Love doesn’t always work out the way fairy tales tell us it should in this sweet romance about learning how to move on from a broken heart.
Everything was supposed to be perfect. Alyssa has a job she loves, working as Cinderella at her favorite theme park; a fantastic group of friends; and a boyfriend who will no longer be long–distance. But as the summer progresses, her prince becomes less charming and more distant, and Alyssa's perfect summer falls apart.
Forced to acknowledge that life is not always a fairy tale, Alyssa starts working to pull her herself back together. Fortunately, she doesn't have to do it alone. With her friend Miller's support, she's determined to prove that she's more than just a pretty princess. And with his help, maybe she's finally ready for something better than dreams… Maybe she's ready for something real.
From Karole Cozzo, author of How to Keep Rolling After a Fall and How to Say I Love You Out Loud, comes The Truth About Happily Ever After, a charming, uplifting young adult novel for the princess in all of us.
Praise for Karole Cozzo:
“A budding romance with family drama and a feel-good ending.” School Library Journal on How to Say I Love You Out Loud
"A wonderful, heartbreaking book which will stay with you.” Danika Stone, author of All the Feels, on How to Keep Rolling After a Fall
|Publisher:||Feiwel & Friends|
|Product dimensions:||5.80(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)|
|Age Range:||13 - 18 Years|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The Truth about Happily Ever After
By Karole Cozzo
Feiwel and FriendsCopyright © 2017 Karole Cozzo
All rights reserved.
I sleep with all my bedroom windows open as habit, so I'm roused from my sleep by the repetitive shrieking of a great blue heron that must be nesting near the man-made lake in the center of the apartment complex. Where are my soft-spoken finches and friendly bluebirds? I wonder with a dreamy smile. Not in Tallahassee, apparently.
The heron is loud and insistent, refusing to be ignored. I need to get out of bed, anyway — a long, busy day awaits. I picture Jake's face — that bemused close-lipped smile, those gentle blue eyes — and memories of last summer flood my mind and my heart. I throw back my covers in a burst of anticipation. A long, busy, fabulous day awaits.
My feet hit the ground and I pause, as it crosses my mind that no matter how I arrange my schedule, there's no way to squeeze in my daily workout. I run through the computations automatically — how many workouts I've completed this week to date, how long each one was, approximately how many calories were burned, and if the number's enough to make up for the special dinner I have planned. I squeeze my eyes shut, trying to power down the invisible calculator. I'll fixate on it if I let myself, and I have too many other things to accomplish today.
I need energy. Protein. Protein is a must.
Eating a carton of Greek yogurt at my kitchen counter, I wait for the frying pan to heat so I can whip up an egg white omelet with spinach and tomato. The loaf of fresh-baked bread calls to me from the bread box, but I turn my back and ignore it. No bread. Look-overs are in two hours.
Then, carrying my plate and mug to the table when the omelet's finished, I eat facing the window, drinking my coffee through a straw. It's a practice Jake ridicules mercilessly, and I get it, but I don't think he fully gets my commitment to my job. When you make your living off your smile, when your smile might be the highlight of a little girl's vacation, you take good care of your smile. You buy whitening strips in bulk at Costco, you favor lipstick with blue-based undertones for maximum pearliness, and sometimes you drink your damn coffee through a straw. Playing princess isn't nearly as easy as I'm sure some people like to believe. It's a dream job, but it's still a job. There's work involved.
I linger over breakfast, enjoying the feel of the sun's rays on my skin as they make their first appearance over the horizon and through the window, listening to the familiar sounds of a community coming to life around me. I like the company of the neighbors I don't know. It wasn't my plan to live alone, but when hunting those coveted three-month sublets, you take what you can get. Me, I prefer the company of others, and a single costs more than I'd like to spend on rent. I tried to talk Jake into being roomies, but right away I'd sensed his hesitation. So I'd laughed the idea off, dropped the subject at once.
It doesn't matter that his name's not on the lease agreement. He'll be spending enough time here, anyway. Just like last year.
I shower after breakfast, then walk through the apartment in my robe, guy-proofing it the best I can. I put the tampons back under the sink. Hide the little notebook beside the scale that I use as a log. Unload the snacks I picked up at the twenty-four-hour convenient mart late last night after work. I wrinkle my nose at the bag of Funyuns I deigned to purchase. They're probably the most disgusting excuse for food on the planet. But he loves them. And I love him.
Then I end up back in my room, grimacing at its decor. It's a girl's room, and there's not much that can be done about that. A wooden plaque over my vanity reads, SHE LEAVES A LITTLE SPARKLE WHEREVER SHE GOES in iridescent paint. The walls are covered in turquoise and gray ZTA memorabilia, much of it bearing the sorority's symbol, the crown. Next to my door is the poster of Audrey Hepburn that I look at before leaving every single day. I BELIEVE IN PINK. I BELIEVE LAUGHTER IS THE BEST CALORIE BURNER. I BELIEVE IN KISSING, KISSING A LOT. I BELIEVE IN BEING STRONG WHEN EVERYTHING SEEMS TO BE GOING WRONG. I BELIEVE THAT HAPPY GIRLS ARE THE PRETTIEST GIRLS. I BELIEVE THAT TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY AND I BELIEVE IN MIRACLES. I've had that poster since forever. It's ripped and curling up at the sides. But it reminds me to smile, and it makes me smile.
Taking one final, futile sweep of my room, I gasp in horror when I notice It still sitting atop my bookshelf. My wedding binder.
For the record? I know the binder concept is antiquated (Hello? Pinterest.). I have a Pinterest account I use almost daily, teeming boards titled "Outfit Ideas," "Cinderella," "Princess Love," "Zeta Life," and "Fashion Nexts." But there is something about my wedding binder ... and I want it to be tangible. I like to hold it in my hands. It's pink and sparkly and even involves some floral lace.
I have no idea how Jake would feel about its existence, which actually predates him, but I sense he wouldn't feel particularly thrilled about it.
A pang of loss and longing pierces my chest. Last summer, a future together had seemed so certain. A ring from Jake ... someday ... hadn't seemed so out of the question. Now ...
I shake my head, stuffing the binder, along with my negative thoughts, under a pile of romance novels. "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity," I coach myself. "An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
This summer is about growth. Reconnecting. Not trying to get back to where we were, but getting someplace even better. We'll figure out the road map as we go.
I nod decidedly, hang my robe inside my closet, and peruse its offerings. It's time to get dressed. My summer wardrobe consists of gauzy white pieces with gold accents — scarves and belts and shiny thong sandals. But for lookovers, black, with its slimming properties, is the only color that makes sense. I root around until I find a clean pair of cropped black yoga pants and a matching workout tank.
I lean forward toward the full-length mirror, assessing myself, biting my lip. You have nothing to worry about. My log assures me this, daily, in black and white. The numbers on the scale are unchanging. I work out religiously, and I haven't put on weight. My last period was two weeks ago, so no blemishes are on the horizon, either.
As confident as I can be, I grab my tote bag with the glass slipper decal and head toward the door. I notice Kallie and Luke's wedding invitation on the counter from when I opened the mail yesterday, and I fight the urge to squeal. I love me a good wedding, and this one's just around the corner. Better yet, it's an Enchanted Dominion wedding, the marriage of two people who met while in character, at the park. Kallie's living the dream.
So many fabulous events to look forward to this summer ... the wedding ... the Character Ball in August ... I've been waiting for summer forever!
When I step out, Rose, one of my neighbors, is locking up down the hall. I do a quick double take, making sure it's not her twin sister before greeting her, but the girl's dress — short and black, with a pleated skirt and wild fuchsia rose pattern, confirms my initial assumption. It must be Rose.
"Hey, lady," she calls over her shoulder. "Off to the gym, per ush?"
"I wish. Look-overs."
She lets out a low growl, which basically sums up how we all feel about look-overs. "That practice should be outlawed. But at least you know you have nothing to worry about."
I smile in appreciation of her reassurance.
"Are you working today?"
Rose is a fellow park princess. She's Rose Red. And she more or less loves the coincidence of it all. I love that she loves the coincidence of it all.
"Yeah." She grimaces. "Over at the Enchanted Beyond, though. Chrissi's off, my sister's at ED, and the new roommate's at training."
"Yeah." Rose nods, gesturing over her shoulder with her thumb. "Katie's out."
"What happened? She was only here for, like, three weeks."
"Naked Rapunzel is what happened."
I almost drop my keys. "What?"
"Yeah, so Katie wasn't the brightest bulb," Rose tells me, leaning against her door and folding her arms. "She let her boyfriend take pictures of her wearing nothing but the wig. Strategically placed, of course. Then she cheated on him. Real smart move. The pictures were up on social media in less than an hour after he found out."
"'Don't post unsavory princess images on social media,'" I recite. "'Don't post any princess images on social media.' That's basically rule number one!"
"Yup. So she's out, and Harper's in."
"Harper?" I cock my head. "Do we know her?"
A lot of us have worked at the park for a while, and there are few strangers in the cast.
"No, she's a newbie," Rose tells me. "Last-minute casting call or something. A shortage of Beauties. I know nothing about her. Except that she's flying in from somewhere up north today."
"Well, it can't be any worse?" I say, trying to be encouraging. "Than Naked Rapunzel?"
"Truuue story." Rose grimaces. "I think everyone's gonna be around later if you want to stop over. You could meet the latest member of the Princess Posse."
I smile at the term. "I would love to, but ..." My smile grows even bigger. "Jake's getting in tonight, too."
She raises an eyebrow. "The illustrious Jake finally shows his face!" The two of them just missed each other last year. Jake left in August, and Rose and her sister, Camila, arrived in September.
"I'm so damn excited!" I admit.
"No worries, then," Rose replies, pushing off the door. "Have fun with your lover."
I push my tote up on my shoulder. "Thanks. I will."
We exit the building in opposite directions, and I make my way toward the nearest shuttle station that will take me to the main park. I greet everyone along the way — the groundskeepers in identical brown uniforms who keep our fabricated downtown area pristine, fellow cast members whose faces I recognize even if I don't know their names. The shuttle approaches just as I arrive, and I skip aboard and claim a seat near the front.
It's a quick, ten-minute ride to the Enchanted Dominion, which is why so many cast members live in the Lakeside apartments. With so many young people on the scene, looking for hook-ups with convenience, it's pretty much just like being at college.
I've barely finished humming the Enchanted Enterprises theme song when the glimmering spires and turrets of the Diamond Palace come into view over the palm trees. Here is the thing — It. Never. Gets. Old. I have seen the Palace, the central feature of the park, come into view over these same trees countless times, dating back to when I was four years old. And every single time, the sight steals my breath just a bit. Every single time, I have to bite back my urge to squee. I really believe this place is infused with magic.
There are some who wait their whole lives to take in this iconic sight, some who get to do so only once in a lifetime. The thought of these people makes me sad. I can't imagine not getting to lay eyes on the Palace almost every day. That's how much I love this park. That's how much I love my job. I feel like the luckiest girl on earth, and it makes the hard work all worth it.
It's why I make the two-hour trip from the southern part of the state a few times a month during the school year, just to pick up random shifts. And it's one of the reasons I can endure look-overs. My stomach flutters nervously. Not that they ever get easier. It's almost like they're waiting for you to fall off your game, become complacent the longer you've been on the throne.
I enter the park through the employee gate and take a detour from the park's main corridor to the hidden employee path, following its twists and turns by memory. I'm almost to the human resources office, still lost in my look-over worries. I'm pulled back to reality when I hear the rapid approach of running feet from behind me, and then ... someone sort of leaps onto my back and almost tackles me with the force of their hug.
My body crumbles under the weight of my attacker, but they've freed me before I actually fall over. "What the ..."
I whirl around and find a grinning Miller Austin behind me. Any sense of irritation dissipates at once.
Miller's arms are spread wide. "What up, Princess?" he asks, before pulling me into a huge hug.
Miller is exactly my height — five foot seven — and he's got this stocky build about him. He's incredibly active and physical, but hugging Miller is still like hugging a teddy bear. I take a step back and smile at him. "Miller! I didn't think you were back this summer! Aren't you ..."
"Graduated? Yes, as a matter of fact I am. For two weeks and counting, a fact I'm committed to ignoring as long as possible. Real world, whaaat?"
I giggle. It's good to see Miller again. We didn't hit it off at first, but ... we got there. We're friends now. It's practically impossible not to be friends with Miller.
"So you're honestly working the park again?"
"Yeah, I wasn't kidding." He rubs his short, scruffy beard with the palm of his hand. "I do have an agenda, a practical reason for being down here this summer. Otherwise, I'm delaying adulthood as long as I can get away with it. There's no shame in my game."
"Well, cheers to that. Best place on earth for it."
I mean, we basically work in a glamorous, oversize playground for children.
He studies me for a minute, then asks, "How's life been, Lys?"
"Life is good."
It's an automatic answer. Life is always good, isn't it?
"Jake's getting in tonight," I tell him. "He's back for the summer, too."
Miller pauses for a beat, then grins again. "Aww. Prince Charming's back in town. Good stuff."
I snort at the idea. Jake would never actually play a prince. He's an emergency responder in the park.
I nod toward Miller. "So are you moving up in the world this summer or what? You've paid your dues. They have to be willing to let you out of fur by now."
He shrugs. "Maybe if I'd asked them to. But I'm staying in fur by choice. That's my pedigree."
That's right. I'd forgotten that Miller was technically a part of the University of Delaware's cheerleading squad, embodying the school's mascot, the six-foot-tall fightin' blue hen.
"I'm not tall enough to play prince, anyway."
"I think you make the cut."
Miller laughs. "You're too nice, Alyssa. I know where I belong." He pats his roundish belly. "Me and my incredibly impressive physique."
I roll my eyes in response. "You're probably onto something. I'm off to suffer look-overs." I clutch my sides, feeling somewhat queasy.
Miller quickly assesses me, blond hair to flip-flops. Then he averts his eyes before saying, "Come on, now. You know you'll nail it. I can't believe they even have the nerve to call you in."
"Sweet of you, Miller." I smile, then shrug. "But whatever. It's policy. Fair is fair." I take a quick glance at my watch. "And I need to be there, like, now. But we should hang out sometime. Where are you staying this summer?" "Lakeside."
"Groovy. Me too."
"I'm sharing a sublet with Yael. You know her?"
"Umm ... vaguely?"
An image comes to mind, a hipster type with bright maroon hair and nerd glasses. She's a fur character, too.
"Yeah, we're buddies," Miller says. "We kept up on e-mail during the year, so when I started asking around, she ended up having a spot in her place."
"Cool." I look at his friendly face, smile again, and bump my fist against his. "It's supernice to have you back. Have someone to put me in my place, ya know?"
"That's what I'm here for, Princess." He turns to go but calls to me before leaving, "And say 'hey' to Jake for me, okay?"
There's a bounce in my step as I walk the rest of the way to HR. I freakin' love the sense of community among cast members. I love being back with my people. The Enchanted Enterprises theme park complex is huge, comprised of three different parks and employing thousands upon thousands of workers. And still it feels like being home, surrounded by family. Running into Miller before look-overs ... it was a welcome distraction and a nice little boost.
I push the door open, happy to see Diana is working today. She's one of my favorites in the HR department, and she's, well, female at least. It's always a little creepier when a man's doing the looking over.
"Let's get you on your way as quickly as possible, shall we?" she says as a means of greeting. She briefly glances up from her iPad. "No sweat for you, right?" I smile, refusing to let any self-doubt show, and she steps closer to confide in me. "Thank you for making my job easy. I had to send Alana home today. She could barely zip her gown. Twelve pounds in ten days, how does that even happen, as hot as it's been? We all should be sweating the pounds off."
Diana looks at me, but I don't have an answer for her.
She shrugs. "Who knows? Maybe a bad breakup she wouldn't cop to, or something." She grabs my shoulders and turns me to the side. "Let me get a shot of your silhouette first."
I turn dutifully, closing my eyes and reminding myself I've suffered much greater humiliations. The ladies on the Panhellenic Council at Coral State College would swear on their pearls that Zeta actives never forced pledges to strip down to their skivvies to circle in permanent marker areas on their bodies in need of liposuction.
That doesn't mean it never happened.
Excerpted from The Truth about Happily Ever After by Karole Cozzo. Copyright © 2017 Karole Cozzo. Excerpted by permission of Feiwel and Friends.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Part 1: The End,
Part 2: The Beginning,
About the Author,