+I think this would be the product if @jolieenrose and @ingrid's layouts had a baby
+Including two people [first to comment and not including the wondertastical @jolieenrose ]
+Included: @jolieenrose, @larissa-xo, @sophieviollet
+Super long story. Feel free to not read it.
Monday, April 29: Greetings to everyone and welcome to The Selection, where eleven ladies are competing for the Prince’s affections and the throne. Today, you will face your first challenge. You will have tea with the Queen at the Women’s Room, where you will receive a lesson in etiquette. Make sure to wear your best day dress, prepared by your maids.
My head ladies maid Anastasia beckoned me over to the bedpost, her forehead dotted in anxious sweats. We were going to be late though I didn’t care all too much—I wasn’t about to sprint all over the place just to please the Royals. I followed her orders lazily, wearing only a flimsy little slip and surprisingly soft slippers. I wasn’t used to luxury and after my escape from the Ixian prison the opulence was overwhelming. Paulina sat at my vanity, mixing runny pink liquid in water and stirring it viciously. “Rouge”, Anastasia called it. It looked like blood.
I gripped the bedpost for dear life as Anastasia tugged and pulled at the strings of my corset and I was getting lightheaded from my lack of air. Sybil ran to my side, fanning me with a delicately crafted fan painted the same colour as my dress. “His Majesty will find you so incredibly beautiful” Anastasia breathed, spinning me around and, with Sybil’s help, began to pull my frock over my head. “It’s a very bold move to wear blue for first appearances. I hear it that most of the Ladies will be sporting pinks and peaches this afternoon. Very bold indeed.” She nodded reassuringly although I thought it was more for her than I. She knew I didn’t care. I just wanted to be done with this little charade so I could come back to my room and take a nap on that temptingly cozy bed.
Paulina laid out dozens upon dozens of different brushed I even knew existed. Back in my circus days, the only painting I ever did was with your average, horsetail brush. These came in different sizes, nimbleness and texture. I felt like a doll. After countless coats of viscous, gooey liquids poured onto my face, I was nearly pushed out of my room and into the arms of a guard. He escorted me to the Women’s Room without as much as a word.
I didn’t bother introducing myself to anyone. They all looked like the same person. Tall, thin and with faces like porcelain dolls. Faces with kindness in their smiles but a hidden agenda in their eyes. I kept to myself, feeling out of sorts in my blue day dress. I could see the girls eyeing me in my blue ensemble. But blue made a statement.
And that’s exactly what I came here to do.
“No slurping” I could hear my aide, Wanda’s instructions ring through my head like a gunshot in a cave. “No slurping and always hold your saucer with your tea. And remember, the lifting of a pinky signifies elegance and poise.” She talked to me with the essence of a children’s teacher to a child. She read my report, I just knew it. She knew I haven’t been properly schooled so she assumed that there wasn’t a chance that I’d know how to behave. Or speak properly. Or do anything right.
Someone looped their arm through mine and twirled me around, a wave of nausea passing over me in my corset. How was one supposed to walk in these, let alone speak? Or /dance/? It was Emma, her hair sitting atop her head in an effortless chignon and a sparkly peach dress. “You’re tardy, Miss Astrid” she scolded, leading me to a roundabout sofa and sitting down, perched like a lady. “It was this stupid corset” I managed to croak. Lady Melwen who sat near to us gave me a look of pure shock. “Bite your tongue!” I heard her whisper all too loudly. I shrugged. My colourful language escalated in the cells. It was the only way to have my voice heard. “Pardon me” A syrupy sweet smile encroached itself on my face before I could do anything about it. Emma puffed her chest out.
“I’m sure Lady Astrid has the freedom to do or say anything that she feels acceptable, Lady Melwen” She jutted out her chin, fierceness emblazoned in her eyes.
“I’m just warning you for your own good” Melwen said, spinning back around and engaging in frilly conversation with the lady next to her. I heard bits and pieces about current songs and their favorite dresses of the afternoon. I heard my name in the mix and say that it came from the mouth of Lady Melody. She smiled at me. I reciprocated her actions.
Suddenly, blaring trumpets dug their way into my ears as they repeated an awful tune, the Queen stepping through her double door entrance with elegance and poise. She looked well for her age—any fat cat did in Angeles. And in all of Illéa, the Queen was the fattest of felines. She wore a pale green dress with a draping train and sleeves and I was almost positive she would trip. She didn’t. She made her rounds, circling the room and nodding curtly at the curtsying women at her feet. “Pitiful” Emma muttered, shaking her head. I turned to her, “What am I supposed to talk about with her? It’s not like we have a single thing in common. I’m a five. Five’s were built for the recreation of the Ones. I might as well be a little show dog.
“Oh poppycock. Relax, you've got this. Just 'dazzle her with you personality” She winked, nudging me. A bit my lip, edging my way towards her, as she was to me. Her teeth were straight. Her hair was sleek. She was the epitome of health. I almost spat at her feet before thinking about the repercussions. What scum. The Queen sits here acting all regal and beautiful while her country is starving, working themselves to the bone to keep their families alive. And here I am, wearing a dress more expensive than my old house and eating so many coconut melts that I feel sick. I’m no better than her right now. Just a fat cat, lounging lazily in the sun.
“Those are good, aren’t they” her voice said over my shoulder and I looked down, realizing I was holding a dainty piece of shortbread, sculpted into a bite-sized crown. I nodded, even though I had yet to take a bite. “Yes, they were my favourite when I was your age. It really is a shame that I cannot eat them now. I would just have to buy bigger dresses!” the Queen chuckled lightheartedly and I balled my fists so hard that the cookie crumbled in my hand and fell in a dusty pile on the floor. The Queen was watching her weight. The sentence repeated in my head for a while, pictures of my friends from the circus starving, convulsing, dying. I went against every fiber of my being to not slap her in the face. How DARE she. “Of course, even if I had never eaten a single one, there is no way I would be as beautiful as you Ladies are. I am most pleased with the girls this year. Beautiful. So beautiful!” she cried and the other Ladies in the room looked to her in adoration—save for Emma who sat in a huff, mimicking whom I assume would be her aide reciting the rules of etiquette. She giggled to herself, shaking her head in disbelief.
“I seem to be running my mouth here, on you Lady Astrid. Why don’t we talk about you? Your dress!” She leaned in close, “Anastasia is a god with a needle and thread. I knew this was one of her designs as soon as I saw you”
“Yes, she sure is something” I said. I didn’t have much to say to the Queen. I didn’t want to have to keep talking. But then roused a topic that sparked my attention like a lighter to a delicious cigar. A guard, suited in the formal day uniform of a white jacket and navy pants leapt into a brisk walk towards the Queen, mumbling hushed words of urgency. She didn’t take it seriously, waving her hand and rolling her eyes carelessly. “No no, Stevens. The rebels have never attacked us so frequently. Check again. Perhaps it was just a woodland animal.” The guard nodded curtly and stormed back out. She turned back to me again.
“I’m sorry about that, my dear. The palace guards have been told to keep an extra close eye now that the future Queen-to-be is here with us. I’m getting alerts like these on a regular basis. It can be frustrating but I like having any shenanigans right. Under. My. Nose.” She tapped her nose with each word. “Those dreadful rebels are walking into their own demise. I really hope they would stop. Illéa has seen enough bloodshed in its time.” I tried my hardest to fight back a bitter retort, choking it down and swallowing my pride.
Oh hell with it.
“I think they’re just fighting for their beliefs. I see nothing wrong with that.” Bam. Just like that the whole room hushed. The Queen took a step away from me, clearly taken aback and putting a hand over her heart. “Excuse me?” she breathed. I tried my best to back peddle. “I know what they’re doing is wrong, bloodshed is wrong. Violence is wrong. But things are much different beyond the walls of the castle, Your Majesty. Travesties occur on a daily basis and these ‘rebels’ feel like the Kingdom isn’t taking action. I feel like they may be demanding freedom. Equality. It’s just a pity that we can’t all sit and discuss these issues in a civil matter.” I started to lie, betraying my friends back home, “These rebels are being, pardon my language, rather dimwitted by charging at you. At us. Violence never is the answer.”
“Spoken like a true Lady” the Queen said, smiling. I detected a small but sour taste of disapproval in her voice. Did I push it? Did I ruin everything? I walked back to Emma, wanting nothing more than to head back up to my room. “Good for you, Astrid” she grabbed my by the shoulder and smiled warmly, making her way up to the Queen. I whispered good luck to her and she winked back at me.
Although it seemed to have backfired, after the Queen fizzled out and left the Women’s Room without even finishing her introductions. Perhaps she had a lot to think about. Maybe she was starting to see that these ‘Princesses’ weren’t as sugary sweet as herself.