EPILOGUE – 10 years later
Ten minutes before the Special Report that was going to celebrate a decade after the two epic Royal Selections, it was still chaos in the studio. Around twenty Selected had come back, answering to the Royal letter they had received a month earlier, and were chattering away, catching up on lost years for some. Seven children were running around the studio, playing tag, while their parents and nannies tried to catch them to have them sit down so the Report could start. The only child who was sitting properly was Princess Sorcha. She was twelve years old, and had inherited her mother's beauty and turquoise eyes. She was a young lady with proper manners, and the media's darling, as eldest child of the King and Queen. The people of Illéa had forgotten King Ben was only her adoptive father, and had adopted her as well as their favorite Princess.
Actually, it was hard to tell who of Sorcha or Aella was the most favorite Princess of the people. They were like sisters, when Aella, three years Sorcha's youngest, was actually her aunt, since she was King Ben's baby sister – yes, even though she was nine years old and a little young lady, Ben always called her his baby sister. And she hated it.
"Five more minutes," Mr. Liner called. "Please, everyone sit down!" Since the children were old enough to run and talk, they sometimes came on the Report. And this evening was an important Report.
"James! Charlotte!" Prince Nash said in his authoritative voice. "Stop running and come sit down. Now." James and Charlotte knew too well to obey their father. James was seven years old and a little troublemaker, who had inherited his father's looks, with his almost golden eyes. But, oh, how he disliked being trapped in the Palace walls. All he wanted was to go outside to trap bugs. He was smart, though, with quick retort.
Charlotte – who was five years old –, on the other hand, seemed to have gotten her parents sport-y side. Princess Louise had had a basketball court installed in the Palace gardens as a wedding gift to her husband, and Charlotte always seemed to be attracted by it. Prince Nash had set up a small kid basketball hoop, and Charlotte was already showing incredible talent.
Their third son, Tristan, was too young to run around, and was sucking his thumb on his mother's lap, a tiny bowtie around his neck. He was the youngest, with Manon, of the Royal children.
Manon, two years old, was the daughter of Prince Antoine and Princess Mia, and she always carried around her hot pink ukulele. She was quite the cutie, with her long curly hair and her mother's doe-eyes. Unlike her parents, her hearing was perfect, and she already showed a musical ear, playing easy tunes on her ukulele. She was her parents' pride and joy.
King Ben and Queen Caoilainn – everyone called her Queen Cay – adopted two orphans from Baffin, a brother and sister called Leith and Mary, who were seven and five years old. It was on Cay's heart to adopt an orphan from the orphanage she was from, and when they went there, Mary had spoken to their heart. But she had a brother, and Ben and Cay immediately decided to adopt them both. But they still didn't have any biological child. And it was not like hadn't tried; they'd been married for ten years, now.
"Thirty seconds!" Mr. Liner said. Now all the children were sitting properly, and waiting for the live musicians to start playing the Anthem. Two nannies were standing in the shadows, not too far from the children, in case they had to be taken care of when the parents were busy talking to the Live audience and the people in their homes.
"Good evening everyone!" Belarus suddenly appeared on the stage in a bright pink pencil dress. "Tonight, we have something very special for you, because we are welcoming almost half of the men and women who participated in King Ben and Princess Lou's Selection, just ten years ago. My, time flies, right?" She turned around to look at the children lined up on their sofas. "I mean, look at them! Aren't they perfect?"
The Live crowd cheered and clapped. Of course, they loved the Royal Kids. King Ben was loved more than ever, after he had fulfilled his promise to feed, educate and find accommodations for every single Seven and Eight, without forgetting the upper Castes, either.
"We will have a little chat with all the Selected present tonight, and then, our beloved King and Queen will have some special announcement to make." She turned to the crowd, pretending to whisper only to them. "Between you and me, I have no idea what they will tell us." She made a funny face and the crowd laughed.
Belarus took out a small paper from a hidden pocket in her dress. "Okay, shall we start, then? Please welcome one of the most popular Selected, Miss Olivia Stride!"
Bel was seated on a small white armchair, and next to her was a larger sofa the same color, and that's where the interviewed sat.
"Oh, um, thank you... Thank you," Olivia said, blushing a little bit. She was used to being on a stage and performing in front of hundreds of people, but being back on the Report made her a bit uneasy.
Belarus continued. "So, Olivia. You have so many claims to fame. Being the Beauty of Broadway, The Songstress of The Stage. The Dancer in the Dark. But you're still single. Care to tell us why"
"That's a bit bold; but I'd say it's because I haven't found that one person that makes me smile every day. The one person that'll dance with me, be the Beast to my Beauty... Also, being a former selected... Many men come to you just because you were good enough to be selected."
"Yes. A few dates I went on consisted of questioned hurled at me about Lou and Ben and my time there. I'm sorry, I'm not a selected who talks about the royalty non-stop."
"Do you think you would have had a chance if you were an Elite?"
Olivia didn't answer right away. "I want to say yes."
"Want to... But I know life isn't a stage play... I know that not all stories end with a happy ending. Ben is a sweet guy, sure, but I don't think I would have had a chance with all those interesting women in the Selection."
"Why do you say that?"
Olivia chuckled. "Well with twenty girls competing for the sexist man in Illea's attention… Some get pushed behind. I went on one date with Ben... It wasn't even a solo date. He saw me singing once and that was it. I wouldn't be surprised if he even remembered me..." There was a tiny bit of bitterness in her voice, and Ben cringed. Cay covered his hand with hers and he relaxed.
"Oh, Olivia, I'm sorry…"
Olivia chuckled again. "Don't be. The future is bright! Ben might be a good man but he isn't the only one in Illea. I know that my beloved is still out there."
Bel burst out laughing. "You're right, there is someone for us all out there! Now then! If you ever have children would you want them to be in the Selection?"
"I hope not. I don't want them to be like their mother and have their hearts broken."
"Your heart was broken when you were eliminated?
"I was this close but I didn't make it. Of course, I was sad. There was a reason why I didn't return to theatre immediately. I'm fine now, obviously." She laughed a bright laugh that seemed to illuminate the whole studio, despite the heating lights.
"I've heard that King Ben and Princess Lou go to some of your shows, is that true?
"King Ben, I'm not certain. Princess Lou has and actually has gotten a Backstage pass. She's congrats me on every performance she sees. Sometimes it seems like she's apologizing..."
"I don't know... It might just be me though."
"Okay, one last question. You recently starred in a movie shot in Angeles. In addition to be the Beauty of Broadway, The Woman from Waverly, The Songstress of the Stagehand so much more, are you now going be the Actress of Angeles?"
Olivia giggled. "Maybe. Compared to live theater, movie acting is easy."
"Alright," Bel concluded the first interview. "Thank you for your time Olivia. That was Olivia Stride everyone!"
Everyone in the studio clapped, even the children, even if the youngest didn't know why they were clapping at all.
"Next on my list, we have Bianca Townsend!" A girl in a navy-blue knee length dress and long auburn hair joined Belarus on the sofa. "Hi! Bianca. So, tell us, how has your life been since the Selection?
Bianca shrugged with a smile. "Great, actually. Since I am now a Three, Robyn and I have a steady income."
"I'm happy to hear that, Bianca! So, tell us about this mysterious Robyn. Why did you enter the selection if you already had a girlfriend?"
"Money. Things happened, and we needed the money to get married. Ben helped us with that, actually. He knew about it."
Bel smiled knowingly. "I'm not surprised. Now, how did you two meet?
"She was a begging eight, I was a Trash collector, and she was on my route. It just happened, you know? There's nothing really to explain."
"Aw come on... give us more details?
Bianco smiled smugly. "No. I'd like to keep my private life private."
Bel seemed disappointed but quickly recovered. "Oh, okay, then. Best of luck to you and Robyn!"
Bianca smiled and walked back to her seat while Belarus called Xavier Whiteley.
"Xavier!" Bel exclaimed. "You were quite famous as the son of Hades Whiteley, as well as runner-up in the Selection ten years ago. I'm curious, have you had any children that might just enter the next Selection? Keeping the Whiteley family tradition going?" She laughed at her own joke, and most of the people joined her.
"Well, no." He paused. "I fell into depression for two years and developed anxiety after the Selection, actually. It was a really hard time for me, but my lovely girlfriend helped me out of it and we've been together for many years now. I'm hoping to ask for her hand in the near future, and after that we'll have to wait and see. My little sister, Eolanda, and her girlfriend have adopted a few children though; they're the sweetest things on this planet." He smiled at the thought of his nephews and nieces.
"Well, I'm glad to see you've been able to move on! Any advice you'd like to share for people who might've struggled like you did?"
Xavier took a deep breath before talking. "Just know that even though one thing might not have worked out for you, doesn't mean there will never be one that will. You will eventually find the right path for you, the right decisions and the right people. Never despair and feel that you'll be stuck in the same place; life is always moving on and you'll always have new opportunities. That's how I came to find this wonderful life I have now; I stopped accepting the dark present and started seeking out the bright future."
"Thank you for that precious insight, Xavier. What is your life now?"
"Well, I'm still an architect, but I'm also a part-time lyricist. I write lyrics for the songs my girlfriend composes. We work quite well as a team, and I get help from my mother a lot, who is also a lyricist."
"Thank you, Xavier. Glad to see you're doing well!" Xavier went back to his seat. "Chantell-Maree Davenport," Bel said. Chantell joined Bel. "I see you have a new name," Bel said, winking. Chantell giggled and blushed slightly. "I see you're as cheerful and kind as ever, Chantell."
"Aw, really?" She chuckled. "Thank you, I guess."
"You seem to have gotten over your sadness quite quickly. I remember the day when Cay was announced as winner, you seemed sad, which is of course understandable. How do you feel now about that?
"I was in love back then, and it did take me several months to recover from it, but during that time I travelled around the world and started a travel blog, while also studying aerodynamics. And of course, I met my special someone, who's now my husband. His name is Lucas, and we have a daughter, Aurora Davenport. I love my family more than anything else in the world, and honestly my lifestyle right now is pretty great. We move to a new country almost every year and never stay in one place for too long. Soon, Aurora's going to start elementary school, so we might be in Illea for a while."
"Wow, I didn't even have to ask you any questions," she laughed. "Thank you for your story, Chantell! I wish you and your family the best of luck in the future."
Chantell was replaced on the Sofa by Georgia Balexine.
"So, Gerogia. It's great to see you again! It's been ten years, and I'm sure a lot of things happened since then. But let's just go back to the Selection for a bit, okay?"
"So, when were you eliminated, again?"
"Uhm, I was cut out from the Elite, actually."
"Oh, wow. That must have been hard."
Georgia chuckled and wave the idea away. "Not that much, to be honest. I didn't even get a solo date with the Prince, anyway. I don't even know why he kept me that long. It's like he forgot about me or something, and then 'oh yeah, right, she's still here, I have to take her out,' you know?" She laughed, clearly no bitterness in her voice.
Bel, on the other hand, was a bit uneasy. "Well, with twenty girls, it's hard to focus on everyone. What did you do next?"
"A couple months after I went back home, I left Illéa and travelled around the world. When I landed in Sydney, Australia, I fell in love with the country and the city. And I met a young man who I thought was a supermodel." Georgia laughed.
"What do mean 'thought'?"
She chuckled. "I'll explain. But a couple months later, I learned that my mother, Dakota's Prime Minister at the time, had been killed during a press conference. So, I returned to Illéa with my boyfriend-"
"Yes. And he was there with me, mourning my mother. And it was during that time that I learned that he was actually Prince Alexander John Christopher Balexine of Australia, Heir to the throne," she said, with a playfully mocking posh accent.
Bel's jaw dropped. "What?! You're kidding."
"Nope. It was a lot to take in at once: my mother's death and the fact that I was dating the Crown Prince of Australia and I didn't even know about it. I had to go back to Australia unnoticed and alone, and as an ex-Selected, I took the liberty of asking King Benoit for help to go back there secretly, and he did. Alex then caught up with me in Perth, Australia, and we re-kindled our relationship and got engaged.
"Wow. And now you're married, and a Princess?
"Yes. And Alex will soon be crowned, in a couple years or something. But I've kept in touch with King Benoit and the ties between Illéa and Australia are stronger now than ever."
"Wow, Georgia, this is actually an incredible story."
"And we're now expecting our second child," she said proudly, rubbing her belly in a protective way."
"Congratulations. Wow, this is extraordinary." She shook her head in disbelief, while Georgia went back to her seat, chuckling alone. Ben knew about this, of course, and he was not the one to be surprised. But the other Selected were. She was now the Next Queen of Australia. Impressive.
"Lady Indira Sycamore, please join me on the comfortable sofa, here," Bel said, laughing. Indira came along, with two little girls, who were also running around and playing tag with the Royal Kids before the Report. "Well, Indira, let's go back to the Selection. Why were you eliminated again?"
"Oh, um, I asked to be eliminated, actually."
"Why the devil, Indira? You were an Elite… if I remember correctly."
Indira laughed, and Ben knew this laugh well. "Because I'm not stupid. I saw plainly who Ben preferred and I did not want to be humiliated by being eliminated in front of the whole world. So, I just walked away."
"Oh. How long did it take for you to feel normal again and start a new life?"
"To be honest," Indira said with a wiggling three-year old girl on her lap, "I didn't have much time to feel normal seeing as Prince Ben asked me to return to the Palace just weeks after I had left. I had to quickly find a new normal and a new life at the Palace where I had once competed."
"What made you return?" But of course, Bel knew that.
"A calling to help my country went far above whatever my personal feelings were, so I was able to put them aside and take up Ben's offer to work for him and I'm honestly so glad that I did because I can truly witness the changes I'm making, for once."
"That must be very rewarding, I concede. So, what did King Benoit call you for?"
"To be a member of his Cabinet as a political and economic adviser to him while also doing a bit of diplomatic work for the Palace."
"Wow. That is something, there. Not a lot of people have this privilege. I see you have two little girls. I assume you found love again?"
Indira smiled and brushed her older daughter's hair behind her ear. "Staying in Angeles to work for King Benoit as his adviser, I was reunited with my first and only other boyfriend Hayden Sycamore. With us both in the same area we rekindled our relationship and eventually got married. We now have two daughters – Layana who is 6 and Natasha who is 3. They are the light of my life and can often be seen running around the Palace while I work."
"Thank goodness, the Palace has hired a couple Nannies for all those children, right?" The two ladies laughed. "Is there anything you'd like to say to King Benoit and Queen Cay or Princess Louise and Prince Nash?"
"Seeing as Ben and I work together every day, everything that I'd like to say had been said. I just want to add that it's such a pleasure working in the Palace and I adore Ben as a colleague and it is my pleasure to serve under his reign."
Ben smiled and nodded to one of his favorite colleagues who would lighten the Conference Room with her singing laugh. Indira went back to her seat, entrusting her daughters to one of the Palace nannies.
"Okay, now let's welcome a famous author, Mr. Calder Brett!" Calder grinned and jogged to the sofa. He let himself fall into the sofa, as comfortable as ever.
"So, Calder, do you remember why you were eliminated from the Selection?"
He propped his ankle on his opposite knee. "I presume it's simply because Lou had a stronger connection with someone else. I don't think I ever really got a clear answer, but I came to accept it."
"How did you feel when you were let go?"
"It was painful and it hurt but I like to think that I gained a lot from the experience and there's nothing quite like competing in the selection. On the bright side, I was finally able to finish my third novel."
"Wow! Congratulations. How long did it take you to feel normal again and start a new life?"
"It was definitely a couple of months before things went back to normal. Once my life was no longer at the Palace, I began to focus on editing and revising my book and it was published shortly after."
"I guess that's part of the job of being an author, right?" She chuckled. "What are you working on, now?"
"I'm still currently writing and after my book inspired by the Selection was complete and went on the be a bestseller, I went on to start a new series about life in Allens from the perspective of those from different Castes. The series was critically acclaimed and I'm currently focusing on completing the series with the seventh and final installment."
"Seventh? Wow, you are committed. Did you marry? Do you have any children?"
"Yes, I did marry – and divorced once – but I'm currently happily married to my current wife, Alyssa, and we've been together for 3 and half years. I have 4 children, Jackson who is Seven, Monet who is six years old, Laura and Lilly who are four. Alyssa is currently pregnant with a little boy who will be our first child together.
"Wow, big family, there. Is there anything you would like to say to our Royals after all these years?"
He chuckled and turned around to look at them. "I would just like to wish all of them the greatest happiness and hope that things are going well for them. I would love to tell Lou that I have no hard feelings for her and congratulate Ben on his wonderful work as King." Ben nodded at that, and everyone clapped and cheered as he went back to his seat.
"All right, thank you Calder. Let's welcome, now Mr. Devon Thomas." Everyone clapped and cheered, welcoming the next ex-Selected. "Devon, it's good to see again."
"Thank you, Belarus."
"Let's start from the beginning, shall we? Do you know why you were eliminated?"
"Yes, because of Sam. It feels wrong putting the blame on him since he didn't really have a choice in the matter but it was because of him."
"Aw, poor thing. How did you feel when you were let go?"
Devon's smile flattered a little. "I was angry and upset at first. I sort of felt that the Prince had no business looking into my past, but I thought about the reason behind it and it sort of made sense. I guess you would want what's best for your siblings, right? Now I see it as a blessing in disguise, really. Because of that I was able to see Olivia again and have a relationship with my son."
"And how long did it take you to feel normal again and start a new life, Devon?"
He chuckled. "It didn't take as long as I thought it would to be normal again. I was lucky enough that the people around me didn't really care that much about me being in the Selection. Starting a new life was hard. Olivia and I had a lot to work through and talk about. It took almost a year before we even talked about getting back together, but when we did it was like nothing ever changed."
"I'm glad it did. What are you currently doing now?"
"I was able to start my own fashion line, which has been a dream come true. I started doing simple dresses for friends, which became designing couture, and now fashion shows and some wedding dresses, including Olivia's. I still run my blog and work as a stylist a bit, but now it's mostly designing."
"That is incredible Devon! So, you finally married Olivia. Did you have other children?
"Well, we already had Sam," he said, laughing awkwardly. "But yes. Olivia and I got married about 6 years ago now. Sam just turned nine and has a little brother, Hartley, he's four. We also have another one on the way, a little girl."
"Congratulations, Devon, and to your wife, too. One last question: What would you like to say to King Benoit and Queen Caoilainn or Princess Louise and Prince Nash?"
"Thanks, I guess. I don't think I would be as happy as I am now if I didn't go through all this process. Oh, and one more thing: If Queen Caoilainn and Princess Louise need a special dress design, I'd be glad to be of service."
Cay and Lou nodded their thanks and Bel called the next person on her list. "Rosemarie Abbott? Oh, that's new." Rosemarie headed to the sofa with her husband at her arm, Michael Abbott. "You guys are together?"
The wedded couple laughed and answered in chorus. "Yes."
"Okay," Bel said, "you'll have to tell me about it, because no one saw it coming. How did it happen?"
Michael made himself comfortable on the sofa next to his wife. "I don't know, it just happened. I noticed Rosemarie practically from the start, you know? But I knew from Leonardo's and Sparrow's experience that if I showed anything, I would be punished. All I could do was wait and hope that she wouldn't be chosen, and neither me. And then we were both Elites, and things got complicated."
"Rosemarie, did you notice anything during the Selection?" Bel asked.
"No, nothing. He was very good at hiding it. I wouldn't have noticed anything, anyway, because I had feelings for Ben." She blushed a little.
Bel frowned. "How did you both end up eliminated, again?"
"I got a letter just after New Year from the NASA," Rose said, "telling me that I had been selected to train for the next mission on Mars. I could refuse and never be selected ever again, or I could go, and be an interplanetary scientist and traveler."
"So you went. Wow."
"Yes, and I will never regret this decision. I went on two other missions, since then."
"And you Michael," Bel said, turning to Michael. "What happened to you?"
"A few days later, there was an attack on the Palace. Seeing the circumstances we would be living in if we stayed, Ben and Lou offered us the choice to leave or stay. I took my chance and left, hoping I would be able to contact Rose. I knew she would be training for a year for Mars, and then leaving for a couple years, yet again, so I waited. When she landed back on Earth after her first mission, I was waiting for her."
"Awww that is sooo romantic! Did you marry right away?"
Rosemarie laughed. "No, not right away. We started to see each other and all, but we got married only two years later. I did a short trip to the moon short after, and then came back before going on another mission to Mars again, and I was pregnant when I went, but I had no idea. It was an 18-month trip, and our twin girls were born in the spaceship."
Belarus' jaw dropped. "Wait. What?! Like, for real?"
"Yeah," Michael answered. "I was so pissed I couldn't be there, you know? And when Rose came back, the girls were nine months old, already. But I'll be here for the next one coming soon." He gently rubbed the small bump of his wife's belly.
"I do hope so," Bel said. "Michael, what were you doing while Rose was in outer space?"
"Oh, I'm still an actor, so I continued shooting movies. We're both very busy."
Bel rolled her eyes. "I can imagine that. Rosemarie, with already two girls and a third child on the way, are you planning to travel again to another planet?"
She chuckled. "No. I gave my resignation the day I landed on Earth with the girls. I'm a full-time mom, now. I think doing three interplanetary trips is enough for a lifetime." She laughed again, joined by everyone else in the Studio.
"Wow, yours is an epic story. One more thing before we part: is there anything you'd like to say to King Ben and his wife or Princess Lou and Nash?"
Michael turned around to see Ben. "Yeah. Ben, always remember to rule with your head and your heart." Ben chuckled and nodded to Michael.
"I'll remember that, thanks!" Cay took her husband's hand in hers. She knew he already did that, and was grateful for her sweet and comprehensive husband. As much towards her and their three children, as for his country.
"Thank you. This was Rosemarie and Michael Abbott, everyone!" The couple went back to their seats and Bel checked her list for the next interview. "Sophia Royce, please come join me here." Sophia obeyed and sat on the couch. She was the only woman not in a dress, having decided to wear a feminine suit, like she always did during the Selection.
"Well, Sophia, do you remember why you were eliminated? Or has it been too long?" Bel chuckled, trying to lighten the mood, since she already knew Sophia's answer.
"I think that being arrested is a pretty good reason. But I do think if it wasn't that I would have been eliminated sooner or later, it was just a matter of time."
Bel frowned. "Why do you say that?"
"Prince Ben would have found out about my bisexuality, anyway. And I do prefer girls, to be honest. So, I would have told him about it, I guess."
"How did you feel when you were eliminated?"
"I was shocked, mostly because I was being arrested, you know? But I learned to accept it. I'd rather not have been arrested, but it is what is, I guess. Everything comes back to you at some point."
"How long did it take you to feel normal again and start a new life after coming out of prison?"
"To be completely honest, I still don't entirely feel normal, now. After being in jail, it seems like that is the first and only thing people see when they meet me anymore. Starting a new life isn't that hard when you move. So, after I got out of jail I moved to Angeles. It was possibly the best decision I ever made. I meet new people and just generally have a better life."
"What are you doing now?"
"Currently, I teach self-defense classes at a local community center and I also volunteer at a few women's prisons where I promote fitness and teach some fitness classes."
"That's absolutely awesome!" Bel exclaimed. "I see you are a strong woman of many talents who will not let anything get to you, right?"
Sophia chuckled. "I guess you could say that."
"A lot of ex-Selected found their one and only. Did you?"
"I'm engaged, so I'm not married yet. My fiancée, Vanessa, and I are talking about adopting but neither of us have kids yet."
"Congratulations, Sophia. And do you have any contacts with other ex-Selected?"
"Yeah, actually I do. Devon and I became friends, and we have double dates with him and his wife and Vanessa and me. We see each other maybe once or twice a month."
"Aw, that's great! One last question, Sophia: would you like to say anything to King Benoit or Princess Louise?
Sophia shrugged. "I never thought I would see them again so I don't really have anything to say, to be honest. I'm sorry."
"That's okay. I believe you still have the evening all together after the Report, sothere will be plenty of time later on to talk. Thank you, Sophia!" The Live crowd cheered and Bel called the next person as Sophia went back to her seat. "Mr. Hunter Xiao."
Hunter joined Bel in the center of the stage.
"Hunter, you left the selection of your own free will, if I remember correctly. What standards did the palace not live up to?"
"Safety," Hunter said without hesitation. "A member of the selected got kidnapped by Rebels, and you expect me to stay there?"
"Oh... um, well you'd be glad to know that the safety of the palace has been increased, so nothing to worry about this time round, right?" Belarus laughed, trying to ease the tension.
"No, I wouldn't even count on it, to be honest."
Bel tried to change the subject. "Has anything interesting happened in the last few years? Girlfriend? Marriage? Maybe even a baby on the way?"
"Okay. Well, thank you, Hunter." The crowd cheered, too, but with a little less enthusiasm after this very short interview. "Adam Derrann?" Bel said, calling the next name on her list.
"Hi, Belarus, it's good to be back, really."
"I'm glad you've found your footing again in this place. Adam, do you know why you were eliminated from the Selection?"
"Yeah, kind of. Lou had feelings for Nash, and it was plain to see, actually. So, I decided to walk out. I thought that if I stayed and waited for Lou to eliminate me, it would hurt more."
"That's how you felt when you left? Hurt?"
"Yes. But I also understood that if I stayed, my heart would have crumbled into pieces when she would have chosen Nash, since she had feelings for him. But I accept it."
"How long did it take you to feel normal again and start a new life, Adam?"
"It felt weird, that's for sure. When you're surrounded by people for five months and then you find yourself all alone at home, it gives you the blues. And I thought my heart was broken beyond repair."
"Aw, Adam, I'm sorry to hear it. What did you do to overcome the situation?"
"I went back to work. I was a Five before the Selection, and I was a sculptor. I used to work with clay, mostly, but then I became a Three. So, I decided to become a teacher."
"What do you teach?"
"Art. Mainly clay and wood sculpture, but also paint and photography. I love the interaction with the students, really.
"Did you end up marrying?
"Yes. I did. She was a fellow teacher. Her name is Anastasia, and we've been married for six years, now. We have a little girl called Esther, and she's honestly the sweetest little lady." He grinned, thinking of his dark haired little girl.
"Thank you, Adam, for sharing your heart with us." Adam walked back to his chair.
"Wow, we've already heard twelve ex-Selected. Only nine more to go! Adaline Valentina." Bel waited for Adeline to be comfortably seated on the sofa. "Wow, Adeline, that dress is gorgeous!"
"Did you design it?" Bel asked, a conspirator look on her face.
"I did, yes," Adeline said proudly.
"Great job. So, Adeline, do you know why you were eliminated?"
"I remember being cut out from the Elite. But I guess it was because Ben didn't hold feelings for me. But I don't mind, because I didn't have any feelings for him, anyway!" She punctuated her statement with a bright laugh.
"How did you feel when you were cut from the Elite, this close to the prize, A.K.A. Prince Ben?"
"I didn't really care, honestly. But I came back a Three, so I guess it's not so bad!"
"How long did it take you to feel normal again and start your new life?"
Adeline shrugged. "Going from being a Six, then living a few months at the Palace and ending up a Three is quite the achievement. But I'm not the one to settle down, you know? I like to do whatever I like."
"So, what are you doing now, since you don't like to settle down?"
"Actually, I got noticed by a fashion designer, you know, since I designed practically all my dresses during the Selection, and I started to create my own fashion line called Valentina."
"That's awesome! Does your family support you?"
"Well, my mother died a few months after that, but she was proud of me. And now my sister lives with me."
"I'm sorry to hear about your mother. Did you marry?"
"Yes, I got married, and we had a little girl, Amelia. But it didn't work out with her father, so we got a divorce. But I'd rather be on my own, anyway." She chuckled, soothing the imaginary wrinkles from her dress.
"One last question for you, Adeline: is there anything you'd like to say to our dear Monarchs?"
"Just that I absolutely love Cay- I mean Queen Caoilainn, and I think she deserved Ben from the start."
"Thank you, Adeline."
She went back to her seat, and Bel noticed some of the Royal Kids were getting bored. Who were all those adults talking about their lives? Belarus decided to make a small pause in the Selected interviews to have the children chat a bit with her. She stood with her mike and headed to the children.
"So, Princess Aella. Are you finding this Report boring?"
"Yeah, kind of," she said in a small voice. "I don't even know most of these people."
"Yeah, I totally understand," Bel said. "And you James? I bet you'd prefer to be outside right now."
"Okay, why don't we all play a game?" The kids nodded enthusiastically and Bel motioned for a footman to bring the game out on the Report. She knew it be long for the kids, and she had planned everything. Five minutes of attention on the kids would help them concentrate during the second half of the Report.
A white rug with red, blue, yellow and green dots was brought on the floor of the stage. The small platform with the armchair and the sofa was rolled away for the game. The kids – James, Charlotte, Sorcha, Leith, Mary, Aella, Layana and Natasha, Manon and Tristan being too young and half asleep on their mother's laps – stood in line, waiting for instructions.
"Okay," Bel said. "This game is called the Twister. We're going to roll a special dice that will tell you what hand and foot to put on what color, okay?"
The kids nodded.
"Let's start, shall we?" Bel rolled the dice. "Right foot on blue." All the kids – the one who knew their left and right – obeyed, and the youngest had to be helped. Thank goodness, the nannies were always close by. The colors changed, the hands and feet, too, until it was one big mish-mash of arms, legs and dresses. They were all laughing hysterically, and at some point, they all fell on one another, making the whole audience – Live crowd and embarrassed parents – laugh. It was Bel's signature move, to have some little game in the middle of the Report, either for the adults or the children, and people loved her for it.
She managed to send the children to their seats again, and she continued her list of interviews.
"And now for one of the odder Selected, now dubbed the Sexy Seaman of the South, Captain Drake Wakefield." Drake walked to the platform that had been rolled back in the center of the stage, his hands in his pockets, his all-time captain jacket on.
"Um thanks... But I don't think I'm all that great. I'm just a simple ship captain."
"Who travels to Angeles often! Tell us Captain, why do you go to Angeles so frequently?"
Drake laughed. "That's usually because my clientele is based there and sometimes I might find a fan or two."
Bel rolled her eyes, and blushed slightly. He was handsome, she had to give him that. "So, Drake tell us why were you Eliminated."
"By the time I was eliminated it was pretty clear that Lou had made her choice. I figured that I should go back, now that I knew I had no chance. So, I asked to be let go." Or, more truthfully, but secret to all, Bast had hired him as Spy for him.
"Kind of a defeatist attitude, no?"
"Not when you saw the hopes Lou had." He chuckled.
"Right. What was it like being an Elite?"
"Quiet in the course of the day, since we were reduced to a small amount. I still talked with the other Elite but this was a bit different."
"Speaking of the Elite, have you stayed in contact with any of them?"
"Only like one or two. We chat occasionally but nothing really interesting."
"Right, and anything you want to say to Princess Lou and King Ben?"
"Nothing they don't already know." He smiled a knowing smile to his monarchs.
"So, Captain Wakefield, have you anyone special in your life?
"I do have a fiancée, but as you know I keep my private life very secretive! So, she's out of the limelight." He shrugged like he was sorry, when in fact he was not at all sorry. He walked back to his seat and Bel called yet another ex-Selected.
"Princess Thaïsia Hadel Al Daheer-Davis. Oh, that's knew, too." But Bel knew that Thaïsia had married. Only, she didn't really know who her husband was. Only Ben and Cay, Lou and Nash, and Bast and Dora knew who he was. To the rest of the world, he was just Marco Davis. But to the Royals, he was the Link between them and Rebel Alliance.
"So, Thaïsia, can you remind us what happened at the end of the Selection for you?"
"I wasn't sweet enough, I guess. I had feelings for Ben, but he liked different types of girls." The kidnapping was kind of a secret matter. If people knew that she had married her kidnapper and was now part of the Link with her husband, it would tear the people's trust in the King. Unfortunately, Hunter had mentioned a kidnapping, but Bel had quickly changed the subject, hoping that no one would remember it.
"I'm sorry to hear that. How did you feel when you were eliminated?
"I wasn't present when he chose Cay… but I wasn't surprised. It still hurt, though. Other people told me."
"Where were you?"
"I must have been on my way home when Ben proposed, so I didn't even see the Report." But in truth, Thaïsia had been kidnapped by the Rebels during one of the last attacks at the Palace, and had been returned just after the Report.
"How long did it take you to feel normal again and start a new life?"
"It was not easy. It was yet another change of scenery and home, but it was not the first time in my life. I was sad, because I cared for Ben. But when you know there's nothing to do about it, you just let go. But two years later, I married Marco."
"How did you meet? And did you have children?"
"It's a long story and very complicated – my whole life is complicated, actually – and we don't have any kids, yet."
"Oh. And what are you doing now?"
"I work, with my husband, for His Majesty, in his security team." Thaïsia, since she had been a sergeant in the Jordan Army during the war that destroyed her country, had been hired by Ben himself to be the Link, with Marco Davis, to the Rebels. She was kind of a secret spy or something, and she loved it immensely.
"Thank you so much, Princess Thaïsia. Please send my regards to your husband."
"I will, thank you." She walked away elegantly in her black cocktail dress and Belarus called the next name.
"Mr. Julio Velasquez-Sanchez!"
Julio, dressed in a crisp white suit, joined Bel on the platform and sat of the Sofa.
"Julio, how nice to see you again. Can you tell us when you were eliminated and why?"
"Nope, I still don't understand. I was in a bomb, from a Rebel attack, and I spent the next three months in a hospital bed in the Palace, still dreaming of the Princess. When I was well again, and my skin smooth as a baby, I was sent back home."
"How did you feel then?"
"I was half conscious of it, you know? My heart was still in the Palace. But even ten years later, I still have feelings for Lou. I'm sure she still has some for me, too. But she must have been shocked and everything because there was no way she would have let me go if she had her head clear… I mean, how can you let me go, right?"
Bel chuckled. "How long did it take you to feel normal again and start a new life?
"Normal?" Julio chuckled. "Still not. I was lost. I was sad. I did not sing for a whole week, it was almost a depression. The hurt was deep, it almost broke my heart. It took two-three weeks to mend my heart. But there are so many beautiful girls in this world, and my duty is to give them love and happiness."
Bel wanted to burst laughing but held herself in check, thinking it would be rude to do so. "What are you doing now? Are you still singing?"
"Yes, I continued my career as a singer, and six months later, I got out my fourth album named Your Hazel Eyes, inspired by Princess Lou and everything I lived in the Palace during the Selection. I still sing, perform and record albums."
"Wow, busy life. And with all those beautiful girls out there, did you finally marry? Do you have children?"
Julio chuckled. "Nope. Too many women in the world, I can't choose. And for kids? Not that I know of. But if I was a father one day, I would be the best father in the world, especially if it's a girl and she has hazel eyes."
Bel rolled her eyes and chuckled. "Yeah, right. Is there anything you would like to say to King Benoit or Princess Louise, right now?"
"Yes. I'd like to say that Princess Louise is the most beautiful woman who walked on this Earth. Prince Nash is one lucky man. She could be the best Queen in the world, but it's better that she remained a Princess, so her face is still fresh, without stress wrinkles. Not that Queen Cay is not pretty, of course…" Bel chuckled with him, and quickly sent him on his way to his seat, calling yet another ex-Selected.
"Mr. William Knox Webster." William took his wife's hand in his and they both walked to the platform, sitting together on the sofa. Khalila had a cute bump on her belly. "Oh, my goodness. You guys are married?"
"Yes!" they both said in unison, and laughing. Khalila was still as smiling and happy as ever.
"And how did that happen? Khalila, I remember you being eliminated quite early in the Selection, right?"
"Actually," she said, "I was just cut out of the Elite, and William stayed practically to the end."
"Yes," Bel said. "I remember there was just you, Calder and Nash at the end. What happened?"
William shrugged. "Lou loved Nash, and there was nothing I could do about it."
"And you? Did you have feelings for her?"
"Yeah, I think so. But then I realized I didn't."
"Yeah, obviously, since you married Khalila. How long have you been married?"
"Almost nine years," Khalila said.
Bel's expression was nothing short to shock. "Wow, okay, how did that happen?"
William and Khalila looked at each other, deciding who was going to tell the story, and Khalila started. "Three months after the end of the Selection, Will and I were both in Angeles for some business at the same time. I was walking in the pedestrian streets of Angeles in my extremely high heels," Will and Bel chuckled, "and a rude man passed me and pushed me. I would have fallen on the ground if Will hadn't been there to catch me. When we both noticed who we were, it was quite a shock. I think neither one of us thought we would see each other again. Will invited me for a drink, and it all started like that. A few months later we were married."
"Aw, that is so romantic!" Bel exclaimed, a hand on her heart. "And I see you're expecting? First? Second child?"
William and Khalila burst out laughing. "Fifth!" they said in unison.
If Bel wasn't sitting already, she would have fallen on her chair. "What?!"
"We have Alexander," Will said, "our eldest who is eight years old, then there are the twins who are six, Thomas and Jake, and or little girls, Nastia – or Anastasia. And this little bundle of joy should be coming in three months."
"Do you know if it's a boy or a girl?"
"No, we like to keep the surprise," Khalila said.
"Wow, that is one big family. Congratulations! And thank you for your story!" She sent them away, hand in hand, while she called Alexander Heathers, Khalila's brother. "So, Alex, do you know why you were eliminated from the Princess?"
"I think it's because we didn't really have... I don't know, a connection? I cared for Princess Louise, I really did and I still do, but it wasn't love on my side and I doubt it was so on hers. I just wish her all the best!"
"How did you feel when you were let go?"
Alex shrugged. "I was sad, but I knew it was for the best seeing as I was already pretty sure I wasn't going to be the One, you know? I'd rather be let go than have to stay while knowing it wasn't going to happen anyway."
"I'm sorry to hear that. How long did it take you to feel normal again and start a new life?"
Alex shifted on the sofa. "Not all too long, luckily. I was let go together with my sister, so it was easy to fall back into our old routines at work. I've been a Three my whole life, so luckily, I didn't suddenly have to pick a whole new career or anything like that!"
"What are you doing now? Still working for your father's company?"
"I used to be working on the financial and marketing side, and since he retired I have become the new boss, the actual leader of the company."
"Oh, wow! Congratulations, Alex. Did you marry? Do you have children?
"I did marry, yes. I met a lovely girl, Selene Montoya, on a business trip to France. We fell in love and she went back with me to Illéa, which was now about seven years ago. We married after two and a half years of being together and are now expecting our second and third children. Our eldest, Luca, is now three."
"Twins! How exciting! One last question, Alex. Is there anything you'd like to say to King Ben or Princess Louise?"
"I wish them all the best. I support King Benoit in his rule and I hope Princess Louise has found her own happily ever after, because she deserves it just as much as her brother does."
"Oh, she has, Alex, she has. Don't you worry about that." Bel chuckled and Alex joined his sister and brother-in-law on the side of the stage. "Kendra Blaze, please join me. Oh, and I see you married, too," Bel said, chuckling. Kendra nodded and sat on the sofa.
"Yes, I did."
"Good for you. But before we go to that, let's just talk about the Selection for a bit, okay?"
"Do you know why you were eliminated?"
Kendra's shoulders stiffen a bit. "I was eliminated because Ben and I just didn't click. I thought that we did at the time but he didn't, and he was right. I wouldn't have been the happiest here."
"How did you feel when you were let go, when Ben chose Cay as his One?"
"My heart wasn't broken like I thought it would be because I loved the way Ben and Cay were together. I left wanting the same thing for myself, to be honest."
"How long did it take you to feel normal again and start a new life?"
"It took my awhile to feel normal after I left the Selection because I wasn't welcome back at home. My father was disappointed in me for not winning the selection and I wasn't allowed to go live where I used to."
"I'm terribly sorry to hear that. What did you do, then? And what are you doing now"?
"I live in Bankston where I can be free of my family's judgements about me and I am now a Four who owns a bakery. I still bake wedding cakes, since that was my all-time passion, but when I found the right man who was a Four, I knew it was destiny."
"So you married. Do you have children?"
"Yes, we did marry, and his name is Spencer Blaze who was a Four who also had a culinary passion. He's a chef who owns his own restaurant. We have identical twins, Cliff and Roman, who want to be professional athletes like my side of the family." She rolled her eyes playfully and chuckled.
"Aw, that's cute. Is there anything you'd like to say to Their Majesties?"
Kendra smiled. "I'd like to thank Ben for sending me home. I didn't know it at the time, but I don't know how I could imagine life without my husband or sons by my side."
Belarus thanked Kendra, who went back to her seat.
"Okay," Bel said. "We have one more ex-Selected to interview, and you guys all know who it is: Princess Mia!" Mia and Tony walked hand in hand with Manon in Tony's arms to join Belarus on the platform.
Mia and Tony had continued dating even after Ben and Lou got married, dating for six years while Tony waited for Mia to finish getting her college degree before asking her to marry him. Their relationship was usually kept quite private, not wanting as much press as Lou and Ben got during their Selections. They were thankful that the media had respected their decision in not having their marriage broadcasted all over the country, and continued to respect their relationship's privacy as they both moved to one of the royal estates in Waverly and started their family – away from the prying news outlets in Angeles. The next thing everyone knew, Mia and Tony had a little girl named Manon.
Bel nodded towards one of the sign language interpreters to step forward as she turned to Tony. Tony ran a hand through his now longer hair, the look suiting the now older Prince allowing him to look more mature. His wife, Mia, had not changed that much since the Selection, still favoring to wear a light pink off the shoulder gown styling her shoulder length brown hair into an intricate braid.
"So, Prince Tony," Belarus trying to sign with a microphone in her hand, but leaving the rest of the translation to the interpreter. "A lot has changed within the past ten years since your siblings' Selections. I recall that you actually met Princess Mia thanks to your brother's Selection?"
Tony smiled at Mia and signed back – Mia saying everything he was saying out loud for everyone to understand him. "Yes! Though I don't suppose not everyone knows exactly how we met."
Mia looked at Tony with one of her eyebrows raised, proceeding to sign to Tony about what he just said. "You want me to say it?" Mia asked while she signed to Tony, his smile growing as he grabbed Manon and placed her on his lap. The little girl bore similar features with her parents, possessing Mia's golden brown hair and Tony's dark eyes, but when it came to personality, Manon was definitely a spitfire like Mia.
"If my husband insists on sharing it," Mia's eyes rolled jokingly as Bel clapped excitedly, listening and watching Mia intently as her hands beautifully did intricate movements at such a fast pace while she spoke.
Mia cleared her throat, "Tony and I met sometime in the second week of the Selection. If you all can recall, I had used to work for the Angeles Deaf Theater Company and was still working on writing music."
"Oh yes! I remember seeing a video online about it when you guys started out!" Bel replied.
"Right, so there I was in a Selection in which I had no idea why I was actually taking a part of. I thought that having a date with Ben would have made me want to stay, but I wasn't exactly on top of his date list. So, I had a lot of free time to spend in the Women's Room, which I didn't exactly like since it tended to be so noisy with all the Selected – which made me find a spot for myself in the main library which was so blissfully silent that writing songs was a breeze. Every day, I escaped to the library, loving how it allowed me to be alone in the quiet. Well, after a week of writing and singing in the library, I found out that I wasn't alone the entire time. Tony was there the entire time, I just didn't notice him like he hadn't noticed me due to his being deaf-mute and all. When I first spoke to him, it was like meeting an old friend I haven't seen in a while. Being born with progressive hearing loss and having a number of friends in the deaf-mute community, our conversations just flowed so smoothly. I actually can't remember the first thing he spoke to me, though…" Mia trailed off as she pondered for a second.
Tony tapped Mia's shoulder signing to her yet again, the translator taking a second to interpret what he was saying to her.
"Oh right! You asked if I had a pen and I pulled it out of my hair!" Mia laughed, and tried to get back to speaking to Belarus. "Anyway, from there, I joined him in his booth in the library and we just spoke to each other through sign language. We just connected and became quick friends who met up in the library nearly every afternoon."
"Before I knew it, I fell in love with her," Mia interpreted for Tony. "Though I didn't realize until she brought me to the music room and played something for me – she knew that I couldn't hear her play or sing but she performed for me either way as if I did. I had feelings for her, but I knew she was still part of Ben's Selection so I decided to not make any moves on her until she was eliminated." Tony proceeded to look at Ben, smiling at his brother. "I have Ben to thank for giving us the opportunity to be together, he helped arrange our first date to watch a show together."
Tony then grinned at Mia. "Since then, she's inspired me so much, since that day ten years ago."
"I'm guessing Mia is not the only inspiration among you two. Mia, my sources have told me that some of the songs in your recently Tony-nominated musical: 'More Than Words' were actually about Prince Tony?" Belarus leaned in wanting to get some more detail out of Mia and Tony's usually very private relationship.
"Of course, how could I not be inspired to write when I see this handsome face?" Mia said and laughed as she gestured to Tony's grinning face, Mia leaning on Tony very closely, a hand wrapped around his.
"Mommy, can I play the song you taught me yesterday for Miss Bel?" Manon perked up as she started playing a simple melody on the hot pink ukulele and singing along.
"Musical talent is not limited in this family! Duchess Manon is just a singing sensation waiting to happen!" Belarus laughed as she thanked Mia and Tony for opening up about their usually very private life.
Bel concluded the interviews with Manon singing on her hot pink ukulele. She thanked her, and then all the Selected for coming and sharing their thoughts.
"Now, as promised before, Their Majesties have a very special announcement to make." She invited Ben and Cay on the platform, but they didn't sit on the sofa, preferring to stay standing. What they were about to say was something hard, but they had to do it. Ben held Cay against him.
"It was fun to hear all your stories," he said to the Selected, "and we're happy you don't hold any hard feelings against us." Cay and Ben chuckled. "But now, for the hard part." He took a big breath before speaking to the cameras and the Live audience. "Cay and I have been married for ten years, but we never were able to have children of our own. Sorcha, Leith and Mary are your beloved children, but neither one of them can inherit the Throne, since no Royal blood flows in their veins." He chuckled awkwardly. "It's not that Cay can't bear children, since she had Sorcha. It's me. I can't…" he trailed off, trying not to cry.
It had been really hard for him to learn that he couldn't father children. He loved kids so much, but he was sterile.
"Anyway," he continued as Cay squeezed his hand for comfort and encouragement. "We have decided to pronounce our nephew, James, son of my sister Louise, to be the Heir to the Throne. He will be groomed and prepared just like his mother and I were." He smiled and nodded his conclusion. There was nothing else to add, really.
It took a few seconds for the crowd to process the information, but one by one, the people clapped and the whole crowd stood in companionship with the King and Queen. It was hard enough not to be able to have children, but when one of your first duties was to produce Heirs, it was even harder.
Then, something incredible happened. The Selected joined Ben and Cay in the center of the stage and it was one huge group hug. The kids wanted, too, and it was one huge group of people hugging on Live TV.
Bel ordered the Musicians to start the Anthem, and the Special Report was over.
Well, that's all folks (I know, it was an extra-long epilogue!)! I hope you enjoyed seeing the Ex-Selected and how they turned out! Thank you so much for your help with the interviews, I wouldn't have come up with all those amazing stories on my own ;) You guys rock!
TheGirlWithTheRainbowTattoo posted the 12th and last chapter of HER CHOICE (aka, The Choice, but in Bast's POV), where we have an insight on Lou and Ben as toddlers and kids, and Tony being born deaf-mute... I'm not spoiling anything, but go read it and review it! ;)
I know some of you hope I'm going to write the third part of the story, with James as Crown Prince and his Selection, but unfortunately, I'm gonna say goodbye to this story and these awesome characters you guys created! April Camp Nanowrimo is just around the corner, and I have two original manuscripts to finish (which i hope to self-publish by the end of the year) and a huge Distopian Trilogy beginning to form in my mind, so I want to work on that, too. I might come back to fanfiction later on, but for now, I'm gonna stick with originals ;)
But if you want to write the next part of the story with James as the Next King, Cay and Ben grooming him, and Nash and Lou in the background making sure their son makes a great King, please be my guest ;) I'll be the first to follow and favorite the story ;)
Guys, I want to thank you for your constant support and kind messages, and I hope to see you around ;) bye!
ps: Don't forget to review the Epilogue, too ;)