the orientation.

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"laaaadies!" mrs. del pecki crowed again as she clapped her hands together.

she was standing on the stage in the auditorium.  the rest of us -- the "victims" della and i decided to call ourselves -- were sitting in the leather-covered seats.

"laaadies, thank you all for being here today, and might i say, happy birthday-"

the girls around the room began to clap.  i rolled my eyes.  all i could hear was my mother in the back of my mind saying, "nora beth, you roll your eyes one more time, they'll get stuck there, and people will not find you attractive, whatsoever."

mrs. del pecki quieted everyone down as more people filed onto the stage.  i'd seen their faces around the palace before, but didn't know who they were.

"ladies," mrs. del pecki said, "what you're about to go through, is a great duty to your country.  this proves your loyalty to the royal family.  this is a time honored tradition that women have taken part in for years, and this year, it is even more special.

as you all may know, prince charles will be twenty-five next year, meaning, he must soon find a wife, and you all are prime candidates for princess-"

della snorted beside me.  "not all of us."

"now, before we go into the details of the day, i would like to introduce you to a few faces you'll be seeing quite a lot of today.  first is our lead hair stylist, portia ellerie.  portia has carefully selected your hairstyles for the day, and she will be coming around to meet with you and your personal hairstylist to make sure you look absolutely perfect for your time with the prince.

next, is giovanni, he is our esthetician..."

del pecki went on and on about the fabulous people who would be taking care of us that day.  then, peter, charlie's assistant took the stage.

"now, this is mr. peter bastion, he'll be informing you of the law aspect of this endeavor."

a screen came down from the ceiling and peter pulled out a laser pointer.

he stood in the center of the stage, cold and stiff.

"prince charles has high expectations for his time for each and every one of you.  when you are brought in to meet with the prince, you will sit on the bed, quietly waiting.  you will not go anywhere else in the prince's room.  as soon as you enter the room, there will be a bedside table on the far side of the bed, in the drawer of that table, there is protection.  take one out and slip it inside of the pillowcase.  when the prince comes in, you are to let him take charge, unless otherwise specified.  no talking.  as soon as your time is finished, leave the room, and i will guide you to the health exam, where you will meet with the royal practitioner.  following that, you will collect your things from the waiting room and leave immediately."

"so romantic," della scoffed under her breath.

i chuckled.  

he went over more of the legal stuff and the history of the law:

"a few legalities here.  first off, if any of you, during your health exam are found to have discontinued or never begun your birth control pills, you will face legal prosecution, unless you have medical documentation where a medical doctor has suggested discontinuing your pills.  secondly, any details from your time with the prince is to be kept strictly between yourself and prince charles."

he rambled on and on.  i felt my eyes getting heavy, and the next think i knew, della was shaking my arm.  "hey, you," she said.

my eyes came flying open.  "huh?" i jolted up in my seat, confused.

"you missed the rest of the orientation.  slept right through it.  i fudged your signature on the paperwork, because you were out."  she stared at me waiting for a response.  "we gotta go back. time to get dolled up."

the other girls rushed back to the waiting room.  they hustled to their beds and sat giggling with one another.  i flopped down on my bed and pulled out my phone.

the screen had a notification from d.j.

"get pretty.  come see me." the text read.

before i knew it, mrs. del pecki was leading me over to a hair and make-up chair.

"what would you like to have done with your hair?" the stylist asked.

i shrugged.  "doesn't matter to me.  i honestly don't want to be he-"  that's when i made eye contact with rhoda gupstein, the royal family's publicist.  she glared at me to send a message saying, 'don't ruin this.'  i sat up straighter in my seat and finished my sentence.  "held responsible for any decisions made about my hair.  it's not my forte."

the stylist played with my hair and sneered.  "i can tell.  no mousse or product of any kind. ever."

i rolled my eyes and settled in for an afternoon of torture... and mousse... lots and lots of mousse...

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