"The stars are so pretty tonight," my older sister Jenevieve says. I glance up admiring the beautiful night. Tonight is the last night before I turn 15, which I am absolutely dreading. When a girl turns 15 she is eligible for The King's Choosing. The King's Choosing, or The Choosing, happens when the prince comes of age, turns 18, and needs to pick a queen before he can become king. Every girl between the ages of 15 and 25 can take part to be chosen and in return for participating their family gets $500. For families like mine who are barely paying the bills this can keep us going for months. The girl who gets chosen then picks from the remaining girls, a maid who gets to live in the palace and marry the king's servant. Being a maid isn't great but you get paid a lot of money and get to live in the palace.
The last Choosing was when our mother was 17 and she participated. She didn't get chosen but now she and the rest of our family expects me and Jenevieve to do the same. I would do it but I don't want to be forced into marrying someone I don't love. "Maya? You shouldn't do The Choosing if you really don't want too," Jenevieve says. "It's a very slim chance you'll get picked but either way you don't need to do it."
"Are you going to do it?"
"Yes and that's enough for the family."
"But Jen, if both of us do it think of all that money. $1,000."
"If you want to do it go ahead but don't do it just for Mom, Dad, and Jake."
I turn away and look towards the city. The dark sky illuminated by it's light. I honestly wish I didn't have to do The Choosing, but Mom and Dad will expect me too and the money would get our little brother, Jake, some new clothes and toys so he wont be teased at school anymore. I really want to get the money for them but what about me? What if I do get chosen? The chances are slim especially for me with my frizzy brown hair, boring green eyes, and broad shoulders. The ones who are picked usually have perfect hair, bright blue eyes, and a perfect hour glass figure. Which would mean I'm even less likely to be chosen because of how unattractive I am. But still. If I was picked I would be forced to marry someone I don't love and I'd have to stay in the palace my whole life. I want to explore the world and meet people and visit new places. Most of all I want to follow my heart.
"It's cold we should go back," I say. "Alright," Jen replies and starts to head back home. I take one last look at the sky before I turn away and head home with Jen. We can see the house in the distance becoming closer and closer with each step. Cloaked in the darkness we tiptoe inside and slip into the room we share. I look at Jen who starts to open her mouth to say something but before she can I turn away and get into my bed on the other side of the room.
It feels like my head just hit the pillow when I hear Mom calling for us to get up. "Jen, Maya!! Get up! Come on the invitations for The Choosing are here!" I roll over glancing at Jen who is looking right back at me mirroring my nervousness. We slowly get up and dressed stalling wherever we can until we run out of things to do. Jen puts her hand on the doorknob of the only thing seperating us from our family and the invitations. "Ready?" she asks. I nod as she opens the door and steps into the kitchen/ living room. "Mornin' girls," Dad says smiling at us. "And Happy Birthday Maya!" Happy right. I am just so happy my birthday is the day the Choosing Invites are sent out. I think sarcastically. "Thanks Dad," I say out loud with fake enthusiasm. "Here are your invites girls remember we have to rsvp by 5:00 pm today. Jen and I exchange looks. "You are doing it aren't you?" Mom asks. "Yes," Jen says and looks at me.
"What about you Maya? You do know for each of you we get $500 for each of you right?" asks Mom.
"Yeah I know."
"I'm thinking about it."
A gasp from Mom, Dad, and Jake echoes through the room. I instinctively flinch. "You're doing it whether you want to or not," Dad says. "Honey, it is a lot of money that would help us out a lot," Mom chimes in. I just look down at my bare feet. "If you get picked you get to live in the palace you would be queen!" Jake exclaims. Their words fill my head. Jen telling me to do what I want, Dad telling me to do it, Mom saying do it for the family, Jake saying do it to live in the palace. I can't even focus on what's happening. Colors and sounds just surround me and my thoughts and all I can think about is getting away. My feet move on their own carrying me away from them, the house, the choice.
When I finally come to a stop and look around me I realize I'm in the city. People scurrying about like mice looking for food. I try to focus on anything but The Choosing and my family. I look in some of the shops at kids with pockets full of money to buy toys and trinkets. If only Jake could be one of them. I look up at the palace, if only I could have that type of life for me and my family. My feet take me towards a richer neighborhood. I see the girls who don't have to worry about not getting a say in who they marry. How I long to be among them. To follow my heart and live my dreams.
"Maya?" a voice calls out. I spin on my heel and see my friend Elaine walking towards me. "Hi", I say.
"How are you? I feel like we haven't hung out in ages I've missed you", she says.
"I'm good, I've been really buisy lately and actually I'm in a hurry but we should totally hang out sometime."
"Bye." Elaine has been my best friend since kindergarten. We used to go over each other's houses everyday until we graduated last year. I wonder if she's going to do The Choosing? She always dreamed of being queen and royalty so I bet she will. She's so pretty and sweet she has a good chance of getting picked. I look at a clock hanging on one of the shops. 4:35 pm. I've been wondering around the city of Reina that long? I need to choose. Follow my dreams or take a chance on being choosen?