Alternately titled: New Rules
a/n: It’s been kinda a hectic and crazy week for me, but I’m glad I managed to write this. I basically made this and all its accompanying visual aids based on New Rules by Dua Lipa because it’s been stuck in my head for a while- so I was like “Hey! There should be New Rules for the Selected girls” and sooooo join Marshall as she introduces the New Rules of the Selection. Thank you to @nathaniel-schreave for the RP! As well as @victoria-seaberg, @ladyvenusvale, @ladyaadamaier for adding some drama and to @phaniecastello for being a good seatmate to Marshall. Now, I hope you enjoy!
Waking up in the palace is not something you do everyday. Neither is being dressed up by three people, or looking out your window and seeing one of the most beautiful gardens in a world. I’m used to the sound of plane engines as my alarm clock, not the gentle nudging of one of my maids. Being here in the palace has been so different, and for the first time in a while, I feel like I don’t belong.
The thing with being a military brat is that I should be used to the change of scenery. I’ve never stayed in one place for a long time. Wherever my dad had been ordered to go, I followed. You can name any province, and chances are that I’ve probably moved there once. Angeles? Lived there for 2 months. Hudson? Yeap, spent a good 4 months there. Clermont? Spent my 12th birthday over there. Dominica? Yeap. Zuni? Most definitely. However, the nomadic life of a military brat had abruptly stopped when my parents had decided to send me to military school.
The trick to keeping my sanity was to always keep a set of rules. Just a set of guidelines that made me have some sense of order in my world that constantly changed. But those rules change all the time. Maybe I just need a new set of rules again. I thought, trying to calm myself down.
I’ve only been in the palace for less than 24 hours and I’m starting to feel the fear tugging on my gut whenever I’m new to a place. It’s normal though, I assure myself. It’s never easy to adjust, but no one survives life by being comfortable. Things change in life, so me and my rules will change along.
Today’s the day that I get to meet Prince Nathaniel, which is exactly why my maids were being technical with what I’m going to wear. Angelica preferred putting me in an asymmetrical satin pink dress with a high slit to the side, Eliza held out an egg-shell blue gown with capped sleeves and a high-low bottom, And Peggy showed me an adorable topaz yellow gown with an empire waist and embroidered details.
“Come on, Miss Marshall. Pick the dress you’re going to meet your future husband in.” Angelica goads.
None of the dresses being presented were what I imagined myself to wear. The brightness of their dresses was just too light for me. I’ve always liked dark colors, so I shook my head at the dresses in their arms and moved to my closet to pull out one of the few black dresses I saw.
“This one.” I say, smoothing out the elegant black long sleeved dress. It was not daring, it wasn’t bright- but it had a simplicity at first glance that made me appreciate the knitted detail all throughout the piece.
Once my maids had helped me slip into my dress and done my make up, they send me off to the Great Room where I was to wait and meet up with the other Selected girls for some kind of event. They ask us to wait in out seats as the other girls filed into the large room.
As I sat in my seat, I’m surprised to hear a voice that carried the authority of a drill sergeant coming from a petite woman, piercing us with her green gaze.
“Good morning, ladies, I trust you all slept well.” the woman nods at all of us, and her presence immediately intimidates most of the girls in the room. I like her.
“My name is Collette Bennett and I am the royal planner.” Lady Collette introduces herself, and I’m impressed with how she carries herself around us. It was elegant, yet intimidating. Strong, yet feminine. “My job is to instruct you ladies on the proper etiquette for your stay in the palace.” There was something in the way Lady Collette collected herself that made me just admire her.
“There will be no back talking, no disobedience, and absolutely no unladylike conduct. This includes sabotage and gossip. If you respect me and listen to what I say, we will not have a problem.” Considering the tone the woman was using, I made the mental note to not cross her, or disobey her orders.
“Now, I am going to teach you all a proper curtsy.” Lady Collette says as she dips into a curtsy, “You will do this as you greet a royal or anyone of importance. Prince Nathaniel will call each of you one by one for a short interview. You will address him as ‘your highness’ and curtsy, unless he says otherwise.” Okay, so I was going to learn all these protocols before meeting the prince.
“After you’ve learned your greetings, we will get into the dining portion. Now, let us begin.”
As I sit in my seat, I make sure that I keep my chin up and back straight as I practice with the utensils set in front of me- it wasn’t so different from a square meal! I thought about how all this palace protocol was similar to being at the base, or being taught in military school. Maybe things aren’t as different as they seem.
I keep my head up, make sure to always bring my food towards me (not the other way around), and make sure to not slurp my food. There’s a utensil for every course, and I listen to Lady Collette’s instructions about dining etiquette. Then when Lady Collette corrects me once about a fork I was about to use, I come up with a new rule for my stay in this palace.
One, don’t pick up that fork. Pick up the wrong utensil and you’ll look like a dork.
After Lady Collette’s lesson, she steps outside of the Great Room- leaving us Selected to our own devices. I make sure to practice what I learned from the lesson, miming a square meal while trying to add the kind of refinement everyone else aimed for too. It was an easy one: pick the food up, two: bring your utensil up, three: bring your utensil in front of your face, and four: bring that utensil to your mouth and enjoy. One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four.
I guess I needed to just bring everything I’ve learned together. I thought, before my inner thoughts were disrupted by a paper ball that hits the head of the girl across me (Victoria? Victoria.) Victoria.
“Shit.” I hear from a table over, and I recognize that voice coming from Venus. Good lord, what did the girl get herself into?
“Excuse you!” Victoria yells, turning to Venus. I had heard about them being catty on their plane ride to Angeles, and I guess tension was still high between them.
I mutter under my breath, “Jesus….” I could tell something was about to go down- everyone else was able to tell too judging from their reactions.
“You’re excused.” Venus replies to Victoria and though my initial thought was to laugh, I try to keep control of my emotions. Unfortunately for my seat mate, Stephanie… she didn’t. I hear her trying to stifle a laugh, and I give her a look of warning. Laughing would only make things worst.
“I don’t know what you’re doing, little Vee. But maybe you should pay attention to what Lady Collette is saying, you obviously could learn a lot.” Victoria gives a quick retort which results to both of them continuing on a verbal rampage against each other. I quickly sip my tea to avoid giving a strong reaction while looking around if it looked like anyone was going to intervene. I don’t like getting involved into things like this, knowing well enough that a mere fight could jeopardize my stay here- but it looked like Venus and Victoria needed someone to talk some sense into them.
“I can tell you what you’re both acting like and it’s not ladies. You’re behaving like absolute children.”
I hear someone to my side yell at the two girls, and it takes all of my strength not to bring my palm to my face. That was not the right way to handle a situation like this- especially if you used a shrill voice. I turn to the source and realize that it was Aada who had yelled at them.
“Someone’s got to stop this before this gets crazy..” I whisper to Stephanie, knowing full well that Aada’s attempt added fuel to the fire and would only continue to raise the tension between Venus and Victoria. Next rule of thought, I remind myself.
Two, don’t yell at them, or they will start to fight again.
“You did not just call me a child, Aada. I don’t care for that tone” Venus coldly says to Aada.
“And I don’t care for when people blatantly disregard the rules” Aada replies back, and I turn to Stephanie, thinking about how overdramatic this was getting- now we have three girls in argument.
Stephanie’s eyes widen at the continuing scene, “Should we do something…?”
This is when I know that someone needed to diffuse the room, “I will.”
Meanwhile, the argument continues to unfold in front of us. Victoria, Venus, and Aada looking obviously annoyed with each other. For the sake of finding some kind of peace this morning, I decided to put some sense into everyone while Stephanie tried getting Victoria’s attention.
“You know what, you want to fight? Be my guest, but don’t be upset when you get sent home for breaking rules within the first five minutes.” Aada declares and I felt like I needed to massage my temples. Yeap, someone definitely needed to stop this- before I had to pull someone away from another girl.
“There isn’t gonna be any fighting, for anyone.” I raise my voice, putting enough authority in it to get everyone’s attention. Thankfully, I was able to do so. I notice that both Victoria and Venus were being consoled by Stephanie and Eloise, respectively.
To say that I’m annoyed is an understatement, but I avoid showing it. I give sharp looks to the three girls, making sure that they knew that I was talking especially to them.
“You don’t want to be sent home for this.”
Venus then mumbles a quick sorry, then getting up and leaving with Aada on her tail. I hope they get to resolve whatever beef was between them, but now was not the right time.
When it seems like things had calmed down with Venus’ exit, things went back to a semblance of normal up until a dashing young gentlemen entered the room.
When he enters, I can hear the shifting and shuffling of dresses, girls moving to sit and stand a little straighter throughout the room. I somehow find myself among those girls, but I was fixing invisible creases on my dress. If there was a sound that somehow announced the prince’s arrival, I guess that was it.
Prince Nathaniel greets all of us, and I can’t help but not focus on his features. He was handsome. I wasn’t blind. I know a cute boy when I see him, and Nathaniel was cute. The boy had a jawline for days. Maybe it was the element of finding true love and all that weirdly convincing marketing, but I was finding myself getting weirdly attracted to the prince.
One by one he called girls from their seats, each rising and coming back in a matter of minutes. I wonder how the prince could meet all these girls in one day, having to meet all these people in one day would have driven me mad. I couldn’t focus too much on that though. I needed to focus on trying my best to secure my spot here, which was definitely better than getting deployed.
Trying to make someone fall in love was easier when you were doing it for other people. I knew that I had to be myself, that’s an old advice that I’ve given to so many of my friends before- but their love lives wasn’t under the scrutiny of the entire nation. I badly wanted Prince Nathaniel to like me, for the reason that I wanted to stay here and that he was indeed someone who was pretty cute.
I don’t wait long for my name to be called by the prince and I’m escorted to him. Every step I take sends a small chill up my spine, knowing how nervous I am. Being nervous is normal, I remind myself. He was a prince! You don’t meet royalty everyday.
“Hello Lady Camille, I’m Prince Nate.” Prince Nathaniel introduces himself, stands from his seat and offers me a small bow.
By instinct, I almost raise my hand in a salute- but I quickly remember Lady Collette’s instructions, dipping into my best curtsy. “Greetings and Salutations, your highness.”
“You are the one from the military right?” He asks. I’ve lost count of the number of times people have asked me that in the past two days alone.
“Yes, sir -err… your highness.” Jesus, I needed to stop calling him sir.
“Please take a seat,” he gestures to the seat across him, “and call me Nate. But what an amazing status you have at such a young age.” Nate says, obviously prompting me to at least tell him my own.
“Thank you.” I reply, taking the seat. “It’s an honor to serve sir. If we’re going on a nickname basis, you could just call me Marshall.”
“Well hello Marshall, what exactly do you do in your position?”
“I’m currently holding the rank of Second Lieutenant in the 19th Air Force.” I smile with a sense of pride. I love being in the air force, and telling people my rank. “My job typically engages me in air combat and flying… but I’m assigned to be with a junior air squad.. so we don’t typically fly as much as people expect us to.” I try to give him the best idea about what I did everyday- but I left out a part: the boring meetings and planning.
“Wow, and flying planes is really impressive. I could never do something like that.” Well, you could. I thought, thinking about the resources he had access to.
“Oh, it’s actually easier than it looks, trust me.” I assure the prince, knowing fully well that flying was a skill that was easy to learn.
“So another than flying what else do you do?” Nate asks, tilting his head. I’m glad that he realizes that I didn’t fly that much… or not as much as I wanted to.
“If we’re talking about the Air Force… I do a lot of physical and combat training- but I guess you wouldn’t want to hear about any of that.” I shake my head, thinking that he’d be bored out of his wits.
“Yeah I do.” he nods, his tone reminding me of a kid… in a way.
“Alright, then.” I lean forward, feeling like we were going into more personal thing. “What would you want to know?”
“What you do for fun. Like if you don’t have anything planned what would you do.” he explains to me and I think about his question for a second. What do I do?
“Running.” I blurt out. “I used to be on the track team, back when I was in military school. Running was my life before, it still is.” I really liked to run, having thought of it as my favorite pastime.
“So you are a very active person.” Nate concludes.
“Now, how about you, Nate? What do you do for fun in this palace of yours?” As much as I liked to believe that Nate had a lot of questions about my life, I had my own let’s say…. couple hundred questions about him.
“Play my guitar, I don’t have much free time.” he tells me, and I perk up when he mentions a guitar.
“You play guitar?” I try to confirm with him.
“Yeah, do you?” he asks me I turn.
“I’m not any good but I know a few songs here and there. My bunk mate before played the guitar, I ended up learning from her.” Okay, there was some information I held back… but it’s not a wise decision to tell your possible husband about your obsession over Taylor Swift when you were 14. My bunkmate - Maxine-had introduced me to her and taught me most of her old songs on the guitar.
My reminiscing is interrupted when Nate offers to teach me, “I could always help you learn some more.” That would be nice… then a timer rings. “I’m sorry but I have so many more girls to meet, this conversation has been wonderful.” Nate stands.
I’m sad that our time was up, but I feel like I had done just right throughout my interview with him. Yes! I didn’t fuck up!
“It was nice meeting, your Nateness.” Whoop, there was the fuck up.
“Sorry,” I laugh little. “Nate.” I correct myself.
“you too Marshall.” Nate waves at me as we say our good byes, and I’m glad that he didn’t hold my mistake against me.
I walk back to my seat with an easy feeling.Talking to Nate felt like talking to one of the Bullets, just trying to find a good rhythm with him. I then realize that this might be the best way for me to stay as long as I could here.
Three, Try to be his friend. You know you wants to wake up i
n his bed in the palace in the morning.
And maybe this third rule would make all the difference for me.