Interviews are what comes in next. I spend the next week after the announcement getting prepped by advisors. They tell me what to say, what not to say, and how to not act like a sullen princess on live television.
I feel like a marionette.
Alexander gets it, too. Just not as heavy as me. He's my prince consort. I am the soon-to-be ruler. I must make a good impression with the people.
Monday morning, the maids wake me up early. A glance at the window tells me it's early morning, the sky is still dark.
"What time is it?" I yawn.
"5 in the morning, Your Highness," one of the maids tells me. They bustle around, cleaning me up and attempting to make me look my best. My sister sleeps through it all.
The maids pin my hair up and out of my face. Tiny tendrils fall out in the front. My mother instructed them to not put too much makeup on me. I'm glad for this, I never cared for it much.
The outfit is plain, a sunshine yellow sleeveless dress. It reaches my ankles. I'm given black flats. Thank goodness, I think. If I wore heels, I'd twist my ankles. A silver tiara is placed on my head.
My father is my escort to the interview. We're doing it in one of the common rooms. The one that is more comfortable with couches.
"You'll do great, my dear," my father tells me, putting an arm around me.
"Thank you," I mutter, still half-asleep. I'm exasperated I had to get up this early. "I need coffee. Or water."
We make it into the room, and I'm seated on a magenta plush chair. An attendant hands me a cold glass of water. It wakes me up a little, though I wish coffee was going to be served.
Alexander enters, seated on the chair beside me. I hate the whole matchy-matchy scheme. His dress shirt and tie are both yellow.
The interviewer comes in last. She's a tall, slender woman. Her face is circular and friendly. Her hair is ginger and is shaved on one side. On the other side, it flows down in waves.
"I'm Isolde Cabot," she tells us. "Are you two nervous?"
"Not at all," Alex speaks for us both. I'm grateful for that, or I might have made a sarcastic remark. That's what getting up early does too me. "We're excited for any questions you may have." I pinch his arm, making sure to be unnoticed.
"Your Highness, don't you look wonderful!" Isolde says to me.
"Thank you," I reply. We stay quiet and the cameras begin rolling.
Ruth goes into an introduction of us. She cracks a few light-hearted jokes and begins asking questions. She asks them for any of us to answer, but it's mostly Alex speaking.
"So, when did you two end up meeting?" she asks.
"Well, our parents had us meet just this year," I tell her. And basically forced us to marry each other, but that's alright. Who cares if I'm taken away from the boy I actually love? What's freedom?
I could say that but I know better. I continue, "And it's been great. Not only that, but I've really gotten to know Alex over these past few months."
The words sound phony coming from my mouth. I wonder if Hunter is watching me. I bet he is, he wouldn't want to miss it. I imagine him leaning on his hands, waiting for my next words.
"How nice," she smiles. "Did you two have any flings before meeting?"
Oh, no. I wasn't supposed to be asked this. I was counting on nothing personal. Think fast, Cassandra! Naturally, my head betrays my hearts as I say, "No. Alex is the only one I've loved."
It takes a minute for Alex to say, "Same. About her, not me though." His charm gets Isolde to laugh. I join in after a second's delay. My poor, poor Hunter.
"It must have been an odd couple of days for you, Your Highness," Isolde says. "Were you nervous or hesitant upon meeting Prince Alexander?"
You wouldn't believe it, sister, I think to myself. I choose my words carefully, eyeing my mother who stands behind the cameras. She stares at me, eyes brows raised. Her knuckles are white as she grips her cup of water.
"I was a quite nervous. I wasn't sure if he would even like me," I respond.
"Not like you?" Isolde says, a hand to her chest in disbelief. "I could not see anyone not liking you, Your Highness."
"Oh, stop it. You are making me blush!" I chuckle, feeling my cheeks redden.
"Did you fall hard for her?" presses Isolde.
Goodness! I find it irritating the lack of privacy. Who would care how hard he fell for me? What useful information is that to anyone? My people only need to know the wedding date and when they are getting new rulers.
"Yes, I did," Alexander responds earnestly. It's so earnest I find myself taken aback. I look at him, confused. There's nothing but truth in his eyes. This kid is a good actor. "The moment I saw her....that was it. That when I knew that I'd be devoted to her for life."
"Oh," coos Isolde, a dreamy smile on her face. I force myself not to roll my eyes as I take in his words. What does he mean? Why does he look so genuine? Too genuine.
She asks us a few more questions. She asks what kind of dress I'm thinking of for our wedding. Then, she asks Alex if he noticed any common interests we shared. He answers with this and that, things like music and writing and soccer.
"That about wraps us our interview, folks!" she turns to the camera, smiling. "Stay tuned for more of Alexander and Cassandra's journey!"
She might as well have been saying "keep watching this for more juicy news on Alex and Cassandra's love life".
I stand after the cameras turn off, shake Isolde's hand. I kiss Alex's cheek for good measure. My eyes wander to my mother, she nods in approval. A rush of relief washes through me. I was able to convince everyone I was a girl in love with a boy I just met.
Alex follows me into the hallway. We walk side by side, not speaking to the other.
"Good job," I tell him. "Isolde bought it. And if she did, the country did."
"Oh, Cassandra," he shakes his head glumly. I'm puzzled, unsure of what he's getting at.
"What?" I ask defensively. I don't particularly like the tone he's using.
"I don't know what it was on your part," he shrugs.
"What do you mean?" I stop short in the hallway. I try to put the pieces together.
"You put on a good show," he continues. His sea-blue eyes find mine, full of hurt and weariness. "I wasn't acting at all."
He turns around and walks down the hall. I stand there, gaping, as his words sink in. I don't know why I'm so surprised. It was bound to happen sooner or later, though after our agreement.... I didn't think it would happen.
"Perfect," I whisper to no one. "Prince Alexander is in love with me.