Annabeth shifted to the rooms of the Selected in the second floor next morning. Her room number was marked 23 meaning Mischelle had been the 23rd person to be selected out of 35 that day. As soon as she went in, she was greeted by two maids she hadn't seen before.
"Good morning Lady Annabeth. I'm Julia" says the taller one who had dyed her hair violet. She bowed deep and Annabeth suddenly felt out of scenery.
"Please don't bow for me."
"I'm Crystal" said the smaller one. She had a round face and she looked asian. Then she bowed.
Okay, I'll humour you too.
Annabeth bowed lower than either of them did and said "I'm Annabeth."
Both girls let out a small squeak at her gesture but decide to keep quiet. Just then an elder woman knocked on the open door and Annabeth looked back to find a woman in formal wear looking at her. Everything about her screamed work so much that she reminded Annabeth of Athena.
Annabeth decided one more person needed a joke so she bowed down for another introduction.
She simply nodded her head and said "Looks like I can throw off that lesson from my plate then. Morning Lady Annabeth, I'm Willow. I'm your guide during The Selection and you will treat me like you should treat the prince for the time being irrespective of your caste. Only by practice, you can be perfect. Remember that my input would directly go to the Queen and you don't want a wrong impression on her."
Annabeth blinked before she laughed and Miss. Willow glared at her. "A lady doesn't laugh like that and definitely doesn't act so disrespectfully! And here I thought living in the palace would have done you some good" she said.
Annabeth pouted and miss Willow looked like she was going into another fit. "Okay okay I'm sorry miss Willow. I will treat you like a Lady treats a Prince but please.." she tried to control her laughter "... please I don't think I can treat Percy like that. I'm sorry."
"How disrespectful lady! You DO NOT call the Prince by his first name, understood? No. I forbid it. Not unless the Prince personally tells me that he gave you permission"
Annabeth was taken back but she nodded her head.
Oh the things she agrees to for Percy.
"Alright then first things first. You may choose a dress from the wardrobe provided. You can also requestdresses one week before to have them done on time. You have missed several instructions because you have been added last minute so let us go on a need to know basis for today..."
Not sure I care much about dresses but okay.
"...Firstly, you are late. You should be up by at least 6 for us to prepare you by 8 30 everyday. ..."
" All Selected must assemble before the royal family does at breakfast. There is a common room alloted for Selection and you either spend time there or here in this room..."
Gee, more time with the girls. Just what I wanted isn't it?
"... You will not go to the 3rd floor for whatever reason you have in your head unless you have an invite. Am I clear?"
Not even the library?
"No. Not even the library."
Oh gods did I say these out loud?
"Yes, yes you did. Now since we have only 45 minutes, there isn't much time for a makeover. Wash your hair, blow dry it and put on a dress. I'm expecting you down in... 44 minutes. Congratulations on your Selection" She spoke all of that like a robot. (after having said it 34 times probably)
As soon as miss Willow goes out, Julia pushed Annabeth into the bathroom and stripped her to her under garments. Annabeth should be embarrassed but she figured this is just their duty.
"What flavor shampoo would you like?"asked Crystal.
"Uh.. not sure we have a lemon... There is one flavoured citrus though." Said Julia.
"All the other girls have customized their first dress for giving a good first impression. Everybody is on and on about giving Royals a good impression"
"It won't be first impression for me anyways. Don't sweat it"
"Have you met the Prince before?"asked Crystal.
"I'm one of his best friends"
"Wooah... What is he like?"
"Huh? What is Percy like? He is a... doofus, a seaweed brain, an idiot. But he is also... loyal, easy to like and fun. You just need to get past "I'm the Prince" arrogance of him."
"You're talking like you actually know him", she muttered but Annabeth catched it.
"That's because I do"
Julia then quickly gives her a hairbath and blow dries her hair.
"I'm not sure if these dresses would even fit you Lady Annabeth. I'm sorry, we'll do better next time"
"Actually... Didn't you mention something about girls giving Percy a first impression?"
"Yes I'm so sorry we couldn't..."
"Stop saying sorry. How is humour for a first impression?"
Julia stared at her like she had just started speaking greek.
Percy was unnecessarily nervous. He was about to enter a room of 35 girls, 34 of whom he had never met and 34 he has to reject.
34 hearts to break.
Don't think like that.
On another hand, he wondered why Hazel was so particular about his dress and now he thinks he gets it. Don't start off too strong.
As he opened the doors to the dining room however, he got the real reason why Hazel insisted on the suit. He is met with all the girls standing in a circular formation around the table. They all bow to him and it isn't too long before he found Annabeth.
Annabeth was wearing a light blue gown but... Wait.. she wasn't just wearing 'a' light blue gown, she was wearing 'the' light blue gown from the photo released to the press just the day before.
And Percy was wearing a matching light blue suit handpicked by Hazel that morning because she thought he shouldn't, quote, "get started too strong".
Hazel isn't getting away with this.
Annabeth also seemed to come to this realisation and her smile threatened transform into a laugh.
"Good morning ladies. Would you all please take your respective seats for today. Any preferences can be tried out later" Percy says, trying to sound stern.
He is so happy Annabeth somehow wordlessly morphed his stress into amusement.
Maybe Hazel is getting away with this.
Percy wordlessly goes to the front, avoiding all curious glances to him and Annabeth.
The colour matching was too perfect.
He sits down and all ladies follow but no one dares to pick up their cutlery. All the food is set and everything is ready but it is considered polite to let the royals start first. The gang (Percy, Annabeth, Malcom, Grover and Jason) usually followed it only when people other than Paul and Sally were around but Annabeth guessed it was probably one of the rules she missed.
"Everyone can start eating. Sorry,my dad is running late today" he says but no one even puts their hands on the table.
He scrutinises the crowd and lifts one eyebrow. When no one gives up, he sighs.
"Okay then... How about we all play a silly game till then? Hello I'm Percy and my hobby is swimming. How about I call out a number from 1-35 and the person tells their name and hobby, calls out a number and so on?"
No one moves a muscle and Annabeth sighs. Percy says "Let us start with my birthday. Who is 18?"
The girl sitting across Annabeth lifts her hand. "Good morning everyone. I'm Cassy and I like to sing".
Percy smiles at the girl, who blushes. "I like your confidence. Now tell a number"
"I'm Drew and I am a model so I like to take pictures" the girl was wearing a turtleneck bright read dress with red lipstick and it was starting to hurt to look at her. "22"
The girl next to Annabeth starts speaking and Annabeth realises that this is the one who naturally looked like a goddess. Today she was wearing a dress full of white feathers and she really looks soft on top of her own natural softness. She practically had no makeup on and Annabeth felt like giving her a hifi.
She tried not to look too bothered by how Percy was staring at her.
"Hi, I'm Calypso and I like to garden"
You would have thought a girl like that would be shy. No, she was looking right back at Percy while speaking. Then she suddenly turned around, put one hand on Annabeth's thighs, smiled, squeezed a little and said "23".
Even before Annabeth opened her mouth to speak Percy spoke up. "Just the number for you" Percy was smirking, almost like he was challenging Annabeth to tell off the Prince in front of the Selected.
Oh you're on.
Annabeth too looks right into Percy and says "Cheat."
A few Selected look her way.
Percy replies with an amused "Oh and you're not?" while he leans forward, subtly touching his coat garment right next to his left wrist with the other hand.
"You are accusing the wrong person. Hi I'm Annabeth chase and I like to read in the library." Percy tries to contain a smile. "One"
The redhead closest to Percy answers. "I'm Rachel Dare and I like to paint. Mostly nature"
"Woah.. like canvas?" Asks Percy.
She nods, looking at Percy.
"Show me sometime"
She gives a small smile. Probably shy from all the eyes on her.
Just then Percy's parents arrive with Tyson and Estelle. Percy gets up and all the Selected follow. Tyson is wearing another blue suit but darker, like the usual ones he wears. The King is in his royal emblem and so is the Queen. Estelle is wearing a baby pink dress surprisingly having similar style and design as Annabeth's blue dress.
Percy really chuckles this time but goes on to greet his dad. "What took you so long dad?"
"Estelle wanted snack story time. Besides, I think you've kept everyone here occupied. Please.. all of you sit down and continue your breakfast."
Percy looked at his father face little guilty. "They all refused to eat without you"
Paul momentarily glanced at Annabeth and Percy glared at him.
"All of them? -" Annabeth hung her head down "-I'm sorry girls I should have sent in a note"
First the Prince now the King.
This is going tointeresting.
No more time was wasted and they all started eating.
Percy picked up small conversations with his father about on going politics untill Sally decided to cut him in-between.
"Is Annabeth wearing the same dress as the one you gave to the press?"
Percy sighed. "Yes"
Paul stares at Percy. "Why?"
"She's wearing the dress the Prince got for her on his coronation as the first dress to his Selection" he chuckled.
Could I really blame her though? How many people can say that?
Paul went "Ah.." and Sally looked teasingly at Percy.
"Not a minute into it and she is already playing games" He smiling, firmly looking at Annabeth who is trying to make small talk with the one next to her.
"And you?" asks Paul gesturing to how he was matching her.
"I merely accepted it when Hazel told me to not start off too strong!"
Paul and Sally chuckle.
Estelle starts walking around, not hungry after snacks. The entire royal family, some Selected and guards were watching her antics as her went around found every girl with a light dress or a pink dress and said "we match".
Then suddenly she went from saying 'we match' to 'you match' when she found two girls wearing the same colour right next to each other. She went a few more rounds before trying to sit on Calypso who was eating. Percy tried telling her that it was rude to interrupt someone eating like that but Calypso just shrugged his word off and pulled Estelle on her lap.
Estelle went on to stand on her lap put one finger on her face and another around the room, point out every girl with white dresses or white decorations and said "you match", "you match". Calypso giggled at her antics and stopped eating to hold her with both hands.
Then Estelle saw Annabeth next to Calypso, said "Bethh", jumped out of her hold and into Annabeth's. Her plate almost fell and she pushed it inwards as she wrapped one whole arm around Estelle. Estelle catched Annabeth's right cheek with her hand, stood on her lap and started searching the girls.
No girls had light blue dresses.
She then turned to the royal family and said "she doesn't match" too cutely, making Annabeth giggle too.
Percy looked at her, sighed and went on to take another bite.
She then suddenly jumped on Annabeth's lap and said "NO! you match! You match with Percy!" She said as she pointed one finger directly at her brother.
He literally stopped eating as he looks up at Annabeth for what he fells is the 10th time that day.
His look translated to : Thank you sis... like people didn't see it at all
Annabeth just laughed.
Then Sally suddenly said "She does, doesn't she?" to everyone and smirked at Percy.
He would have whined if 34 strangers weren't in the room.
Percy made sure he was glaring at Annabeth when he left the room.
Maybe it was all in his head but just for a minute, he thought that Annabeth was competing well.