With no warning whatsoever, tears began streaming down Daphne’s face. I looked around the room, trying to find an explanation or solution, feeling more and more uncomfortable every moment.
“Please tell me you’re not going to follow through with this, Maxon. You can’t,” she pleaded.
“What are you talking about?” I asked desperately.
“The Selection! Please, don’t marry some stranger. Don’t make me marry some stranger.”
“I have to. That’s how it works for princes of Illea. We marry commoners.”
Daphne rushed forward, grabbing my hands. “But I love you. I always have. Please don’t marry some other girl without at least asking your father if I could be a choice.”
Loved me? Always?
I choked over words, trying to find the right place to start. “Daphne, how…I don’t know what to say.”
“Say you’ll ask your father,” she pleaded, wiping away her tears hopefully. “Postpone the Selection long enough for us to at least see if it’s worth trying. Or let me enter, too. I`ll give up my crown.”
“Please stop crying,” I whispered.
“I can’t! Not when I`m about to lose you forever.” She buried her head in her hands, sobbing quietly.
I stood there, stone-like, terrified I would make this worse. After a few tense moments, she raised her head. She spoke, staring at nothing.
“You’re the only person who really knows me. The only person I feel I truly know myself.”
“Knowledge isn’t love,” I contradicted.
“That’s not true, Maxon. We have a history together, and it’s about to be broken. All for the sake of tradition.” She kept her eyes focused on some invisible space in the centre of the room, and I couldn’t guess what she was thinking now. Clearly, I was oblivious to her thoughts in general.
Finally Daphne turned her face to me. “MAxon I beg of you, ask your father. Even if he says no, at least I`ll have done everything I could.”
Positive that I already knew this to be true, I told her what I must. “You already have, Daphne. This is it.” I held out my arms for a moment and let them drop. “This is all it could ever be.”
She held my gaze for a long time, knowing as I did that asking my father for such an outrageous request was beyond anything I could truly get away with. I saw her search her mind for an alternative path, but she quickly saw there wasn;t one. She was a servant to her crown, I was a servant to mine, and our masters would never cross.
As she nodded, her face crumpled into tears again. She wandered over to a couch and sat down, holding herself. I stayed still, hoping to not cause her any more grief. I longed to make her laugh, but there wasn’t anything funny about this. I hadn’t known I was capable of breaking a heart.
I certainly didn’t like it.
Just then I realized this was about to become common. I would dismiss thirty four women over the next few months. What if they all reacted this way?
I huffed, exhausted at the thought.
At the sound, she looked up. Slowly, the expression on her face changed.
“Doesn’t this hurt you at all?” she demanded. “You’re not that good an actor, Maxon.”
“Of course it bothers me.”
She stood, silently assessing me. “But not for the same reasons it bothers me,” she whispered. She walked across the room, her eyes pleading. “Maxon, you love me.”
I stayed still.
“Maxon,” she said more forcefully, “you love me. You do.”
I had to look away, the intensity in her eyes too bright for me. I ran a hand through my hair, trying to put whatever it was I did feel into words.
“I`ve never seen anyone express their feelings the way you just did. I have no doubt you mean every word, but I can’t do that, Daphne.”
“That doesn’t mean you don’t know how to feel it. You just have no idea how to express it. Your father can be as cold as ice, and your mother hides within herself. You’ve never seen people love freely, so you don’t know how to show it. But if you feel it; I know you do. You love me as I love you.”
Slowly, I shook my head, fearing another syllable out of my mouth would start everything up again.
“Kiss me,” she demanded.
“Kiss me. If you can kiss me and still say you don’t love me, I`ll never mention this again.
- PAGE 13-14
THE PRINCE (0.5) THE SELECTION SERIES