/ Language: English / Genre:antique, / Series: Princess Diaries

Princess Mia

Meg Cabot


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Meg Cabot Princess Mia

For Amanda Maciel, with love and thanks

“Ah, yes, your royal highness,” she said. “We are princesses I believe. At least one of us is.”

Sara felt the blood rush up into her face. She only just saved herself. If you were a princess, you did not fly into rages.

“It’s true,” she said. “Sometimes I do pretend I am a princess. I pretend I am a princess so I can try to behave like one.”

A LITTLE PRINCESS

Frances Hodgson Burnett

Content

Epigraph

Begin Reading

Acknowledgments

About the Author

Other Books by Meg Cabot

Credits

Copyright

About the Publisher

Friday, September 10, 9 p.m., Beauty and the Beast, Lunt-Fontanne Theater, ladies’ lounge

He hasn’t called. I just checked with Mom.

I don’t think it’s completely fair of her to accuse me of believing the entire world revolves around my breakup with Michael. Because I don’t. Really. How was I supposed to know she’d just gotten Rocky down for the night? She should turn off the ringer if he’s turning into that much of a problem sleeper.

Anyway, there were no messages.

I guess I shouldn’t have expected there to be. I mean, I checked on his flight, and he’s not due to arrive in Japan for another fourteen hours.

And you aren’t allowed to use cell phones or PDAs while you’re actually in the air. At least, not for calls or text messaging.

Or answering e-mails.

But that’s okay. Really, it is. He’ll call.

He’ll get my e-mail and then he’ll call and we’ll make up and everything will go back to the way it was.

Ithas to.

In the meantime, I just have to go on as if things were normal. Well, as normal as things can be while waiting to hear back from your boyfriend of two years with whom you’ve broken up, but to whom you sent an apology e-mail because you realized you were completely and unequivocably wrong.

Especially since if you don’t get back together you know you’ll only live a sort of half life and be destined to have a series of meaningless relationships with supermodels.

Oh, wait. That’s my dad. Never mind.

But, you know. It’s me, too. Minus the supermodels.

WatchingBeauty and the Beast tonight with J.P. has made me realize how completely stupid I’ve been this past week.

Not that I hadn’t realized it already. But the show hasreally driven it home.

Which is especially weird, since Michael and I have never exactly seen eye to eye on the theater. I mean, I could barely get Michael togo with me to see the kind of shows I like, which are primarily ones involving girls in hoop skirts and things that fly down from the ceiling of the theater (such asThe Phantom of the Opera andTarzan: The Musical ).

And on the few occasions he DID go with me, he spent the whole time leaning over and whispering, “I can see why this show is closing. No guy would really stand around singing to a talking teapot about how much he likes some girl. You know that, don’t you? And where is the full orchestra supposed to be coming from? I mean, they’re in a dungeon. It just doesn’t make any sense.”

Which I used to think actually ruined the whole experience. As did Michael’s excusing himself every five minutes to go to the men’s room on the pretense of having drunk too much water at dinner. But really he was just checking for World of Warcraft alerts on his cell phone.

But even though I’m having a nice time here with J.P. and all, I can’t help wishing Michael were here to complain thatBeauty and the Beast is just a cheesy Disney musical targeted at little kids, who are hardly discriminating viewers, and that the music’s really bad and the whole thing is just to get the tourists to spend money on expensive T-shirts, sippy cups, and glossy theater programs.

It’s especially sad he’s not here, because I realized tonight that the story ofBeauty and the Beast is really the story of Michael and me.

Not the beauty part (of course). And not the beast part, either.

But the part about two people who start out being friends and don’t even realize they like each other until it’s almost too late….

That is totally us.

Except, of course, that Belle is smarter than I am. Like, would it really have mattered to Belle if the Beast, back before he ever held her captive in his castle, had hooked up with Judith Gershner, then failed to mention it?

No. Because that all happened BEFORE Belle and the Beast found each other. So what difference did it make?

Exactly: none.

I just can’t believe how stupid I’ve been about all this. I swear, even as cheesy as it is—and, okay, I have to admit, I can see the cheese factor in it now—Beauty and the Beasthas brought new clarity to my life.

Which shouldn’t be all that surprising since it is, after all, a tale as old as time.

Anyway, I know in the past I’ve said my ideal man is one who can sit through an entire performance ofBeauty and the Beast , the most romantic and beautiful story ever told, and not snicker in the wrong places (such as when the Beast is undergoing his onstage transformation into the Prince, or when the fake stuffed wolves come on—well, they can’t make them TOO scary, since there are little kids in the audience).

But now I realize that the only guy I’ve ever attended the show with who has passed that test is J.P. Reynolds-Abernathy the Fourth. He even—I couldn’t help noticing—had a single tear trickling down his cheek during the scene where Belle valiantly exchanges her own life for her father’s.

Michael has never cried during a Broadway show. Except in that scene where Tarzan’s ape father is brutally murdered.

And that was only because he was laughing so hard.

But here’s the thing: I’m starting to think that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I think guys just might bedifferent from girls. Not just because they actually care about things like whether or not there’ll ever be aNightstalkers movie starring Jessica Biel reprising her role as Abby Whistler fromBlade: Trinity .

Or because they think it’s okay to sleep with Judith Gershner and never mention it to their girlfriend because it happened before they started going out.

But because they are justprogrammed differently. Like to be unmoved by the sight of a guy in a gorilla suit getting pretend-shot onstage.

Whereas they completely believe that scene in the movieNotting Hill where Julia Roberts’s character goes back to that guy played by Hugh Grant, even though in a million years a snotty movie star like that would never fall for a lowly bookstore owner.

And I say that as a princess who is in love with a college student.

The thing is, I finally get it now: Guys are different than we are.

But that’s not always a bad thing. In fact, as my ancestors would say,Vive la différence. Because, okay, a lot of guys don’t like musicals.

But those same guys might also give you a snowflake necklace for your fifteenth birthday to represent the Nondenominational Winter Dance where you first declared your love for each other.

Which, you have to admit, is way romantic.

Oh. The lights just flickered. It’s time to go back to my seat for the second act.

Which, truthfully, I’m not really looking forward to. It would be all right if J.P. didn’t keep asking me if I was all right.

I totally get that he’s concerned about me as a friend and all, but what does he expect me to say? How can he not know that the answer is no, I’mnot all right? Do I need to remind him that not two nights ago I idiotically ripped OFF that snowflake necklace and THREW it at the guy who gave it to me? Does he think you just automatically rebound from something like that, just because you are attending a musical with dancing teacups in it?

J.P. is totally sweet, but he’s a little clueless sometimes.

Although Tina is completely right, it turns out: J.P. reallyis a pent-up volcano of passion. The single tear proves it. All he needs is the right woman to unlock his heart—which up until now he has kept in a cold, hard shell for his own emotional protection—and he will explode like the simmering caldera that makes up part of Yellowstone National Park.

And obviously this woman wasn’t Lilly (who, by the way, also hasn’t called or e-mailed me, even to yell at me some more for being a boyfriend-stealer, which isn’t a bit like her).

On the other hand, maybe J.P. isn’t clueless. Maybe he’s just a guy.

They can’t all be like the Beast, I guess.

Friday, September 10, 11:45 p.m., the loft

Inbox: 0

No phone messages, either.

But Michael’s plane is still in the air for another eleven and a half hours. He’ll call me when he lands.

I mean, hehas to. Right?

Okay, not thinking about that now. Because every time I do, I get these weird heart palpitations and my palms get sweaty.

Meanwhile, a hand-delivered envelopedid arrive for me while I was gone. Mom told me about it (not very happily) when I woke her up to ask if Michael had called. (Honestly, I didn’t realize she was asleep. Usually she’s up watching David Letterman until the musical guest comes on at twelve thirty. How was I supposed to know the musical guest was Fergie, so Mom went to bed early?)

The hand-delivered envelope obviously wasn’t from Michael. It was on fancy ivory stationery with a big red wax seal with the letters D and R stamped in the middle. There was something about it that just screamed Grandmère.

So I wasn’t very surprised when Mom said, all crabbily, “Your grandmother says to open it right away.”

Iwas surprised, however, when she added, “And she said to call her when you do. No matter what time it is.”

“I’m supposed to call Grandmère aftereleven o’clock at night ?” This didn’t make any sense. Grandmère goes to bed right before the eleven o’clock news every night without fail, unless she’s out partying with Henry Kissinger or somebody like that. She says if she doesn’t get her full eight hours of beauty sleep, she can’t do a thing with the bags under her eyes the next day, no matter how much hemorrhoid cream she puts on them.

“That’s the message,” Mom grumped, and pulled the covers back over her head. (How she can sleep with Mr. Gianini snoring away like that next to her is a mystery to me. It can only be true love.)

I wasn’t liking the look of that envelope, and Idefinitely wasn’t liking the idea of having to call Grandmère at eleven thirty at night.

But I went to my room and ripped open the seal and pulled out the letter and started reading….

And nearly had a heart attack.

I was on the phone with Grandmère in about two seconds flat.

“Oh, Amelia,” she said, sounding completely awake. “Good. Finally. Did you receive your letter?”

“From Lana Weinberger’s MOM?” I practically screamed. I only remembered to keep my voice down because I live in a loft and my little brother was sleeping in the next room and I didn’t want to risk the wrath of Mom if I woke him up. “Asking me to give the keynote speech at her women’s society’s big charity event to raise money for African orphans? Yes. But…how did you know? Did you get one, too?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” she scoffed. “I have my ways of finding out these things. Now, Amelia, I must know. This is very important. Did she mention issuing you an invitation to join Domina Rei when you come of age?” You could practically hear her salivating, she was so excited.“Did shesay anything about asking you to pledge when you turn eighteen?”

“Yes,” I said. “But, Grandmère, I’ve never even heard of this Domina Rei before. And I don’t have time for this right now. I am going through a very stressful time at the moment, and I really have to concentrate on just staying centered—”

This was totally the wrong thing to say, however. Grandmère was practically breathing fire when she replied in her princessiest tone, “For your information, Domina Rei is one of the most influential women’s societies in the world. How can you not be aware of this, Amelia? They are like the Opus Dei of women’s organizations. Only not religiously affiliated.”

I had to admit, this got me kind of interested, in spite of myself. “Really? That secret society inThe Da Vinci Code ? The one where the members whip themselves? Lana’s mom keeps a weird metal spike wrapped around her leg?”

“Of course not,” Grandmère said with a sniff. “I meant figuratively.”

This was disappointing to hear. I have never met Lana’s mom (and she clearly knows nothing about me, because in her letter, she mentioned how much Lana has appreciated my friendship over the years, and how regrettable it is that my busy royal agenda has kept me from attending more of the parties she knows Lana has invited me to at their place. Um. Yeah.), but the idea of any member of the Weinberger family with possible spikes digging into her fills me with great joy.

“And,” Grandmère went on, “I know I’ve told you about Domina Rei before, Amelia. The Contessa Trevanni is a member.”

“Bella’s grandmother?” Grandmère hasn’t mentioned her archenemy, the Contessa, much since the Contessa’s granddaughter, Bella, delighted the entire Trevanni family by running off last Christmas with my pseudo-cousin Prince René and getting, well, knocked up by him. (Grandmère says it’s more polite to sayenceinte , which is the French term, but hey, he really did knock her up. I mean, hello, hasno one in my family heard of condoms?)

After a stern talking-to by my dad (and, I suspect, an exchange of cash: René was just days from signing a television deal for a new reality show,Prince Charming , in which a number of young single girls were to compete for the chance to date a real-life prince…namely, René), René finally married Bella. Sadly for her grandmother, the wedding took place in a quiet private ceremony, since René took so long to finally pop the question that Bella was obviously showing, and they’re still sensitive about that kind of thing inMajesty Magazine .

Now Bella and René are living on the Upper East Side in a penthouse the Contessa bought them as a wedding present, attending Lamaze classes together, and looking as if neither of them could be happier.

Grandmère is so jealous that Bella got René instead of me—even though I’m still inhigh school , hello—she could plotz. Basically, we never speak of it.

“Audrey Hepburn was a Domina Rei, as well,” Grandmère went on. “As well as Princess Grace of Monaco. Hillary Rodham Clinton. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Even Oprah Winfrey.”

A hush fell over our conversation then, as it always does in polite society whenever Ms. Winfrey’s name is mentioned.

Then I said, “Well, that’s all very nice, Grandmère. However, like I said, this really isn’t the best time for me. I—”

But Grandmère, as usual, wasn’t even listening.

“I, of course, was asked to join years ago. However, due to a complete misunderstanding involving a certain gentleman, who shall remain nameless, I was ruthlessly black-balled.”

“Oh,” I said. “Well, that’s too bad. I—”

“Fine. If you must know, it was Prince Rainier of Monaco. But the rumors were completely false! I never even looked at him twice! Was it my fault he was so fascinated by me that he used to follow me around like a puppy? I can’t imagine how anyone could have thought it was anything other than what it was…a simple infatuation a much older man bore for a young woman who couldn’t help sparkling with wit andjoie de vivre .”

It took me a minute to figure out who she was talking about. “You mean…you?”

“Of course me, Amelia! What is wrong with you? Why do you think he married Grace Kelly? Why do you think his family allowed him to marry a movie actress? Only because they were so relieved he agreed to marryanyone after the heartbreak he experienced when I rejected him….”

I gasped. “Grandmère! You turned himgay ?”

“Of course not! Amelia, don’t be ridiculous. I—Oh, never mind. How did we even get on this topic? The fact is, the Contessa Trevanni will eat her own head if you give the keynote address at her women’s society’s charity gala. They’ve never askedher granddaughter to speak. Of course, why would they? She’s never accomplished anything, except to get pregnant, which any half-wit can do, and she’s such a namby-pamby, she’d probably freeze up at the sight of those two thousand impeccably groomed, successful businesswomen staring up at her—”

I gasped again…but this time for a different reason. “Wait…twothousand ?”

“We’ll have to make an appointment at Chanel right away,” Grandmère blathered on. “Something subdued, I think, yet youthful. I do believe it’s time we fitted you with a suit. Dresses are fine, but you can never go wrong with a really good wool suit—”

“Impeccably groomed, successful businesswomen?” I echoed, feeling slightly faint. “I thought they were all like Lana’s mom…society wives with full-time nannies and cooks and maids—”

“Nancy Weinberger is one of the most sought-after interior decorators in Manhattan,” Grandmère interrupted coldly. “She completely furnished the apartment the Contessa bought for René and Bella. Let me see, now, the Domina Rei colors are blue and white…blue’s never been your best color, but we’ll have to make do….”

“Grandmère,” I said. Panic was rising in my throat. It was sort of the way I felt every time I thought about Michael, only without the sweaty palms. “I can’t do this. I can’t give a speech in front of two thousand successful businesswomen. You don’t understand—I’m going through a romantic crisis at the moment, and until it’s resolved, I really think I need to keep a low profile…in fact, even after it’s resolved, I don’t think I can speak in front of that many people.”

“Nonsense,” Grandmère said crisply. “You spoke in front of the Genovian parliament about the parking meters, remember? As if any of us could forget.”

“Yeah, but they were just old guys in wigs, not Lana Weinberger’s mom! I don’t know about this, Grandmère. I think maybe I should—”

“Of course, Lord only knows what we’ll do about your hair. I don’t suppose it will have grown in by then. Maybe Paolo can fashion some sort of extensions. I’ll phone him in the morning….”

“Seriously, Grandmère,” I said. “I think I—”

But it was too late. She’d already hung up, still muttering about hair extensions.

Great. This is all I need.

Saturday, September 11, 9 a.m., the loft

Inbox: 0

Which isn’t weird. I mean, he’s still got another three hours in the air. And then he has to go through customs.

So I just need to be patient. I just need to be calm. I just need to—

FTLOUIE: TINA!!!! ARE YOU THERE???? If you’re there, write back. I AM DYING!!!!

ILUVROMANCE: Hi, Mia! I’m here. Why are you dying?????

Oh, thank God. Thank God for Tina Hakim Baba.

FTLOUIE: Because while I know the bond Michael and I have is too strong to be torn asunder by a simple misunderstanding, and that he’s going to call when he gets to Japan and tell me he forgives me and everything is going to be all right—what if it isn’t? What if he doesn’t? Oh, God—my palms won’t stop sweating!!!!! And I think I might be having a heart attack….

ILUVROMANCE: Mia! It’s going to be all right! Of course Michael is going to forgive you! You guys will get back together, and everything is going to be just like it used to be. Better, even. Because couples who go through hard times together always come out stronger for it….

FTLOUIE: That’s right! And whatever, right? My ancestresses have faced far harsher adversity. Such as marauding invaders and abductions and being forced to drink wine out of their murdered fathers’ skulls and all of that. Michael and I will be fine!

ILUVROMANCE: Totally! So I take it you’re not going tonight, then?

FTLOUIE: Going to what?

ILUVROMANCE: To the victory party.

FTLOUIE: What victory party?

ILUVROMANCE: You know. Lilly and Perin’s victory party. For winning the student council election.

FTLOUIE: I wasn’t invited to any victory party.

ILUVROMANCE: You didn’t get the e-mail?

FTLOUIE: Noooooo….

ILUVROMANCE: Oh.

FTLOUIE: Oh, what?

ILUVROMANCE: I didn’t think she was serious.

FTLOUIE: Who? What are you talking about?

ILUVROMANCE: Lilly. She was saying she was never speaking to you again because you’re a backstabbing boyfriend-stealer. But I thought she was joking.

!!!!!!

FTLOUIE: WHAT???? HOW CAN SHE SAY THAT??? IT WAS ONLY A PECK!!! IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE ON THE CHEEK!!! I ONLY GOT HIS LIPS BY MISTAKE!!!!

ILUVROMANCE: Right. But didn’t you go seeBeauty and the Beast with J. P. last night?

FTLOUIE: Well, yes. But it was perfectly innocent. We just went as FRIENDS.

ILUVROMANCE: But didn’t you say in the past that your ideal man is one who can sit through an entire performance ofBeauty and the Beast , the most romantic and beautiful story ever told, and not snicker in the wrong places?

FTLOUIE: Yes. But that was a long time ago. And I’ve realized since then that I was wrong. Now my ideal man is one who snickers.

ILUVROMANCE: Well, you’d better tell Lilly that.

FTLOUIE: Why? What’s she saying? Wait a minute—how does she even KNOW what J.P. and I did last night? How do YOU even know?

ILUVROMANCE: Oh…you haven’t seen it?

FTLOUIE: SEEN WHAT????

ILUVROMANCE: The giant photo of you and J.P. coming out of the theater that’s in theNew York Post this morning, with the headline “Heartbroken Princess Finds New Love”?

HEARTBROKEN PRINCESS FINDS NEW LOVE

It looks like splitsville for New York’s own Princess Mia Thermopolis (of Genovia) and her longtime boyfriend, Columbia University student—and commoner—Michael Moscovitz.

Moscovitz is rumored to have accepted a yearlong appointment at a Japanese robotics firm in Tsukuba, where he’ll be working on a top secret project.

But her Royal Highness doesn’t appear to be pining for her onetime love—or wasting any time getting back into the dating scene. Her former beau has already been replaced by a mystery man who accompanied the young royal to a performance of the long-running Broadway showBeauty and the Beast Friday evening. Undisclosed sources say that the young man is none other than John Paul Reynolds-Abernathy IV, son of the wealthy theater promoter and producer John Paul Reynolds-Abernathy III.

A fellow theater patron who observed the young couple in their private box asserted, “They certainly seemed cozy up there,” while another stated, “They make a very attractive couple. They’re both so tall and blond.”

When asked for a statement, a Genovian palace spokesman has said, “We do not comment on the princess’s personal life.”

Saturday, September 11, 10 a.m., the loft

Well. At least now I know why I haven’t heard from Lilly.

Which is so messed up on so many levels. I mean, first of all, it was only a peck.

And second of all, they were already broken up when the peck took place. And third of all, WE WENT TO THE SHOW AS FRIENDS. How could anyone in their right mind think I’m GOING OUT with J.P. Reynolds-Abernathy the Fourth?

I mean, sure, he’s funny and cute and a nice guy and all. Don’t get me wrong.

But my heart belongs to Michael Moscovitz, and always will!

None of this makes any sense. Lilly is supposed to be my best friend. How can she believe something so horrible of me?

And it’s true, Iwas pretty awful to her brother this week. But that was only because I (stupidly) didn’t realize what a great thing we had, until I went and lost it.

But I APOLOGIZED to him. It’s only a matter of time (two hours) until he gets my e-mail and calls me (please, God) and we patch things up and he sends me back my snowflake necklace and we’re back together and everything’s fine again.

Unless he happens to check Google News and sees the giant article about me and J.P.

But why would hebelieve it? He never believed any of the lies the paparazzi was always reporting about me and James Franco. Why would he believe THIS one?

He wouldn’t. Hecan’t.

So what is Lilly’sproblem ?

Anyway. I am not going to freak out. It’s true that in the past, I would be hysterical over something like this. I’d be calling my dad and begging him to have our lawyers demand a retraction. I’d be trying to get to the bottom of who’d tipped the papers off—as if I didn’t know (Grandmère). I’d be frantically e-mailing Michael, hysterically explaining that none of it’s true.

But not now. I’m way too mature for all that. Also, I’m used to it.

And besides: I amway too freaked out as it is. How could I possibly freak out anymore ? I can barely hold on to my pen to write this, my hand is so drenched in sweat.

So…whatever. I’m going to allow Lilly a little cooling-off period. I’m sure when she’s having her party and everyone is there but me (I called Tina after I ran out and got the paper. I told her that of COURSE she has to go to Lilly’s party, even though she was going to boycott out of solidarity with me. But I actuallyneed her to go so I can find out what Lilly is saying about me. I swear, if Lilly’s bad-mouthing me, I will call the Federal Communications Commission and report the fact that she used the S word on last week’s episode ofLilly Tells It Like It Is , while she was describing the current state of affairs in Iraq), she’ll start missing me and invite me over.

And then I’ll go and we’ll hug it out and it will all be fine.

I’ll just sit here and do my Precalculus homework until then. Because God knows I didn’t pay much attention last week, so I have NO IDEA what’s going on in that class. Or any of my classes, really. The last thing I need, on top of everything else that’s going on, is to flunk out of high school.

And I think while I’m doing that, I’ll finish off the rest of the pork dumplings left over from Number One Noodle Son (this meat thing is unreal. Once you start eating it, you reallycan’t stop).

Because that’s how a mature person would handle the situation.

TWO HOURS TILL HE LANDS!!!!!!! EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

Saturday, September 11, 10:15 a.m., the loft

So I just put my name in the Google News search engine to see how many stories there were about me, and what the likelihood of Michael seeing that piece about me and J.P. is and…

…there are 527 RSS articles about it.

And that’s not all.

I went to Google Blog Search to see if anyone was blogging about me, and there’s a new website up: www.ihatemiathermopolis.com.

There’s a list there of the top ten stupidest things about Mia Thermopolis. Number one is my hair.

Number ten is my name.

The stuff in between gets progressively worse.

I know I’m supposed to ignore my negative press. Grandmère told me if I react to it or acknowledge it in any way, I’m only feeding into it, and giving the haters MORE to write about.

But this. This is really…

Great. Just great. Like I don’t have ENOUGH to worry about.

Now somebody out there in the world hates me enough to point out for the whole world to read that with my new haircut, my ears resemble teapot handles.

Just what I need.

Saturday, September 11, 10:30 a.m., the loft

Dear Michael,

By now you’ve probably seen

Dear Michael,

Hi! I was just wondering if you’d seen

Dear Michael,

Whatever you do, don’t look at

Dear Founder of ihatemiathermopolis.com,

IF YOU HATE ME SO MUCH WHY DON’T YOU JUST TELL IT TO MY FACE, YOU COWARD????

Saturday, September 11, noon, the loft

Inbox: 0

My cell phone just rang. I was so certain it was Michael (his plane has landed by now) that I almost dropped it, my hands were so sweaty, plus shaking so badly (also they were so greasy from the chicken leg I found in the back of the fridge and was gnawing).

But it was only J.P. He wanted to know if I’d seen the paper.

“Yes, isn’t that funny?” I tried to sound all breezy. Which is hard to do with a leftover fried chicken leg in your mouth. “They think we’re in love. Ha ha.”

“Yeah,” J.P. said. “Ha ha.”

I’m lucky he’s such a good sport.

“I’m really sorry,” I said. “It’s sort of a hazard of hanging out with me. I mean, that you’re going to end up in the paper.” I didn’t mention ihatemiathermopolis.com. I figured he’d find out soon enough about that.

“I don’t mind,” J.P. said, “being associated with a princess, the heir to a royal throne. And my parents are totally impressed. They think I’ve finally accomplished something.”

It was my turn to go, “Ha ha.” Although the truth is I was feeling kind of sick. Maybe on account of all the meat I’d consumed in the past hour and a half. Basically everything that was in the fridge. I seriously don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’ve gone from a vegetarian to practically a cannibal in less than a week.

Well, okay, not a cannibal. But whatever you call an excessive meat eater.

Except that I knew the truth. My sick feeling had nothing to do with all the meat I’d eaten, and everything to do with the fact that Michael’s plane had totally landed, and that he’d conceivably be checking his messages at any minute.

“Listen,” J.P. said. “I was wondering if you’d heard about Lilly’s party.”

“Yeah,” I said. “I’m not invited. Obviously.”

“I figured,” J.P. said with a sigh. “I was hoping she’d gotten over that by now.”

“Well, seeing our pictures plastered all over the news together isn’t going to help the situation any,” I said.

“No,” J.P. said. “Maybe if we give her the weekend…”

“Maybe.” I hope so. But I don’t really think the weekend is going to do it.

“Want to get together and have a party of our own tonight?” J.P. asked. “You know, show them how it’s done?”

“Oh my gosh, that is so sweet of you,” I said. “But I think I’d better stay here. Because Michael’s plane has landed, so he should be checking his e-mail soon. And I really want to be here when he calls.”If he calls.

But he has to call.Right??????

“Oh.” J.P. sounded kind of taken aback. “Well, wouldn’t it be better if youweren’t there when he calls? So he realizes how sought-after and popular you are?”

I laughed. J.P. really does have a twisted sense of humor.

“Funny! But I think there’s a good chance he’s going to realize that when he sees the paper. If that photo of us makes it to Japan. Besides, I really do need to work on my Precalculus if I’m going to pass.”

“Well, if you need help, I’ll be happy to come over,” J.P. offered. “I’m a whiz at the summation of infinitesimal differences.”

Isn’t he the sweetest? Imagine, offering to give up his Saturday to help me with Precalculus!

“Aw,” I said. “That’s so nice. But I’m good. I have an actual Algebra instructor living here, who I can turn to if I start pulling out my hair in despair. I mean, what’s left of my hair.”

“Well,” J.P. said. “Okay. But if you change your mind…”

“I’ll know who to call,” I said. I was kind of trying to hurry him off the phone. Because Michael could have been calling at that very moment. Not that my cell wouldn’t have told me. But. You know.

“Okay,” J.P. said. “Well, just remember. We make a ‘very attractive’ couple.”

“Because we’re both so tall and blond,” I said, laughing. J.P. laughed too, and then hung up.

When the Yellowstone caldera last erupted six hundred and forty thousand years ago, it released a thousand cubic kilometers of debris, basically covering half of North America in ash piles six feet deep.

This is totally what’s going to happen when J.P. finally finds his one true love.

I know this is totally selfish to say, but I just hope that when he finds his, I still have mine.

Saturday, September 11, 4 p.m., the loft

Inbox: 0

Phone messages: 0

I can’t believe this. He hasn’t e’d or called yet.

Mom just looked in here and went, “Mia? Aren’t you going out tonight?”

I guess she could tell by the fact that I’m wearing my Hello Kitty flannel pajamas that I’m in for the night.

“Nah,” I said, managing to sound more carefree than I really feel. WHY HASN’T HE CALLED? “I’m just going to hang here and catch up with my Precalculus homework.”

“Precalculus homework?” Mom actually reached out and felt my forehead. “You don’tfeel feverish….”

“Ha ha.” Everyone around me is turning into such a comedian lately. I totally put my hands behind my back so she couldn’t see how sweaty they were.

“Mia,” Mom said, putting on her maternal face. “You can’t sit around in this apartment pining for Michael forever.”

“I know that,” I said, looking shocked. “God, Mom! Do you think I’d do that? I’m a feminist, you know. I don’t need a man to make me happy.” It’s just, you know, when that particular one is around, and I smell his neck, my oxytocin levels rise, and I feel calmer and more relaxed than I do when I’m alone. Or with anyone else.

“Well.” Mom seemed skeptical. She knows about the oxytocin thing. “I don’t know. You’re not staying in now because of that silly news article, then, are you?”

“You mean the one accusing me of dating my best friend’s ex-boyfriend when my own boyfriend and I have barely been broken up a week?” I asked lightly. “Gee, no, why on earth would I let that bother me?”

“Mia.” Mom’s lips started getting thin, a sure sign she was unhappy with me. “You can’t let the fact that Michael is moving on with his life keep you from moving on with yours. Of course it’s important to mourn the loss, but—”

“WHAT LOSS? MAYBE MICHAEL HASN’T GOTTEN MY APOLOGY E-MAIL YET. FOR ALL WE KNOW, HE COULD BE OPENING HIS E-MAIL RIGHT NOW AND SEEING THAT I APOLOGIZED AND BE GETTING READY TO CALL TO TAKE ME BACK. ANY SECOND NOW.”

“Stop yelling,” Mom said. “Are you really feeling all right? You look a little peaked. Have you eaten anything today?”

“Um.” I wasn’t sure how to break it to her that I’d polished off all the lunch meat and the Canadian bacon she’d been saving for breakfast. There wasn’t a piece of meat left in the loft. Or any ice cream, either. And I’d also finished all the Girl Scout cookies. “Yes.”

“Well, if you’re sure you’re feeling all right and you’re going to stay here anyway,” Mom said, “Frank and I might head on over to the Angelika to see that new grunge rockumentary. Would you mind watching Rocky while we’re gone?”

“Sure,” I said. In lieu of smelling Michael’s neck, I figured I could use a few hours of Rocky’s favorite game, which involves pointing at various pieces in his Tonka collection and shouting “Tuck!” which meanstruck in Rocky-speak. It might relax me.

So now I’m here babysitting my brother.

If only the photographers from theNew York Post could see me now. The glamorous life of America’s favorite princess: sitting on the living room floor with her baby brother, playing “Tuck” in her flannel Hello Kitty pajamas…

…while her heart slowly and irrevocably breaks.

Sunday, September 12, 10 a.m., the loft

Inbox: 0

Calls: 0

But I have an instant message!!!

Oh, it’s just from Tina. But I guess that’s better than nothing.

ILUVROMANCE: Hey, Mia!!!! Did he call?????

FTLOUIE: Not yet. But I’m sure I’ll hear soon. He’s probably still getting settled and all of that. He’ll call or write as soon as he gets a chance.

God, I sound so brave and strong, when inwardly, I’m quivering like a—I don’t even know what. Tiny quivering thing. WHY HASN’T HE CALLED????

ILUVROMANCE: Of course he will. Unless he saw that photo, I mean.

Okay, time to change the subject.

FTLOUIE: So how was the party????

ILUVROMANCE: The party was okay, I guess. Nothing too exciting happened. Kenny Showalter came over with a bunch of guys from his muay thai fighting class, and they all started doing shirtless handstand push-ups, and I guess Lilly was impressed by what she saw since she totally hooked up with one of them. And then Perin ate too many maraschino cherries and threw up in the bathroom sink and a lot of the cherries were still whole so Ling Su had to cut them up with scissors to get them to go down the drain. That’s about it. Like I said, you didn’t miss much.

FTLOUIE: Wait a minute. Lilly HOOKED UP with a GUY FROM KENNY SHOWALTER’S MUAY THAI FIGHTING CLASS?

ILUVROMANCE: Oh. Yeah. Well, I mean, Boris said he saw Lilly making out with some dude in the kitchen. But she threw a lobster pot holder at his head before he could get a good look at who it was. You know Boris is afraid of lobsters—

FTLOUIE: But it was definitely one of the muay thai fighters????

ILUVROMANCE: Yeah. Well, the guy wasn’t wearing a shirt, so it had to be.

FTLOUIE: But that’s just…that’s so wrong! I mean, she hasn’t even had a chance to recover from her heartbreak over J.P.! This is obviously just a rebound relationship! What does Lilly think she’s doing? Someone’s got to talk to her. Did you try talking to her????

ILUVROMANCE: Well…sort of. But she just laughed in my face and told me not to be such a—

FTLOUIE: Such a what? Such a WHAT?

ILUVROMANCE: Nothing. Mia, I have to go, my mom’s calling me. TTYL!

But the thing was, she didn’t have to say it. I know what Lilly told her.

Not to be such a Mia.

But there’s a REASON I worry so much about her. Sometimes Lilly makes really bad choices. And then she gets hurt.

And true, sometimes she makes good choices—like dating J.P.—and gets hurt anyway.

But making out with some random muay thai fighter in her kitchen just one day after breaking up with her boyfriend of six months?

I don’t see how that can be a good choice.

Someone’s got to talk to her, before she does something she regrets.

If Dr. Moscovitz didn’t completely hate me right now—for dumping her son, and then ALLEGEDLY dating her daughter’s boyfriend—I’d call her.

But given the current state of our relationship, that is probably not the wisest course of action.

Sunday, September 12, 11 a.m., the loft

Inbox: 0

But then my cell rang!

But it wasn’t Michael. It was just J.P.

J.P.: “Hey! How are you?”

It was kind of hard to hide my crushing disappointment.

Me: “Fine. You?”

J.P.: “What’s wrong? Wait—don’t tell me he hasn’t called.”

Me: “He hasn’t called.”

Unintelligible muttering from his end of the phone. Then:

J.P.: “Don’t worry. He’ll call.”

Me: “I hope so.”

J.P.: “Are you kidding? He’d be a fool not to. So how was your night last night?”

Me: “Fine. I mean, I didn’t do much. Just played Tuck with my brother.”

J.P.: “You played WHAT?”

See, Michael knows what Tuck is. Not only that, he’s PLAYED it with Rocky. I think he even LIKES playing it. It relaxes him as much as it relaxes me.

Me: “It’s—Never mind. Did you hear about Lilly?”

J.P.: “No. What about her?”

I didn’t want to be the bearer of bad news about J.P.’s ex, but I figured it was better he heard it from me than from someone in school on Monday.

Me: “She hooked up with some random muay thai fighter at her party last night.”

Instead of the inhalation of horror I expected to hear, however, J.P. sounded…well, almost as if he werelaughing.

J.P.: “That sounds like Lilly, all right.”

I was shocked. I mean, sure, it sounded like the OLD Lilly—the pre–J.P. Lilly. But not the new and improved Lilly.

And he waslaughing !

Me: “J.P., don’t you see? Lilly’s just acting out because she’s so crushed and brokenhearted over what she perceives as our betrayal of her! This whole muay thai fighter thing is directly related to thatNew York Post article. We’ve got to do something before she descends into an ever-increasing downward spiral of self-destructive behavior, like Lindsay Lohan!”

J.P.: “Well, I don’t see what we can do. Lilly’s pretty much old enough to make her own decisions. If she wants to hook up with random muay thai fighters, that’s really her business, not ours.”

I couldn’t believe he was stilllaughing.

Me: “J.P., it’s not funny.”

J.P.: “Well, it kinda is.”

Me: “No, it’s not, it’s—”

Sunday, September 12, noon, the loft

I had to stop writing just then because my cell phone rang again. It was Michael.

He’s in Japan. He got my e-mail.

He also saw the picture of J.P. and me in thePost.

He said that it didn’t make any difference, though. He said he was sorry that we had to do this over the phone, but that there was no other way.

I asked him what he meant by “this,” and he said he’d been thinking about it the whole way to Japan, and that he really feels it would be better if he and I just went back to being what we used to be before we started going out—friends.

He said that he thought that we both probably had some growing up to do, and that maybe some time apart—and seeing other people—would do us good.

I said okay. Even though every word he was saying was like a stab wound to my heart.

And then I said good-bye and hung up. Because I was afraid he would hear me sobbing.

And that isn’t how I want him to remember me.

Sunday, September 12, 12:30 p.m., the loft

WHY DID I SAY OKAY?????????????????

Why didn’t I say what I really felt, that I understand the part about having some growing up to do and spending some time apart…

…but not the part about just being friends and seeing other people????

Why didn’t I say what I was thinking, which is that I’d rather DIE than be with anybody but him?????

Why didn’t I tell him the truth?????

And I KNOW it wouldn’t have made any difference, and I just would have come off as exactly what he thinks I am—an immature little girl.

But at least he wouldn’t think I’m okay with this.

Because I am NOT okay with this.

I will NEVER be okay with this.

I don’t think I will ever be okay again.

Monday, September 13, 8 a.m., the loft

Mom came into my room just now to say she understands that I’m grieving about having lost the love of my life.

She said she understands how upsetting it must have been for me to have experienced such a hideous breakup as well as the loss of my best friend in one week.

She said she completely sympathizes with my plight, and appreciates that I feel the need to mourn my loss.

She says she has tried to give me the time and freedom I need in order to grieve.

But she said a whole day in bed is long enough.

Also that she’s sick of seeing me in my Hello Kitty flannel pajamas which, if she wasn’t mistaken, I haven’t changed out of since Saturday. Also that it’s time to get up, get dressed, and go to school.

I had no choice but to tell her the truth:

That I am dying.

Of course I know I’m not really dying.

But why does it feel that way?

I keep hoping it will all just…go away.

But it won’t. It doesn’t. When I close my eyes and go to sleep, I keep hoping that when I open them again, it will have been a terrible nightmare.

Only it never is. Every time I wake up, I’m still in my Hello Kitty pajamas—the same ones I was wearing when Michael said he thought we should just go back to being friends—and WE’RE STILL BROKEN UP.

Mom told me I’m not dying. Even after I had her feel my clammy palms and erratic pulse. Even when I showed her the whites of my eyes, which have gone noticeably yellow. Even when I showed her my tongue, which is basically white, instead of a healthy pink. Even when I informed her that I went to wrongdiagnosis.com, and that it’s obvious I have meningitis.

In which case, Mom said, I had better get dressed so she could take me to the emergency room.

I knew then she’d called my bluff. So I just begged her to let me stay in bed for one more day. And she finally relented.

I didn’t tell her the truth: that I am never getting out of bed again.

It’s true. I mean, think about it: Now that Michael’s gone from my life, there’s no actualreason for me to get out of bed. Such as, for instance, to go to school.

It’s true. I am the princess of Genovia. I will ALWAYS be the princess of Genovia, whether I go to school or not.

So what does it matter if I go to school? I’m always going to have a job—Princess of Genovia—whether I graduate from high school or not.

And, since I’m sixteen now, no one can FORCE me to go to school.

Therefore, I’ve decided I’m not going. Ever again.

Mom said she’ll call the school and tell them I won’t be coming in today, and that she’ll call Grandmère and tell her I won’t be able to make it to princess lessons this afternoon, either. She even said she’d tell Lars he has the day off, and that I can spend one more day wallowing in my bed if I want to.

But that tomorrow, no matter what I say, I’m going to school.

To which all I have to say is, that’s what SHE thinks.

Maybe Dad will let me move to Genovia.

Monday, September 13, 5 p.m., the loft

Tina just stopped by. Mom let her in to see me.

I really wish she hadn’t.

I guess the fact that I haven’t bathed in two days must show, since Tina’s eyes got very wide when she saw me.

Still, she pretended like she wasn’t shocked by the amount of grease in my hair, or anything. She went, “Your mom told me. About Michael. Mia, I’m so sorry. When are you coming back to school? Everyone misses you!”

“Lilly doesn’t,” I said.

“Well,” Tina said, wincing. “No, that’s true. But still. You can’t stay shut up in your room for the rest of your life, Mia.”

“I know,” I said. “I’ll be back in school tomorrow.” But this was a total lie. Even as I said it, I could feel my palms getting sweaty. Just the thought of going to school made me want to hurl.

“I’m so glad,” Tina said. “I know things didn’t work out with Michael, but maybe that’s for the best. I mean, he’s so much older than you are, and you two are in such different places in your lives, you still in high school, and him in college and all.”

I couldn’t believe it. Even Tina—always my staunchest supporter where my love for Michael is concerned—was betraying me. I tried not to let my shock at this show, however.

“Besides,” Tina went on, blithely unaware of the pain she was causing me, “now you can really concentrate on writing that novel you’ve always wanted to write. And you can work harder at school and your grades and get into a really great college, where you’ll meet a really great guy who will make you forget all about Michael!”

Yeah. Because that’s what I want to do. Forget all about Michael. The only guy—the only PERSON—I’ve ever felt completely calm around.

I didn’t say that, though. Instead, I said, “You know what, Tina? You’re right. I’ll see you at school tomorrow. I promise.”

And Tina went away all happy, thinking she’d cheered me up.

But I don’t actually believe that. You know, that anything Tina said is true.

And I’m not really going to school tomorrow. I just said it to get Tina to go away. Because having to talk to her made me feel so tired. I just wanted to go back to sleep.

In fact, that is what I’m going to do now. Writing all this has totally exhausted me.

Justliving exhausts me.

Maybe this time, when I wake up, it really will all turn out to have been a bad dream….

Tuesday, September 14, 8 a.m., the loft

No such luck, with the bad dream thing. I could tell by the way Mr. Gianini came in here with a steaming mug of hot chocolate, going, “Rise and shine, Mia! Look what I’ve got! Hot cocoa! With whipped cream! But you can only have it if you get out of bed, get dressed, and get in the limo for school.”

He’d never have done that if I hadn’t been brutally dumped by my longtime boyfriend, and currently in the throes of despair.

Poor Mr. G. I mean, you have to give him points for trying. You really do.

I said I didn’t want any hot cocoa. Then I explained—very politely—that I am not going to school. Anymore.

I checked my tongue in the mirror just now. It’s not as white as it was yesterday. It’s possible I don’t have meningitis after all.

But what else can explain the fact that whenever I think about how Michael isn’t in my life anymore, my heart starts beating very fast and won’t slow down again for sixty seconds, or sometimes even longer?

Unless I have lassa fever. But I’ve never even been to West Africa.

Tuesday, September 14, 5 p.m., the loft

Tina came by again after school today. This time she brought all my homework assignments that I’ve missed.

Also, Boris.

Boris was a little surprised to see me in my current condition. I know because he said so. He said, “Mia, it is very surprising to me that a feminist like you would be so upset over the fact that a man had rejected her.”

Then he said, “Ooof!” because Tina elbowed him so hard in the ribs.

He didn’t believe my lassa fever story.

So then, even though I really don’t want to hurt anyone—because God knows I myself am in enough pain for everyone—I was forced to remind Boris that back when a certain ex-girlfriend of his had rejected him, he’d dropped an entire globe on his head in a misguided attempt to get her back. I said that in comparison, me refusing to bathe or get out of bed for a few days was really nothing.

To which he agreed. Although he did keep sniffing the air in my bedroom and going, “May I open a window? It seems a little…warm in here.”

I don’t care that I smell. The truth is, I don’t care about anything. Isn’t that sad?

This made it hard for Tina to engage me in mindless conversation, something I can tell she’d been charged with doing, no doubt by my mother. Tina tried to get me interested in going back to school by telling me that both J.P. and Kenny had been asking about me…particularly J.P., who’d given Tina something to give to me—a tightly folded note that I had zero interest in reading.

After what seemed like forever—I know! It’s pretty sad when even your best friend’s attempts to cheer you up fall flat—Tina and Boris finally went away. I opened the note J.P. gave Tina to give to me. It said a lot of stuff like,Come on, it can’t be THAT bad andWhy won’t you return any of my calls? andI’ll take you to see Tarzan! Orchestra seats!andJust come back to school. I miss you.

Which was totally sweet of him.

But when your life is crumbling around you, the last place in the world you want to be is school…no matter how many cute guys there say they miss you.

Wednesday, September 15, 8 a.m., the loft

Mom came bursting in here this morning, her mouth practically invisible, she had her lips pressed together so tightly. She said she gets that I’m sad. She said that she gets that I feel like there’s no point in living because my boyfriend dumped me, my best friend isn’t speaking to me, and I have no choice over what career I’m going to have someday. She says she gets that my palms won’t stop sweating, I have heart palpitations, and my tongue is a funny color.

But then she said that three days of wallowing is her limit. She said I was getting up and getting dressed and going to school if she had to drag me to the shower and stick me under the nozzle herself.

I just stayed exactly where I’ve been for the past seventy-two hours—my bed—and looked at her without saying anything. I couldn’t believe she could be so cold. I mean, really.

Then she tried a different tactic. She started to cry. She said she’s really worried about me and that she doesn’t know what to do. She says she’s never seen me this way—that I didn’t even do anything the other day when Rocky tried to stick a dime up his nose. She said a week ago I’d have been freaking out over loose change around the house being a choking hazard.

Now I didn’t even care.

Which isn’t true. Idon’t want Rocky to choke. And Idon’t want to make my mother cry.

But at the same time, I don’t see what I can do to keep either of these things from happening.

Then Mom switched tack again, and stopped crying, and asked if I wanted her to bring out the big guns. She said that she doesn’t want to bother Dad while he’s busy with the United Nations General Assembly, but that I really wasn’t leaving her much choice. Was that what I wanted her to do? To bother my dad with this?

I told her she could call Dad if she wanted to. I told her that I’d been meaning to talk to Dad anyway about moving to Genovia full time. Because the truth is, I don’t want to live in Manhattan anymore.

All I wanted was for Mom to leave me alone so I could continue feeling sorry for myself in peace. My plan actually worked…a littletoo well. She got so upset, she ran out of my room and started crying again.

I really didn’t mean to make her cry! I’m sorry to have made her feel bad. Especially because I don’t really want to move to Genovia. I’m sure they won’t let me lounge around in bed all day there. Which I’m really sort of starting to like doing. I have a whole little schedule now. Every morning, I get up before anyone else does and have breakfast—usually whatever leftovers are in the fridge from the evening meal the night before—and feed Fat Louie and clean out his box.

Then I get back into bed, and eventually Fat Louie joins me, and together we watch the top ten video countdown on MTV, and then the one on VH1. When either Mom or Mr. G comes in and tries to get me to go to school, I say no…which usually exhausts me so much, I have to take a little nap.

Then I wake up in time to watchThe View and two back-to-back episodes ofJudging Amy.

After I make sure no one else is around, I go out into the kitchen and have some lunch—a ham sandwich or microwave popcorn or something. It doesn’t matter much what—and then get back into bed with Fat Louie and watch Judge Milian onThe People’s Court , and thenJudge Judy.

Then my mom sends in Tina, and I pretend to be alive, and then Tina leaves, and I go to sleep, because Tina exhausts me. Then, after Mom and everybody is asleep, I get up, make myself a snack, and watch TV until two or three in the morning.

Then I get up a few hours later and do it all over again, after I realize I wasn’t dreaming, and I really am truly broken up with Michael.

I could conceivably keep this up until I’m eighteen, and start receiving my yearly salary as Princess of Genovia (which doesn’t kick in until I’m a legal adult and begin my official duties as heir).

And, okay, it’s going to be hard to do my official duties from bed.

But I bet I could figure out a way.

Still. It sucks to make your mother cry. Maybe I should make her a card or something.

Except that would involve getting out of bed to look for markers and stuff. And I am way, way too tired to do all of that.

Wednesday, September 15, 5 p.m., the loft

I guess my mom wasn’t kidding about bringing out the big guns. Tina didn’t show up after school today.

Grandmèredid.

But—much as I love her, and sorry as I am to have made her cry—Mom’s totally wrong if she thinks anything Grandmère says or does is going to change my mind about going back to school.

I’m not doing it. There’s just no point.

“What do you mean, there’s no point?” Grandmère wanted to know, when I said this. “Of course there’s a point. You have tolearn .”

“Why?” I asked her. “My future job is totally assured. Throughout the ages, most reigning monarchs have been total morons, and yet they still were allowed to rule. What difference does it make whether I’ve graduated from high school or not?”

“Well, you don’t want to be an ignoramus,” Grandmère insisted. She was perched on the very edge of my bed, holding her purse in her lap and looking around all askance at everything, like the homework assignments Tina had left the day before and which I’d sort of thrown across the floor, and myBuffy the Vampire Slayer action figures, apparently not realizing they are expensive collectibles now, like her stupid Limoges teacups.

But from Grandmère’s expression, you could tell that, instead of being in her teenage granddaughter’s bedroom, she felt like she was in some back alley pawnshop in Chinatown, or something.

And okay, I guess itis pretty messy in here. But whatever.

“Why don’t I want to be an ignoramus?” I asked. “Some of the most influential women on the planet didn’t graduate from high school either.”

“Name one,” Grandmère demanded, with a snort.

“Paris Hilton,” I said. “Lindsay Lohan. Nicole Richie.”

“I am quite certain,” Grandmère said, “that all of those women graduated from high school. And even if they didn’t, it’s nothing to be proud of. Ignorance is never attractive. Speaking of which, how long has it been since you washed your hair, Amelia?”

I fail to see the point in bathing. What does it matter how I look now that Michael is out of my life?

When I mentioned this, however, Grandmère asked if I was feeling all right.

“No, I’m not, Grandmère,” I said. “Which I would have thought was obvious by the fact that I haven’t gotten out of my bed in four days except to eat and go to the bathroom.”

“Oh, Amelia,” Grandmère said, looking offended. “We’ve stooped to scatological references now, as well?Really. I understand you’re sad about losing That Boy, but—”

“Grandmère,” I said. “I think you’d better go now.”

“I won’t go until we’ve decided what we’re going to do aboutthis .”

And then Grandmère tapped on the Domina Rei stationery from Mrs. Weinberger, which she’d found peeping out from beneath my bed.

“Oh, that,” I said. “Please have your secretary decline for me.”

“Decline?” Grandmère’s drawn-on eyebrows lifted. “We shall do no such thing, young lady. Do you have any idea what Elana Trevanni said when I ran into her at Bergdorf’s yesterday and casually mentioned to her that my granddaughter had been invited to speak at the Domina Rei charity gala? She said—”

“Fine,” I interrupted again. “I’ll do it.”

Grandmère didn’t say anything for a beat. Then she asked hesitantly, “Did you just say you’ll do it, Amelia?”

“Yes,” I said. Anything to make her go away. “I’ll do it. Just…can we talk about it later? I have a headache.”

“You’re probably dehydrated,” Grandmère said. “Have you drunk your eight glasses of water today? You know you need to drink eight glasses of water a day, Amelia, in order to keep hydrated. That’s how we Renaldo women preserve our dewy complexions, by consuming plenty of liquids…”

“I think I just need to rest,” I said in a weak voice. “My throat is starting to hurt a little. I don’t want to get laryngitis and lose my voice before the big event…it’s a week from Friday, right?”

“Good heavens,” Grandmère said, leaping up from my bed so quickly that she startled Fat Louie from the pillow fort I’d made him at my side. He was nothing but an orange blur as he ran for the safety of the closet. “We can’t have you coming down with something that might endanger your attending the gala! I shall send over my personal physician immediately!”

She started fumbling in her purse for her bejeweled cell phone—which she only knows how to work because I showed her about a million times—but I stopped her by saying weakly, “No, it’s all right, Grandmère. I think I just need to rest…you’d better go. Whatever I have, you don’t want to catch it….”

Grandmère was out of there like a shot.

And FINALLY I could go back to sleep.

Or so I thought. Because a few minutes later, Mom came into the doorway and stood there peering down at me with a troubled look on her face.

“Mia,” she said. “Did you tell your grandmother you’d speak at a Domina Rei Women’s Society benefit?”

“Yeah,” I said, pulling my pillow over my head. “Anything, to make her leave.”

Mom went away, looking concerned.

I don’t know what SHE’S so worried about.I’m the one who’s going to have to find some way to get out of town before the event actually happens.

Thursday, September 16, 11 a.m., Dad’s limo

This morning at nine o’clock I was in bed with my eyes squeezed shut (because I heard someone coming and I didn’t want to deal) when my covers were thrown back and this stern, deep voice said, “Get. Up.”

I opened my eyes and was surprised to see my dad standing there, wearing his business suit and smelling of autumn.

I’ve been inside so long, I’ve forgotten what outside smells like.

I could tell by his expression that I was in for it.

So I said, “No,” and snatched the covers back, pulling them over my head.

Which is when I heard my dad go, “Lars. If you will.”

And then my bodyguard scooped me—covers still clutched over my head—from my bed, and began to carry me from my mother’s apartment.

“What are you doing?” I demanded, when I had disentangled my head from the covers, and saw that we were in the hallway, and that Ronnie, our neighbor from next door, was blinking at us in astonishment with her arms full of grocery bags.

“Something that’s for your own good,” my dad said, from behind Lars, on the stairs.

“But—” I seriously couldn’t believe this. “I’m in my pajamas!”

“I told you to get up,” Dad said. “You’re the one who wouldn’t do it.”

“You can’t do this to me!” I cried, as we exited the apartment building and headed toward my dad’s limo. “I’m an American! I have rights, you know!”

My dad looked at me and said very sarcastically, “No, you don’t. You’re a teenager.”

“Help!” I screamed to all the New York University students who live in our neighborhood and were just rolling home after a fun night out in the East Village. “Call Amnesty International! I’m being held against my will!”

“Lars,” my dad said disgustedly as the NYU kids looked around for the movie cameras they evidently thought were rolling, since the whole thing appeared to be some scene from aLaw and Order episode being filmed on Thompson Street, or something. “Toss her in the car.”

And Lars did! He tossed me in the car!

And okay, he tossed my journal in after me. And a pen.

And my Chinese slippers with the sequin flowers on the toes.

But still! Is this any way to treat a princess, I ask you? Or even a human being?

And Dad won’t even tell me where we’re going. He just goes, “You’ll see,” when I ask.

After getting over the initial shock of being manhandled in such a way, I find, to my surprise, that I don’t much care. I mean, it’s weird to be sitting in my dad’s limo in my Hello Kitty pajamas, with my sheet and duvet wrapped around me.

But at the same time, I can’t summon up any real indignation about it.

I think that might actually be the problem. That I just don’t care aboutanything anymore.

Except I can’t even be bothered to care aboutthat very much, either.

Thursday, September 16, noon, Dr. Knutz’s office

We’re sitting in apsychologist’s office.

I’m not even kidding. My dad didn’t take me to the royal jet to go back to Genovia. He brought me to the Upper East Side to see apsychologist.

And not just any psychologist, either. But one of the nation’s preeminent experts on adolescent and child psychology. At least if all the many degrees and awards framed on the wall of his outer office is any indication.

I guess this is supposed to impress me. Or at least comfort me.

Although I can’t say I feel too comforted by the fact that his name is Dr. Arthur T.Knutz.

Yes, that’s right. My dad has brought me to see Dr. Knutz. Because he—and Mom and Mr. G—apparently thinkI’m nuts.

I know I probablylook nuts, sitting here in my pajamas, with my duvet still clutched around me. But whose fault is that? They could have let me get dressed.

Not that Iwould have, of course. But if they’d told me they were taking me out of the apartment, I might have at least put on a bra.

Dr. Knutz’s receptionist—or nurse, or whatever she is—doesn’t seem too bothered by my mode of dress, however. She just went, “Good morning, Prince Phillipe,” to my dad when he brought me in. Well, I mean, when Lars carried me in. Because when the limo pulled up in front of the brownstone Dr. Knutz’s office is in, I wouldn’t get out of the car. I wasn’t going to walk across East Seventy-eighth Street in my Hello Kitty pajamas! I may be crazy, but I’m not THAT crazy.

So Lars carried me.

The receptionist didn’t seem to think it was at all weird that her boss’s newest patient had to be carried into his office. She just went, “Dr. Knutz will be with you in a moment. In the meantime, will you please fill this out, dear?”

I don’t know why I got so panicky all of a sudden. But I was like, “No. What is it? A test? I don’t want to take a test.” It’s weird, but my heart started beating all crazy at the idea of having to take a test.

The receptionist just looked at me funny and went, “It’s just an assessment of how you’re feeling. There are no right or wrong answers. It will only take a minute to fill out.”

But I didn’t want to take an assessment, even if there were no right or wrong answers.

“No,” I said. “I don’t think so.”

“Here,” Dad said, and held out his hand to the receptionist. “I’ll take one, too. Will that make you feel better, Mia?”

For some reason, it did. Because, to be honest, if I’m crazy, so is my dad. I mean, you should see how many shoes he owns. And he’s aman.

So the receptionist handed my dad the same form to fill out. When I looked down, I saw that it was a list of statements that you were supposed to rate by checking off the most appropriate answer. Statements such as,I feel like there’s no point in living . To which you could check off one of the following replies:

All of the time

Most of the time

Some of the time

A little of the time

None of the time

Since there was nothing else to do and I had a pen in my hand anyway, I filled out the form. I noticed when I was done that I had checked off mostlyAll of the time s andMost of the time s. Such as,I feel like everyone hates me…Most of the time andI feel that I am worthless…Most of the time .

But my dad had filled out mostlyA little of the time s andNone of the time s.

Even for his answers to statements like,I feel as if true romantic love has passed me by .

Which I happen to know is a total lie. Dad told me he has had only one true love in his entire life, and that was Mom, and that he let her go, and totally regretted it. That’s why he urged me not to be stupid and let Michael go. Because he knew I might never find a love like that again.

Too bad I didn’t figure out he was right until it was too late.

Still, it’s easy for him to feel like everyone hates him none of the time. There’s no ihateprincephillipeofgenovia.com.

The receptionist—Mrs. Hopkins—took our forms back and brought them through a door to the right of her desk. I couldn’t see what was behind the door. Meanwhile, Lars picked up the latest copy ofSports Illustrated off Dr. Knutz’s waiting room coffee table and started reading it all casually, like he carries princesses in their pajamas into psychologist’s offices every day of the week.

I bet he never thought that was going to be part of his job description when he graduated from bodyguard school.

“I think you’re going to like Dr. Knutz, Mia,” my dad is saying. “I met him at a fund-raising event last year. He’s one of the nation’s preeminent experts in adolescent and child psychology.”

I point at the awards on the wall. “Yeah. I got that part.”

“Well,” Dad says. “It’s true. He comes very highly recommended. Don’t let his name—or his demeanor—fool you.”

His demeanor? What doesthat mean?

Mrs. Hopkins is back. She says the doctor will see us now.

Great.

Thursday, September 16, 2 p.m., Dad’s limo

Well. That was the weirdest thing. Ever.

Dr. Knutz was…not what I was expecting.

I don’t know what I was expecting, really, but not Dr. Knutz. I know Dad said not to let his name or his demeanor fool me, but I mean, from his name and his profession, I expected him to be a little old bald dude with a goatee and glasses and maybe a German accent.

And hewas old. Like Grandmère’s age.

But he wasn’t little. And he wasn’t bald. And he didn’t have a goatee. And he had sort of a Western accent. That’s because, he explained, when he isn’t at his practice in New York City, he’s at his ranch in Montana.

Yes. That’s right. Dr. Knutz is a cowboy. Acowboy psychologist.

It so figures that out of all the psychologists in New York, I would end up with a cowboy one.

His office is furnished like the inside of a ranch house. On the wood paneling along his office walls there are pictures of wild mustangs running free. And every one of the books on the shelves behind him are by the famous Western authors Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey. His office furniture is dark leather and trimmed with brass studs. There’s even a cowboy hat hanging on the peg on the back of the door. And the carpet is a Navajo rug.

I could tell right away from all this that Dr. Knutz certainly lived up to his name. Also, that he was way crazier than me.

This had to be a joke. My dad had to be kidding that Dr. Knutz is one of the nation’s preeminent experts on adolescent and child psychology. Maybe I was being punk’d. Maybe Ashton Kutcher was going to pop out any minute and be all, “D’oh! Princess Mia! You’ve just been punk’d! This guy isn’t a psychologist at all! He’s my uncle Joe!”

“So,” Dr. Knutz said, in this big booming cowboy voice after I’d sat down next to Dad on the couch across from Dr. Knutz’s big leather armchair. “You’re Princess Mia. Nice to meetcha. Heard you were uncharacteristically nice to your grandma yesterday.”

I was completely shocked by this. Unlike Dr. Knutz’s other patients, who, presumably, are children, I happen to be acquainted with a pair of Jungian psychologists—Dr. and Dr. Moscovitz—so I am not unfamiliar with how doctor-patient relationships are supposed to go.

And they are not supposed to begin with completely false accusations on the part of the doctor.

“That is total and utter slander,” I said. “I wasn’t nice to her. I just said what she wanted to hear so she would go away.”

“Oh,” Dr. Knutz said. “That’s different. So you’re telling me everything is hunky-dory, then?”

“Obviously not,” I said. “Since I am sitting here in your office in my pajamas and a duvet.”

“You know, I’d noticed that,” Dr. Knutz said. “But you young girls are always wearing the oddest things, so I just figured it was the new fashion craze, or something.”

I could see right away that this was never going to fly. How could I entrust my innermost emotional thoughts to someone who goes around calling me and my peers “you young girls” and thinks any of us would willingly go outside dressed in Hello Kitty pajamas and a duvet?

“This isn’t going to work for me,” I said to my dad as I got up. “Let’s go.”

“Hang on a second, Mia,” Dad said. “We just got here, okay? Give the man a chance.”

“Dad.” I couldn’t believe this. I mean, if I had to go to therapy, why couldn’t my parents have found me areal therapist, not a COWBOY therapist? “Let’s go. Before he BRANDS me.”

“You got something against ranchers, little lady?” Dr. Knutz wanted to know.

“Um, considering that I’m a vegetarian,” I said. I didn’t mention that I stopped being a vegetarian a week ago. “Yes, yes, I do.”

“You seem awful hetted up,” Dr. Knutz said. I swear he really saidhetted and notheated. “For someone who, according to this, says she finds herself not caring about anything at all most of the time.”

He tapped the assessment sheet I’d filled out in his outer office. Sinking back down in my seat, since I could tell this was going to take a while, I said, “Look, Dr., um—” I couldn’t even bring myself to say his name! “I think you should know that I’ve been studying the work of Dr. Carl Jung for some time. I have been struggling to achieve self-actualization for years. I am no stranger to psychology. I happen to know perfectly well what’s wrong with me.”

“Oh, you do,” Dr. Knutz said, looking intrigued. “Enlighten me.”

“I’m just,” I said, “feeling a little down. It’s a normal reaction to something that happened to me last week.”

“Right,” Dr. Knutz said, looking down at a piece of paper on his desk. “You broke up with your boyfriend—Michael, is it?”

“Yes,” I said. “And, okay, maybe it’s a little more complicated than a normal teenager’s breakup, because I’m a princess, and Michael is a genius, and he thinks he has to go off to Japan to build a robotic surgical arm in order to prove to my family that he’s worthy of me, when the truth is,I’m not worthy ofhim , and I suppose because deep down inside, I know that I completely sabotaged our relationship.

“And, okay, maybe we were doomed from the start, because I scored an INFJ on the Myers-Briggs Jungian personality test we took online last summer, and he scored an ENTJ, and now he just wants to be friends and see other people, which is thelast thing I want. But I respect his wishes, and I know that if I ever hope to attain the fruits of self-actualization, I have to spend more time building up the roots of my tree of life, and…and…and, really, that’s it. Except for possible meningitis. Or lassa fever. That’s all that’s wrong with me. I just have to adjust. I’m fine. I’m really fine.”

“You’re fine?” Dr. Knutz said. “You’ve missed almost a week of school even though there’s nothing physically wrong with you—we’ll check on the meningitis of course—and you haven’t changed out of your pajamas in days. But you’re fine.”

“Yes,” I said. Suddenly, I was very close to tears. Also, my heart was beating kind of fast again. “Can I go home now?”

“Why?” Dr. Knutz wanted to know. “So you can crawl back into bed and continue to isolate yourself from friends and loved ones—a classic sign of depression, by the way?”

I just blinked at him. I couldn’t believe he—a perfect stranger, WORSE, a stranger who liked WESTERN THINGS—was talking to me that way. Who did he think he was, anyway—aside from one of the nation’s preeminent experts on adolescent and child psychology?

“So you can continue to drift away from your long-term relationship with your best friend, Lilly,” he said, referring to a note on the pad in his lap, “as well as your other friends, by avoiding school and any other social settings where you might be forced to interact with them?”

I blinked at him some more. I knowI was supposed to be the crazy one, but it was hard to believe from this statement thathe wasn’t crazy.

Because I wasnot avoiding school because I might have to see Lilly there, or interact socially with people. That wasn’t it atall. Or why I want to move to Genovia.

“So you can continue to ignore the things you used to love—like instant messaging your friend Tina—and sleep during the day, then stay up all night,” Dr. Knutz went on, “gaining weight through compulsive binge eating when you think no one is looking?”

Wait…how did he know about THAT? HOW DID HE KNOW ABOUT TINA? OR THE GIRL SCOUT COOKIES?

“So you can go on just saying whatever it is you think people want to hear in order to make them go away and leave you alone, and refusing to observe even basic proper hygiene—again, classic examples of adolescent depression?”

I just rolled my eyes. Because everything he was saying was totally ridiculous. I’m not depressed. I’msad , maybe. Because everything sucks. And I probablydo have meningitis, even though everyone seems to be ignoring my symptoms.

But I’m not depressed.

“So you can continue to cut yourself off from the things you used to love—your writing, your baby brother, your parents, your school activities, your friends—and go on feeling consumed by self-loathing, yet lacking any motivation to change, or enjoy life again?” Dr. Knutz’s voice boomed very loudly in his ranch-style office. “I could go on. Do I need to?”

I blinked at him some more. Only now I was blinking back tears. I couldn’t believe it. I really couldn’t.

I don’t have meningitis. I don’t have lassa fever.

I’m depressed. I’m actuallydepressed.

“I might,” I said, after clearing my throat, because it was kind of hard to talk around the big lump that had suddenly appeared there, “be a little down.”

“You know, there’s nothing wrong with admitting you’re depressed,” Dr. Knutz went on in a gentle voice. I mean, for a cowboy. “Many, many people have suffered from depression. Having depression doesn’t mean you’re crazy, or a failure, or a bad person.”

I had to blink back a lot of tears.

“Okay,” was all I could manage to say.

Then my dad reached over and took my hand. Which I didn’t really appreciate because that just made me want to cry more. Plus, my hand was super sweaty.

“And it’s okay to cry,” Dr. Knutz went on, passing me a box of tissues he’d had hidden somewhere.

How did he keep doing that? How did he keep reading my mind like that? Was it because he spent so much time out on the range? With the deer? And the antelope? Whatis an antelope, anyway?

“It’s perfectly normal, and even healthy, considering what’s been going on in your life lately, Mia, that you might feel sad and need to talk to someone about it,” Dr. Knutz was saying. “That’s why your family brought you here to see me. But unless you yourself admit that you have a problem and need help, there’s very little I can do. So why don’t you say what’sreally bothering you, and how you’rereally feeling? And this time, leave the Jungian tree of self-actualization out of it.”

And then—before I knew what was happening—I found myself not even caring that I was possibly being punk’d.

Maybe it was the Navajo rug. Maybe it was the cowboy hat on the peg on the back of the door. Maybe I just figured he was right: I couldn’t really spend the rest of my life in my room.

In any case, the next thing I knew, I was telling this strange, aging cowboy everything.

Well, not EVERYTHING, obviously, because my DAD was sitting there. Which is apparently some rule of Dr. Knutz’s, that for the initial consultation of a minor, a parent or guardian has to be present. This wouldn’t be the norm if Dr. Knutz took me on as a regular patient.

But I told him the important thing—the thing I haven’t been able to get out of my head since last Sunday when I hung up the phone after talking to Michael. The thing that’s been keeping me in bed ever since.

And that’s that the first time I ever remember Mom and me going to visit her parents back in Versailles, Indiana, Papaw warned me to stay away from the abandoned cistern in the back of the farmhouse, which was covered with an old piece of plywood, and which he was waiting for a backhoe to come and fill in with dirt.

Only I had just readAlice in Wonderland , and, of course, I was obsessed with anything resembling a rabbit hole.

And so, of course, I moved the plywood off the cistern, and stood there on the edge, looking down into the deep, dark hole, wondering if it led to Wonderland and if I could really go there.

And then the dirt around the edge gave way, and I fell down the hole.

Only I didn’t end up in Wonderland. Far from it.

I wasn’t hurt or anything, and eventually I managed to pull myself out by grabbing on to roots that were sticking out of the side of the hole. I put the plywood back where it had been and went back to the house, shaken and smelly and dirty, but no worse for wear. I never told anyone what I’d done, because I knew Papaw would have just gotten mad at me. And fortunately, no one ever found out.

But the thing is, ever since I talked to Michael last Sunday, I’ve felt as if I were sitting back at the bottom of that hole again. Really. Like I was down there, blinking at the blue sky up above, totally unsure how I’d found myself in this position.

Only this time, there were no roots to pull myself out of the hole. I was stuck down there at the bottom. I could see normal life passing by overhead—people laughing, having fun; the sun beating down; the birds and clouds in the sky—but I couldn’t get back up there to join them. I could just watch, from down at the bottom of that big, black hole.

Anyway, when I was done explaining all this—which was basically when I couldn’t talk anymore, because I was sobbing so hard—my dad started muttering darkly about what he was going to do to Papaw next time he saw him (which seemed to involve a Taser and Papaw in the shower).

Dr. Knutz, meanwhile, looked up from the piece of paper he’d been writing on the whole time I’d been talking, stared straight into my eyes, and said an amazing thing.

He said, “Sometimes in life, you fall down holes you can’t climb out of by yourself. That’s what friends and family are for—to help. They can’t help, however, unless you let them know you’re down there.”

I blinked at him some more. It was really weird, but…I hadn’t thought of that. I know it sounds dumb. But the idea of calling for help had never even occurred to me.

“So now that we do know you’re down there,” Dr. Knutz drawled on, in his Western twang, “what do you say you let us give you a hand?”

The thing was—I wasn’t sure anyonecould . Help me out of that hole, I mean. I was down there so deep, and I was so tired…even if someone threw me a rope, I wasn’t certain I’d have the strength to hang on.

“I guess,” I said, sniffling, “that that would be good. I mean, if it works.”

“It’ll work,” Dr. Knutz said matter-of-factly. “Now, tomorrow morning I want you to pay a visit to your general physician to get a blood workup, just to make sure there’s nothing amiss there. Certain medical conditions can affect mood, so we want to rule those out—along with the meningitis, of course. Then you can come see me for your first therapy session after school. From which my office is conveniently located just a few blocks away.”

I stared at him, my mouth suddenly dry. “I…I really don’t think I can go back to school tomorrow.”

“Why not?” Dr. Knutz looked surprised.

“I just…” I said. My heart had begun to slam into the back of my ribs. “Can’t…wouldn’t it be better if I started back to school on Monday? You know, make a clean start, and all of that?”

He just looked at me through his silver wire-rimmed eyeglasses. His eyes, I noticed, were blue. The skin around them was crinkly and kind-looking. Just like a cowboy’s eyes should look.

“Or maybe,” I said, “you could, you know. Prescribe me something. Some drugs or something. That might make it easier.”

Ideally some kind of drug that would completely knock me out so I didn’t have to think or feel anything until, oh, graduation.

Again, Dr. Knutz seemed to know exactly what I meant. And he seemed to find it amusing.

“I’m a psychologist, Mia,” he said with a tiny smile. “Not a psychiatrist. I can’t prescribe drugs. I have a colleague who can, if I feel I have a patient who needs it. But I don’t think you do.”

What?He could not be more wrong. I needed drugs. A lot of them! Who needed drugs more than me? No one! He was only denying me them because he hadn’t met Grandmère.

The next thing I knew, Dr. Knutz was blinking at me, and Dad was wriggling around uncomfortably in his chair. That’s when I realized I’d said that last part out loud.

Oops.

“Well,” I said defensively to Dad. “You know it’s true.”

“I know,” Dad said, looking heavenward. “Believe me.”

“Meeting your grandmotheris something I look forward to doing someday,” Dr. Knutz said. “She’s obviously very important to you, and I’d be interested in seeing the dynamic between you. But, again…nowhere on this assessment did you indicate that you are feeling suicidal. In fact, when asked if you ever felt like killing yourself, you repliedNone of the time .”

“Well,” I said uncomfortably. “Only because to kill myself, I’d have to get out of bed. And I really don’t feel like doing that.”

Dr. Knutz smiled and said, “I don’t think drugs are the answer in your particular case.”

“Well, I needsomething ,” I said. “Because otherwise, I don’t know how I’m going to get through the day. I’m serious. No offense, but you don’t know what it’s like in high school anymore. I’m not kidding, it’s scary.”

“You know, Eleanor Roosevelt, a lady few would argue didn’t have a good head on her shoulders,” Dr. Knutz remarked, “once said, ‘Do one thing every day that scares you.’”

I shook my head. “That makes no sense whatsoever. Why would anybody willingly do things that scare them?”

“Because it’s the only way,” Dr. Knutz said, “they’ll grow as an individual. Sure, a lot of things can be scary—learning to ride a bike; flying on an airplane for the first time; going back to school after you’ve broken up with your longtime boyfriend and a picture of you with your best friend’s boyfriend appeared in a widely distributed newspaper. But if you don’t take risks, you’ll just stay the same. And is that really how you think you’re going to get out of that hole you’ve fallen into? Don’t you think the only way you’re going to get out of there is to make a change?”

I took a deep breath. He was right. I knew he was right. It’s just…it was going to be sohard.

Well. Michaeldid say we both had some growing up to do.

Dr. Knutz went on, “And besides, what’s the worst thing that can happen? You have a bodyguard. And it’s not like you don’t have other friends besides Lilly, right? What about this Tina person your mother mentioned?”

I had forgotten about Tina. It’s funny how this can happen when you’re in a hole. You forget about the people who would do anything—anything in the world, probably—to help you out of it.

“Yes,” I said, feeling, for the first time in a long time, a tiny flicker of hope. “There’s Tina.”

“Well, then,” Dr. Knutz said. “There you go. And who knows?” he added with a grin. “You might even have fun!”

Okay. Now I know his name reallyis appropriate. He’s nuttier than I am.

And considering I’m the one who hasn’t changed out of her Hello Kitty pajamas in almost a week, that is saying a lot.

Thursday, September 16, 6 p.m., the loft

After we left Dr. Knutz’s office, Dad asked what I thought of him. He said, “If you don’t like him, Mia, we can find someone else. Everyone, including your principal, agrees he’s the most highly recommended therapist for adolescents in the city, but—”

“YOU TOLD PRINCIPAL GUPTA?” I practically screamed.

Dad didn’t look like he appreciated my screaming very much.

“Mia,” he said, “you haven’t been in school for the past four days. Did you think no one was going to notice?”

“Well, you could have told them I had bronchitis!” I yelled. “Not that I was depressed!”

“We didn’t tell anyone that you’re depressed,” Dad said. “Your principal called to check on why you’d been absent for so long—”

“Great,” I cried, flopping back against the leather seats. “Now the whole school is going to know!”

“Not unless you tell them,” Dad said. “Dr. Gupta certainly isn’t going to say anything to anyone. She’s too professional for that. You know that, Mia.”

Much as it pains me to admit it, my dad is right. Principal Gupta may be many things—a despotic control freak among them—but she would never betray student-principal confidentiality.

Besides, it’s not as if at least half the student population of Albert Einstein High School isn’t in therapy as well. Still. The last thing I need isMichael finding out that I’m so crushed from his rejection that I’m seeing a shrink. How humiliating!

“Who elsedoes know?” I asked.

“No one knows, Mia,” Dad said. “You, your mother, your stepfather, and Lars, here.”

“I won’t tell anyone,” Lars said, not looking up from the rousing game of Halo he was playing on his Treo.

“We’re the only ones who know,” Dad went on.

“What about Grandmère?” I asked suspiciously.

“She doesn’t know,” Dad said. “She is, as usual, blissfully ignorant of everything that does not directly involve her.”

“But she’s going to figure it out,” I said. “When I don’t show up for princess lessons. She’s going to wonder where I am.”

“You let me worry about my mother,” Dad said, looking a little steely eyed, like Daniel Craig inCasino Royale . If James Bond were completely bald. “You just worry about getting better.”

Which is easy for him to say. He’s not the one who’s committed to speaking in front of the Opus Dei of women’s organizations a week from tomorrow.

Anyway, when I got back to the loft, I found that Mom had used my absence as an opportunity to clean my room and send all of my bedding out to the laundry-by-the-pound place. She had also opened all the windows and turned on all the fans and was airing out my room so energetically, Fat Louie wouldn’t come out from under the bed for fear of being swept up in the windstorm.

Meanwhile, Mr. G had taken away my TV. Which Dad informed me they aren’t replacing, because Dr. Knutz doesn’t believe children should have their own TVs.

So now I know what Dr. Knutz and I will be discussing for a good portion of our appointed hour together tomorrow.

Whatever. I guess I have bigger things to worry about. Like that while I was showering just now, Mom snuck into the bathroom and stole my Hello Kitty pajamas. And threw them down the incinerator.

“Trust me, Mia,” she said, when I confronted her about it. “It’s better this way.”

I guess she’s right. Maybe Iwas getting a little too attached to them.

Still. I’ll miss them. We went through a lot together, my Hello Kitty pajamas and I.

Mom, Dad, and Mr. G are all sitting around the kitchen table right now, having some kind of not-so-secret conference about me. Not-so-secret because I can totally hear. I mean, I might be depressed, but I’m not DEAF.

To distract myself, I went online for the first time in, like, a million years to see if anyone had e-mailed me.

It turned out they had. A lot. I had 243 unread messages.

And, okay, most of them were spam. But quite a few were cheerful attempts to make me feel better from Tina. There were some from Ling Su and Shameeka, too, and even a couple from Boris. (He is such a good boyfriend. He always does exactly what Tina tells him to.) There were quite a few from J.P., mostly funny forwards I guess he thought might cheer me up or something. Not that he knows I’m down. He BETTER not know, anyway.

Then, as I was going through, sending message after message into my trash folder, I saw it.

An e-mail from Michael.

I swear, my heart started beating about a million miles a minute, and my palms got instantly soaked. I so didn’t want to click on that message. Because what if it was just a reiteration of what Michael had said to me on Sunday? The thing about how we should just be friends and see other people? I don’t want to see that again. I don’t want to hear that again. I don’t even want tothink about that again. I’d been doing everything I could all week NOT to have to revisit that particular conversation in my mind…and now there was a chance of it flashing in front of my eyes?

No way.

But then, just as I was about to hit DELETE, I hesitated. Because what if itwasn’t about that? What if—and, okay, I realized this was a bigWhat if even as I was thinking it, but whatever—what if it was an e-mail telling me he’d changed his mind, and didn’t want to break up after all?

What if he’d been as depressed as me this past week?

What if, after a week apart, he’d realized how much he misses me, and as much as I was sitting here longing tobe in his arms, smelling his neck, Michael was longing tohave me in his arms, smelling his neck?

And before I could change my mind, I clicked OPEN….

SKINNERBX: Hey, Mia. It’s me. Well, obviously. Just checking in to see how you’re doing. Lilly tells me you haven’t been in school all week…hope everything is all right. I’m settling in here in Tsukuba. This place is a little nutty—they really do eat noodles for breakfast! But fortunately you can still find egg sandwiches most places. The work is what I expected it to be—hard—but I really think I have a solid chance of actually getting this thing off the ground. Although who knows if I’ll still feel that optimistic after a few more weeks of this.

Did you see they’re supposedly in talks for aBuffy the Vampire Slayer/Angel reunion movie? I thought you’d be excited about that.

Well, I have to go…I really hope you’re out of school because you’ve jetted off to somewhere great for princess duty, and not because you’ve come down with something.

Michael

I sat there for a long time with my finger poised to click REPLY. I mean, he’d expressed concern over my health (physical, not mental, but that’s okay. I doubt even Michael would have been able to predict I’d hit rock bottom, self-actualization-wise, and end up in a cowboy psychologist’s office in my Hello Kitty pajamas and a duvet).

Still, that had to mean something, right? That there’s something there? That maybe he still loves me, at least a little? That maybe there’s a chance after all that someday, some way, I might be able to smell his neck again, on a semi-regular basis?

But then…I don’t know. I thought about what he’d said on the phone. About just wanting to be friends. That’s all, I realized, this e-mail was. A friendly note to show he had no hard feelings over the J.P. thing.

HOW COULD HE HAVE NO HARD FEELINGS OVER THAT? HADN’T HE CARED ABOUT MEAT ALL ?????

Or had I, in the complete psychotic break I had last week over the Judith Gershner thing, managed to destroy any iota of romantic feeling he ever had for me?

Which is when I moved my mouse from the REPLY button to DELETE. And pressed.

And just like that, his e-mail was gone.

And no way was I writing him back.

Michael may be over me. But I’m not over him. Not yet, anyway.

And I can’t pretend like I am. And I’m not going to do something stupid and undignified like hit REPLY and ask him to take me back.

But the only way I know how not to do that is just not to say anything to him at all.

After I deleted Michael’s e-mail, I checked ihatemiathermopolis.com. There were no new updates, thank God.

Well, why would there be? I haven’t been out of the house all week. Whoever is running the site doesn’t have any new material.

Now Mom’s calling me. She and Dad and Mr. G have ordered pizza from Tre Giovanni. We’re all going to sit down to dinner like a normal family. Just me, my mom, her husband, their kid, and my dad, the prince of Genovia.

Oh, yeah. We’re a normal family, all right.

No wonder I’m in therapy.

Friday, September 17, French

Oh my God. It is so…surreal, being here.

I think Dr. K was wrong, and I do need drugs. Because I just don’t see how else I’m going to cope. I know he said it’s good to do one thing every day that scares you—thanks for that, by the way, Eleanor Roosevelt, thanks a lot—but this is like NINE MILLION THINGS all at once.

And, yeah, okay, I don’t know why SCHOOL should be so scary. I was never scared of school before. At least, not this much.

But there’s so much more to it than just school. There’s having to TALK to people. There’s having to act NORMAL. When I know I’m NOT normal.

And, okay, the truth is, I’ve never been normal. But I am more NOT normal than ever. I have lost my support system—the ONE thing I have been able to count on for the past two years to keep me sane in this sea of complete insanity—Michael.

And now, just like that, he’s gone—completely ripped from my life—and I’m just supposed to go on like nothing’s happened? Yeah. Right.

And I have to be here, in this—let’s face it—nuthouse, with all these people who are WAY CRAZIER THAN I AM (they just won’t admit there’s anything wrong with them—unlike me) with absolutely no one to look forward to going home to and saying, “Oh my God, you would not believe what so-and-so did today.”

Seriously, that is just cruel.

But I guess it’s what I deserve. I mean, it isn’t as if I didn’t bring all this upon myself with my own stupidity.

At least I haven’t been forced to suffer the onslaught of a full day of this place. I got to spend my morning waiting around Dr. Fung’s office to get my blood drawn. And since I’d had to fast since midnight the night before, in order for my blood work not to get messed up, I was practically STARVING. I mean, it was bad enough I had to get out of bed, shower, and get dressed.

But I didn’t even get breakfast!

Worse, even though my belly was totally empty, I couldn’t…well, for some reason my uniform skirt wouldn’t close. I mean, it would zip—mostly—but I couldn’t get the button to go through the slot, because there was all this SKIN in the way. I finally had to use a safety pin to keep my skirt on.

At first I thought my skirt must have shrunk at the cleaners and I was kind of mad about it.

But my bra didn’t fit either! I mean, I realize it’s been a while since I put on any underwear, since I was in my Hello Kitty pajamas for most of the week.

And I will admit I noticed things have been getting a little snug all over lately. And I’ve only worn my jeans with stretch in them. And had to use the last hooks on all my bras.

And even then they leave marks on me.

But when I put on my favorite bra this morning, for the first time in my life, I had CLEAVAGE, because it was squeezing my boobs so tight.

That’s right. I actuallyhave boobs to be squeezed. I don’t know where they came from, but I looked down, and there they were. Hello! Boobs!

So then I thought maybe the laundry-by-the-pound place had shrunk my bra too. So I tried a different one. Same thing. Then another. SAME THING. I couldn’t understand it.

But when I got to the SoHo Medical Clinic and they FINALLY called my name, and I went in, and they weighed me, I found out what was going on. I was SHOCKED to find that I weighed almost SIX Fat Louies!

That is nearly one more Fat Louie than I weighed last time I stepped on a scale! Which I’ll admit was a while ago, but still!

And, okay, maybe I’ve been hitting the meat kind of hard this past week or so. Well, not just the meat, but the pizza, the Girl Scout cookies, the peanut butter, the cold sesame noodles, the Honey Nut Cheerios, the microwave popcorn (with melted butter), the Oreos, the Häagen-Dazs, and the fried samosas from Baluchi’s….

But to have gained almost a whole CAT?

Wow. That is all I have to say. Just…wow.

Of course, there was a rational explanation beyond the meat. Dr. Fung went, “You’re still well within the body-mass-index range for your height, Princess. It’s actually quite normal to have these sort of growth spurts at your age. Some women have them even into their twenties.”

Because I haven’t just grown out. I’ve grown up—I’m five feet ten inches now. I grew a whole other INCH since the last time I was at the doctor’s office!

If I keep going like this, I’ll be six feet tall by the time I’m eighteen.

On the bright side of gaining a whole Fat Louie? I guess I’m not flat-chested anymore.

On the not-so-bright side? I’m going to have to talk to Mom about getting new bras. And panties. And jeans. And pajamas. And sweats. And a new school uniform.

And new ball gowns.

Oh, God.

But whatever. Like I don’t have way bigger things to worry about (ha) than the size of my chest (gargantuan) and the fact that my skirt is being held together by pieces of metal and all of my jeans are too short. I mean, there’s the fact that in half an hour I’m going to have to go down to the cafeteria.

And see Lilly.

Who will no doubt take her tray and go sit elsewhere when she sees me.

Which…well, whatever. I know Tina will still want to sit with me. That is the only thing, in fact, that is keeping me from turning to Lars and going, “We’re leaving,” and marching straight out of this loony bin.

In fact it’s a good thing Dr. Knutz mentioned Tina yesterday, because every time I start to feel too much like I am slipping back down this hole I’m trying to crawl out of, I think of her, and it’s like she’s a root or something I can grab hold of to keep from sliding farther into the black abyss of despair.

I wonder how Tina would feel if she found out I think of her as a root?

Of course, I have way worse things to worry about than who I’m going to sit with at lunch: the fact that I’m in therapy and I don’t want anyone to know; the fact that in a week I’m allegedly going to have to address a couple thousand of New York City’s most influential businesswomen; the fact that the love of my life just wants to be friends (and see other people) and that I no longer have him to be my loving support system and so have been cast adrift to swim the social seas of adolescence alone; the fact that the meat industry pumps so many hormones into their products that just by consuming a few dozen ham sandwiches and servings of kung pao chicken over the past week, I have finally managed to grow breasts virtually overnight; ihatemiathermopolis.com; the fact that both the polar ice caps are melting due to anthropogenic global warming and the polar bears are all drowning.

But I’m trying to take all of my worries one at a time. Baby steps, like Rocky took when he was first starting to walk. Baby steps. First I need to get through lunch. Then I’ll worry about the polar ice caps.

Four more hours until I can get out of here.

Friday, September 17, Gifted and Talented

Great. So now I have another worry to add to the list:

Apparently, the entire school thinks J.P. and I are going out.

This is what happens when you are gone for almost a week after having a nervous breakdown and aren’t around to defend yourself.

Well, I guess it’s also what happens when you have your picture splattered all over the place coming out of a theater arm-in-arm with a guy. But he was only helping me down the steps! Because I was in heels! And the steps were carpeted and there were no handrails!

Geez!

And, okay, based on the photographic evidence, I could see why middle America—and the rest of the world, I guess—would think J.P. and I are going out.

Still! You’d think my own FRIENDS would know better than that!

But apparently not. And the line in the sand has already been drawn:

Lilly now sits at Kenny Showalter’s lunch table.

I guess their mutual appreciation for his muay thai fighting friends has drawn them together, or something.

Perin and Ling Su sit with them, although Ling Su told me, over at the taco bar, that she’d rather sit with me.

“But Lilly appointed me secretary,” she explained, sounding genuinely dismayed about it. “Which is better than treasurer, I guess”—this is definitely true, given what happened when Ling Su was treasurer last year—“which is what Lilly appointed Kenny. But it means I have to sit with her and Perin, who’s vice president, so we can talk about Lilly’s new initiatives, like this whole renting-the-roof-for-cell-phone-towers-in-exchange-for-free-laptops-for-scholarship-students thing, and how we’re going to guarantee more AEHS students get into the Ivy League school of their choice, and that kind of thing.”

“It’s okay, Ling Su,” I said to her, as I sprinkled cheddar cheese over my spicy beef tostada. “Really. I understand.”

“Good. And just for the record,” she added, “I think you and J.P. make an awesome couple. He’s so hot.”

“We’re not going out,” I said, totally confused.

“Right,” Ling Su said knowingly, and winked at me. Like she thought I was just saying that, in some kind of misguided attempt to stay on Lilly’s good side! Which would have been so totally futile, if that’s why I’d said it. But thatisn’t why I said it at all! I said it because it was true!

But Ling Su’s not the only one who thinks J.P. and I are an item. When I went to return my lunch tray, one of the cafeteria workers smiled at me and said, “Maybe you can get him to give our corn a try.”

At first I couldn’t figure out what she was talking about. Then, when I did, I totally started blushing. J.P.’s notorious hatred for corn! And she thoughtI could cure him of it? Oh, God!

At least J.P. doesn’t appear to realize what’s going on. Or, if he does know, he isn’t letting on. He seemedsurprised to see me show up at lunch for the first time all week, but he didn’t make a big deal out of it (thank God), the way Tina did, by squealing and hugging me and telling me how much she’d missed me.

Which was very nice, but sort of embarrassing, since it drew even more attention to the fact that I’ve been gone so long, and I’m totally tired of going, “Bronchitis,” when people ask me where I was all week. Because I can’t exactly go, “In my Hello Kitty pajamas in bed, refusing to get up after my boyfriend dumped me.”

The only thing J.P. did that was at all out of the ordinary was smile at me when there was nothing to smile about—Boris was actually going on about his hatred for emo, specifically My Chemical Romance, as he is wont to do. I was taking a big bite of my tostada (it’s amazing how, even though I’m totally depressed, I’m still eating like a horse. But whatever, I was starving; all I’d had to eat all day was a PowerBar I picked up at Ho’s Deli after my doctor’s appointment, on my way into school) and noticed J.P.’s smile—which, like Ling Su said, really is pretty hot—and went, “What?” with my mouth all full of chopped beef, cheddar cheese, salsa, sour cream, jalapeños, and shredded lettuce.

“Nothing,” J.P. said, still smiling. “I’m just glad you’re back. Don’t stay away so long again, okay?”

Which was nice of him. Especially considering the fact that he MUST know people are saying we’re an item.

Which would at least partially explain why Lilly is sticking so assiduously to her side of the G and T room. She won’t look at me—won’t speak to me—won’t let on that I even exist. To her, I’m apparently Hester Prynne fromThe Scarlet Letter.

Only the book, not the movie version in which Hester Prynne was played by Demi Moore and was semi-cool and blew stuff up. Oh, wait…that wasG.I. Jane.

I wish I could just go up to Lilly and be like, “Look. I’m SORRY. I’m sorry I was such an ass to your brother, and I’m sorry if I did anything to hurt you. But don’t you think I’ve been punished enough? I can barely BREATHE now because there’s NO POINT in breathing if I know that at the end of the day, I can’t smell your brother’s neck. All I can think about is how I will never, ever again hear the sound of his sarcastic laughter as we watchSouth Park together. Can you not see that it took every ounce of courage and strength I possess just to come here today? That I’m in THERAPY? That I spend every single second of the day wishing I were DEAD? So do you think you could drop the cold shoulder thing and cut me some slack? Because I really do value and miss your friendship. And by the way, do you really think hooking up with random muay thai fighters is the most mature way to respond to your heartache? Are you supposed to be Lana Weinberger, or something?”

Only I can’t. Because I don’t think I could bear to see that dead-eyed thing she does whenever she looks at me now.

Because I know that’s exactly how she’ll respond.

Friday, September 17, PE

I’m standing here, shaking.

Standing and not sitting because I’m in one of the ball-fields on the Great Lawn in Central Park. I guess I’m playing left outfield, or something, but it’s hard to tell with all the yelling.Get the ball! Get the ball!

As if.You get the ball, loser. Can’t you see I’m busy writing in my journal?

I totally should have made Dr. Fung give me a note to get me out of gym class. WHAT WAS I THINKING?

Because it’s not just thisGet the ball thing. I had to DISROBE in front of everybody. Which meant I had to lift up my sweater, and everyone saw the SAFETY PIN holding my skirt together.

I went, “Ha, ha, lost a button.”

But that explanation didn’t work for why, when I put on my gym shorts, they were SKIN TIGHT and gave me total camel toe. Thank God my gym tee was always a little too big to begin with. Now it fits just right.

As if all of that weren’t bad enough, somehow LANA WEINBERGER ended up being in the locker room when I was changing.

I don’t know what she was doing there since she doesn’t even have PE this period. I guess she didn’t like the way her hair was curling, or something, because she was giving herself another blow-out. Eva Braun, aka Trisha Hayes, was standing right next to her, filing her nails.

And, of course, even though I ducked my head instinctively as soon as I saw them, hoping they wouldn’t notice me, it was too late. Lana must have spied my reflection in the mirror she was gazing into, or something, because next thing I know, she’d switched the hair dryer off and was going, “Oh, there you are. Where haveyou been all week?”

LIKE SHE’D BEEN LOOKING FOR ME!

See, this is EXACTLY why I didn’t want to go back to school. I can’t deal with stuff like this on TOP of all the other stuff that’s going on. Seriously, my head is going to explode.

“Um,” I said. “Bronchitis.”

“Oh,” Lana said. “Well, about that letter you got from my mother—”

I closed my eyes. I actually CLOSED MY EYES because I knew what was coming next—or thought I did, anyway—and I didn’t think I was emotionally capable of dealing with it.

“Yes,” I said. And inside, I was thinking,Just say it. Whatever mean, bitter, humiliating thing you’re going to say, just say it, so I can get out of here. Please. I don’t know how much more of this I can take.

“Thanks for saying yes,” was the completely astonishing thing Lana said, instead. “Because Angelina Jolie was supposed to do it, but she totally dropped out to play Mother Teresa in some new movie. Mom was driving me crazy, she was so frantic to find a replacement. So I suggested you. You gave that speech last year, you know, when we were both running for student council president. And it was kind of good. So I figured you’d be a decent sub for Angelina. So. Thanks.”

I’m not positive—we’ll have to check with seismologists worldwide—but I truly think at that moment, hell actually froze over.

Because Lana Weinberger said something nice to me.

That, of course, isn’t the part that makes me wish I’d gotten a note from Dr. Fung excusing me from PE today, however.

This next part is.

I was so astonished that Lana Weinberger was acting like a human being, that I couldn’t reply right away. I just stood there staring at her. Which unfortunately gave Trisha Hayes a chance to notice the safety pin holding my skirt closed.

And she’s way too savvy to believe the lost button excuse.

“Dude,” Trisha said. “You, like, totally need a new skirt.” Then her gaze flicked up toward my chest. “And a bigger bra.”

I could feel myself turning bright, bright red. It’s a good thing I have an appointment with a therapist after school today. Because we’re going to have SO much to talk about.

“I know,” I said. “I, um, need to go shopping.”

Which is when the next totally astounding thing happened. Lana turned back toward her reflection and, running her fingers through her now stick-straight hair, said, “We’re going to the lingerie trunk show at Bendel’s tomorrow. Wanna come with?”

“Dude, are you—”Insane was clearly what Trisha was going to ask.

But I saw Lana cut her a warning glance in the mirror, and just like Admiral Piett when he realized he’d let theMillennium Falcon get away right in front of Darth Vader, Trisha shut her mouth…though she looked scared.

I just stood there, not sure if any of this was really happening, or if it was a symptom of my depression. Maybe I have some form of depression where you hallucinate invitations to lingerie trunk shows at Bendel’s from cheerleaders who’ve always hated you. You never know.

When I didn’t reply right away, Lana turned around to face me. For once, she didn’t look snobby. She just looked…normal.

“Look,” she said. “I know you and I haven’t always gotten along, Mia. That thing with Josh…well, whatever. He was such a jerk sometimes. Plus, some of your friends are really…I mean, that Lilly girl—”

“Say no more,” I said, raising a hand. I wasn’t just saying it, either. Because I really meant it. I really didn’t want Lana to say anything more about Lilly. Who, it’s true, has been treating me like dirt lately.

But maybe I deserve to be treated like dirt.

“Yeah, well,” Lana went on. “I saw you weren’t sitting with her at lunch today.”

“We’re having,” I said stiffly, “a time-out.”

“Well, whatever,” Lana said. “You’re really bailing my mom out of a jam. And if you’re going to be in Domina Rei someday, like I will—with any luck—then I think we ought to let bygones be bygones. I mean, we’re hopefully a little more mature than we used to be, and can be grown-up about this. Don’t you think?”

I was so shocked I just nodded.

Instead of pointing out that it isn’t so much that Lana and I haven’t gotten along as that she’s been totally mean to some of my friends.

Instead of going, “For your information, I wouldn’t be in Domina Rei if you paid me.”

Instead of doing either of those things, I just stood there and nodded.

Because I couldn’t think of anything else to do. That’s how completely astonished I was by what was going on.

Or how crazy depressed I am about everything.

“Cool,” Lana said. “So tomorrow morning, ten o’clock, at Bendel’s. We’ll do lunch somewhere after. If you want. Come on, Trish. We gotta get to class.”

And, just like that, the two of them walked out……at almost the exact same time that Mrs. Potts came in and blew her whistle and told us to get in line to go to the park.

I did what I was told without even thinking about it. That’s how much of a daze I was in from what had just happened. A part of me was going,It’s a trick. It has to be. I’m going to get to Bendel’s, and instead of Lana, Carrot Top is going to be there, along with all these paparazzi who’ll take pictures of me and Carrot Top together, and the headline in all the Sunday papers will be, “Meet the New Future Royal Consort of Genovia…Carrot Top!”

But the rational part of me—I guess, even as sunk into depression as I am, there’s still a rational side of me—was going,OBVIOUSLY Lana was being sincere. That thing she said about Josh—I mean, basically, what happened between you and Josh and Lana is no different than what’s happening now between you and J.P. and Lilly. Even though you and J.P. arejust friends, Lilly still THINKS you stole him, same as Lana thought about Josh. The only difference really was that you were actually crushing on Josh. No wonder Lana was mad. No wonder LILLY is mad. God, Mia. You dosuck.

So maybe it’s not a trick after all. Maybe Lana really does want to hang out with me.

The question is…do I really want to hang out with her?

Oh, crud. Here comes Mrs. Potts. She doesn’t look too happy about the fact that I’ve brought my journal out to left field with me.

But is it my fault no one will throw the ball to me?

Friday, September 17, Chemistry

Oh, God.

As far as I can tell, utter bedlam has overtaken this class since I’ve been gone. We’ve broken off into individual group experiments of our choice. The one Kenny and J.P. have chosen in my absence appears to be something called nitro starch synthesis, which, they inform me, is actually “a mixture of several nitrate esters of starch with the formula [C6H7(OH)x(ONO2)y]n wherex +y=3 andn is any whole number from 1 on up.”

I have no idea what any of that means. I just put on my goggles and my lab coat, and am sitting here holding stuff out to them when they ask for it.

When I can actually identify what it is that they want, anyway.

I think I’m still in shock from the whole Lana incident. I have to figure out how I’m going to get out of going to the lingerie trunk show at Bendel’s with Lana Weinberger tomorrow.

True, I totally do need new bras. But how can I hang out withLana ? I mean, even if shedid apologize. She’s still…Lana. What do we even have in common? She likes partying. I like lying in bed in my Hello Kitty flannel pajamas watchingWhy I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy.

Which reminds me. I can’t go shopping at Bendel’s tomorrow. There’s no school tomorrow, which means I can spend the whole day in bed. YES!!! I love my bed. It’s safe in there. No one can get me there.

Except that Mr. G took my TV away.

Oh, well. I can always readJane Eyre again. I mean, there’s that whole part in it where Jane and Mr. Rochester get separated because of the whole Bertha thing, and then she hears his disembodied voice floating over the moor…. Maybe I’ll hear Michael’s disembodied voice floating over the Hudson, and know that deep down he still loves me and wants me back, and then I can fly to Japan and—

Mia! What are you doing tomorrow night? If I got tickets to something, would you come with me? Anything you want to see, you name it.—J.P.

Oh, God. What can I say? I just want to stay in bed. Forever.

That’s sweet, J.P., but I’m still not quite over my bronchitis. I think I’m going to lay low. Thanks for thinking of me, though!—M

That’s cool! If you want, I could come over. We could watch some movies….

Oh, wow. J.P. is really taking this breakup with Lilly hard. Even though he, of course, is the one who initiated it. Still, he can’t even stand the thought of being alone on a Saturday night.

I’d love to, but the truth is, my TV is on the fritz.

Which isn’t the truth at all. But is about as much of the truth as J.P. is ever going to get.

Mia, is this about the newspaper thing? Everybody thinking we’re going out? Is the paparazzi staking out your place or something? You don’t want to be caught being seen with me, a mere commoner, again?

Oh, God.

NO! Of course not! I’m just really beat. It’s been a long week.

Okay. I can take a hint. There’s someone else, isn’t there? It’s Kenny, right? You two are engaged? When’s the wedding? Where are you registered? Sharper Image, right? You guys want an iJoy 550 robotic massage chair, don’t you?

I couldn’t help bursting out laughing at that. Which, of course, made Mr. Hipskin look over at our table and go, “Is there a problem, people?”

“No,” Kenny said, then glared at us. “Could you two,” he hissed, “quit passing notes andhelp ?”

“Absolutely,” J.P. said. “What do you want us to do?”

“Well, for starters,” Kenny said. “You could pass me the starch.”

Which reminded me:

“So, Kenny,” I said, as Kenny was sprinkling some white stuff into a jar of other white stuff. “What’s this I hear about Lilly hooking up with some muay thai fighter friend of yours at her party Saturday night?”

Kenny nearly dropped the white stuff. Then he gave me a very irritated look.

“Mia,” he said. “With all due respect. I am in the middle of a hazardous procedure involving the use of highly corrosive acids. Please can we talk about Lilly some other time?”

God! What a baby.

Friday, September 17, limo on the way home from Dr. Knutz’s office

Seriously, I don’t know which is worse: princess lessons or therapy. I mean, they are both equally horrible, in their own way.

But at least with princess lessons, I get the POINT. I’m being prepared to one day rule a country. With therapy, it’s like…I don’t even KNOW what the point is. Because if it’s supposed to be making me feel better, it’s NOT.

And there’s HOMEWORK. I mean, like I don’t have ENOUGH to do with a week of school to make up. I have to do homework on my PSYCHE, too?

I don’t know what we’re paying Dr. Knutz for, when he’s making ME do all the work.

Like, today’s session started off with Dr. Knutz asking me how school went. We were alone in his office this time—Dad wasn’t there, because this was a real session and not a consultation. Everything was exactly the same as last time…crazy cowboy décor, wire-rimmed glasses, white hair, and all.

The only difference, really, was that I was in my too-small school uniform instead of my Hello Kitty pajamas. Which I told him my mom had put down the incinerator. The same night my stepfather took away my TV.

To which Dr. Knutz replied, “Good. Now. What happened in school today?”

So then I told him—ONCE AGAIN—that I don’t even get why I have to GO to school, since I already have complete job assurance after graduation ANYWAY, and I hate it, so why can’t I just stay home?

Then Dr. Knutz asked me why I hate school so much, and so—just to illustrate my point—I told him about Lana.

But he totally didn’t get it. He was like, “But isn’t that a good thing? A girl with whom you haven’t gotten along in the past made a friendly overture toward you. She is willing to move on from your past differences. Isn’t that what you’d like your friend Lilly to do?”

“Yeah,” I said, amazed he couldn’t understand something so obvious. “But I LIKE Lilly. Lana’s been nothing but mean to me.”

“And Lilly’s been kind lately?”

“Well, not LATELY. But she thinks I stole her boyfriend….” My voice trailed off as I remembered that I’d once stolen Lana’s boyfriend, too. “Okay,” I said. “I get your point. But…should I really goshopping with Lana Weinberger tomorrow?”

“Do YOU think you should go shopping with Lana tomorrow?” Dr. Knutz wanted to know.

Seriously. This is what we’re paying some ungodly amount of money for.

“I don’t know!” I cried. “I’m asking you!”

“But you know yourself better than I do.”

“How can you even say that?” I practically yelled. “Everyoneknows me better than I do! Haven’t you seen the movies of my life? Because if not, you’re the only one in the world who hasn’t!”

“I might,” Dr. Knutz admitted, “have ordered them from Netflix. But they haven’t come yet. I only met you yesterday, remember. And I’m more of a Western fan, myself.”

I rolled my eyes at all the mustang portraits. “Gee,” I said. “I couldn’t tell.”

“So,” Dr. Knutz said. “What else?”

I blinked at him. “What do you mean, what else? Except for the fact that, I reiterate, my STEPDAD TOOK AWAY MY TV!!!”

“Do you know what the one thing every student who has ever been admitted to West Point has in common?”

Hello. Random. “No. But I guess you’re gonna tell me.”

“None of them had a television in their room.”

“BUT I DON’T WANT TO GO TO WEST POINT!” I yelled.

Dr. Knutz, however, doesn’t respond to yelling. He just went, “What else about your school do you hate?”

Where to begin? “Well, how about the fact that everybody thinks I’m dating a guy I’m not?” I asked. “Just because it said so in theNew York Post ? And the fact that the guy Ido like—whom I, in fact, love—is sending me e-mails asking how I am, like nothing happened between us, and that he didn’t yank my heart out of my chest and kick it across the room, like we’refriends or something?”

Dr. Knutz looked confused. “But didn’t you agree with Michael that the two of youshould just be friends?”

“Yes,” I said, frustrated. “But I didn’t mean it!”

“I see. Well, how did you respond to his e-mail?”

“I didn’t,” I said, suddenly feeling a bit ashamed. “I deleted it.”

“Why did you do that?” Dr. Knutz wanted to know.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I just…I didn’t trust myself not to beg him to take me back. And I don’t want to be that girl.”

“That’s a valid reason for deleting his e-mail,” Dr. Knutz said. And for some reason—even though he’s a COWBOY THERAPIST—I felt pleased by this. “Now. Why don’t you want to go shopping with your friend?”

I stopped feeling so pleased. Could he not PAY ATTENTION TO THE SIMPLEST DETAIL?

“I told you. She’s not my friend. She’s my enemy. If you had seen the movies—”

“I’ll watch them this weekend,” he said.

“All right. But…the thing is…her mom asked me to speak at this event. And Grandmère says it’s a big honor. And she’s super excited about it. And it turns out the mom asked me because Lana recommended me. Which was…decent of her.”

“So that,” Dr. Knutz said, “is why you didn’t turn down her invitation to go shopping right away?”

“Well, that, and…I need new clothes. And Lana knows a lot about shopping. And if I’m supposed to do one thing every day that scares me—well, the idea of shopping with Lana Weinberger DEFINITELY scares me.”

“Then I think you have your answer,” Dr. K said.

“But I’d much rather spend my whole day in bed,” I said quickly. “Reading,” I added. “OR WATCHING TV.”

“Back on the ranch,” Dr. Knutz said, in his good-old-boy drawl, “we’ve got a mare named Dusty.”

I think my mouth actually fell open. Dusty? After all that, he was telling me a story about a mare namedDusty ? What kind of weird psychological techniquewas this?

“Whenever it’s a hot summer day and Dusty passes a certain pretty little pond on my property,” Dr. Knutz went on, “she wades off into the middle of it. It doesn’t matter if she’s saddled up and has a rider on her. Dusty doesn’t care. She’s got to get into that water. Want to know why?”

I was so shocked by the fact that a trained psychologist would tell me a story about a HORSE in a professional setting that I just nodded dumbly.

“Because,” Dr. Knutz said, “she’s hot. And she wants to cool off. She’d rather spend the day in that pond than carry somebody around on her back. But we don’t always get to do what we want to do. Because it’s not necessarily healthy or practical. Besides, saddles are ruined when they get wet.”

I stared at him.

And this guy was supposed to be the nation’s preeminent adolescent and child psychologist?

“I want to go back to something you said yesterday,” Dr. Knutz said, without waiting for me to respond to the Dusty story, thank God. “You said, and I quote—” And he DID quote. He actually read from his notes.“Maybe it’s a little more complicated than a normal teenager’s breakup, because I’m a princess, and Michael is a genius, and he thinks he has to go off to Japan to build a robotic surgical arm in order to prove to my family that he’s worthy of me, when the truth is , I’mnot worthy of him,and I suppose because deep down inside, I know that I completely sabotaged our relationship.”

He looked up from his notes. “What did you mean by that?”

“I meant…” This was all going too fast for me. I’d barely gotten over being shocked by the Dusty story, and still hadn’t been able to figure out what it had to do with me going bra shopping with Lana Weinberger tomorrow. “…that I guess I figured he was going to dump me for a smarter, more accomplished girl anyway. So I beat him to the punch by dumping him first. Even though I regretted it later. The whole Judith Gershner thing…I mean, the reason it upset me so much is because I know deep down inside that’s who he should really be with. Someone who can clone fruit flies. Not someone like…like m-me, who’s j-just a p-princess.”

And before I knew it, I was crying again. Man! What was it about this guy’s office that made me weep like a baby?

Dr. Knutz passed me the tissues. Not in an unkind way, either.

“Did he ever do or say anything to make you think this?” he wanted to know.

“N-no,” I sobbed.

“Then why do you think you feel that way?”

“B-because it’s true! I mean, being a princess is no big accomplishment! I was just BORN this way! I didn’t EARN it, the way Michael is going to earn fame and fortune from his robotic surgical arm. I mean, anyone can be BORN!”

“I think,” Dr. Knutz said a little dryly, “you’re being a bit hard on yourself. You’re only sixteen. Very few sixteen-year-olds actually—”

“JUDITH GERSHNER HAD ALREADY CLONED HER FIRST FRUIT FLY BY THE TIME SHE WAS SIXTEEN!” I shouted.

Then I felt ashamed of myself. I mean, for shouting. But I couldn’t help it.

“And look at Lilly,” I went on. “She’s sixteen, and she has her own TV show. And sure, it’s on public access, but whatever, it’s been optioned. And she has thousands of loyal viewers. And she made that show all by herself. No one even helped her. Well, except for me and Shameeka and Ling Su and Tina. But we just helped with the camera work, really. So saying I’m only sixteen—that doesn’t mean anything. There are lots of sixteen-year-olds who have accomplished loads more than me. I can’t even get published inSixteen magazine.”

“Supposing I take your word for it,” Dr. Knutz said. “If you really feel that way—that you aren’t worthy of Michael—hadn’t you better do something about it?”

Truly. He said that. He didn’t say,Gosh, Mia, how can you say you’re not worthy of Michael? Of course you’re worthy! You’re a fabulous human being, so giving and full of life.

Which is basically what everyone else has been saying to me whenever I have brought up this subject.

No, he was like,Yeah, you’re right. You do kind of suck. Now what are you going to do about it?

I was so shocked I stopped crying and just sat there staring at him with my mouth hanging open.

“Aren’t you…aren’t you supposed to say that I’m great just the way I am?” I demanded.

He shrugged. “What would be the point? You wouldn’t believe it, anyway.”

“Well, aren’t youat least supposed to say I should want to improve my worth formyself ? As opposed to for someboy ?”

“I assumed that was a given,” Dr. K said.

“Well,” I said. I was still kind of trying to get over my shock. “I mean, it’s true. Ido have to do something to prove I’m more than just a princess. Only…what? What can I do?”

Dr. Knutz shrugged. “How should I know? I still have to watch the movies of your life in order to get to know you as well as you claim they’ll make me. But I’ll tell you one thing Ido know: You’re not going to find out by lying around in bed, not going to school…or by continuing to hold grudges against people simply because they’ve said some unpleasant things to you in the past.”

Unpleasant? Wait till he gets a load of ihatemiathermopolis.com. Not that I’ve told him the URL. Or that Lana’s behind it.

But still. He doesn’t know from unpleasant.

So. My assignment?

Go shopping with Lana.

Figure out what I was put on this planet for (besides being a princess).

Come back and see Dr. Knutz next Friday after school.

I think I can handle the last one. The first two, though? Might actually kill me.

Friday, September 17, 7 p.m., the loft

Inbox: 0

Not that I actually expected to hear from either Michael OR Lilly. Especially not after I deleted Michael’s e-mail without even replying to it, and seeing the way Lilly ignored me in G and T.

Still. I had kind of hoped…I mean, this is the longest she’s not spoken to me. Ever.

I just can’t believe it’s basically over between us.

And because of a BOY.

Tina just IMed me, though. At least I still have Tina.

ILUVROMANCE: Mia! How ARE you? I barely got to talk to you at school today. Are you feeling better?

FTLOUIE: Yes, thanks!

Whatever. I lie all the time anyway.

ILUVROMANCE: I’m so glad! You looked so sad at school.

FTLOUIE: Well. Yeah. I guess that’s kind of to be expected, considering I’ve lost the love of my life and all.

ILUVROMANCE: I know. I’m so, so sorry. Hey, I know what might cheer you up! Some retail therapy! I mean, you did grow an inch and gained a whole size! You need new clothes! Do you want to go shopping tomorrow? My mom’ll take us. You know how she loves to shop!!!

Which is so totally what I get for ever having agreed to go shopping with Lana. Because Tina’s mom is practically a shopping GENIUS, being a former model and all.And she knows all the designers.

FTLOUIE: Oh, I’d love to! But I have to do something with my grandmother.

The lies just keep mounting and mounting. But whatever. I can’t tell TINA I’m doing something with LANA WEINBERGER. She’d never understand it. Even if I explained about the do-one-thing-every-day-that-scares-you thing. And the thing about Domina Rei.

ILUVROMANCE: Oh. Okay. Well, what are you doing tomorrow night, then? Want to come over? My parents are going out and I have to babysit, but we can watch some DVDs or something.

For some reason—well, okay, I guess because I’m depressed—this invitation almost made me cry. I mean, Tina is just so sweet.

Also, it sounded like something I could handle, emotionally. As opposed to going out with the guy I’d recently been accused of being in love with by the media. When the truth is, I’ve only ever loved one guy, and he is currently in Japan, sending me random e-mails about how hard it is to find egg sandwiches there.

Yeah. Nice.

FTLOUIE: I can’t think of anything I’d rather do.

Except lie in my own bed and watch TV.

But my TV got taken away. So I can’t even do that.

ILUVROMANCE: Yay! I was thinking we should re-examine the Drew Barrymore oeuvre. Her less recent works, likeEver After andThe Wedding Singer .

FTLOUIE: That sounds PERFECT. I’ll bring the popcorn.

I really don’t feel guilty about not telling Tina about Michael’s e-mail…or about the fact that I’m in therapy. Because I’m just not ready to talk about those things with anybody yet.

Maybe someday I will be.

But first? I’m going to take a really long nap.

Because I’m exhausted.

Saturday, September 18, 10 a.m., Henri Bendel luxury department store

What am I doing here?

I don’t belong in a store like this. Stores like this are for FANCY people.

And okay, I’m a princess. Which is admittedly pretty fancy.

But I am currently wearing a pair of my MOM’s jeans, because none of my own fit me.

People who are wearing MOM jeans do not belong in stores like these, which are all golden and sparkly and filled with attractive model types carrying bottles of perfume who come up to you and go, “Trish McEvoy?”

And when you go, “No, my name is Mia—” they spritz you with something that smells like Febreze, only fruitier.

I’m not kidding. This is not the Gap. It’s more of the kind of store Grandmère hangs out in. Only more crowded. Because usually when Grandmère shops, she calls ahead and has the store opened up for her after hours so she can shop without having to rub elbows with any commoners.

Mom about had a coronary when I told her where I was going this morning—and why I needed to borrow her jeans.

“You’re going shopping with WHOM????”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” I said. “It’s something I have to do. For therapy.”

“Your therapist is making you go shopping withLana Weinberger ?” Mom exchanged glances with Mr. G, who was refilling Rocky’s cereal bowl with Cheerios, and who had gotten so distracted by our conversation that he’d accidentally caused Cheerios to overflow from the bowl and all the way down the sides of Rocky’s booster chair. Which delighted Rocky no end. “This is supposed to help ALLEVIATE your depression?”

“It’s a long story,” I said to her. “I’m supposed to do something every day that scares me.”

“Well,” Mom said, handing over her Levi’s. “Shopping with Lana Weinberger would scare me.”

Mom’s right. What am I doing here? Why did I listen to Dr. K, anyway? What does HE know about the long, torrid history between Lana and me? Nothing! He’s never even seen the movies of my life! He doesn’t know all the heinous things she’s done to me and my friends in the past! He has no way of knowing that this whole shopping thing is probably a trick! That Carrot Top is the only one who is going to show up! That making me come here and stand among the perfume spritzers waiting for Carrot Top is Lana’s idea of a grand, final joke—

Oh. Here she comes.

More later.

Saturday, September 18, 3 p.m., bathroom at Nobu 57

For reasons that are completely beyond me, Lana Weinberger and her clone, Trisha Hayes, are actually being nice to me.

Well, the reasons aren’tcompletely beyond me. Lana already told me why she’s being so nice to me: “Because I’m finally over the Josh thing. It wasn’t your fault.”

When I pointed out—as politely as possible—that she hated me well before her boyfriend ever dumped her to date me (then went back to her when I, in turn, dumpedhim ), she said, while we were sorting through size 36Cs (I’m a 36C!!!! Not a 34B anymore!!!! Lana insisted on my getting measured by an actual intimate apparel expert, and the expert confirmed what I’ve been suspecting, that I’ve grown a whole cup size and an inch around as well!), “Well, it wasn’tyou so much I hated as that jerky friend of yours.”

To which Trisha added, “Yeah, how can you like that Lilly girl, anyway? She’s so full of herself.”

I wanted to burst out laughing at that. Because, hello, the Evil Death Twins, calling LILLY full of herself?

But I started thinking about it, and it IS kind of true. Lilly CAN be a little judgmental and bossy.

But that’s why I like her! I mean, at least she HAS opinions about stuff. Stuff that matters, anyway. Most of the rest of the people in our class don’t care about anything except who wins onAmerican Idol and what Ivy League school they get into.

Or, in Lana’s case, which shade of lip gloss looks best on her.

But I didn’t say anything in Lilly’s defense because the truth is, even though I miss her and all—though not so much that it hurts sometimes, the way I do Michael—I need to figure out how to get out of this hole I’m in without the help of the Moscovitzes. Because as recent developments prove, neither Lilly nor Michael is going to be around to help me when I need them. I’ve got to learn to stand on my own two feet, without Lilly OR Michael to lean on as emotional crutches.

So I didn’t say anything when Lana and Trisha were (mildly) badmouthing Lilly. The truth was, I could see their point. It’s not like Lilly’s ever tried to put herself in Lana’s size 8 Manolos and see what it’s like to be Lana.

But I have.

And the view from Lana’s size 8s? It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

Don’t get me wrong, she’s gorgeous and every guy in the store who wasn’t gay (of which there were approximately two) followed her around with his gaze like he couldn’t help it.

And she’s a SUPER MEGA EXCELLENT shopper—I mean, I would never in my life have tried on a pair of True Religion jeans. Just because Paris Hilton wears them, and even though I don’t know Paris personally, she doesn’t seem to do a lot for charities or the environment, that I know of.

But Lana insisted they would look good on me and made me try on a pair and so I did and…

I look AWESOME in them!!!

And don’t even get me started on what a difference having the right size/style bra makes. In my Agent Provocateur demi-cup underwires, I actually have breasts now. Like breasts that balance out the rest of my body so I don’t look pear-shaped or like a Q-tip. I actually lookcurvy.

And, okay, not like Scarlett Johansson curvy.

But like Jessica Biel curvy.

With each Marc Jacobs babydoll top Lana threw over my arm and commanded me to try on, I began to feel less and less like this whole thing was a trick, and more and more like Lana really was trying to make amends for past wrongs, and really did want me to look good. Every time she or Trisha made me try on something—like a faux tiger fur miniskirt or a gold Rachel Leigh link hip belt—and they went, “Oh, yeah, that’s hot,” or “No, that’s not you, take it off,” I felt like…well, like they cared.

And I will admit, it felt good. I didn’t feel like it was fake, or like I was Katie Holmes and they were Tom Cruise’s Scientologist friends love-bombing me, because there was plenty of, “Oh my God, Mia, you can NEVER wear red. Okay? Promise me. Because you look like crap in it,” to ground me.

It was just…girl stuff. The kind of thing Lilly would have totally looked down on. She’d have been all, “Oh my God, how many bras do youneed ? No one’s ever going to see them, so what’s thepoint ? Especially when so many people are starving in Darfur,” and “Why are you buying jeans that have HOLES in them? The point is that you’re supposed to wear your OWN holes into your jeans, not buy a pair someone ELSE already made holes in.” And, “Oh my God, you’re getting one of THOSE TOPS? THOSE TOPS are made in sweatshops by little Guatemalan children who are only paid five cents an hour, just so you know.”

Which isn’t even true, because Bendel’s doesn’t carry products made in sweatshops. At least, none of the ladies at the trunk show do. I asked.

And seriously, it wasn’t like Lana and Trisha and I ran out of things to talk about. They were like, “So are you going out with that J.P. guy or what?” and I was like, “No, we’re just friends,” and they were like, “Well, he’s pretty cute. Except for the thing with the corn.”

And then I explained about Michael and I having just broken up and how I feel completely empty inside, like someone shoveled out the inside of my chest with an ice cream scoop, and threw the contents out on the West Side Highway, like a dead hooker.

And they didn’t even think that was weird. Lana went, “Yeah, that’s how I felt when Josh dumped me for you,” and I was like, “Oh my God, I’m so sorry,” and Lana went, “Whatever. I got over it. And you will too.”

Even though she’s wrong. I’ll never get over Michael. Not in a million trillion years.

But I’m trying—if you call putting all of his letters, cards, photos, and gifts in a plastic I NY shopping bag and stuffing it as far under my bed as it would go last night trying to get over him. I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away. I just couldn’t.

Anyway, it was…surprisingly normal talking to Lana and Trisha. It was a lot like the way Tina and I talk to each other. Only with thongs (which by the way are pretty comfortable if you get the right size).

And okay, Lana and Trisha have never readJane Eyre (and gave me a funny look when I mentioned it as being my favorite book of all time) or seenBuffy (“Is that the one with the girl fromThe Grudge ?”).

But they aren’t bad people. I think they’re more…misunderstood. Like, their obsession with eyeliner could very well be taken for shallowness, but it’s really just that they’re not very curious about the world around them. Unless it has to do with shoes.

And I sort of feel sorry for them—for Lana, at least—because when it came time to ring up what we were buying and Lana’s bill came to $1,847.56, and Trisha inhaled and went, “Dude, your mom is going to KILL you,” since Lana had been given a thousand-dollar spending limit, Lana just shrugged and went, “Whatever, if she says anything I’ll just bring up Bubbles,” and I was like, “Bubbles?” and Lana looked all sad and went, “Bubbles was my pony,” and I was like,“Was?”

And then Lana explained that when, at age thirteen, she grew too heavy and long-legged for tiny Bubbles to carry her, her parents sold her beloved pony without telling her, thinking a swift and thorough break, with no time for goodbyes, would be less emotionally traumatic.

“They were wrong,” Lana said, handing over her credit card to the salesgirl to pay for her charges. “I don’t think I ever got over it. I still miss that fat-assed little horse.”

Which. You know. Harsh. At least Grandmère’s never done THAT to me.

Anyway, I guess I should get back to our table. We’re treating ourselves to a ladies-who-lunch-smorgasbord…the Nobu chef’s special. It’s “only” a hundred dollars per person.

But Trisha says we’re worth it. And besides which it’s almost all protein, being raw fish.

Of course, Lana and Trisha just have to pay for themselves. I have to pay for Lars, too. And he’s having a steak, because he says raw fish saps his man strength.

Saturday, September 18, 6 p.m., limo on the way to Tina’s

When I walked into the loft after shopping Mom was already mad. That’s because I had Bendel’s concierge service deliver (and also Saks, where we stopped later to pick up some boots and shoes) my shopping bags so I didn’t have to carry them around all day, and they were stacked so high in my room that Fat Louie couldn’t get around them to get to his litter box in my bathroom.

“HOW MUCH DID YOU SPEND?” Mom wanted to know. Her eyes were all crazy.

It’s true, there WERE a lot of bags. Rocky had been having a good time ramming the lowest tier with his trucks, trying to make them all fall down. Fortunately, it’s hard to damage lycra.

“Relax,” I said. “I used that black American Express card Dad gave me.”

“THAT CREDIT CARD IS FOR EMERGENCIES ONLY!” Mom practically screamed.

“Hello,” I said. “You don’t think my NEW SIZE THIRTY-SIX C BOOBS count as an emergency?”

So then Mom’s lips got all tight and she went, “I don’t think Lana Weinberger is a good influence on you. I’m calling your father,” and off she stomped.

Parents. Seriously. First they get on my case because I won’t get out of bed or do anything. Then I do what they want, and get out of bed and socialize, and they get mad about THAT too.

You can’t win.

While Mom was off ratting me out to Dad (and whatever, okay, I did spend a lot, way more than Lana. But except for ball gowns and the occasional pair of overalls, I haven’t bought clothes in, like, three years, so they need to get over it), I started stuffing my old, nonfitting clothes into trash bags to take to Goodwill, and hanging up my new, totally stylish clothes, plus packing for going to Tina’s tonight.

Which I was kind of surprised to find I was looking forward to doing. Lana and Trisha had invited me to some party they were going to at an Upper West Side apartment, given by a senior whose parents were working on their chi at a spa for the weekend. But I told them I already had other plans.

“Launching a new yacht, or something?” Lana asked all sarcastically.

Only by now I knew not to take every little thing she said so literally and straight to heart. Most of the time when she makes her little barbs, she’s just trying to be funny. Even if the only person her remark is funny to is herself. In fact, Lana’s a lot like Lilly in that way.

“No, just hanging out with Tina Hakim Baba,” I said, and left it at that. And neither of them seemed offended that I was blowing off the “party of the semester” to be with a non–It Crowd member.

I was just stuffing my toothbrush into my overnight case when my mom walked in and held out the phone to me.

“Your father wants to speak to you,” she said, looking smug, and then turned around and walked out.

Seriously. I love my mom and all. But she can’t have it both ways. She can’t raise me to be a socially conscious rebel and then get worried when the weight of my depression about the world oppresses me to the point that I can no longer get out of bed, send me to therapy, then freak out when I follow that therapist’s advice. She just can’t.

And, okay, Dr. K didn’t actually TELL me to spend that much on underwear. But whatever.

“I’m not taking any of it back,” I say to my dad.

“I’m not asking you to,” he said.

“Do you know how much I spent?” I asked suspiciously.

“I do. The credit card company already called me. They thought the card had been stolen and some teenage girl was on a spending spree. Since you’ve never spent that much before.”

“Oh,” I said. “Then what did you want to talk to me about?”

“Nothing. I just have to make it seem like I’m yelling at you. You know how your mother is. She’s from the Midwest. She can’t help it. If it costs more than twenty dollars, she breaks out in hives. She’s always been that way.”

“Oh,” I said. Then I added, “But, Dad. It’s not fair!”

“What’s not fair?” he wanted to know.

“Nothing,” I said, lowering my voice. “I’m just pretending like you’re yelling at me.”

“Oh,” he said, sounding impressed. “Good job. Oh, no.”

“Oh, no, what?”

“Your grandmother just walked in.” Dad sounded tense. “She wants to talk to you.”

“About how much I spent?” I was surprised. To Grandmère, the amount I paid today at Bendel’s equals only a small fraction of what she spends every week on hair and beauty treatments alone.

“Uh, not exactly,” Dad said.

And the next thing I knew, Grandmère was breathing into the phone.

“Amelia,” she snapped. “What is this your father tells me about our princess lessons being canceled for the foreseeable future because you have some kind of personal crisis you need to work out?”

“Mother,” I heard Dad yelping in the background. “That isnot what I said!”

I knew exactly what was going on. Dad had been trying to get me out of princess lessons with Grandmère without telling Grandmère WHY I needed to miss princess lessons—in other words, without telling her I’m in therapy. With a cowboy psychologist.

“Quiet, Phillipe,” Grandmère snapped. “Don’t you think you’ve done enough?” To me, she said, “Amelia, this isn’t like you. Falling apart because of That Boy? Have I taught you NOTHING? A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle! And whatnot. Pull yourself together!”

“Grandmère,” I said wearily. “It’s not—It’s not JUST because of Michael, okay? Things are kind of stressful for me right now. You know I missed a bunch of school this week, I have tons of work to make up, so if it’s okay, I’d really like to take a raincheck on princess lessons until—”

“WHAT ABOUT DOMINA REI?” Grandmère shrieked.

“What about it?” I asked.

“We have to start working on your speech!”

“Grandmère, about that, I just don’t know if I—”

“You are giving this speech, Amelia,” Grandmère barked, “and that’s final. I already told them you would. And I already BRAGGED about it to the Contessa! Now, tomorrow afternoon, you are meeting me at the Genovian Embassy, and together, we shall pore over the royal archives for some kind of material that will hopefully inspire your speech. Is that understood?”

“But, Grandmère—”

“Tomorrow. The embassy. Two o’clock.”

Click!

Well. I guess she told me.

And I guess my dream of spending all day Sunday in bed has been crushed.

Mom just poked her head in here. She seems to have gotten over her rage about my spendaholism. She was chewing her lower lip and going, “Mia, I’m sorry. But I had to do it. Do you realize you spent almost as much as the gross national product of a small developing nation…only you spent it on low-rise jeans?”

“Yeah,” I said, trying to look sorry. Which wasn’t hard, because Iam sorry.

Sorry I never bought jeans like that before. Because I look HOT in them.

Besides, what Mom doesn’t know—Dad either, yet—is that while Lana and Trisha and I were eating, I called Amnesty International and donated the exact amount I spent at Bendel’s, using the emergency black AmEx.

So I don’t even feel guilty. That much.

“I know things are bad right now with Michael, and with you and Lilly,” Mom went on. “And I’m glad you’re trying to make new friends. I’m just not sure Lana Weinberger is the RIGHT friend for you….”

“She’s not that bad, Mom,” I said, thinking of the pony thing. And also the other thing Lana told me over lunch. Which is that her mom told her that if she doesn’t get into an Ivy League college, she’s not going to pay for her to go to college ANYWHERE. Talk about harsh.

“And it’s so unfair,” Lana had said. “Because it’s not like I’m smart, like you are, Mia.”

I’d nearly choked on my wasabi at that one.“Me? Smart?”

“Yeah,” Trisha had added. “AND you’re a princess, which means you’re going to get in everywhere you apply no matter what. Because everyone wants royalty at their school.”

Ouch. Also true.

“Well, Mia,” Mom said, looking dubious—I guess about my remark that Lana Weinberger is not that bad. “I’m happy you’re keeping an open mind and are a little more willing to try new things than you’ve been in the past”—I don’t even know what she could mean by that, unless she’s talking about meat and its by-products—“but remember the Girl Scout rule.”

“You mean that in a good bra, your nipple should fall exactly midway between your shoulder and elbow?”

“Um,” Mom said, looking long-suffering. “No. I meant ‘Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.’”

“Oh,” I said. “Yeah, right. Don’t worry. I’m going to spend the night at Tina’s now. See ya.”

Then I got out of there. And none too soon, either, because I was really afraid she was going to notice my chandelier earrings, which cost as much as Rocky’s stroller.

Saturday, September 18, 9 p.m., Tina Hakim Baba’s bathroom

I’m really glad I agreed to spend the night at Tina’s. Even though I am still pretty much morbidly depressed, Tina’s house is my third favorite place to be (the first being Michael’s arms, of course, and the second being my bed).

So being at Tina’s isn’t at all excruciating, like being at, say, Bendel’s during a lingerie trunk show.

Although I’ve still told Tina nothing of my current emotional state—like, that I feel as if I’m at the bottom of a hole and can’t find my way out, etc.—she has been more than supportive about my fashion transformation, complimenting my earrings, telling me that my butt looks really good in my new jeans, and even asking me if I’d LOST weight…notgained it!

That, of course, is the result of a fantastically supportive—and also a little bit padded, for extra nipple-erection camouflage—well-fitted bra.

The first thing we did (after we ordered two pepperoni pizzas with extra cheese and ate them) was change all the clocks so that her siblings thought it was bedtime, then put them to bed, ignoring their plaintive protests that they were not tired. They wept themselves to sleep soon enough.

Then we broke out the DVDs and got to work. Tina has composed the following flowchart so we can keep track of Drew Barrymore’s body of work, which, as Tina insists, is important, because one day Drew will be a star along the lines of a Meryl Streep or Dame Judi Dench, and we’ll want to be able to discourse knowledgeably about her oeuvre.

Drew Barrymore:

The Important Works

Curious George

Tina: I never saw this.

Mia: Whatever, it’s for babies!

0 out of 5 gold Drews

Fever Pitch

Tina: Excellent, classic Drew. Plays well off romantic lead, Jimmy Fallon.

Mia: Too much stuff about baseball.

Tina: Well, that’s kind of the point.

3 out of 5 gold Drews

50 First Dates

Tina: Never quite reaches the comic pitch ofThe Wedding Singer , the last film in which Drew was paired with Adam Sandler.

Mia: Still, funny.

3 out of 5 gold Drews

Duplex

Tina: It pains me that Drew was in this movie.

Mia: I know. It hurts me deep inside. Still, she’s Drew, so…

1 out of 5 gold Drews

Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle

Tina: Awesome, butt-kicking Drew!

Mia: Not sure what all the hand-holding with Lucy Liu and Cameron was about during the press junkets for this film.

Tina: Right. Who holds hands with theirgirl friends?

Mia: Except Spencer and Ashley onSouth of Nowhere , of course. But they’re dating.

Tina: Which is totally different.

Mia: Still.

5 out of 5 gold Drews

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind

Tina: My parents wouldn’t let me see this movie. It was rated R.

Mia: I didn’t WANT to see this movie. It has old people in it. But she’s Drew, so…

1 out of 5 gold Drews

Riding in Cars with Boys

Tina: Did you see this movie?

Mia: No. I never heard of it.

Tina: But it was probably good.

Mia: If Drew was in it, of course.

1 out of 5 gold Drews

Never Been Kissed

Tina: SO AWESOME!!! DREW IS SO CUTE IN THIS!!!

Mia: I know! She’s a reporter AND a high school student!!! She should have to play a high school student in EVERY MOVIE SHE’S IN.

5 out of 5 gold Drews

Home Fries

Tina: I don’t remember this movie except that she had curly hair.

Mia: Wasn’t she pregnant or something? Tina: So the curls definitely weren’t a perm. Because that could hurt the baby.

Mia: The curls were cute, so let’s give it a high score.

4 out of 5 gold Drews

Donnie Darko

Tina: Wait—Drew was in this movie?

Mia: I totally don’t remember her. All I remember was Jake.

Tina: I know. He was so hot in this.

Mia: Let’s give it a high score for Jake.

Tina: Totally. And my parents won’t let me seeBrokeback orJarhead.

5 out of 5 gold Drews

Ever After

Tina: Best movie ever.

Mia: Agreed. When she carries the prince—

Tina: Shut up!!! I LOVE THAT PART!!!!

Mia: Just—

Tina:—breathe! EEEEE!

5,000,000 out of 5 gold Drews

The Wedding Singer

Tina: Drew looks so cute in her waitress outfit.

Mia: I know! And when he sings that bad song—Tina:—

she’s still nice to him.

5 out of 5 gold Drews

Bad Girls

Tina: This movie is so bad it’s kind of good.

Mia: I know. But I think when Drew is captured and they tie her to the bed and she’s facedown—

Tina: It’s called Turkish style.

Mia: Whoever says romance novels aren’t educational is a liar.

4 out of 5 gold Drews

The Amy Fisher Story

Tina: The made-for-TV movie! And Drew plays a homicidal Long Island teen!

Mia: Brilliantly, I might add.

5 out of 5 gold Drews

Irreconcilable Differences

Tina: A very young Drew in a very cute role!

Mia: Love it. Love her.

4 out of 5 gold Drews

Firestarter

Tina: I know you love this movie, so I’m not going to say anything.

Mia: Shut up! How can you not like it? She’s so good!

Tina: She’s extraordinary for her age. It’s just…the story is so silly!

Mia: People can totally start fires with their minds if they’re emotional enough. Look what you keep saying about J.P.

Tina: True.

4 out of 5 gold Drews

E.T.

Tina: She’s so cute in this!

Mia: And such a good actress. It’s like she’s ad-libbing her lines, they come so naturally.

Tina: Face it. Drew’s a genius. I wish she’d get her own talk show.

Mia: I wish she’d run for president.

Tina: President Barrymore! YEAH!!!!

5 out of 5 gold Drews

We are taking a break now betweenThe Wedding Singer andEver After while Tina makes popcorn. During the boring non-Drew parts ofThe Wedding Singer Tina asked me if I’d heard anything from Michael, so I told her about his e-mail, and she was rightfully indignant on my behalf. I mean, that Michael would try to pretend like we were just friends and tell me about his egg-sandwich-finding hardships and not tell me instead how much he misses me or how much he wishes we could get back together.

But then I pointed out to Tina that I’d agreed to just be friends. Also that the whole thing was my fault in the first place for blowing up over the Judith Gershner Affair, instead of playing it cool, the way Drew would have.

Which Tina was forced to concede was true. She also agreed that it was good I hadn’t written back.

“Because you don’t want to seem like you’re sitting around at home with nothing better to do than answer e-mails from your ex-boyfriends,” she said.

Even if that’s actually true.

Although it’s not really. I feel kind of guilty not telling Tina about how I spent my day—you know, with Lana and Trisha. I don’t know why. I mean, Grandmère has pointed out a million times that it’s totally rude to tell someone about an outing on which you went but to which they were not themselves invited. So there’s no reason I SHOULD tell Tina about Lana and Trisha.

Still. It was LANA.

I—

What’s THAT? I think I just heard Tina’s doorman buzz up that there’s someone in the lobby—

Sunday, September 19, 2 a.m., Tina Hakim Baba’s bedroom

Oh. My. God.

So Tina was just finishing pouring melted butter over the low-fat microwave popcorn to make it actually taste like something when the doorman announced that Boris and “a friend” were down in the lobby.

Tina flipped out, of course, because she’s not supposed to have boys over when her parents aren’t home.

But Boris got on the intercom and said he was only dropping something off, a present for us. So, of course, Tina couldn’t resist letting them come up. Because, as she put it, “Present!!!!!”

But if you ask me the present was just an excuse so that Boris could come up and make out with Tina. Because all “the present” was was a couple of containers of Häagen-Dazs. (To be honest, they were our favorite flavors, vanilla Swiss almond and macadamia brittle. But still.)

The real surprise—at least to me—was that the “friend” turned out to be J.P.

I didn’t even know J.P. and Boris hung out that much. I mean, outside of the lunchroom.

J.P. looked shockingly…well,good as he followed Boris into Tina’s apartment. I don’t know what he’s done to himself, but he looks all tall and…guylike.

The thing is, I don’t normally notice this kind of thing about any guy except Michael. I don’t know what’s the matter with me. Maybe it was just the shock of seeing J.P. in a setting outside of school, or in jeans instead of his school uniform or theater-going clothes. Maybe it’s just all the people who keep telling me how hot J.P. is, rubbing off on me.

Or maybe I’m just hot-guy-deprived, on account of not having had Michael around for so long, or something.

Still, it was weird. J.P., in addition to looking hot, looked kind of abashed, too. He shuffled in and said hi to me, while Tina was squealing over the ice cream and running to get spoons.

Tina is not the hardest person to please when it comes to presents. Case in point, she will practically faint over anything from Kay Jewelers.

“Hi,” I said back. And I don’t know why (well, I do know why: it was the hot thing), but it was weird. I guess mainly it was weird because J.P. had asked me what I was doing tonight and I’d sort of blown him off and…well, there we were together.

But also because of the hot thing.

And things got progressively weirder. Because even though at first things were cool, and we were all eating the ice cream and watchingEver After (Tina told the guys they could stay for ONE movie, but then they had to go, because if her parents found them there, they’d kill her. Well, her dad would, anyway. He’d probably kill Boris, too, and in a particularly painful way he’d learned from Tina’s bodyguard, Wahim, who’d been given the night off, along with Lars, since they’d been informed we were “in” for the evening).

But then Tina and Boris stopped paying attention to the movie and started paying attention to each other. A LOT of attention. Like, basically their tongues were in each other’s mouths. Right in front of J.P. and me! Which wasn’t TOO embarrassing (not).

After a while I couldn’t take the slurping noises anymore (even though I kept turning up the volume on the TV. But even Drew’s pseudo-British accent couldn’t drown out those two).

So finally I grabbed the melting ice cream containers and said, “Somebody should put these in the freezer before they make a mess,” and jumped up to leave the room.

Unfortunately—or maybe fortunately, I don’t know—J.P. said, “I’ll help you,” and followed me. Even though how hard is it to return two ice cream containers to the freezer? I totally could have done it by myself.

Inside the Hakim Babas’ cool, clean kitchen, with its black granite counters and Sub-Zero appliances, J.P. grabbed a root beer from the fridge, then pulled out a kitchen counter stool and slid onto it while I fought to find space in the crowded freezer for the ice cream. There were a LOT of Healthy Choice frozen dinners in there (Tina’s dad is supposed to be watching his calories and cholesterol).

“So,” J.P. said conversationally. In the background, we could hear the television from the media room, but not, thank God, the slurping noises anymore. “You missed a lot of school last week.”

“Uh,” I said, as I wrestled with what looked like a frozen beef tenderloin. “Yeah. I guess I did.”

“How are you doing now?” J.P. wanted to know. “I mean, you must have a lot of make-up work.”

“Yeah,” I said. The truth is, I’ve barely looked at all that. When you’re sunk as deep in a hole as I am, homework doesn’t seem all that important. Not as important as new jeans, anyway. “I’ll get to it tomorrow, I guess.”

“Yeah? What’d you do today, then?”

I was so busy jamming the meat deeper into the freezer that I didn’t even think about my reply. “I went shopping with Lana,” I said with a grunt. Then, FINALLY, the meat gave way, and I was able to slide the ice cream into the freezer.

It wasn’t until I slammed the freezer door shut and turned around, brushing ice shards off my hands, that I saw J.P.’s expression and realized what I’d just admitted.

“Lana?” he echoed incredulously.

I glanced toward the hallway to the media room. Empty, fortunately. Boris and Tina were still, um, occupied.

“Uh,” I said, feeling my stomach lurch.What had I done? “Yeah. About that…I don’t know where that came from. I wasn’t going to tell anybody.”

“I can see why,” J.P. said. “I mean, LANA? On the other hand, is she the one who picked out that shirt?”

I looked down at the silky babydoll top I was wearing. I’ll admit, it was pretty cute. And low-cut.

And, amazingly, with one of my new bras—and my new chest size—I actually had a tiny bit of cleavage in it. Nothing trashy, but definitelythere .

“Uh, yeah,” I said, feeling myself blush. “Lana’s a really good shopper….” Which might just be about the lamest thing I have ever said. And I mean ever.

But J.P. just nodded and went, “I can see that. I think she’s found her calling. But how on earth did THAT happen?”

Hesitantly, I told him about Domina Rei, and how Lana’s mother had asked me to speak at a Domina Rei event she’s in charge of, and how Lana had thanked me for agreeing to do so, and how one thing led to another, and…

“I get all that,” J.P. said when I was done. “I mean, I can see Lana asking you to go shopping with her. She’s wanted to get in good with you for years. But why did you say YES?”

I don’t really know how to explain what happened next. I mean, why I said what I did. Maybe it was because it was just the two of us in the Hakim Babas’ quiet kitchen (well, quiet except for the dishwasher, cleaning our pizza plates. But it was one of those super silent ones that just wentswish-swish all softly).

Maybe it was because J.P. looked so out of place sitting there—this big, raw-boned-looking guy in this fancy kitchen, with the sleeves of his charcoal cashmere sweater shoved up to his elbows, and his faded jeans and Timberlands and his hair kind of sticking up in tufts because he’d been wearing a hat outside. We’re having a surprising cold snap, for September. The meteorologists all blame global warming.

Or maybe it was the hot thing again—that, you know, he did look…well, pretty cute.

Or maybe it’s just that I DON’Tknow him—at least, not as well as I know Tina and Boris and the other friends I have left, now that Lilly’s no longer speaking to me.

Whatever it was, suddenly, before I could stop myself, I heard myself going, “Well, you see, the thing is, I’m in therapy, and my therapist says I have to do something every day that scares me. And I thought shopping with Lana Weinberger would be really scary. Only it turned out it wasn’t.”

Then I bit my lip. Because, you know. That’s a lot to unload on someone. Especially a guy. Especially a guy with whom you’ve been romantically linked in the press, even if there is absolutely, categorically no truth to the rumors, whatsoever.

J.P. didn’t say anything right away. He just sat there peeling the label off his bottle of root beer with his thumbnail. He seemed really interested in the level of liquid left in the bottle.

Which wasn’t the best sign, you know? Like that he couldn’t even look at me.

“It’s weird,” I said, feeling totally panicky all of a sudden. Like I was slipping farther down that hole than ever. “It’s weird that I just admitted I’m in therapy to you, isn’t it? You think I’m a freak now. Right? I mean, a bigger freak than before.”

But instead of making up an excuse about how he had to go now, as I expected him to, J.P. looked up from his bottle in surprise. And smiled.

And I felt the sliding sensation I was experiencing subside a little. And not just because the smile made him look cuter than ever.

“Are you kidding me?” he asked. “I was just wondering if there’s any kid at Albert Einstein who ISN’T in therapy. Besides Tina and Boris, I mean.”

I blinked at him. “Wait…you, too?”

J.P. snorted. “Since I was twelve. Well, that’s when I developed this total affinity for dropping bottles off the roof of our high-rise. It was a stupid thing to do…somebody could have gotten killed. Eventually I got caught—deservedly so—and my parents have seen to it that I haven’t missed a weekly session since.”

I couldn’t believe this. Someone else I knew was going through the same thing I was? No way.

I slid onto the kitchen stool next to J.P.’s and asked eagerly, “Do you have to do something that scares you every day, too?”

“Uh,” J.P. said. “No. I’m supposed to do FEWER scary things every day, actually.”

“Oh,” I said, feeling vaguely disappointed. “Well. Is it working?”

“Lately,” J.P. said. He took a sip of his root beer. “Lately it’s been working great. Do you want one of these?”

I shook my head. “How long did it take?” I asked. This was amazing. I couldn’t believe I was actually talking to someone who’d been through—was going through—the same thing I was. Or something similar, anyway. “I mean, before you started feeling better? Before it started working?”

J.P. looked at me with a funny smile on his face. It took me a minute before I realized it was pitying. He feltsorry for me.

“That bad, huh?” he asked. Not in a mean way. Like he genuinely felt bad for me.

But that’s not what I want. I don’t want anyone to feel bad for me. It’s stupid I even feel so awful about everything, when, in general, I have a fantastic life. I mean, look at what Lana has to put up with—a mother who sold her beloved pony without even telling her, and a threat that if she doesn’t get into an Ivy League college she can kiss her parents’ financial support good-bye. I’m a PRINCESS, for crying out loud. I can do whatever I want. I canbuy whatever I want. Well, within reason. The one thing—theone thing I don’t have—is the man I love.

And it’s my own stupid fault that I lost him in the first place.

“I’ve just been a little down,” I said quickly. I didn’t mention the part about not wanting to get out of bed all week.

“Michael?” J.P. asked. Not without compassion.

I nodded. I didn’t think I could have spoken if I had wanted to. This big lump had formed in my throat, the way it always does when I hear—when I eventhink —his name.

But it turned out I didn’t have to speak. J.P. let go of the root beer bottle and put his hand on mine, instead.

I sort of wish he hadn’t, though. Because that just made me feel more like crying than ever. Because I couldn’t help comparing his hand—which was large and guylike, but not quite as large and guylike—to someone else’s.

“Hey,” he said softly, giving my fingers a squeeze. “It gets better. I promise.”

“Really?” I asked. It was too late now. The tears were coming. I tried to choke them back as best I could. “It’s not just…just Michael, you know,” I heard myself assuring him. Because I didn’t want anyone to think I was depressed just because of a boy. Even if that really was the truth. “I mean, there’s the whole thing with Lilly. I can’t believe she really thinks you and I—that you and I would ever—”

“Hey,” J.P. said, looking a little alarmed, I think at how fast my tears were coming. “Hey.”

And the next thing I knew, he had wrapped me in his big bearlike embrace, and I was weeping onto the front of his sweater. Which smelled like dry-cleaning fluid.

A fact that actually just made me weep harder, when I remembered that I would never again get to smell the one thing that I miss and love more than any other…Michael’s neck.

Which definitely does not smell of dry-cleaning fluid.

“Shhh,” J.P. said, patting me on the back while I cried. “It’s going to be okay. It really is.”

“I don’t see how,” I sobbed. “Lilly hates me! She won’t even look at me!”

“Well, maybe that should tell you something,” J.P. said.

“Tell me what?” I hiccupped against his chest. “That she hates me? I already know that.”

“No,” J.P. said. “That maybe she’s not as great a friend as you’ve always thought she was.”

This actually caused me to stop crying and sit back and blink at him tearfully.

“Wh-what do you mean?” I asked.

“Well, just that if she really was as good a friend as you seem to think,” J.P. said, “she wouldn’t believe that there’s anything going on between you and me. Because she’d know you aren’t capable of something like that. She certainly wouldn’t be mad atyou for something you didn’t even do—despite maybe a little evidence to the contrary. I mean, did she even bother asking you if that thing in thePost about us was true?”

I dabbed at the corners of my eyes with a napkin J.P. pulled out of a nearby holder and handed to me.

“No,” I said.

“I haven’t had a lot of friends,” J.P. said. “I’ll admit it. But I still don’t think friends treat each other that way—just believing something they read or heard without even confirming whether or not it’s really true. Right? I mean, what kind of friend does that?”

“I know,” I said with a last, shuddering little sob. “You’re right.”

“Look,” J.P. said. “I know you’ve been friends with her forever, Mia. But there’s a lot of stuff about Lilly I don’t think you know. Stuff she told me when we were going out that—well, I mean, for instance, she was always pretty jealous of you.”

I stared at him, totally astonished.

“What are you TALKING about?” I cried. “Why on earth would Lilly ever be jealous of ME?”

“For the same reason I imagine a lot of girls—including Lana Weinberger—are jealous of you. You’re pretty, you’re smart, you’re popular, you’re a princess, everyone likes you—”

“WHAT?” I was laughing now. In disbelief. But still. It was better than crying. “I look like a Q-tip! And I’m flunking half my classes! And MOST of the people in school think I’m nothing but a five-foot-nine, I mean-ten, flat-chested freak—”

“Maybe some of them used to think that,” J.P. said, smiling at me. “And maybe to some of them, you used to seem that way. But, Mia, you need to take a good look at yourself in the mirror. You aren’t that person anymore. And maybe that’s what Lilly’s problem is. You’ve changed…and she hasn’t.”

“That…that’s ridiculous,” I said. “I’m still the same old Mia—”

“Who eats meat and goes shopping with Lana Weinberger,” J.P. pointed out. “Face it, Mia. You’re not the same person you used to be. That doesn’t mean you aren’t BETTER, or that there aren’t people who are going to love you no matter what you eat or who you hang out with. But not everyone is going to be able to wrap their minds around it the way, say, Tina and I have.”

I blinked at him some more. Could this be true? Could the real reason Lilly wanted nothing to do with me be because, far from being disgusted with me, she’s actually jealous of me?

“But that’s so absurd!” I finally burst out. “Lilly’s so much smarter and more accomplished than I am. She’s a genius, for crying out loud! What could I possibly have that she doesn’t? Except a tiara.”

“That’s a big part of it,” J.P. said with a shrug. “The fact that you’re a princessis really special. I’ve never understood why you’ve never thought so. Most people would kill to be royal, and yet you spend all your time wishing you weren’t. Not that being royal isall that makes you special…by any means.”

“If you spent five minutes in my shoes,” I grumbled, “you’d realize hownot special being me really is. Believe me. There’s not a special bone in my body.”

“Mia,” J.P. said, lifting up my hand from the counter. “There’s something I’ve been wanting to tell you—”

But it was right at that moment that the doorman buzzed up to let Tina know her parents were in the foyer (good thing Tina regularly slips the guy batches of her homemade chocolate-chocolate-chip cookies, so he’s totally willing to do her bidding). Tina came barreling in, looking wild-eyed, yelling that Boris and J.P. had to leave through the servants’ entrance RIGHT THEN…which they promptly did.

So I never did get to find out what it was J.P. was going to tell me.

After they were gone, and we’d said hi to her parents and gone into Tina’s room to get away from them, Tina apologized for having spent so much time in a liplock with Boris.

“It’s just,” she said, “he’s so cute, sometimes I can’t help myself.”

“It’s okay,” I told her. “I understand.”

“Still,” Tina fretted. “It was terrible of us to rub how happy we are in your face, when you’re still trying to get over Michael. What did you and J.P. end up talking about, anyway?”

“Oh,” I said uncomfortably. “Nothing, really.”

Tina looked surprised. “Because Boris said when he mentioned you were spending the night with me, J.P. wouldn’t stop talking about how the two of them had to come over here. Even though Boris explained about my dad’s rule. But J.P. kept saying he had something really important he had to tell you, and practically forced Boris to bring him here. Are yousure he didn’t say anything?”

“Well, we talked about a lot of stuff,” I said. I hate lying to Tina! But I can’t tell her we talked about being in therapy. I’m just not ready to admit that to her yet. I know it’s stupid—I know she wouldn’t judge me. But…I just can’t. “You know. Mostly about Lilly.”

“That’s interesting,” Tina said. “You know, Boris thinks J.P.’s in love with you, and I agree. Maybethat ’s what he wanted to say.”

I had a good long laugh at that one. Really, the best laugh I’ve had since Michael and I broke up. The ONLY laugh I’ve had since then, really.

But Tina wasn’t joking, it turned out.

“Look at the facts, Mia,” she said. “J.P. dumped Lilly the minute he heard you and Michael had broken up. He dumped her because he’s in love with you, and he realized he finally had a chance at getting you, now that you’re single.”

“Tina!” I wiped tears from my eyes. “Come on. Be serious.”

“Iam serious, Mia. This totally happened inThe Sheik’s Secret Baby …and I bet that’s why Lilly is so mad at you.”

“Because I gave away the fact that she had the sheik’s secret baby?” I couldn’t help giggling. It’s really hard to feel depressed when you’re around Tina. Even when you’re trapped at the bottom of a cistern.

Tina looked disappointed in me. “No. Because she suspects you’re the real reason why J.P. dumped her. Because he lovesyou. Which is totally unfair of her, because it’s not your fault. You can’t help it if guys fall in love with you, any more than the princess inThe Sheik’s Secret Baby could. But still, you have to admit—that’s totally what happened. It explains EVERYTHING.”

I laughed for, like, ten more minutes. Seriously, Tina lives in the cutest fantasy world. She really should write her own romance novels for a living. Or do stand-up comedy.

Too bad she wants to be a thoracic surgeon instead.

Sunday, September 19, 5 p.m., the loft

Hanging out with Grandmère is hardly ever fun.

Hanging out with Grandmère on basically zero sleep in the Genovian Embassy royal archive room is the total OPPOSITE of fun. Whatever is the least fun thing you can think of.

That’s what my day today with Grandmère was like.

Don’t get me wrong. I am totally interested in the lives of my ancestors.

It’s just…after a while, all those wars and famines? They kind of start seeming the same.

Still, Grandmère insists the royal archives are where I’m most likely to find material for my speech to Domina Rei.

“Now, remember, Amelia,” she kept saying. “You want to INSPIRE them…but at the same time, it’s important to AWE them. While also INFORMING them, of course. So that they go away feeling that you’ve fed not just their minds and hearts, but their SOULS as well.”

Okay, Grandmère. Whatever you say.

Also, hello, pressure much?

Grandmère, of course, gravitated toward the writings of the more well-known Renaldos and asked to be brought the complete works of Grandpère.

But I was more interested in some lesser-known works. You know, that maybe I could crib from without crediting, so it seemed like I made it all up myself?

Because I’mdepressed. That’s not exactly a big boon to creativity. Despite what certain songwriters might say.

The guy in charge of the archives—who actually looked a lot like the way I expected Dr. Knutz to…you know, elderly, bald, and goateed—did a lot of gusty exhaling as Grandmère sent him climbing around the files. We don’t keep, he tried to explain, ALL of the royal writings in the embassy. MOST of them are at the palace. They’d just brought a few tons over when the Genovian Embassy celebrated its fiftieth anniversary a decade ago, and they hadn’t had a chance to send them back yet, due to no one having expressed an interest in seeing them since….

Grandmère wasn’t interested in hearing any of this. Nor was she interested in hearing about why she shouldn’t have brought her toy poodle, Rommel, to the archive room, since animal dander can be harmful to ancient manuscripts. She kept Rommel exactly where he was, on her lap, and said, “Don’t stand there looking like a nutcracker, Monsieur Christophe.” (Which was actually really funny, because he DID look like a nutcracker!) “Bring us tea. And don’t scrimp on the finger sandwiches this time.”

“Finger sandwiches!” Monsieur Christophe cried, looking, if such a thing were possible, even paler than before (which is hard for a guy who clearly spends practically zero time out-of-doors). “But, Your Highness, themanuscripts …were any food or beverage to get on themanuscripts , it could—”

“Good heavens, we aren’t toddlers, Monsieur Christophe!” Grandmère cried. “We aren’t going to have a food fight! Now get us the complete writings of my husband, before I have to get up and do it myself!”

Off Monsieur Christophe went, looking extremely unhappy and giving Grandmère an excuse to turn her hypercritical eye toward me.

“Good Lord, Amelia,” she said after a minute. “What are those…THINGS in your earlobes?”

Crud. I forgot to take out my new chandelier earrings.

“Oh,” I said. “Those. Yeah. Well, I bought them the other day—”

“You look like a gypsy,” Grandmère declared. “Remove them at once. And what on earth is happening with your chest?”

I had tried to go conservative by putting on a Marc Jacobs dress with a Peter Pan collar that Lana assured me was the height of chic urban sophisticate. Especially when paired with brown patterned stockings and platform Mary Janes.

Unfortunately, it was what was beneath the brown wool bodice that had Grandmère up in arms.

“I got a new bra,” I said from between gritted teeth.

“I can see that,” Grandmère said. “I’m not blind. It’s what you’ve stuffed down it that has me confused.”

“Nothing’s stuffed down it, Grandmère,” I said, again from between gritted teeth. “That’s all me. I’ve grown.”

“That will be the day,” Grandmère said.

And before I knew what was happening, she’d reached out and pinched me!

On the boob!

“OW!” I yelled, leaping away from her. “What is WRONG with you?”

But Grandmère already looked smug.

“You HAVE grown,” she said. “It must have been all that good Genovian olive oil we pumped you full of this summer—”

“More likely all the harmful hormones with which the USDA pumps their cattle,” I said, massaging my now-throbbing boob. “Since I’ve started eating meat, I’ve grown an inch in height and another inch—well, everywhere else. So you don’t have to pinch me. I guarantee you, it’s all real. Also, OW. That really hurt. How would you like it if someone did that to you?”

“We’ll make certain Chanel gets your new measurements,” Grandmère said, looking pleased. “This is wonderful, Amelia. Finally we’ll be able to put you into something strapless—and you’ll actually be able to hold it up for a change!”

Seriously. I hate her sometimes.

Monsieur Christophe finally came with the tea and sandwiches…and Grandpère’s writings. Which were stored in multiple cardboard boxes. And all seemed to be about drainage issues, from which Genovia was suffering during most of his rule.

“I don’t want to give a speech about DRAINAGE,” I informed Grandmère. Actually, the truth was, I didn’t want to give a speech at all. But since I knew that kind of attitude would get me nowhere—both with Grandmère AND Dr. Knutz, who have a lot in common, if you think about it—I settled for whining about the subject matter. “Grandmère, all these papers…they’re basically about the Genovian sewage system. I can’t talk to Domina Rei about SEWAGE. Don’t you have anything”—I turned to Monsieur Christophe, who was hovering nearby, gasping every time either of us lifted up one of his precious papers—“more PERSONAL?”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Amelia,” Grandmère said. “You can’t read your grandfather’s personal papers to Domina Rei.”

The truth was, of course, I wasn’t thinking of Grandpère. Although he had some nifty correspondence he’d written during the war, I’d been hoping for something by someone a little less…

Male? Boring? RECENT?

“What about her?” I asked, pointing to a portrait that was hanging in an alcove above the watercooler. It was a very nice little painting of a slightly moonfaced young girl in Renaissance-type clothes, framed elaborately in heavy gold leaf.

“Her?”Grandmère all but snorted. “Never mindher .”

“Who is she?” I asked. Mainly to annoy Grandmère, who so clearly wanted to keep on reading about drainage. But also because it was a very pretty picture. And the girl in it looked sad. Like she might not be unfamiliar with the sensation of slipping down a cistern.

“That,” Monsieur Christophe said in a weary tone, “is Her Royal Highness Amelie Virginie Renaldo, the fifty-seventh princess of Genovia, who ruled in the year sixteen sixty-nine.”

I blinked a few times. Then I looked at Grandmère.

“Why haven’t we ever studied her before?” I asked. Because, believe me, Grandmère has made me memorize my ancestral line. And nowhere is there an Amelie Virginie on it. Amelie is a very popular name in Genovia, because it’s the name of the patron saint of the country, a young peasant girl who saved the principality from a marauding invader by lulling him to sleep with a plaintive song, then lopping his head off.

“Because she only ruled for twelve days,” Grandmère said impatiently, “before dying of the bubonic plague.”

“She DID?” I couldn’t help it. I jumped up out of my seat and hurried over to the watercooler to look at the little portrait. “She looks like she’s MY age!”

“She was,” Grandmère said in a tired voice. “Amelia, would you please sit down? We don’t have time for this. The gala is in less than a week, we need to come up with a speech for younow —”

“Oh my God, this is so sad.” I guess one of the symptoms of being depressed is that you basically just cry all the time. Because I was fully welling up. Princess Amelie Virginie was so pretty, like Madonna, back before she went macrobiotic and got all into the Kabbalah and weight lifting and still had chubby cheeks and stuff. She looked a little bit like Lilly, in a way. If Lilly were a brunette. And wore a crown and a blue velvet choker. “What was she, like, sixteen?”

“Indeed.” Monsieur Christophe had come to stand beside me. “It was a terrible time to be alive. The plague was decimating not just the countryside, but the royal court as well. She lost both her parents and all of her brothers to it. That’s how she inherited the throne. She only ruled for, like Her Highness said, twelve days before succumbing to the Black Death herself. But during that time, she made some decisions—controversial at that time—that ultimately saved many Genovians, if not the entire coastal populace…including closing the Port of Genovia to all incoming and outgoing ship traffic, and shutting the palace gates against all visitors…even the physicians who might have been able to save her. She didn’t want to risk the disease spreading further to her people.”

“Oh my God,” I said, laying a hand on my chest and trying not to sob. “That is so sad! Where are her writings?”

Monsieur Christophe blinked up at me (because in my platform Mary Janes, I was, like, six feet two, and he was just a little guy—like Grandmère said, a nutcracker). “I beg your pardon, Your Highness?”

“Her writings,” I said. “Princess Amelie Virginie’s. I’d like to see them.”

“For God’s sake, Amelia,” Grandmère burst out, looking as if she could really use a Sidecar and a cigarette, and not the tea and finger sandwiches (without mayo) to which she’d been relegated by her doctor. “She doesn’t have any writings! She was dealing with a plague! She didn’t have time to write anything! She was too busy having the bodies of her maids burned in the palace courtyard.”

“Actually,” Monsieur Christophe said thoughtfully, “she kept a journal—”

“DO NOT GET THE JOURNAL,” Grandmère said, leaping up. As she did so, she dislodged Rommel, who went plunging to the floor, where he skittered around, trying to find his balance, before retiring gloomily to a far corner of the room. “WE DO NOT HAVE TIME FOR THIS!”

“Get the journal,” I said to Monsieur Christophe. “I want to read it.”

“Actually,” the archivist said. “We have a translation of it. Since it was written in seventeenth-century French, and it was, of course, so short—only twelve days—we started on a translation, only to discover they did not turn out to be twelve particularly, er, important days of Genovian history. Just from a glance at the first few pages, one can see that the princess does seem to write quite a bit about missing her cat—”

That’s when I knew I HAD to read it.

“I want to see the translation,” I said, just as Grandmère cried, “Amelia, SIT DOWN!”

Monsieur Christophe hesitated, clearly not knowing what to do. On the one hand, I’m closer in line to the throne than Grandmère is. On the other hand, she’s louder and way scarier.

“You know what?” I whispered to Monsieur Christophe. “I’ll call you later.”

Only I didn’t. As soon as I got out of there and into the safety of my limo, I called Dad and told him what I wanted.

If he thought it was strange, he didn’t say anything about it. Although I guess my taking an interest in anything that doesn’t involve my bed must seem like an improvement to him.

Anyway, when I got home, there was a package waiting for me. Dad had had Monsieur Christophe messenger over not just the translation of Princess Amelie Virginie’s journal but her portrait as well.

Which I’ve leaned against the wall at the end of my bed where my TV used to be. She perfectly covers up the ugly cable outlet, and I can see her from any angle when I’m in bed.

Which I’m in right now.

Because they can take away my television.

And they can throw away my Hello Kitty pajamas.

And they can make me go to school and to therapy.

But they can’t keep me out of my own bed!

(Although I have to say my own problems pale in comparison to poor Princess Amelie Virginie’s. I mean, at least I don’t have the PLAGUE.)

Sunday, September 19, 11 p.m., the loft

I just realized it’s been exactly a week since I got that phone call from Michael letting me know it’s all over between us. I mean, except as friends.

I really don’t know what to say about that. A part of me still wants to crawl into bed and just cry forever, of course, even though you would think by now I’d be all cried out (although whenever I think about how I’ll never feel his arms around me again, the tears come welling right back up).

But then I think about how many people have it worse than me. Princess Amelie Virginie, for instance. I mean, first her parents caught the plague and died. Which wasn’t SO bad because she wasn’t very close with them anyway, since they sent her away to a convent to be educated when she was four, and it was so far away that she hardly ever saw anyone in her family again after that.

But then all her brothers died of the plague, too—which didn’t bother her too much since she hardly knew any of them either.

But that meant she was the next in line to the throne.

So the nuns made Amelie pack up her stuff and go to the palace to be crowned princess of Genovia. Which Amelie really wasn’t too happy about, since she had to leave her cat, Agnès-Claire, behind.

Because cats aren’t allowed at the Palais de Genovia (it’s amazing how the more times change, the more they stay the same).

And when she got to the palace her dad’s brother, her uncle Francesco, whom no one in her family really liked on account of that time he kicked their dog, Padapouf (dogs ARE allowed in the palace), was already there bossing everyone around.

And, if I remember my Genovian history correctly (and believe me, after enough torturing from Grandmère, I do), Uncle Francesco—who became Prince Francesco the First after Amelie’s death (actually, he’s Prince Francesco the ONLY, since he was such a horrible person that no one in Genovia ever named their kid Francesco again after his death)—was disliked by everyone, not just his own family. He was the worst ruler Genovia ever knew, due to his attempting to tax the populace so heavily after the plagues in order to make up for his lost tithes that many of them starved to death.

He also had a reputation for profligacy (as his nearly thirty illegitimate children, all of whom tried to make a claim for the throne after he died, proved). In fact, during Francesco’s rule, Genovia very nearly became absorbed into France, as the prince owed so much money due to his gambling debts, even losing the crown jewels in a card game with William III of England at one point (they weren’t recovered until nearly a century later, when a cagey Princess Margarèthe seduced them away from George III, who was rumored to be not quite right in the head).

Anyway, thanks to Francesco basically thinking he was already prince, even though he wasn’t—yet—poor Amelie didn’t have anything to do. So, like any bored teen with no one to talk to—all the ladies-in-waiting were dead of plague—she went to the palace library and started reading all the books there. A bit like Belle inBeauty and the Beast , actually! Except the Beast was her uncle, so no chance of a love connection.

And instead of dancing teacups and candlesticks, there were just pustule-covered chancellors and stuff.

That’s as far into her journal as I’ve gotten. It’s so boring I probably wouldn’t go on.

But I want to find out what happens to the cat.

I—

I just got an e-mail. Check it out:

CHEERGRL: Hey, Mia! It’s me, Lana. Hope you had fun last night doing whatever. You missed an AWESOME party. You can see photos from it at LastNightsParty.com. OMG, on the way home I thought I saw your friend Lilly making out with a ninja or something at Around the Clock. But what would she be doing with a NINJA? I definitely partied WAY too hard. So how are those Louboutins from Saks working out for you? Too bad you can’t wear stilettos to school. Well, TTYL! ~*Lana*~

So Lilly’s romance with one of Kenny’s muay thai fighter friends continues! If you can call what they have together a “romance.”

When is Lilly going to realize that she’ll never find the emotional fulfillment she’s looking for in a relationship that’s based on pure physical attraction? I mean, what kind of muay thai fighter can keep up with Lilly on an intellectual basis? She’s going to toss him to the curb as soon as he opens his mouth.

It’s sad, really. You would think the daughter of two psychoanalysts would be able to recognize her own pathology for what it is.

But I guess since Lilly’s not in formal therapy, like I am, she thinks she doesn’t have a problem.

Ha!

Which reminds me—school tomorrow.

And I haven’t done any of my make-up work.

I wonder if I can get a note from Dr. Knutz?Please excuse Mia from her homework. She is depressed. Sincerely, Dr. Arthur T. Knutz.

Yeah. That’d go over great. Especially with Ms. Martinez—

OH MY GOD. Another e-mail from Michael just popped into my inbox.

Okay, I have got to stop having a panic attack every time this happens. I mean, we’re friends now. He’s going to write to me. I’ve got to stop losing it when he does. I’ve got to be normal. I can’t keep hyperventilating just because he’s reached out to me through cyberspace.

I’m sure he’s not writing because he’s realized what an awful, terrible mistake he’s made, saying he just wanted to be friends, and that he wants to get back together. I’m sure that’s not it at all. I’m sure he’s just wondering why I never replied to his last e-mail.

Or maybe I’m on some kind of forward list of his, and this is just some update on his eternal quest for an egg sandwich in Japan, or whatever.

Well. I guess I better click on it, or I’ll never know.

Maybe I’ll just wait for my heart rate to go down a little….

SKINNERBX: Dear Mia,

Hey, heard you had bronchitis. That sucks. Hope you’re feeling better now.

Things here are still good. We’re already working hard on the first stage of the robotic arm—or Charlie, as we’re calling it. I’m even starting to get used to the food, though baby squid isn’t really my idea of a snack. I understand my sister’s been giving you a hard time. You know how Lilly is, Mia. She’ll get over it eventually. You just have to give her space.

I know you’re feeling under the weather and probably swamped with homework and princess stuff, but if you get a chance, I’d love to hear from you.

Michael

Oh…God.

After I spent about half an hour crying over this e-mail, I deleted it without replying.

Because, I mean, seriously. Ican’t be friends with him.

I just can’t.

I’d rather have the plague.

Monday, September 20, French

Mia—what is that you’re reading?

It’s nothing, Tina. Just a journal belonging to one of my ancestresses.

Does it have a hot romance in it????

Um…not really. It’s actually kind of boring. Right now she’s just drafting some kind of executive order based on something she read in the palace library. Not that it’s going to do anybody any good. She, along with almost everybody else in the palace, dies of the plague at the end.

That doesn’t sound like your kind of read at all!

Yeah, I know. I don’t know what’s come over me lately.

Well, a lot’s been going on. Naturally, you’re growing and changing with the times. Speaking of growing—is that your new uniform?

Oh, yeah, it is. Thank God it came. I thought I was going to suffocate in that old one. Although I guess it wasn’t nearly as bad as the corsets they made my ancestress wear. Hey, did you hear Lilly was out this weekend with her mystery muay thai fighter man?

No! Who’d you hear that from?

Uh, I forget. Anyway, T, this is serious. You have to find out the 411 on this guy! Lilly could get seriously hurt.

I don’t know, I’m not exactly Lilly’s favorite person these days either. It’s like she hates me for still hanging out with you. You might have better luck with Kenny in your Chem class.

Right. I’m on it. Oh my God, did you know that in the 1600s people wore the lice they’d picked off you in lockets as a sign of affection?

Gross! I’m glad we have Kay Jewelers instead.

Seriously.

Monday, September 20, G & T

You know, I really didn’t think things could get any worse than my boyfriend dumping me and my best friend deciding I’m a cheating ho and refusing to speak to me anymore. Oh, and someone starting a website about what a dork I am and how much they hate me.

Then Lana Weinberger decided she’s my new best friend.

Look. I’m not saying I can’t use any more friends. Because God knows, I can.

But I’m just not sure I’m ready to have QUITE AS MANY FRIENDS as I apparently have now.

Especially since all I really want to do is get back in my bed and stay there.

Preferably forever.

But no. Clearly this is asking way, way too much.

Because today at lunch, when I went to sit down by Tina and Boris and J.P., I was astonished to find Lana and Trisha had put their trays down beside mine as well.

“Oh my God,” Lana said, when she saw what I was having for lunch. “Are you eating the corn dog? Do you have any idea how many carbs are in that? No wonder you’ve gone up a size. Hey, are those the new earrings you got Saturday? They look cute.”

Oh, yes. I was outed:

Outed as being a Friend of Lana.

Well, whatever. I mean, she’s not THAT bad. Sure, we’ve had our differences in the past.

But she does have some really great tips on how to stop biting your nails (put Sally Hansen Hard As Nails on them every night without fail before bed, and afterward, an olive oil cuticle rub).

Tina was staring at Lana with her mouth hanging open in astonishment, causing Trisha to say, “Take a picture, sweetie, it’ll last longer,” then remark that she liked the way Tina does her eyeliner, and asked if wearing it that way was part of her religion, or what.

This caused Tina to choke on her tuna salad.

“So do any of you have Schuyler for Precalc?” Lana wanted to know. “Because I don’t have a freaking clue what’s going on in that class.”

To which Boris replied, looking pained, “Um…I do.”

And then he spent the rest of the lunch period helping Lana with her homework, while Tina spent the rest of the lunch period showing Trisha how she does her eyes, and J.P. spent the rest of the lunch period smirking into his chili (sans corn).

All I wanted to do was read my translation of Amelie’s journal. But I couldn’t, because I was worried about how that might look. You know, that it might appear antisocial.

And I have enough strikes against me at the moment without “antisocial” being added to the list.

I did notice Lilly giving me a very dirty look over her shoulder as she went to take her tray up to the counter.

But that might have been because I was letting Lana put mini barrettes in my hair and Lilly has a thing about personal grooming in the caf.

Monday, September 20, Chemistry

J.P. wants to know how, merely by going shopping with Lana, I became one of the In Crowd.

I told him Lana and I didn’t merely go shopping: We wentbra shopping.

To which J.P. replied, “Please tell me all about it. And I meanall .”

But I was too busy reading about Princess Amelie. Uncle Francesco busted into the palace library and ordered all the books there burned, just to be mean, I’m sure, because he happened to know Amelie really liked them, not because he seriously believed they were contributing to the spread of the disease.

As if that weren’t upsetting enough, he also threw the drafts of the executive order she’d so carefully penned and signed—and hadwitnessed , which was no joke, since it was hard to find two living people in the palace to witness the signing of a document—into the fire. Even though Amelie explained to him that whatever it was she’d drawn up had been for the good of the Genovian people! Whom she did not believe he cared about. Especially since they were dropping like flies, and yet he was still allowing foreign ships to dock in the port, which only seemed to be bringing more disease into the country…not to mention spreading it back to the towns the ships had come from, on their return trips.

Amelie accused her uncle of only caring about whether or not the olive oil got delivered. To Uncle Francesco, it wasalways about the olive oil. And the crown, of course.

But no! He thought burning books (and executive orders) was the answer to all their problems!

I really wanted to keep reading because things were finally getting good with poor Amelie (or bad, as the case might be).

But Kenny yelled at me that if I wasn’t going to help with the experiment, I could just accept the zero I deserved.

So I’m stirring. Which would explain why my handwriting looks so bad.

Monday, September 20, the loft

Even though I am still in the depths of despair and all, I was actually kind of excited after school today because

No princess lessons

Even though I have no TV, I have something totally excellent to read.

I fully intended to take off my school uniform, put on my sweats, curl up in bed, and read about my ancestress.

But my (admittedly mild) excitement was short-lived, due to walking into the loft and finding Mr. G at the dining room table with all of the assignments that I missed last week.

“Sit,” he said, holding out a chair.

So I sat.

And now we’re tackling all my make-up work. One class at a time.

This is so unfair.

Monday, September 20, 11 p.m., the loft

Oh my God, I am so tired. And we’re not even halfway caught up with everything.

What is the POINT of piling so much work on us? Don’t they know that all they are doing is breaking our already fragile spirits? Is this really what the powers-that-be want? A generation of wounded, broken souls?

No wonder so many teens turn to drugs. I would, too, if I weren’t so tired. And I could find some.

So, it turns out Uncle Francesco didn’t appreciate Amelie saying he didn’t care about the people of Genovia. He told her that if she really cared about the people of Genovia, she’d step down and let him rule. Because she’s just a girl who doesn’t have any idea what she’s doing.

!!!!!!!!!!!!

But I guess Amelie had more of an idea about what she was doing than she let on, because she drew up ANOTHER executive order—this one was to close all Genovian roads and ports. No one was allowed in or out of the country. She did this because she thought it might do a little more to reduce the spread of the plague than burning all the books in the country.

Ha! Take that, Francesco, you loser!

Also, she had the best mousers in the city brought to the palace. Because she couldn’t help noticing that there’d been no outbreaks of the disease in places where there were cats—like back at the convent, where she’d left Agnès-Claire.

For a girl who’d lived in the 1600s back when they didn’t know what germs were, Princess Amelie was pretty smart.

Oh, and she had her uncle thrown out of the castle.

Man. And I thought MY family was dysfunctional.

Tuesday, September 21, Intro to Creative Writing

My relatives turn out not to be the only ones conspiring against me. The minute I walked into school today, Principal Gupta was waiting for me. She crooked her finger at me to follow her into her office. Lars and I exchanged panicky looks, like—Uh-oh!I couldn’t figure out what we’d done now.

Or whatI’d done, anyway. I was sure Principal Gupta must have found out about the time I pulled the fire alarm when there wasn’t really a fire. True, that was a year ago, but maybe that’s how long it had taken them to go through all the video surveillance of the hallways or something….

But it turned out to have nothing to do with that. Instead, she confiscated my journal.

I am writing this in my Chemistry notebook right now.

Principal Gupta said, “Mia, I understand you’re going through a rough time right now. But your grades are slipping. You’re a junior in high school. Soon colleges will be looking at your transcripts.”

I wanted to point out to her what she and everyone else knows perfectly well: that I am going to get into every college I apply to. Because I’m a princess. I wish it weren’t true. But it is. I mean, even Trisha knows it.

“I understand from Mrs. Potts,” Principal Gupta went on, “that you were even writing in your journal during physical education class the other day. This can’t go on. You can’t expect to be able to slide by just because you’re a minor celebrity, Mia.”

Talk about unfair! I have never tried to slide by on my celebrity, however minor!

“Consider writing in your journal during classverboten from this moment on,” Principal Gupta said. “I am holding on to your journal—don’t worry, I will NOT read it—until classes let out for the day. You may have it back then. And kindly do NOT bring it to school again tomorrow. Is that understood?”

What could I say? I mean…she’s not wrong.

She’s instructed all of my teachers to take away any paper they catch me writing on, unless it’s class-related. I am only getting away with writing this because Ms. Martinez thinks it’s the creative writing assignment she just gave us, to describe a moment that touched us deeply.

You know what moment touched me deeply?

When Principal Gupta locked my journal in the school safe. It was like being gutted with a Bic disposable pen.

Tuesday, September 21, English

Mia—Where’s your journal????

I don’t want to talk about it.

Oh. Okay. I’m sorry!

No,I’m sorry. That was rude. It’s just—Principal Gupta took it away. Because my grades are slipping.

Oh, Mia! That’s terrible!

No, it’s not. It’s my own fault. I’m not supposed to be passing notes, either. All of the teachers are supposed to take away anything they see me writing on that’s not class-related. So look out.

We’ll be careful,, then. Anyway, I wanted to say—that was kind of weird yesterday at lunch, huh? I didn’t know you and Lana had become such good friends! When did that happen? I mean, if you don’t mind me asking?

No, it’s okay. I should have told you. I just felt weird about it. I know she’s been really mean to you in the past, and I didn’t—well, I just didn’t want you to hate me.

Mia! I could never hate you! You know that!

Thanks, Tina. But you’re the only one.

What are you talking about? No one could ever hate you!

Uh…A lot of people hate me, actually. And Lilly REALLY hates me.

Oh. Well. LILLY. You know why she hates you.

Right. Your J.P. theory. Which is wrong. Anyway, I’m supposed to give this speech at the end of the week for this charity function Lana’s mother’s in charge of, and one thing led to another, and…she really isn’t that bad, you know. I mean, she’s BAD. But not AS BAD as we previously thought. I think. Do you know what I mean?

I think so. At least, when she says snarky things, it seems like she just doesn’t know better rather than, like, that she means to be hurtful.

I know. Kind of like Lindsay Lohan.

Exactly! Still. I don’t think Lilly’s too happy about it.

What do you mean? Did she say something about me?

Well, she doesn’t speak to ME anymore, either, since I’m friends with you, so no, she didn’t say anything to me. But I saw her giving you dirty looks across the caf.

Oh, yeah. I saw those, too. I—

I will not pass notes in class.

I will not pass notes in class.

I will not pass notes in class.

I will not pass notes in class.

I will not pass notes in class.

I will not pass notes in class.

I will not pass notes in class.

I will not pass notes in class.

I will not pass notes in class.

I will not pass notes in class.

I will not pass notes in class.

I will not pass notes in class.

I will not pass notes in class.

I will not pass notes in class.

I will not pass notes in class.

I will not pass notes in class.

I will not pass notes in class.

I will not pass notes in class.

I will not pass notes in class.

I will not pass notes in class.

I will not pass notes in class.

I will not pass notes in class.

Tuesday, September 21, Lunch

I apologized NONSTOP to Tina for getting her in trouble in English. Thank GOD our note didn’t get read out loud. That is the only good thing.

Tina says not to worry about it, that it’s nothing.

But it’s NOT nothing. I can’t believe I am dragging my friends down with me. It’s just WRONG, and I’ve got to STOP.

Anyway, they can’t stop me from writing at LUNCH. Even if I have to do it in my Chemistry notebook.

Though it’s very hard to write with Lana jostling me every minute and going, “Wait, so Gupta says you need to work harder if you want to get into college? Oh my God, that is so easily rectified. Just join the Spirit Squad. Seriously, we don’t even DO anything, except have bake sales, like, every five weeks. Oooh, or I know! You could join Hola—the Spanish Club? We just sit around and watch movies in Spanish. Like that one where the hot guys fight to the death with the hams. Well, we didn’t really watch that one in class because it was too sexy, Trisha and I watched that one at home for extra credit. Oh, or the dance committee! We’re working on the Cultural Diversity Dance right now! It’s going to be so rockin’ this year, we’re trying to get an actual band instead of a DJ for a change. Or there’s peer tutoring. Oh my God, I’m tutoring the cutest little second grader right now. I totally taught her to stay within the lines with her eyeshadow.”

I was just like, “Um. You know, I already have a lot going on, with the princess stuff. And the school paper.”

“Right,” Lana said. “Hey, what do you think of glitter gel? You know, for my nails? Too much?”

When did this become my life?

Oh, right, I remember. The day my ex-boyfriend dumped me and I lost all will to live.

Tuesday, September 21, G & T

Okay, they can’t keep me from writing in here, because

A) No one knows what I’m supposed to be doing in this stupid class anyway, given the fact that I am neither gifted nor talented, and

B) Mrs. Hill isn’t even here. There must be an auction on eBay she’s trying to win, or something, because she’s in the teacher’s lounge.

Anyway, the strangest thing just happened. After lunch I went to the girls’ room and while I was washing my hands Lilly came out of one of the stalls and started washing HER hands.

She was totally ignoring me, like I didn’t even exist. Just gazing at herself in the mirror.

I don’t know what came over me. Suddenly, I just couldn’t take it anymore. I turned off the water in my sink and grabbed some paper towels and ALMOST went, while I was drying my hands, “You know what, Lilly? You can ignore me all you want, but it doesn’t change the fact that you’re wrong. I DID NOT cause your breakup with J.P., and I am NOT going out with him. We’re JUST friends. I can’t believe that after all these years of friendship, you’d even THINK that of me. And besides, you know I love your brother. I mean, despite the fact that we’re just friends now, too.”

But I didn’t.

I didn’t say a word.

Because why should I? Why shouldI make the first move, whenI didn’t do anything wrong? She’s the one givingme the cold shoulder, whenI’m the one in great personal pain. I mean, has it ever occurred to her that I could really use a friend right now? Has it ever occurred to her that now isn’t the best time to be giving me the silent treatment?

But it seems like whenever I’m going through a time of personal crisis—when I found out I was a princess; when her brother dumped me—Lilly turns her back on me.

Lilly must have known I was thinking about saying something to her, though, because she gave me the dirtiest look. Then she rinsed off her hands, turned off the taps, got some paper towels of her own, tossed them into the trash—the same way she seems to have tossed our friendship into the trash—and walked out without a word.

I almost ran after her. I really did. I almost ran after her and told her that whatever it was I did, I’m sorry, and that I know I’m a freak, but that I’m trying to get help. I almost went, “Look, I’m in therapy. Are you happy, now? You’ve driven me into therapy!”

But, number one, I know that’s not true. I’m not in therapy because of Lilly or Michael or anyone, really, except the Giant Hole.

And number two—well, I still havesome pride left. I mean, I wasn’t about to give her the satisfaction.

Besides, what if she told Michael, or something? Then he’d think I was so torn up about our breaking up that I’m suicidal.

Which I’mnot.

I’m just sad. Dr. K even said so.

I’m just sad.

So, anyway. I let her walk out. And I never said a word.

And now I’m sitting here in G and T, watching her chat on her phone with Perin about their cell tower initiative.

You know what? I’m not even sure Iwant to be her friend anymore. I mean, to be honest, Lana Weinberger is actually a BETTER friend than Lilly ever was. At least with Lana, you know where you stand. It’s true Lana’s completely self-absorbed and shallow.

But at least she doesn’t try to pretend she’s otherwise. Unlike some people I could mention.

God, I am going to have SO MUCH to talk about with Dr. K on Friday.

Tuesday, September 21, 4 p.m., Chanel

Principal Gupta was all, “Mia. Let’stalk ,” in a super meaningful way when I went to snag my journal back from her.

So I had to sit down and listen to her yammer on about what a bright girl I am, with so much to offer—it’s such a shame I quit student council and that I’m not taking part in more extracurricular activities this year. Colleges, she said, look at other things besides grades and teacher recommendations, you know. They want to see that applicants to their schools also have interests outside of academics.

Lana was so right about Hola.

“I’m on the school paper,” I offered lamely.

“Mia,” Principal Gupta said. “You haven’t gone to one newspaper meeting this semester.”

I’d been hoping she hadn’t noticed that.

“Well,” I said. “It’s been kind of a bad semester so far.”

“I know,” Principal Gupta said. Behind her glasses, her eyes were kind. For once. “Clearly, you’ve been through a lot lately. But you can’t just shut down because of a boy, Mia.”

I blinked at her in horror. I mean, even if that might be true, I can’t believe she’dsay that.

“I’mn-not ,” I stammered. “This has nothing to do with Michael. I mean, yeah, I’m sad we broke up. But—it’s just…it’s a lot more than that.”

“What really disturbs me,” Principal Gupta said, “is that you seem to have given up your old friends as well. I’ve noticed that you’re no longer sitting with Lilly Moscovitz at lunch anymore.”

“She’s not sitting withme ,” I said indignantly. “I’m not the one who—”

“And I’ve noticed you’ve been spending time instead with Lana Weinberger.” Principal Gupta’s mouth got all small, the way my mom’s does when she’s mad. “While I must say I’m grateful you and Lana aren’t at each other’s throats anymore, I can’t help but wonder if she’s someone with whom you really have all that much in common—”

Now that I have boobs, she is. She knows EVERYTHING about nipple coverage.

And how to show them off, when it’s appropriate to do that, as well.

“I really appreciate your worrying about me, Principal Gupta,” I said. “But you have to remember something.”

She looked at me expectantly. “Yes?”

“I’m a princess,” I said. “I’m going to get into every college I apply to, because colleges want to brag that they have a girl who’s going to rule a country someday in their incoming freshman class. So it doesn’t really matter if I join the Spanish Club or the Spirit Squad, or whatever. But”—I waved my journal at her—“thanks for caring.”

No sooner had I stepped out of Principal G’s office than my cell phone rang and I looked down to find Grandmère was calling me.

Great. Because my day could not, evidently, get any better.

“Amelia,” she sang when I picked up. “What’s keeping you? I’m WAITING.”

“Grandmère? What do you mean? We don’t have princess lessons this week, remember?”

“I know that,” Grandmère said. “I’m outside the school in the limo. Today we’re going to Chanel to find something for you to wear to the gala on Friday. Remember?”

No, I did not remember. But what choice did I have? None.

So here I am at Chanel.

The staff is very excited about my new measurements. Mainly because they no longer have to take in the chest darts on the bodice of any dress Grandmère chooses for me.