The Thing About Heart Transplants

The thing about heart transplants is, they don't last forever.

For that reason, Gabrielle Schreave didn't expect to live past eighteen. Really, she never expected to live past five, but when you're a princess, things like vital organ transplants and life saving immunosuppressants are luxuries you could afford.

Her memories from "the incident" were blurry at best. From what her parents told her, she took a tumble down the stairs and when she woke up, she had a brand new heart. Her parents were always touchy when it came to that fateful night. Her siblings less so. Cousin Gen still couldn't look her in the eye. Kase loved to torment her in good fun, saying that his birthday had turned into the Gabbi show, their parents always taking the day to celebrate her second chance at life. Kase always tried to play it off as a joke, but she could see how it bothered him, and over the years it kept bothering him more and more. But his "spare" complex was a story for another time.

As far back as Gabbi could remember, life had been a jumble of doctor's appointments, treatments, needles, transfusions, ER visits, rejection scares, and so many other things that would make a grown man cry. Gabbi had been through it all.

All this to say, Gabbi did not fear death. How could she fear her one constant companion? Death was as certain as the sunrise, something she had come to terms with many years ago.

No, Gabbi's fear was that she had been spending her whole life grooming herself for death, that she would never get the chance to live.

Take the palace, for example. Situated in the sprawling valleys of Angeles, just outside a shining city, it served as a beacon of luxury and paradise to all those who flocked to it year after year. To Gabbi, however, the palace was a gilded prison. It was designed to keep her inside, keep her trapped. She wasn't allowed to leave, not without months of advanced notice. She wasn't allowed to wander the palace by herself, go for walks in the garden if the weather wasn't perfect, go to the bathroom unattended lest she pass out and hit her head on the tub. There were so many restrictions, so many limitations, that Gabbi often thought she was living as a china doll confined to her glass box, trapped by her parent's fear that if someone took her off the shelf, she would shatter.

The truth was, no matter what they did, she was going to shatter anyway. That was the part her parents refused to accept.

Silver lining: Gabbi wasn't completely isolated. She was allowed to see her family, and every once in a while her parents let her attend a party or two. They did have appearances to maintain, after all. And, no matter what, they always had family meals together.

Gabbi couldn't decide if that was a good or bad thing.

Walking into the dining hall, Gabbi was not surprised to see that she was not the last to arrive. Four out of five of her siblings were there, each expelling their obligatory greetings before returning to their own little worlds: Elodie to her newspaper, Kase to his plate, and the twins, Hayden and Auden, to each other. Her parents were always early risers, King Kaden and Queen Finnley of Illéa sitting at the head of the table facing the double doors. Gabbi's chair was the one adjacent to her mother's. Mom never liked having her out of sight.

"How are you today sweetheart?" Mom asked, pecking Gabbi on the cheek. "Take your medicine?"

"I'm fine, Mom," Gabbi assured. She always took her medicine. Even when it made her bones fragile and stomach turn. That was the cost of one more heartbeat.

The meal went on with the usual, unremarkable conversation until Felix Hernandez, Elodie's wonderful husband, strode into the room with his signature swagger and head held high, their six-year-old daughter, Esperanza, cocked on his hip. How he managed to have so much confidence walking into a room full of people who hated him - or were too oblivious to notice the hatred (see: Mom and Dad) - was beyond Gabbi. Still, he sat down at his designated spot at the table like he owned the place, depositing Essie in the chair next to his.

Essie promptly got up and darted away, shouting "Auntie Gabbi! Auntie Gabbi!"

Gabbi's heart melted as soon as the little girl threw herself into Gabbi's arms. Blessedly, Essie had obtained all her mother's good qualities save for her year-round tan and the Spanish lilt in her voice when she spoke certain words. There was something in Essie's hands, something she wanted to show Gabbi.

"Whatcha got there?" Gabbi asked, pulling the little girl into her lap. She was sure Mom was having a nuclear panic; Gabbi could practically hear the rant about the amount of germs little children carried. But Gabbi didn't care. There were so many things other than her niece that were killing her.

Essie opened her tiny hands and revealed a rainbow pipe-cleaner sculpture. Gabbi had no idea what it was, but she supposed the point was to guess.

"Is it...a puppy?" she tried, earning a giggle from Essie.

"No, silly!" Essie said, pulling at one of the loops of piping. "It's a mariposa!"

Now that the loop wasn't bent, Gabbi could see how it was a butterfly - a very deformed butterfly that looked like it had enjoyed one too many cakes in its lifetime.

"Very pretty," Gabbi praised, placing the artwork on the table where it could be admired by all...not that anyone else was paying them attention. Elodie had her nose buried in the paper; she hadn't even addressed Felix's existence. Auden was talking to Hayden a few seats down, Delia was absent per usual, and Kase had his knife gripped so tightly that his knuckles were white and Gabbi wondered if she was going to have to talk him out of murder.

It was an unspoken rule of the dining table that Felix should never, under any circumstances, talk to Kase. Whoever decided that they should sit across from one another in the first place was the world's biggest moron. However, Felix always had to poke the bear.

"Kase, can you pass me the salt, brother?"

The room immediately got ten degrees colder.

Kase looked absolutely murderous as he spat, "I'm not your brother."

"Whoa whoa whoa," Dad intervened, using his best no-nonsense tone which, in all honesty, had lost its touch years ago (not that any of them would tell him that). "What's going on?"

Some kind of silent battle of the eyes went on between Kase and Elodie as they stared each other down with glares dark enough to kill. Then, Kase stood abruptly, his chair scraping against the floor. He threw his napkin down on his untouched plate. "I'm leaving."

"Not you're not! Not until you explain what the hell is going on," Dad insisted, now angry that he was being ignored.

"Ask Elodie."

With that, Kase stormed out of the dining hall, making sure to slam the doors as he left. Felix made his eyes go wide, muttering something under his breath before grabbing the salt himself. Only he mustered up the will to eat, not bothered. Everyone else was looking at Elodie, who was red-faced with both anger and embarrassment.

"Elodie, sweetheart?" Mom prompted, her voice quiet but strong, the way it always was when she wanted to pry but didn't want to outright confront anything. Gabbi wondered, briefly, if a lot of their family problems would have been solved if everyone wasn't so afraid to push.

"I have nothing to say," Elodie replied, looking fixedly at the double doors, as if she could will Kase back inside and throttle him. "I don't know why he acts the way he does. It needs to stop."

"I agree," Dad hummed, chewing thoughtful on the corner of his toast. "I'll have a talk with him, figure things out."

That was always Dad's response, and, as always, nothing would change. Nothing would ever change until they started being honest about their problems, and Gabbi learned early on that that would never happen. Still, Elodie nodded. She had significantly paled now that the initial outburst was over, her appetite gone. Elodie placed her fork on her place and stood, much more gracefully than Kase had.

"May I be excused? There are some reports I want to complete before lunchtime."

"Of course," Dad replied, looking at her half-eaten plate. His brow scrunched with worry. "Don't work too hard."

Elodie nodded, then leaned over to kiss Essie on the forehead. The little girl shimmied in Gabbi's lap, smiling at her mother's love. The two sisters shared a look, one that spoke immense gratitude on Elodie's part that she had someone with whom to entrust her daughter. When she said her other goodbyes, Gabbi did not miss Elodie's subtle cringe as Felix's lips landed on her cheek. She exited the room as quickly as possible.

On Elodie's way out, Delia was on her way in. Delia was oblivious to the battle field she had just wandered in to, throwing her fuzzy-slipper clad feet up onto the dining table, her floral kimono trailing on the floor while she pushed her bug-eyed sunglasses atop her rats nest of a head. That was Delia: a walking hot mess.

"What's up?" she asked, her voice still coated with sleep. She literally must have just rolled out of bed. "What did I miss?"

"Feet off the table, dear," Mom reprimanded gently, and Delia obeyed with a long sigh.

Delia grabbed a handful of strawberries, juice running down her fingers as she plopped them into her mouth. "I'm actually glad you're all here, because I wanted to talk to you about something."

"What is it?"

"I want to have a Selection."

Dad choked on his toast. Mom dropped her tea cup, liquid pouring onto the table. Even the maids were momentarily stunned before rushing to clean the mess. Everyone else looked like Delia had grown a second head.

"What?" Delia demanded, her eyes getting stormy, her petulant tone setting in. "Why are you all looking at me like that?"

"We're just...surprised," Mom said gently, putting it far nicer than the, you've lost your damn mind, Gabbi was thinking.

There was another unspoken rule Gabbi and her remaining siblings had agreed to after Elodie's train wreck of a Selection: never again. They had all sworn off of the idea of a Selection for their different reasons, but the core reason was Elodie. Sure, the Selection had worked out for their parents and grandparents, but tragedy always seemed to follow in its wake, whether it be physical, emotional, or both. And the Schreave family had suffered enough.

"We didn't think that was something you wanted," Dad continued just as gently as Mom.

That was an understatement, Gabbi thought, the twins' faces echoing the same thought. Delia was a disaster, this was true, but it wasn't just in looks. Delia was messy, from her outward appearance to the drama she stirred. She couldn't go a week without being the center of some tabloid drama, running around Angeles with her trashy friend group, getting wasted and hooking up with celebrities. A Selection - the definition of prim and proper - was the exact opposite of Cordelia Schreave.

"Well, I do," Delia pouted, crossing her arms over her chest. Though she was nineteen, she acted more like nine.

"Are you certain, darling?" Mom asked, covering Delia's exposed hand with her own. "This doesn't have anything to do with Auden, does it?"

At the sound of her name, Auden raised her head but said nothing. A sense of unease settled over the table, bringing another sore talking point to the surface: in a little under a week, Auden would be shipped off to Portugal - a country she'd never been to - to be married to a prince she had never met. And as crazy medieval as that sounded, the strangest part was that she had requested it. Gabbi used to think that Auden had all the brains in the family, until she dropped that bomb. Now, she could only hope the prince who had agreed to this madness wasn't certifiably insane or some kind of freaky serial killer.

"No. I have thought it through, and it is something I want," Delia asserted, pulling herself tall in her chair. Gabbi didn't miss how she had to steady herself by reaching out for the edge. Hangovers would do that. "I want a Selection."

"Very well, I'll address the idea of a Selection with the Council this afternoon," Dad said after a minute, still looking at Delia as if trying to discern any ulterior motives. Knowing Delia, it was completely possible. "And, of course, we will have to make the proper sanitation adjustments for Gabbi."

Gabbi fought the urge to roll her eyes, dread creeping down her spine as memories from what she had to endure during Elodie's Selection came to mind: all alone for months on end, watching life move on through her window, without her. Trapped. "I'll be fine, Dad. Carolina doesn't have any more foreign germs than I can find in the dirt outside."

"I'm not taking any chances." Dad had that look in his eyes that he got from time to time, that steely look that meant no one was ever going to change his mind, not even Mom.

"Alright," Gabbi sighed, placing Essie back in her own chair before getting up. If she stayed here she was going to scream, rip her hair out, or both. "Thank you, Delia, for sentencing me to months of solitary confinement."

"Gabrielle, it is not all that," Mom said, a frown pulling at her lips. Delia looked like she had some sort of comeback, but Gabbi didn't give her time to speak.

"Easy for you to say. You don't have to live with it," Gabbi replied, finally sick of being quiet. "The way you all keep treating me, like I'm something to preserve...I hate it. I might as well already be dead."

Mom had tears standing in her eyes and Dad looked a little grayer, but Gabbi couldn't bring herself to regret saying it. It was a low blow, one that Gabbi didn't pull often, but it had to be said. It wouldn't change their minds or stop them from placing her under house arrest for 'her own good', but it made her feel better. It made her feel like she was still there, like she wasn't dead yet.

Now, it was Gabbi's turn to leave the dining room.

What a fabulous breakfast.

A/N: Wow, hello everyone, and welcome to the third installment of the To Build a Home/Princess, Interrupted universe that I promised wayyyyyy back in the winter. Oops. A lot has changed since then; I've graduated from pharmacy school, been job hunting...but better late than never, right?

The set up of this story will be...different. In poor summary, this story will revolve around six interwoven story lines of the six Kinnley children, because apparently I REALLY like making myself suffer, but I think it will be worth the pain if I can pull it off. It will also include some "interludes" where I insert micro-stories about your faves (any Heather fans out there? She's back and getting her own some point). However, I am not writing things willy-nilly; I do have an outline that I will follow.

This story is filled with old and new faces! Unfortunately for new readers, that means you probably will have to read the other two stories to get a complete sense of what's going on - unless you don't mind jumping in with all the spoilers in the water. Since the Kinnley kids were only briefly touched upon in PI, new readers can probably piece together the back story of all the adults along the way if you really want to.

Now, to the question everyone is asking: will there be a Selection? The answer is yes...and no. There will be a Selection aspect to this story, but please understand that it will not be the main focus. The Selection, and the Selected, will not be featured every chapter. I cannot even promise they will be featured every other chapter. This story is more to satisfy those who have followed the other two stories and want to see their faves in action.

That being said, I will accept FIVE (5) male characters to be a part of Princess Delia's Selection. Now, you may ask, "why so few?" See the above paragraph. There are also about 20 new characters of my own that I am introducing in this story; I don't have the creative juices to fit in 20 more external OCs without screwing everything up. I think five is a suitable number that will allow me to develop the characters decently. I have learned from past stories that I really only end up focusing on about 5-7 characters fully anyway. I want to be able to do these characters justice in the time they're featured.

Rules will be the same as past Selections:

Basic guidelines to follow: Male, Illéan, between the ages of 18-24 (Delia is 19 for reference)

1) No recycling characters from other SYOCS. Trust me, I will know.

2) Diversity, Diversity, DIVERSITY!

3) No one can be related to or friends with any royals or previous Selected. From any country. From any story, canon or otherwise. At all. Whatsoever. That includes friends of friends, family members, babysitters, pets, etc...having these connections as well. Your character also cannot be royal/noble. Sending me these characters will result in automatic rejection. I don't have the time to figure out how my 20 new OCs met your OC. Caveat: politician's sons are acceptable so long as they have not had any substantial contact with the royals.

4) If employed, please make your character's job reflects their age. I do not want to see any 18 year old CEOs or editors in chief. If they're 22 or younger, it's very likely they're still in college, or even high school. Let's aim for realism.

5) Submissions through PM only. I need that line of contact in case I need to ask questions about your character. And please, for the love of all that is sacred, detail your submission forms. The more information you send, the more likely I will be inclined to like your character.

6) Authors may submit as many characters as they want, but I will only accept one character per author.

I'll have submissions open until I find five guys that I really vibe with. If I don't get back to you immediately, please don't feel like I'm ignoring you. I'm probably just dealing with real life stuff.

Like my other Selection stories, you can find inspo on Pinterest, where I am under the same name: Ruby Casablanca.

Fun fact from your freshly-minted PharmD: Organ transplants do not last forever; average lifespan after heart transplant according to the American Heart Association is about 10 years. Gabbi's immunosuppressive regimen is modeled after ones we give real life patients - a cocktail that includes 3 classes of medications: a steroid, a calcineurin inhibitor, and an anti-proliferative agent. While these meds keep your body from rejecting an organ (most of the time), they do that essentially by shutting down your immune system so that your body is physically incapable of mounting an attack against the foreign material. This is great for the organs! But can cause some pretty terrible consequences to the host.

If y'all ever want advice on how to realistically harm/treat your characters with fancy diseases, I'm here to help (PSA: WebMD is trash - don't use it).

That's all I have to say for now! Until the next update! Happy submitting!