Happily Ever After

By: Kiera Cass

AN INTRODUCTION TO THE QUEEN


This story was one I was kind of aching to discover myself. I adore Amberly. As a mother, I look at her with a sort of awe. She’s charming, smart, gracious, beautiful; and though she’s seen her share of sadness, she tries to be joyful. So how did this magical woman fall for someone the likes of Clarkson Schreave?

It was interesting, to say the least, to see not only Amberly as a teenager but also Clarkson. Watching the abuse and worry he dealt with firsthand made me see how time and fear could shape a person into someone who is, by most accounts, evil. It was also amazing to see Amberly trying so hard to find the positive in him, and in his mother, despite her less-than-kind experiences. I think she genuinely believes that no one is bad on purpose, that every soul has some good in it, and she looks for it constantly. It would explain so many moments in her own Selection process and also make it easier to understand why she would be so keen to accept her son’s choice for a wife, even if her husband (and the country at large) had written her off.

One of my worries about this novella is that it takes away something from Amberly. I worry that it makes her seem foolish, to disregard Clarkson’s words and actions, and want him anyway. I feel like this might be my one chance to say this: I never meant for this novella to condone abusive relationships. I hoped, like everything I make, that it would simply be honest. We know Clarkson has his flaws. Amberly does, too. This is a peek behind the curtain at two broken people.

—Kiera





CHAPTER 1


TWO WEEKS IN, AND THIS was my fourth headache. How would I explain something like that to the prince? As if it wasn’t bad enough that nearly every girl left was a Two. As if my maids weren’t already slaving away to fix my weathered hands. At some point I would have to tell him about the waves of sickness that crashed without warning. Well, if he ever noticed me.

Queen Abby sat at the opposite end of the Women’s Room, almost as if she was purposefully separating herself from the girls. By the slight chill that seemed to roll off her shoulders, I got the feeling that we weren’t exactly welcome as far as she was concerned.

She extended her hand to a maid, who in turn filed her nails to perfection. But even in the middle of being pampered, the queen seemed irritated. I didn’t understand, but I tried not to judge. Maybe a corner of my heart would be hardened, too, if I’d lost a husband so young. It was lucky that Porter Schreave, her late husband’s cousin, took her as his own, allowing her to keep the crown.

I surveyed the room, looking at the other girls. Gillian was a Four like me, but a proper one. Her parents were both chefs, and, based on her descriptions of our meals, I sensed she’d take the same path. Leigh and Madison were studying to be veterinarians and visited the stables as often as they were permitted.

I knew that Nova was an actress and had throngs of adoring fans willing her onto the throne. Uma was a gymnast, and her petite frame was graceful, even in stillness. Several of the Twos here hadn’t even chosen a profession yet. I guessed if someone paid my bills, fed me, and kept a roof over my head, I wouldn’t worry about it either.

I rubbed my aching temple and felt the cracked skin and calluses drag across my forehead. I stopped and stared down at my battered hands.

He would never want me.

Closing my eyes, I pictured the first time I’d met Prince Clarkson. I could remember the feeling of his strong hand as he shook mine. Thank goodness my maids had found lace gloves for me to wear, or I might have been sent home on the spot. He was composed, polite, and intelligent. All the things a prince should be.

I had realized over the past two weeks that he didn’t smile too much. It seemed as if he was afraid of being judged for finding humor in things. But, my goodness, how his eyes lit up when he did. The dirty-blond hair, the faded blue eyes, the way he carried himself with such strength . . . he was perfect.

Sadly, I was not. But there had to be a way to get Prince Clarkson to notice me.

Dear Adele

I held the pen in the air for a minute, knowing this was pointless. Still.

I’m settling in very well at the palace. It’s pretty. It’s bigger and better than pretty, but I don’t know if I have the right words to describe it. It’s a different kind of warm in Angeles than it is at home, too, but I don’t know how to tell you about that either. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could come feel and see and smell everything for yourself? And, yes, there’s plenty to smell.

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