Chapter 5 - The Elimination

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Breakfast was a tense and uncomfortable affair. Everyone in the dining hall was nervous, dreading the upcoming elimination announcement. Nobody had any idea how many would be cut, or who they would be.

Sabine and I seemed to be the exception. She acted like she had already won, strutting around everywhere with her trademark haughtiness. I, on the other hand, knew I would be at the bottom. There was no doubt in my mind that the king wouldn't want a melodramatic, suicidal mess like me around.

Once everyone was done with their food and was merely sitting around, making awkward conversation, Melanie Caldwell strode in. All head snapped up and all conversations ceased as the hundred girls in the room gave her their undivided attention. Melanie smiled, as if impressed by her own ability to command the room.

"Hello again, ladies," she said. Her lips contorted into her signature plastic smile. "I hope you all enjoyed yourselves thus far. Unfortunately this will be the end of the competition for some of you."

I glanced at the girls sitting around me. A petite brunette at the next table looked like she was on the verge of tears. Her tablemate held her hand and gave her a reassuring smile.

"Please rise when I call your name," Melanie began. The girls hovered on the edge of their seats.

"Felicia Ashton." The name belonged to a tall blond girl I didn't recognize. She rose proudly and ran a hand through her curly hair.

"Harper Chandler," Melanie continued. A dark skinned girl in the back of the room got up, high-fiving someone at her table.

Melanie continued to list names until a quarter of the room was up. I glanced over at Sabine, who sat several tables away, watching the proceedings expectantly. Stephanie's name was called. Sabine pursed her lips. I smiled, happy that Stephanie was staying. She was one of the few who was nice to me. The fact that she pissed Sabine off was a bonus.

"I have one more name to call," Melanie announced.

By now, half of the room was standing up. The crying brunette and her friend from the other table were among them. I was not, and neither was Sabine. In fact, Sabine was the only one at her table not standing. Judging by her murderous expression, she was not taking it well. I smiled. Karma's a bitch, isn't it?

Melanie took one final glance around the room, taking in all of the hopeful, expectant faces of the seated girls. She smiled deviously. "The final name I'm going to call is..."

Melanie cleared her throat. Silence filled the room. All of the girls were utterly still, as if time was frozen.

"Emma Portland," Melanie finally said.

I slumped back in my seat feeling strangely weightless. I couldn't tell if I felt disappointment or relief. Relief on behalf of Emma, my other roommate. Relief that Sabine's name wasn't called. But the realization that I would soon be going home was not as welcome as I thought it would be.

Melanie switched her tablet off placed it on the podium in front of her. She surveyed the room with her steely gray eyes. Clearly this wasn't over. The standing girls stopped their cheering and looked at her.

"The fifty of you whose names I just called are hereby eliminated from the competition," she said.

There was silence, followed by gasps and loud, outraged, words. A minute ago Sabine looked like she was on the verge of angry tears. Now she looked as smug as a well fed cat.

I felt like the rug was pulled out from under me. I was staying? This had to be a mistake. Maybe I didn't hear my name being called?

"Please say your goodbyes to the remaining girls and go back to your rooms to pack," Melanie said.

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