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Chapter OneSunday, October 26, 2 a.m., Lilly's bedroom
Okay, I just have one question: Why does it always have to go from bad to worse for me?
I mean, apparently it is not enough that
1. I was born lacking any sort of mammary growth gland
2. My feet are as long as a normal person's thigh
3. I'm the sole heir to the throne of a European principality
4. My grade point average is still slipping in spite of everything
5. I have a secret admirer who will not declare himself
6. All of America is going to know it after Monday night's broadcast of my exclusive interview on TwentyFour/Seven
No, in addition to all of that, I happen to be the only one of my friends who still has yet to be French kissed.
Seriously. For next week's episode of her public access TV show, Lilly Tells It Like It Is, Lilly insisted on shooting what she calls a Scorsesian confessional, in which she hopes to illustrate the degenerate lows to which today's youth has sunk. So she made us all confess to the camera our worst sins, and it turns out Shameeka, Tina Hakim Baba, Ling Su, and Lilly have ALL had boys' tongues in their mouths. All of them.
Except for me.
God, I am such a reject. The only boy who has ever kissed me did it just so he could get his picture in the paper.
Yeah, there was some tongue action, but believe me, I kept my lips way closed.
And since I have never been French-kissed, and had nothing good to confess on the show, Lilly decided to punish me by giving me a Dare.She didn't even ask me if I would prefer a Truth.
Lilly dared me I wouldn't drop an eggplant onto the sidewalkfrom her sixteenth story bedroom window.
I said I most certainly would, even though of course, I totally didn't want to. I mean, how stupid. Somebody could seriously get hurt. I am all for illustrating the degenerate lows to which America's teens have sunk, but I wouldn't want anybody to get their head bashed in.
But what could I do? It was a Dare. I had to go along with it. I mean, it's bad enough I've never been Frenched. I don't want to be branded a wimp, too. And I couldn't exactly stand there and go, well, all right, I may never have been French-kissed by a boy, but I have been the recipient of a love letter that was written by one. A boy, I mean.
I guess the knowledge that somewhere in the world, there is a boy who might like me gave me a sense of empowerment something I certainly could have used during my interview with Beverly Bellerieve, but whatever. I may not be able to form a coherent sentence when there is a television camera aimed in my direction, but I am at least capable, I decided, of throwing an eggplant out the window.
Lilly was shocked. I had never accepted a Dare like that before.
I can't really explain why I did it. Maybe I was just trying to live up to my new reputation as a very Josie-and-the-Pussycats type of girl. Or maybe I was more scared of what Lilly would try to make me do if I said no. Once she made me run up and down the hallway naked. Not the hallway in the Moscovitzes' apartment, either. The hallway outside of it.
Whatever my reasons, I soon found myself sneaking into the kitchen, then creeping back into Lilly's room again with a giant ovoid fruit hidden under my shirt.
Then, while Lilly narrated gravely into the microphone about how Mia Thermopolis was about to strike a blow for good girls everywhere, and Shameeka filmed, I opened up the window, made sure no innocent bystanders were below, and then....
"Bomb's away," I said, like in the movies.
It was kind of cool seeing this huge purple eggplant it was the size of a football tumbling over and over in the air as it fell.There are enough streetlamps on Fifth Avenue, where the Moscovitzes live, for us to see it as it plummeted downwards, even though it was night.Down and down the eggplant went, past the windows of all the psychoanalysts and investment bankers (the only people who can afford apartments in Lilly's building) until suddenly SPLAT!
The eggplant hit the sidewalk.
Only it didn't just hit the sidewalk. It exploded on the sidewalk, sending bits of eggplant flying everywhere mostly all over an M1 city bus that was driving by at the time, but quite a lot all over this Jaguar that had been idling nearby.
While I was leaning out the window, admiring the splatter pattern the eggplant's pulp had made all over the street and sidewalk, the driver-side door of the Jaguar opened up, and a man got out from behind the wheel, just as the doorman to Lilly's building stepped out from beneath the awning over the front doors, and looked up And suddenly, someone threw an around my waist, and yanked me backward, right off my feet.
"Get down!" Michael hissed, pulling me down to the parquet.We all ducked. Well, Lilly, Michael, Shameeka, Ling Su, and Tina ducked. I was already on the floor.
Where had Michael come from? I hadn't even known he was home and I'd asked, believe me, on account of the whole running-down-the-hallway-naked thing. Just in case, and all. But Lilly had said he was at a lecture on quasars over at Columbia and wouldn't be home for hours.
"Are you guys stupid, or what?" Michael wanted to know. "Don't you know, besides the fact that it's a good way to kill someone, it's also against the law to drop things out a window in New York City?"
"Oh, Michael," Lilly said, disgustedly. "Grow up. It was just a common garden vegetable."
"I'm serious." Michael looked mad. "If anyone saw Mia do that just now, she could be arrested."
"No, she couldn't," Lilly said. "She's a minor."
"She could still go to juvenile court. You'd better not be planning on airing that footage on your show," Michael said.
Oh, my God, Michael was defending my honor! Or at least trying to make sure I didn't end up in juvenile court. It was just so sweet.
Lilly went, "I most certainly am."
"Well, you better edit out the parts that show Mia's face."
Lilly stuck her chin out. "No way."
"Lilly, everybody knows who Mia is. If you air that segment, it will be all over the news that the princess of Genovia was caught on tape dropping projectiles out the window of her friend's high-rise apartment. Get a clue, will you?"
Michael had let go of my waist, I noticed, with regret.
"Lilly, Michael's right," Tina Hakim Baba said. "We better edit that part out. Mia doesn't need any more publicity than she has already."
And Tina didn't even know about the whole Twenty-Four/Seven thing.
Lilly got up and stomped back toward the window. She started to lean out checking, I guess, to see whether the doorman and the owner of the Jaguar were still there but Michael jerked her back.
"Rule Number One," he said. "If you insist on dropping something out the window, never, ever check to see if anybody is standing down there, looking up. They will see you look out and figure out what apartment you are in. Then you will be blamed for dropping whatever it was. Because no one but the guilty party would be looking out the window under such circumstances."
"Wow, Michael," Shameeka said, admiringly. "You sound like you've done this before."
Not only that. He sounded like Dirty Harry.
Which was just how I felt when I dropped that eggplant out the window. Like Dirty Harry.
And it had felt good but not quite so good as having Michael rush to my defense like that.
Michael said, "Let's just say I used to have a very keen interest in experimenting with the earth's gravitational pull."
Wow. There is so much I don't know about Lilly's brother. Like he used to be a juvenile delinquent!
Could a computer-genius-slash-juvenile delinquent ever be interested in a flat-chested princess like myself? He did save my life tonight (well, okay: he saved me from possible community service).
It's not a French kiss, or a slow dance, or even an admission he's the author of that anonymous love letter.
But it's a start.The Princess Diaries, Volume II: Princess in the Spotlight. Copyright © by Meg Cabot. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.