It was finally time. 2 weeks since the letters were sent. Zander shifted uncomfortably in the throne-like chair waiting, almost impatiently, for the Report to start. His mother, America Schreave, reached over to clutch his hand. Her radiant red hair was pulled back in a clip, her crisp ice blue eyes, the same color as Zander's, stared reassuringly at him. "Everything is going to be fine, Zander, I promise," Mom's eyes grew unfocused as she got caught up in a memory. "I remember watching your father when he was your age, watching the girls' faces pass on the screen."
"Did he know you were the one when he saw your photo?" Zander asked, his voice nervous.
His mother smiled knowingly. "I'm not sure, you would have to ask him. I was so shocked that I'd been chosen, I missed his reaction."
Zander opened his mouth to say something when his father, Maxon Schreave, rushed into the studio. "Sorry, sorry." He ascended the step to the chairs set up for the royal family, which consisted of himself, his mother and father, his younger sister Marissa who was a little over a year younger than Zander, and the baby brother of the family being only 5: Henri. Henri was the splitting image of their mother with bright, curly red hair and the blue eyes that all Zander's siblings had. Zander, excluding his eyes, looked like his father with honey colored hair that covered his ears and fell into his face. Maxon, however, was bulkier, even after almost thirty years since his parents got married, he looked the exact same. The only difference was the wrinkles that had aged his face, if only slightly. King Maxon took his place next to his Queen.
Zander's mother chuckled. "Maxon, your tie." The king looked down to see his tie wasn't tucked in.
"Aw, crap." King Maxon exclaimed, reaching up to fix it.
Queen America giggled. "I got it." She reached over and tucked her husband's tie into his suit.
Maxon smiled leaning over to kiss America's cheek. "Thank you, my dear."
She rolled her eyes, though Zander didn't understand why. He turned away from his parents to look at his sister crossing her ankles. Where Henri looked exactly like Mom, Marissa looked like Dad. They shared the coffee colored eyes, high nose, and curved mouth.
She smirked at Zander. "Nervous, brother?"
Zander took a deep breath. "You would be too." Dealing with Marissa took effort, she was snarky and stubborn to the point that it was ridiculous. She was bitter because Zander was the first born and therefore the rightful heir to the throne. For the most part, Zander ignored her, but on Fridays when they all gathered in the studio for the report, there was no ignoring her: she sat right next to him.
Zander had the overwhelming urge to run from the studio and escape to his room. It was his safe haven. He could spend hours sitting at his piano, playing away. If she wasn't too busy, his mother would come and play with him, teaching him the old songs she'd learned at his age. But of course that wasn't an option, for the next god-knows-how-many weeks all eyes would be on him and the 35 girls he had to eliminate one-by-one in order to find a wife.
His parents had made many reforms during their reign, changing almost every aspect from what the country of Illéa had been during their childhood. The caste system was gone. The poor had become wealthier, making the middle class grow larger, stabilizing the economic stability. The overtly rich were arguing about losing some of their wealth, but for the most part the country was running smoothly under the reign of his father. King Maxon's popularity worried Zander, constantly keeping him up at night in fear that when his time came, he would ruin everything his father had fought to achieve.
"And we're live in… three… two… one." The producer's voice brought Zander out of his thoughts just as the red light on the camera signaled they were live.
His father made a short speech about their in-the-works peace treaty with Britania, an upcoming country that was still in its volatile conquering stage, then some other announcements about agriculture and infrastructure. Zander faded in and out like he usually did during the Capital Report, until they announced Mitchel Fadaye, nephew of the famous Gavril Fadaye who'd retired a couple years ago, who would be conducting all the interviews during the Selection. He was in his thirties, with salt and pepper hair and piercing brown eyes.
Zander snapped to attention, fidgeting to sit up straight in his chair. Cameras spanned to get a close-up of his face, which had always made Zander feel uncomfortable.
"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen of Illéa. I am Mitchel Fadaye, and it is finally time to announce the candidates for the Selection. I'm sure you're all looking forward to see who has been chosen for a chance at our Prince Zander's hand, but I bet no one is looking forward to this more than the prince himself," Mitchel made his way over to the raised platform of chairs, and Zander cringed on the inside. When he reached Zander, Mitchel leaned forward, holding the microphone between them. "What do you think about how in a little over a week, 35 beautiful women will be invading your home?"
I think that I want to crawl into my bed and hide. Zander thought, but couldn't say. He cleared his throat and gave a short laugh to ease the knot in his stomach. "Well I'm nervous. I've never hosted so many guests in the palace."
Mitchel nodded. "And what are you looking for in your true love? Do you think you'll meet her in the Selection?"
Zander licked his lips uncomfortably. "I'm hopeful to find a companion, one that will understand me for who I am," He looked down at his hands clasped in his lap, thinking, before looking up to meet Mitchel's eyes once more. "And to answer your second question: yes, I do think I'll meet her in the Selection. My father found his true love, so I believe that I will find mine as well."
Mitchel plastered on a dazzling smile. "I'm sure you will. Now: to the names," Mitchel walked over to the podium where a stool sat beside it with the 35 letters that would say what girl had been accepted from each province. He opened the first letter, the fake smile still on his face. "Cassandra Tonelli from Allens," He paused a beat so the picture of Cassandra could flash on a screen off-stage. She looked tall, with a long tan face and long, frizzy brown hair. Her eyes looked brown, but Zander couldn't tell from so far away. "Lucille Sharman from Belcourt," This girl was blonde, her hair thin as paper with blue eyes. "Heidi Emerson from Clermont," Zander had to use all his concentration not to wrinkle his nose at Heidi's picture. She had thick blonde/brown hair that looked oily and enough make-up to take a clown's place at a circus without anyone knowing the difference. "Prudence Joiner from Kent," This girl was a sort of improvement. She had short, choppy black hair that framed her pale face and dark brown eyes. "Kyndall Michalis from Fennley," Zander couldn't help his small gasp, which he immediately tried to cover up with a cough. Kyndall was the most beautiful girl he'd ever seen. Her light brown hair was tinted with purple streaks and her grey eyes were the color of clouds in the night sky. Her smile was radiant, making dimples show in her cheeks. Zander would've noticed more, but the picture disappeared too soon.
"Alexandra Ridley from Carolina," Zander had to pull his thoughts from Kyndall and focus on the new girl whose photo was flashing across the screen. She's from mom's old province, he thought as a girl with curly dark hair and emerald green eyes flashed across the screen. Beside Zander, his mom's eyes went wide. Before he could ask what was wrong, the screen changed. "Rose Dawson from Baffin," The picture showed a girl with short ginger hair, freckles covering her cheeks and forehead. The rest of the girls were a blur.
"Avery Trent from Hundson," Dirty blonde hair and dark blue eyes.
"Chanel Henderson from Bonita," Jet black hair and brown eyes.
"Kellie Mounce from Ottaro," Dark brown hair and brown eyes.
"Pearl Chandler from Panama," Platinum blonde hair and light blue eyes.
"Alana Womack from St. George," Light brown hair and eyes.
"Susanna York from Dakota," Light brown hair and dark eyes.
"Lizette Martel from Calgary," Dark blonde hair and blue eyes.
"Shevon Delaney from Labrador," Brown hair and hazel eyes.
"Rebecca Collins from Midston," Wavy blonde hair and light blue eyes.
"Ainslie Marshall from Sonage," Dark blonde hair and light brown eyes.
"Haylee Priestly from Waverly," Light brown hair and blue eyes.
"Jillian Norris from Tammins," Red hair and brown eyes.
"Janessa Vance from Lakedon," Blonde hair and brown eyes.
"Christina Porter from Hansport," Black/brown hair and dark eyes.
"Delicia Cooper from Zuni," Dark brown hair and blue eyes.
"Lily Ibbot from Atlin," Dirty blonde hair and dark brown eyes.
"Lenore Black from Dominica," Brown hair and eyes.
"Tracie Cross from Bankston," Dark brown hair and dark blue eyes.
"Tiffany Spencer from Columbia," Light blonde hair and blue eyes.
"Belle Sandford from Denbeigh," Brown hair and eyes.
"Rylie Mondi from Likely," Brilliant blue hair and brown eyes.
"Mia Harrell from Paloma," Dark brown and light brown eyes.
"Elaine Causer from Honduragua," Light black hair and dark eyes.
"Linsey Ward from Angeles," Blonde hair and brown eyes.
"Jackie Barlow from Whites," Light blonde hair and light blue eyes.
"Katherine Milburn from Sumner," Light brown hair and eyes.
"Gwen Adams from Yukon," Strawberry-blonde hair and brown eyes.
"Angela Gifford from Sota," Dark brown hair and light brown eyes.
The amount of names made Zander's head spin, no way could he remember them all. He didn't even try. By the time the Report was over, he was beyond exhausted. The effort it took to climb the four flights of stairs to get to his room almost made him pass out. Snuggling into his covers, Zander fell asleep before his head hit the pillow, the only thought running through his mind was how much he dreaded next week.