under attack and that we needed to hide.
But we didn't have time to go back to the safe room, so I dragged him to the walk-in closet in our room and we hid under a pile of Lou's dresses. He cried silently in my arms, as we heard – I heard, he didn't – gunshots throughout the Palace. We stayed there until morning, when dad came running and calling our names. I crawled out of our hiding place and tried to drag Tony with me, but he wouldn't move. He was paralyzed with fear, and dad had to carry him in his arms to the hospital, where he stayed for a few days, under strict surveillance.
From that day on, dad had some light alarms put in every room, so Tony would know, too, when to look for safety. But since that day, we haven't heard of the Rebels again.
Boy, am I glad to be back!
I 'm almost done with NaNoWriMo (3k words left) and was able to write the first 50k words of my original novel. I'll write the rest as I have the time (or probably during April Camp NaNoWriMo). But in the meantime, and as promised at the end of my last Fanfiction, here I am with the next generation of royals. If you haven't read it yet, please do! ;) (THE CHOICE)
And please go read HER CHOICE, by TheGirlWithTheRainbowTattoo! It's actually the years in between Dora's Selection and the Twins' Selection, but in her Chosen One's POV (I'm not spoiling who he is is you haven't read The Choice^^)
20 boys will be coming to compete for Princess Louise's hand., and 20 girls will be coming to fight for Prince Benoit's heart.
I need 40 characters! CRAZY! ;D I know, right?
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3. Be creative. I don't want only nice characters. Or only blonds, or only brunets. I want colorful characters! Bitchy, sassy, romantic, old school, hypocrite, in love, and whatever else you can think of! Black, White, Yellow, Red, Green… lol
4. Please, I would like the submitters to be constant in their reviews (not necessarily every single chapter, but along the way, so I know you're still reading!), I would really appreciate it! Thanks! I love reviews! ;)
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