Zander couldn't put it off any longer. He'd been camping out in his room, passing time by reading and playing the various instruments lying around (His mother insisted on him learning to play more than the piano even though it was the only one he was good at). But today was the day the girls arrived, and tomorrow he would meet them; all 35 of them. Zander spent the morning pacing his expansive room. His thoughts were driving him crazy.
Will they like me?
Will I do something stupid that makes them all eliminate themselves?
What if I don't fall in love with one of them?
"You keep pacing like that you'll wear down the hardwood." The voice of his father pulled Zander out of his thoughts.
"Hey, dad, what are you doing here?" He hadn't even heard the door open.
King Maxon chuckled. "You've been hiding out up here for a week, I had to make sure you hadn't run away."
Zander collapsed onto the bench at the foot of his bed with a huff, covering his face with his hands and resting his elbows on his knees. "I don't think I can do this. I don't know how to interact with girls, let alone date 35 of them at once."
Maxon made his way over, planting a hand on his son's shoulder. "You're going to do fine, trust me. I was just like this when it was my turn."
Zander looked up to meet his father's eyes. "You were?" He'd always pictured his dad as this perfect king, one who always made the right decision. A people's man. Maxon rarely showed weakness, which made it easy to see him as an infallible hero.
Maxon chuckled. "Oh, yeah, I was such a nervous wreck," He scooted Zander over so he could sit next to him on the bench. "Honestly, if I hadn't met your mother the day before I had to meet all the girls in person and fell in love with her… I don't want to think of what would've happened. Facing all those girls blind."
Zander's stomach clenched. "Not helping, dad." He said weakly.
Maxon grimaced. "Sorry. What I'm trying to say is… you're not like me, Zander," Yeah, no kidding. Zander wanted to say. "You're sure of yourself, and know what you want. I'm confident that you'll have no problem finding a wife."
Zander sighed. "How am I supposed to filter thirty-five girls down to one, it's going to take forever."
Maxon laughed. "Then I suggest you get an early start tomorrow." He stood, patting Zander on the shoulder before leaving.
When his father's footsteps had stopped echoing, Zander cursed. "I'm screwed."
That night, Zander was restless. Tossing and turning until finally he couldn't stand it anymore. He needed to do something. This waiting was killing him. Zander rolled out bed and headed for a study on the main level. The marble floor felt cold against his bare feet, sending chills up his spine. When he neared the study with his favorite books, he heard a soft melodic humming.
At the entrance, Zander peeked in to see a girl sitting on the window seat, basking in the light of the moon. She had headphones in and was humming the tune of whatever song was playing. She had her knees drawn up with a book propped on them. With one hand she lightly tapped her knee to the beat.
In the dark light Zander couldn't tell which girl it was. He was tempted to just step away slowly and go back to his room, but that would mean another four hours of staring blankly at the ceiling until breakfast. Zander took a deep breath, and entered the study. The girl didn't notice him at first. Zander made it all the way to the bookcase with the book he was looking for, which wasn't there, before he heard a gasp behind him.
When he turned, he saw the girl staring at him with wide grey eyes. She ripped the earbuds from her ears and started to stand to curtsy. "Your highn-"
Zander couldn't help but interrupt, gesturing in a stop position with his hand. "It's okay, you don't have to get up," He said quickly. The girl, Kyndall he now knew since she was the only girl in the Selection with grey eyes, sat back down awkwardly. She was in cute polka dot shorts and a loose t-shirt. Zander faced her fully and inched a little closer. "I didn't mean to startle you. I thought everyone would be in bed by now."
Kyndall gave a small smile. "I thought that as well. It's why I'm down here," She hastened to add, "Your Majesty," She had closed her book and set it beside her. Zander noticed that it was the exact book he'd been looking for. Kyndall noticed his gaze. "What brings the prince down from his tower?"
Zander gave a light chuckle despite his nervousness about being alone with a girl who wasn't related to him. "I couldn't sleep, so I decided to get something to read, but it seems like you've beaten me to it."
Kyndall picked up the worn paperback, flipping it over in her small hands. "I didn't think anyone else read this series…" She said more to herself than to Zander.
Zander smiled. "It's my favorite, actually." It was a mystery series following a detective by the name of Sherlock Holmes. The books were so worn, some pages weren't even legible.
Kyndall gave him a small smile, fidgeting awkwardly. "It's my favorite too…"
They stood in silence just looking at each other. It struck Zander again just how beautiful she was. Seeing her now he could really appreciate it and he actually noticed more than in the brief time he'd seen her photograph. Kyndall had a small, slightly upturned nose that wiggled slightly when she talked, her grey eyes were impossibly round making Zander feel as if he could just fall into them. Finally he pulled his gaze away and gave a short laugh. "Well, I guess I'll leave you to your reading. See you at breakfast." He turned to leave, but Kyndall's voice stopped him.
"Your Highness?" Zander turned back and was surprised to see that Kyndall's cheeks were positively pink. She was staring at the floor. "I-I saw your reaction… you know… to my picture last week…" She was stuttering the words, her cheeks growing redder with each word.
Zander's own face flushed scarlet. "Oh, um, I just thought you were beautiful," He hurried to correct himself, "I mean you are beautiful. Not just like in that one picture…" He felt like crawling into a hole. I'm so awkward, someone shoot me.
Kyndall giggled, slightly embarrassed at the compliment. "Thank you." Her voice was breathless.
Zander managed to stammer, "You're welcome, I'll leave you now." He was desperate to leave. Why did I ever leave my room? Bowing awkwardly, to which Kyndall returned a curtsy, Zander turned on his heel and left the room, using every ounce of will power not to run; that is until he got to the stairs where he began to sprint, not stopping until he was safely in his room where he collapsed on his bed, his chest heaving.