Hi….natasha back again with a update………….shreya di,ty for commenting,reading and encouraging m frm the start…….can anyone pls tell me how to change the pic near our comments…….pls bear my grammatical and typo errors……….and pls…do comment……….
Recap- Prince (sanskar/varun) entry……..his lyf….daphane…….capital report…swara….thinking abt the nit laksh broke up wit her…..
Link for the previous epi’s:
Episode-5~Broken heart…….Getting Selected????
A WEEK LATER,after entering into the selection…. I BEAT lucky to the tree house.
It took a bit of work to get the things I wanted up there in silence, but I managed. I rearranged the plates one last time as I heard someone climbing the tree.
Lucky started and laughed. I lit the new candle I’d purchased just for us and after a moment, I started talking about all that had happened during the week.
“I never got to tell you about the sign-ups,” I said, excited about the news.
“How’d it go? Mom said it was packed.”
“It was crazy, lucky. You should have seen what people were wearing! And I’m sure you know that it’s less of a lottery than they’re claiming. So I was right all along. There are far more interesting people to choose in Carolina than me, so this was all a big nothing.”
“All the same, thank you for doing it. It means a lot to me.” His eyes were still focused on me. He hadn’t even bothered looking around the tree house.
“Well, the best part is that since my mother had no idea I’d already promised you, she bribed me to sign up.” I couldn’t contain my smile. This week families had already started throwing parties for their daughters, sure that they would be the one chosen for the Selection. I’d sung at no less than seven celebrations, packing two into a night for the sake of getting my own paychecks. And mumma was true to her word. It felt liberating to have money that was mine.
“Bribed you? With what?” His face was lit with excitement.
“Money, of course. Look, I made you a feast!” I pulled away from him and started grabbing plates. I’d made too much dinner on purpose to save him some, and I’d been baking pastries for days. May and I both had a terrible addiction to sweets anyway, and she was jubilant that this was how I was choosing to spend my money.
“What’s all this?”
“Food. I made it myself.” I was beaming with pride at my efforts. Finally, tonight, he could be full. But his smile faded as he took in plate after plate.
“lucky , is something wrong?”
“This isn’t right.” He shook his head and looked away from the treats.
“What do you mean?”
“Mer, I’m supposed to be providing for you. It’s humiliating for me to come here and have you do all this for me.”
“But I give you food all the time.”
“Your little leftovers. You think I don’t know better? I don’t feel bad about taking something you don’t want. But to have you—I’m supposed to—”
“Lucky, you give me things all the time. You provide for me. I have all my pen—”
“Pennies? You think bringing that up now is a good idea? Don’t you know how much I hate that? That I love to hear you sing but can’t really pay you when everyone else does?”
“You shouldn’t pay me at all! It’s a gift. Anything of mine you want you can have!” I knew we needed to be careful to keep our voices down. But at the moment I didn’t care.
“I’m not some charity case,Swara. I’m a man. I’m supposed to be a provider.”
Lucky put his hands in his hair. I could see his breaths coming fast. Just like always, he was thinking his way through the argument. But this time, there was something different in his eyes. Instead of his face growing focused, it fell into confusion one millimeter at a time. My anger faded quickly as I saw him there, looking so lost. I felt guilty instead. I had meant to spoil him, not humiliate him.
“I love you,” I whispered.
He shook his head.
“I love you, too, Swara.” But he still wouldn’t look at me. I picked up some of the bread I’d made and put it in his hand. He was too hungry not to take a bite.
“I didn’t mean to hurt you. I thought it would make you happy.”
“No, Mer, I love it. I can’t believe you did all this for me. It’s just … you don’t know how much it bothers me that I can’t do this for you. You deserve better.” Mercifully, he kept eating as he spoke.
“You’ve got to stop thinking of me that way. When it’s just you and me, I’m not a Five and you’re not a Six. We’re just Laksh and Swara. And I don’t want anything in the world but you.”
“But I can’t stop thinking that way.” He looked at me. “That’s how I was raised. Since I was little, it was ‘Sixes are born to serve’ and ‘Sixes aren’t meant to be seen.’ My whole life, I’ve been taught to be invisible.” He grabbed my hand in a viselike grip. “If we’re together, Mer, you’re going to be invisible, too. And I don’t want that for you.”
“lucky, we’ve talked about this. I know that things will be different, and I’m prepared. I don’t know how to make it any clearer.” I put my hand on his heart. “The moment you’re ready to ask, I’m ready to say yes.”
It was terrifying to put myself out there like that, to make it absolutely clear how deep my affections ran. He knew what I was saying. But if making myself vulnerable meant he’d be brave, I’d endure it. His eyes searched mine. If he was looking for doubt, he was wasting his time. Laksh was the one thing I was sure of.
“No.” The word felt like a slap across the face.
“I don’t know how I fooled myself into ever thinking this would work.” He ran his fingers through his hair again, like he was trying to get all the thoughts he’d ever had about me out of his head.
“But you just said you loved me.”
“I do, Mer. That’s the point. I can’t make you like me. I can’t stand the thought of you hungry or cold or scared. I can’t make you a Six.”
I felt the tears coming. He didn’t mean that. He couldn’t. But before I could tell him to take it back, laksh was already moving to crawl out of the tree house.
“Where … where are you going?”
“I’m leaving. I’m going home. I’m sorry I did this to you, Swara. It’s over now.”
“It’s over. I won’t come around anymore. Not like this.”
I started crying. “lucky, please. Let’s talk about this. You’re just upset.”
“I’m more upset than you know. But not at you. I just can’t do this, Mer. I can’t.”
He pulled me in tight and hugged me—really hugged me—one last time. Then he disappeared into the night. And because this country is the way it is, because of all the rules that had kept us in hiding, I couldn’t even call out after him. I couldn’t tell him I loved him one more time.
As the next few days passed, I knew my family could tell that something was wrong, but they must have assumed I was nervous about the Selection. I wanted to cry a thousand times, but held it back. I just pushed on to Friday, hoping that everything would go back to normal after the Capital Report broadcast the names.
I dreamed it up in my head. How they would announce radhika or nisha , and my mother would be disappointed, but not as disappointed as she would have been if it was a stranger. Papa and ladoo would be excited for them; our families were close. I knew laksh had to be thinking about me like I’d been thinking about him. I bet he’d be over here before the program was over, begging me for forgiveness and asking for my hand. It would be a little premature, since there was nothing guaranteed for the girls, but he could capitalize on the general excitement of the day. It would probably smooth a lot of things over.
In my head, it worked out perfectly. In my head, everyone was happy………
But life was not always happy….i was not able to be happy even in my dreams….his face haunted me day and night…………..his face……his touch…….my heart bleed with each thought of him…..i was completely broken……….There are things that we don’t want to happen but have to accept, things we don’t want to know but have to learn, and people we can’t live without but have to let go.There’s this place in me where your fingerprints still rest, your kisses still linger, and your whispers softly echo. It’s the place where a part of you will forever be a part of me…….
I was snapped out of my thoughts ,wen ladoo squeled happily and in a chirpy tune shouted something about….maxon…selection…announcement…….start…….
I diverted my mind to the T.V……to listen carefully so that…..i will not miss radhika or nisha’s name……i tuned my senses and caged my broken heart…….and started listening attentively…..
The screen changed to the national emblem. In the upper right-hand corner, there was a small box with Maxon’s face, to see his reactions as the pictures went across the monitor. He would already be making decisions about them, the way we all would.
Gavril had a set of cards in his hands, ready to read out the names of the girls whose worlds, according to the queen, were about to change forever.
“Miss Elayna Stoles of Hansport, Three.” A photo of a tiny girl with porcelain skin popped up. She looked like a lady. Maxon beamed.
“Miss Tuesday Keeper of Waverly, Four.” A girl with freckles appeared. She looked older, more mature. Maxon whispered something to the king.
“Miss Fiona Castley of Paloma, Three.” A brunette with smoldering eyes this time. Maybe my age, but she seemed more … experienced.
I turned to Mumma and Ladoo on the couch. “Doesn’t she seem awfully—”
“Miss America Singer of Carolina, Five.”
I whipped my head back around, and there it was. The picture of me just after I’d found out Aspen was saving up to marry me. I looked radiant, hopeful, beautiful. I looked like I was in love. And some idiot thought that love was for Prince Maxon.
My breath hitched…….the worst nightmare i had prayed god that should never happen…..has happened…..and the reality hit me harsh……I WAS SELECTED……..and my only hope for patching up with lucky failed…….i felt my eyes well up…….but i controlled my emotions for the sake of my family……..
Mumma screamed by my ear, and Ladoo jumped up, sending popcorn everywhere. Aadhi got excited too and started dancing.Papa… it’s hard to say, but I think he was secretly smiling behind his book.
I missed what Maxon’s expression was.
The phone rang.
And it didn’t stop for days.
THE NEXT WEEK WAS FULL of officials swarming into our house to prepare me for the Selection. There was an obnoxious woman who seemed to think I’d lied about half my application, followed by an actual palace guard who came to go over security measures with the local soldiers and give our home a once-over. Apparently I didn’t have to wait until getting to the palace to worry about potential rebel attacks. Wonderful.Just wonderful.
We got two phone calls from a woman named Silvia—who sounded very perky and businesslike at the same time—wanting to know if we needed anything. My favorite visitor was a lean, goateed man who came to measure me for my new wardrobe. I wasn’t sure how I felt about wearing dresses that were as formal as the queen’s all the time, but I was looking forward to a change.
The last of these visitors came on Wednesday afternoon, two days before I was to leave. He was in charge of going over all the official rules with me. He was incredibly skinny with greasy black hair that was smoothed back, and he kept sweating. Upon entering the house, he asked if there was someplace private we could talk. That was my first clue that something was going on.
“Well, we can sit in the kitchen, if that’s all right,” Mumma suggested.
He dabbed his head with a handkerchief and looked over at Ladoo. “Actually, anyplace is fine. I just think you might want to ask your younger daughter to leave the room.”
What could he possibly say that ladoo couldn’t hear?
“Mama?” she asked, sad to be missing out.
“May, darling, go and work on your painting. You’ve been neglecting your work a bit this last week.”
My mom was even now carefull enough to use our original name which everyone knew…..
“Let me walk you out, May,” I offered, looking at the tears welling up in her eyes.
When we were down the hall and no one could hear, I pulled her in for a hug.
“Don’t worry,” I whispered. “I’ll tell you everything tonight. Promise.”
To her credit, she didn’t blow our cover by jumping up and down as usual. She merely nodded somberly and went away to her little corner in Papa’s studio.
Mumma made tea for Mr. Skinny, and we sat at the kitchen table to talk. He had a stack of papers and a pen laid out next to another folder with my name on it. He arranged his information neatly and spoke.
“I’m sorry to be so secretive, but there are certain things I need to address that are unfit for young ears.”
Mumma and I exchanged a quick glance.
“Miss Singer, this is going to sound harsh, but as of last Friday, you are now considered property of Illéa. You must take care of your body from here on out. I have several forms for you to sign as we go through this information. Any failure to comply on your part will result in your immediate removal from the Selection. Do you understand?”
“Yes,” I said warily.
“Very good. Let’s start with the easy stuff. These are vitamins. Since you are a Five, I’ll assume that you may not always have access to necessary nutrition. You must take one of these every day. You’re on your own now, but at the palace, you’ll have someone to help you.” He passed a large bottle across the table to me, along with a form I had to sign to say that I had received it.
I had to stop myself from laughing. Who needs help taking a pill?
“I have with me the physical from your doctor. Not much of a worry there. You seem to be in excellent health, although he said you haven’t been sleeping well?”
“Umm, I mean … just with the excitement, it’s been a little hard to sleep.” It was almost the truth. The days were whirlwinds of palace preparation, but at night, when I was still, I thought of Lucky. It was the one time I couldn’t avoid him coming into my mind, and it appeared he wasn’t eager to leave.
“I see. Well, I can have some sleep aids here tonight if you need them. We want you well rested.”
“No, I don’t—”
“Yes,” Mumma interrupted. “Sorry, honey, but you look exhausted. Please, get her the sleep aids.”
“Yes, ma’am.” Skinny made another note in my file. “Moving on. Now, I know this is personal, but I’ve had to discuss it with every contestant, so please don’t be shy.” He paused. “I need confirmation that you are, in fact, a virgin.”
Mumma’s eyes nearly popped out. So this was why ladoo had to leave.
“Are you serious?” I couldn’t believe they’d send someone out to do this. At least send a woman…
“I’m afraid so. If you’re not, we need to know that immediately.”
Eww. And with my mother in the room. “I know the law, sir. I’m not stupid. Of course I am.”
“Consider, please. If you are found to be lying…”
“For goodness’ sake, America’s never even had a boyfriend!” Mumma said.
“That’s right.” I grabbed that rope, hoping it would end this discussion.
“Very good. I’ll just need you to sign this form to confirm your statement.”
I rolled my eyes but obeyed. I was glad Illéa existed, considering that this very land had nearly been turned to rubble, but these regulations were starting to make me feel like I was suffocating, like there were invisible chains keeping me down. Laws about who you could love, forms about your virginity being intact; it was infuriating.
“I need to go over the rules with you. They are very straightforward, and you shouldn’t have a hard time complying. If you have any questions, just speak up.”
He looked up from his stack of forms and made eye contact with me.
“I will,” I mumbled.
“You cannot leave the palace of your own accord. You have to be dismissed by the prince himself. Even the king and queen cannot force you out. They can tell the prince they do not approve of you, but he makes every decision on who stays and who leaves.
“There is no set timeline for the Selection. It can be over in a matter of days or stretch into years.”
“Years?” I asked in horror. The thought of being gone that long set me on edge.
“Not to worry. The prince is unlikely to let it go for very long. This is a moment for him to show his decisiveness, and allowing the Selection to drag on doesn’t look good. But should he choose to take it that way, you will be required to stay for as long as the prince needs to make his choice.”
My fear must have shown on my face because Mumma reached over and patted my hand. Mr.Skinny, however, was unfazed.
“You do not arrange your times with the prince. He will seek you out for one-on-one company if he wants it. If you are in a larger social setting and he is present, that is different. But you do not go to him without invitation.
“While no one expects you to get along with the other thirty-four contestants, you are not to fight with them or sabotage them. If you are found laying hands on another contestant, causing her stress, stealing from her, or doing anything that might diminish her personal relationship with the prince, it is in his hands whether or not to dismiss you on the spot.
“Your only romantic relationship will be with Prince Maxon. If you are found writing love notes to someone here or are caught in a relationship with another person in the palace, that is considered treason and is punishable by death.”
Mum rolled her eyes at that one, though that might be the only rule that worried me.
“If you are found breaking any of Illéa’s written laws, you will receive the punishment tied to that offense. Your status as one of the Selected does not put you above the law.
“You must not wear any clothes or eat any food that is not specifically provided for you by the palace. This is a security issue and will be strictly enforced.
“On Fridays you will be present for all Capital Report broadcasts. On occasion, but always with warning, there will be cameras or photographers in the palace, and you will be courteous and allow them to see your lifestyle with the prince.
“For each week you stay at the palace, your family will be compensated. I will give you your first check before I leave. Also, should you not stay at the palace, an aide will help you adjust to your life after the Selection. Your aide will assist you with final preparations before you leave for the palace, as well as help you seek new housing and employment afterward.
“Should you make it to the top ten, you will be considered an Elite. Once you reach that status, you will be required to learn about the particular inner workings of the life and obligations you would have as a princess. You are not permitted to seek out such details before that time.
“From this moment on, your status is a Three.”
“A Three?” Mumma and I both exclaimed.
“Yes. After the Selection, it’s hard for girls to go back to their old lives. Twos and Threes do fine, but Fours and below tend to struggle. You are a Three now, but the rest of your family remain Fives. Should you win, you and your entire family become Ones as members of the royal family.”
“Ones.” The word was faint on Mum’s lips.
“And should you go to the end, you will marry Prince Maxon and become the crowned princess of Illéa and take on all the rights and responsibilities of that title. Do you understand?”
“Yes.” That part, as big as it sounded, was the easiest to bear.
“Very good. If you could just sign this form saying you’ve heard all the official rules, and Mrs. Singer, if you could just sign this form saying you received your check, please.”
I didn’t see the sum, but it made her eyes well. I was miserable at the idea of leaving, but I was sure if I went there only to be sent back the next day, this check alone would provide us with enough money for a very comfortable year. And when I got back, everyone would want me to sing. I’d have plenty of work. But would I be allowed to sing as a Three? If I had to pick one of the career paths of a Three, I think I’d teach. Maybe I could at least help others learn music.
Skinny collected his forms and stood to leave, thanking us for our time and for the tea. I would have to interact with only one more official before I left, and that would be my aide: the person who would guide me through getting from my house to the send-off to the airport. And then … then I’d be on my own.
Our guest asked if I would show him to the door, and Mum consented, as she wanted to start dinner. I didn’t like being alone with him, but it was a short walk.
“One more thing,” Skinny said with his hand on the door. “This isn’t exactly a rule, but it would be unwise of you to ignore it. When you are invited to do something with Prince Maxon, you do not refuse. No matter what it is. Dinner, outings, kisses—more than kisses—anything. Do not turn him down.”
“Excuse me?” Was the same man who made me sign a form affirming my purity suggesting that I let Maxon have it if he wanted it?
“I know it sounds … unbecoming. But it would not behoove you to reject the prince under any circumstances. Good evening, Miss Singer.”
I was disgusted, revolted. The law, Illéan law, was that you were to wait until marriage. It was an effective way of keeping diseases at bay, and it helped keep the castes intact. Illegitimates were thrown into the street to become Eights, and the penalty for being discovered, either by a person or through pregnancy, was jail time. If someone was even suspicious, you could spend a few nights in a cell. True, it restricted me from being intimate with the one person I loved, and that had bothered me. But now that laksh and I were over, I was glad I’d been forced to save myself.
I was infuriated. Hadn’t I just signed a form saying I’d be punished if I broke Illéan law? I wasn’t above the rules; that was what he’d said. But apparently the prince was. And I felt dirty, lower than an Eight.
” honey, it’s for you,” Mumma sang. I’d heard the doorbell myself but was in no rush to answer it. If this was another person asking for an autograph, I didn’t think I’d be able to handle it.
I walked down the hall and turned the corner. There, with a handful of wildflowers, was LAKSH.
“Hello, America.” His voice was restrained, almost professional.
“Hello, Aspen.” Mine was weak.
“These are from Kamber and Celia. They wanted to wish you luck.” He closed the distance between us and gave me the flowers. Flowers from his sisters, not from him.
“That’s awfully sweet!” Mumma exclaimed. I had almost forgotten she was in the room.
“Aspen, I’m glad you’re here.” I tried to sound as removed as he had. “I’ve made a mess trying to pack. Could you help me clean?”
With my mumma there, he had to accept. As a general rule, Sixes didn’t turn down work. We were the same in that way.
He exhaled through his nose and nodded once.
HE followed me down the hall. I thought about how many times I’d wanted just this: for him to walk in my house and come to my room. Could the circumstances have been any worse?
I pushed open the door to my room and he laughed out loud.
“Did you let a dog do your packing?”
“Shut up! I had a little trouble finding what I was looking for.” In spite of myself, I smiled.
He went to work, setting things upright and folding shirts. I helped, of course.
“Aren’t you taking any of these clothes?” he whispered.
“No. They dress me from tomorrow on out.”
“Were your sisters disappointed?”
“No, actually.” He shook his head in disbelief. “The moment they saw your face, the whole house erupted. They’re crazy about you. My mom in particular.”
“I love your mom. She’s always really nice to me.”
A few minutes passed in silence as my room went slowly back to normal.
“Your picture…,” he began, “was absolutely beautiful.”
It hurt to have him tell me I was beautiful. It wasn’t fair. Not after everything he’d done.
“It was for you,” I whispered.
“It’s just… I thought you were going to be proposing soon.” My voice was thick.
Lucky was quiet for a moment, choosing his words.
“I’d been thinking about it, but it doesn’t matter anymore.”
“It does. Why didn’t you tell me?”
He rubbed his neck, deciding.
“I was waiting.”
“For what?” What could possibly be worth waiting for?
“For the draft.”
That was an issue. It was hard to know whether to wish to be drafted or not. In Illéa, every nineteen-year-old male was eligible for it. Soldiers were chosen at random twice a year, to catch everyone within six months of their birthday. You served from the time you were nineteen until you were twenty-three. And it was coming soon.
We’d talked about it, of course, but not in a realistic way. I guess we both hoped that if we ignored the draft, it would ignore us, too.
It was a blessing in that being a soldier meant you were an automatic Two. The government trained you and paid you for the rest of your life. The drawback was you never knew where you would go. They sent you away from your province, for sure. They assumed you were more likely to be lenient with people you knew. You might end up at the palace or in some other province’s local police force. Or you might end up in the army, shipped off to war. Not very many men sent into battle made it home.
If a man wasn’t married before the draft, he’d almost always wait. You’d be separated from your wife for four years, at the very best. At the worst, she’d be a young widow.
“I just… I didn’t want to do that to you,” he whispered.
He straightened up, trying to change the subject. “So what are you taking to the palace?”
“A change of clothes to wear whenever they finally kick me out. Some pictures and books. I’ve been told I won’t need my instruments. Anything I want will be there already. So that little bag there, that’s it.”
The room was tidy now, and that backpack seemed huge for some reason. The flowers he’d brought looked so bright on my desk compared to the drab things I owned. Or maybe it was just that everything seemed paler now … now that it was over.
“That’s not much,” he noted.
“I’ve never needed very much to be happy. I thought you knew that.”
He closed his eyes. “Stop it,Mer. I did the right thing.”
“The right thing? LUCKY, you made me believe we could do it. You made me love you. And then you talked me into this damn contest. Do you know they’re practically shipping me off to be one of Maxon’s playthings?”
He whipped his head around to face me. “What?”
“I’m not allowed to turn him down. Not for anything.”
Laksh looked sick, angry. His hands clenched up into fists. “Even … even if he doesn’t want to marry you … he could…?”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know.” He took a few deep breaths. “But if he does pick you … that’ll be good. You deserve to be happy.”
That was it.pachakk…..
I slapped him. “You idiot!” I whisper-yelled at him. “I hate him! I loved you! I wanted you; all I ever wanted was you!”
Precap: leaving for the palace…….shock……….ragini’s entry…..hopefully swasan first meet…
Sry for the long update…..couldnt stop myself frm writing….how was the chappy??????………pls comment…….and can anyone say how to change the pic that comes near our comment….pls reply guys……….luv ya????
Credit to: ❤?Natasha?❤