While in the final version of The Elite, America places the blame for Marlee’s beating squarely on Maxon, in the original, there were other issues pinned on him as well. She was drugged and her personal belongings were taken away. We later find out this was all the king’s doing, but America spends almost all of the book enraged with Maxon.
This scene took place right after America speaks with Kriss, and I really liked the way she acknowledged her mistakes here, even if it was a bit too dramatic. It also shows a tiny piece of a guard who was cut from the book, Officer Paves. He was having romantic issues of his own, and he shared them from time to time with America.
What had I done?
Everything was just a mess. Why did I feel so funny about Maxon and Kriss when I knew that he was wrong for me? Shouldn’t I be doing everything in my power to help her? Elise might be a fine option, if a boring one, but Natalie or Celeste would be a disaster on the throne. I should be encouraging this . . . but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.
Could I still care about Maxon after everything he’d done? What kind of person did that make me? I felt like I suddenly understood Aspen’s actions that last time in the tree house. He let me go because of his stupid pride, but when you were a Five or Six or Seven, that was all you had. He could let me go and still love me. Was that what I did with Maxon?
I couldn’t let him have that power over me if only for the sake of holding my own. I would not be a girl who yielded to someone like that. He couldn’t hurt my friends and order me around and take my things and then not be held accountable for it.
Maybe this was why everything with Aspen felt so funny. When he talked about marrying me with such enthusiasm, assuring me that I was the only one for him ever, it felt strange somehow. He said he couldn’t imagine himself with anyone else . . . and I already had. I’d imagined it so clearly that I’d all but abandoned him.
I felt guilty. I’d told myself I was staying in the Selection for me, so that I could make my own choice about something for once. The truth was I was sitting here trying to pull my heart in two directions and disappointing everyone involved.
I’d kissed Aspen in the rooms of the palace and kept it a secret from Maxon. I’d prepared myself from a proposal from Maxon and left Aspen in the dark. I’d gone about everything so wrong.
I concentrated on slowing my tears and with some effort, I did. I wiped my face on my dress, pulling myself up a bit so I could think.
I tried to put everything I knew for sure out in front of me, but as I searched through everything, the only detail I knew was true with any kind of certainty was that Aspen loved me.
I knew that Aspen deeply, fiercely, and inconveniently loved me. It’s the best kind of love to feel and almost always the hardest to give. And I had it in abundance.
I wasn’t sure of Maxon anymore. There was the person who gave me presents and showed me endless patience and affection and then the person who was forceful and selfish and I didn’t understand. Maybe he was a mixture of these two people, but I couldn’t be sure. If he worked so hard to be nice at the start, then this demon who was surfacing now was probably who he really was, this monster that he couldn’t hide anymore. But, really, how could I know?
I didn’t know Maxon. I felt like I barely knew myself.
But I knew Aspen. He was safe and steady. If I asked him to, he would be my rock. He’d shelter me from everything. Aspen would spend the rest of his life proving that he deserved me, even if I told him he’d always been good enough. It struck me that maybe that was what all this talk about a church wedding and a big house was: a way for him to prove I wouldn’t miss anything I was giving up by leaving the palace.
Of course, I would need to tell him just how close I was with Maxon. He’d have to have the chance to reject me, or I’d never feel right about it.
So that was it then.
I’d met Maxon in such a grand way that it was sure to leave an impression on me. The same way I didn’t want to let go of Aspen when I came to the palace, I’d have a hard time letting go of Maxon when I left it. And they’d both hurt me in their own ways, but Aspen was clearly the better choice for me, the safer choice.
That was all there was. When Maxon came home, I’d approach him in an entirely new way. I’d be calm, polite, and distant. I’d explain that I was ready to go, and I’d wish him luck with Kriss. If I was kind, maybe he’s stop punishing me and just let me go. If not, I’d just ride it out, seeing Aspen as often as I could until I was free from this place.
I exhaled slowly and stood, brushing the dirt and debris from my dress. I turned to the guard and said, “I’m ready to go back now.” Then I understood why this stranger was so patient with me.
It was Officer Paves. He walked over to me tentatively, not wanting to be rude.
“You alright, miss? It ain’t right for a lady to cry so much.” He looked genuinely concerned for me. I wished I had a way to repay his kindness.
I nodded. “I’m fine, thank you. Hopefully, I won’t ever need to cry like that again.”