The Royal One
“It’s okay, mom,” Andre replied, giving his mom a quick kiss on the cheek.
“Oh.” she said and wiped her eyes with her apron. She breathed deeply and then
expressed a big smile. “Okay, enough of the emotional train wreck that is your mother, we
prepared a special something for you,” she said, leading him over to the dining table. Andre
saw the table set for the four members of his family, decorated with plates, napkins,
silverware, tall glass cups, and a fruit basket centered in the middle.
Cindy jumped on her chair and with her arms spread out wide, she yelled, “Surprise!”
Andre laughed and walked over to pick her up. Then after a quick spin with her on his
back, he hugged her and then went back to his parents. “Thanks, mom.”
“You’re welcome honey. Now, come on. Let’s eat before they come for you.”
The family sat down at the table and ate like they haven’t eaten in weeks. Andre’s
plate was filled with fruit from the basket, eggs from their chicken house, and toasted bread
from their wheat farm in the back. Andre’s parents owned 34 acres of land in the town of
Slember, the farthest from the kingdom. But, he liked living nowhere near the busy streets of
Mellani, the closest town to the palace. Even though the five towns were all under the same
kingdom, each one ran itself independently, and only came together when necessary.
The car showed up two hours after the family had their morning meal together. It was
a black van with tinted back and side windows, which made it hard for him to see if there
were any other kids inside. There was no marking on the van, no image, either. It was just a
plain dark van. Andre turned to his parents before getting inside, and smiled. He wasn’t
going to come back home for a while, so he wanted to make the moment last as long as
possible. The king had already chosen the ten males and ten females that would compete, so
Andre wouldn’t see his family until December when they announced the new king and queen.
It almost didn’t seem fair, but those have been the rules for almost 200 years. One objection
wasn’t going to change anything.
Andre waved at his family one last time, then got in the van. A tall man closed the
door behind him, then stepped inside the passenger seat, and the car took off. There was
another kid in the van, wearing the same thing as Andre, and dark shoes. His hair was short
and black, his expression was fierce. They exchanged looks and Andre knew this was the kid
he had to look out for. There was no way of telling how bad this competition would get. The
training would decide how dedicated each competitor was, and the tests would give the final
Andre wasn’t sure how to approach this kid, but he knew if they kept this anger
between them before even knowing each other’s names, there would be no hope at all. Andre
extended his hand towards the guy next to him and said, “Andre.”
“Jones.” The two shook hands. Andre turned back to face the front of the car, staring
out the window into the open road up ahead. Neither of them spoke again until they picked
up another kid. He wore the same thing as them, and boarded the van without a word. Andre
didn’t bother to introduce himself, to eager to pick up everyone already and arrive at the