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Queen Of Babble: In The Big City qob-2

Meg Cabot

  Queen Of Babble: In The Big City

  ( Queen of Babble - 2 )

  Meg Cabot

  Big mouth.

  Big heart.

  Big city.

  Big problems.

  Lizzie Nichols is back, pounding the New York City pavement, looking for a job, a place to live, and her proper place in the universe (not necessarily in that order).

  When summer fling Luke uses the L-Word (Living Together), Lizzie is only too happy to give up her plan of being post-grad roomies with best friend Shari in a one-room walk-up in exchange for co-habitation with the love her life in his mother's Fifth Avenue pied-a-terre, complete with doorman and resident Renoir.

  But Lizzie's not so lucky in her employment search. As Shari finds the perfect job, Lizzie struggles through one humiliating interview after another, being judged overqualified for the jobs in her chosen field?vintage gown rehab—and underqualified for everything else. It's Shari's boyfriend Chaz to the rescue when he recommends Lizzie for a receptionist's position at his father's posh law firm. The non-paying gig at a local wedding gown shop Lizzie manages to land all on her own.

  But Lizzie's notoriously big mouth begins to get her in trouble at work and at home almost at once—first at the law firm, where she becomes too chummy with Jill Higgins, a New York society bride with a troublesome future mother-in-law, and then back on Fifth Avenue, when she makes the mistake of bringing up the M-Word (Marriage) with commitment-shy Luke.

  Soon Lizzie finds herself jobless as well as homeless all over again. Can Lizzie save herself — and the hapless Jill — and find career security (not to mention a mutually satisfying committed relationship) at last?


  Queen of Babble


  For Benjamin

  Lizzie Nichols’s Wedding Gown Guide

  Finding the right wedding gown for your special day isn’t easy, but it shouldn’t drive you to tears, either!

  Even if you are planning a formal ceremony with a traditional long dress, there are many different styles of gowns to choose from.

  The trick is to match the right gown to the right bride before she becomes a Bridezilla… and that’s where a wedding-gown specialist like myself comes in!


  Chapter 1

  It is still not enough for language to have clarity and content… it must also have a goal and an imperative.

  Otherwise from language we descend to chatter, from chatter to babble, and from babble to confusion.

  — René Daumal (1908–1944), French poet and critic

  I open my eyes to see the morning sunlight slanting across the Renoir hanging above my bed, and for a few seconds, I don’t know where I am.

  Then I remember.

  And my heart swells with giddy excitement. No, really.Giddy. Like, first-day-of-school-and-I’ve-got-a-brand-new-designer-outfit-from-TJ Maxx giddy.

  And not just because that Renoir hanging over my head? It’s real. Although it is, and not a print, like I had in my dorm room. An actual original work, by the Impressionist master himself.

  Which I couldn’t actually believe at first. I mean, how often do you walk into someone’s bedroom and see an original Renoir hanging over the bed? Um, never. At least if you’re me.

  When Luke left the room, I stayed behind, pretending like I had to use the bathroom. But really I slipped off my espadrilles, climbed onto the bed, and gave that canvas a closer look.

  And I was right. I could see the globs of paint Renoir used to build up the lace he so carefully detailed on the cuff of the little girl’s sleeve. And the stripes on the fur of the cat the little girl is holding? Raised blobby bits. It’s a REAL Renoir, all right.

  And it’s hanging over the bed I’m waking up in… the same bed that’s currently bathed in sunlight from the tall windows to my left… sunlight that’s bouncing off the building across the street… that building being the METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART. The one in front of Central Park. On Fifth Avenue. In NEW YORK CITY.

  Yes! I am waking up in NEW YORK CITY!!!! The Big Apple! The city that never sleeps (although I try to get at least eight hours a night, or my eyelids will get puffy, and Shari says I get cranky)!

  But none of that is what’s making me so giddy. The sunlight, the Renoir, the Met, Fifth Avenue, New York.None of that can compare to what’s really got me excited… something better than all of those things, and a new back-to-school outfit from TJ Maxx put together.

  And it’s in the bed right next to me.

  Just look how cute he is when he’s sleeping! Manly cute, not kitten cute. Luke doesn’t lie there with his mouth gaping wide with spit leaking out the side, like I do (I know I do this because my sisters told me. Also because I always wake up to a wet spot on my pillow). He manages to keep his lips together very nicely.

  And his eyelashes look so long and curly. Why can’t my eyelashes look like that? It’s not fair. I’m the girl, after all.I’m the one who is supposed to have long curly eyelashes, not stubby short ones I have to use an eyelash curler I’ve heated with a hair dryer and about seven layers of mascara on if I want to look like I have any eyelashes at all.

  Okay, I’ve got to stop. Stop obsessing over my boyfriend’s eyelashes. I need to get up. I can’t lounge around in bed all day. I’m in NEW YORK CITY!

  And okay, I don’t have a job. Or a place to live.

  Because that Renoir? Yeah, it belongs to Luke’s mother. As does the bed. Oh, and the apartment.

  But she only bought it when she thought she and Luke’s dad were splitting up. Which they’re not now. Thanks to me. So she said Luke could use it as long as necessary.

  Lucky Luke. I wish MY mom had been planning on divorcing MY dad and bought a totally gorgeous apartment in New York City, right across the street from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, that she now only planned on using a few times a year for shopping trips in the city, or to attend the occasional ballet.

  Okay, seriously. I have to get up now. How can I stay in bed—a king-sized bed, by the way, totally comfortable, with a big white fluffy goose-down-stuffed duvet over it—when I have all of NEW YORK CITY right outside the door (well, down the elevator and outside the ornate marble lobby), just waiting to be explored by me?

  And my boyfriend, of course.

  It seems so weird to say that… to even think it. Me and my boyfriend. My boyfriend.

  Because for the first time in my life, it’s real! I have an honest-to-God boyfriend. One who actually considers me his girlfriend. He isn’t gay and just using me as a cover so his Christian parents don’t find out he’s really going out with a guy named Antonio. He isn’t just trying to get me to fall so deeply in love with him that when he springs the idea of doing a threesome with his ex, I’ll say yes because I’m so afraid he’ll break up with me otherwise. He isn’t a compulsive gambler who knows I have a lot of money saved up and can bail him out if he gets too deeply in debt.

  Not that any of those things have happened to me. More than once.

  And I’m not just imagining it, either. Luke and I are together. I can’t say I wasn’t a little scared—you know, when I left France to go back to Ann Arbor—that I might never hear from him again. If he hadn’t really been that into me, and wanted to get rid of me, he had the perfect opportunity.

  But he kept calling. First from France, and then from Houston, where he went to pack up all his stuff and get rid of his apartment and his car, and then from New York, when he arrived. He kept saying he couldn’t wait to see me again. He kept telling me all the stuff he was planning on doing to me when he did see me again.

  And then when I finally got here last week, he
did them—all those things he’d said he’d been going to.

  I can barely believe it. I mean, that a guy I like as much as I like Luke actually likes me back, for a change. That what we have isn’t just a summer fling. Because summer’s over, and it’s fall now (well, okay, almost), and we’re still together. Together in New York City, where he’ll be going to medical school, and I’m going to get a job in the fashion industry, doing something—well, fashion-related—and together, we’re going to make a go of it in the city that never sleeps!

  Just as soon as I find a job. Oh, and an apartment.

  But I’m sure Shari and I will find a charming pied-à-terre to call home soon. And until we do, I have Luke’s place to crash, and Shari can stay in the walk-up her boyfriend Chaz found last week in the East Village (he rightfully refused his parents’ invitation to move back into the house in which he grew up—when he wasn’t being shipped off to boarding school—in Westchester, from which his father continues to commute to the city to work every morning).

  And even though it’s not on the best block exactly, it’s not the worst place in the world, having the advantage of being close to NYU, where Chaz is getting his Ph.D., and cheap (a rent-controlled two-bedroom for only two grand a month. And okay, one of the bedrooms is an alcove. But still).

  And okay, Shari’s already witnessed a triple stabbing through the living room window. But whatever. It was a domestic dispute. The guy in the building across the courtyard stabbed his pregnant wife and mother-in-law. It’s not like people in Manhattan go around getting stabbed by strangers every day.

  And everyone turned out to be fine. Even the baby, who was delivered by the cops on the building’s front stoop when the wife went into early labor. Eight pounds, six ounces! And okay, his dad is locked up in a prison cell on Rikers Island. But still. Welcome to New York, little Julio!

  In fact, if you ask me, Chaz is sort of secretly hoping we won’t find a place, and Shari will have to move in with him. Because Chaz is romantic that way.

  And seriously, how fun would that be? Then Luke and I could come over, and the four of us could hang out just like we did back at Luke’s place in France, with Chaz mixing kir royales and Shari bossing everyone around and me making baguette-and-Hershey-bar sandwiches for everyone, and Luke in charge of the music, or something?

  And it could really happen, because Shari and I have had no luck on the apartment front. I mean, we’ve answered about a thousand ads, and so far the places are either snapped up before one of us can get there to look at them (if they’re at all decent), or they’re so hideous no one in their right mind would want to live there (I saw a toilet that was balanced on wooden blocks over an OPEN HOLE in the floor. And that was in a studio apartment in Hell’s Kitchen for twenty-two hundred dollars a month).

  But it will be all right. We’ll find a place eventually. Just like I’ll find a job eventually. I’m not going to freak out.


  Oh! It’s eight o’clock! I’d better wake up Luke. Today is his first day of orientation at New York University. He’ll be attending the post-baccalaureate premedical program there, so he can study to be a doctor. He wouldn’t want to be late.

  But he looks so sweet lying there. With no shirt on. And his tan so dark against his mother’s cream-colored, thousand-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets (I read the tag). How can I—

  Ack! Oh, my goodness!

  Um, I guess he’s already awake. Considering that he’s now lying on top of me.

  “Good morning,” he says. He hasn’t even opened his eyes. His lips are nuzzling my neck. And other parts of him are nuzzling other parts of me.

  “It’s eight o’clock,” I cry. Even though of course I don’t want to. What could be more heavenly than just lying here all morning making sweet sweet love to my man? Especially in a bed under a real Renoir, in an apartment across from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NEW YORK CITY!

  But he’s going to be a doctor. He’s going to cure children of cancer someday! I can’t let him be late for his first day of orientation. Think of the children!

  “Luke,” I say, as his mouth moves toward mine. Oh! He doesn’t even have morning breath! How does he do that? And why didn’t I jump up first thing and hurry into the bathroom to brush my teeth?

  “What?” he asks, lazily touching his tongue to my lips. Which I’m not opening, because I don’t want him to smell what’s going on inside my mouth. Which appears to be a small party given by the aftertaste of the chicken tikka masala and shrimp curry from Baluchi’s that we had delivered last night, which was apparently impervious to both the Listerine and Crest with which I attempted to combat them eight hours ago.

  “You have orientation this morning,” I say. Which isn’t an easy thing to say when you don’t want to open your lips. Also when there are a hundred and eighty pounds of delicious naked man lying on top of you. “You’re going to be late!”

  “I don’t care,” he says, and presses his lips to mine.

  But it’s no good. I’m not opening my mouth.

  Except to say, “Well, what about me? I have to get up and go look for a job and a place to live. I have fifteen boxes of stuff sitting in my parents’ garage that they’re waiting to send me as soon as I can give them an address. If I don’t get it all out of there soon, I just know Mom’s going to have a garage sale, and I’ll never see any of it again.”

  “It would be more expedient,” Luke says, as he plucks at the straps to my vintage teddy, “if you would just sleep naked, like I do.”

  Only I couldn’t even get mad at him for not listening to a word I’ve said, because he manages to get the teddy off with an alacrity that really is breathtaking, and the next thing I know, his being late for orientation—my job and apartment search—and even those boxes sitting in my parents’ garage are the last things on my mind.

  A little while later he lifts his head to look at the clock and says, in some surprise, “Oh. I’m going to be late.”

  I am lying in a damp puddle of sweat in the middle of the bed. I feel like I’ve been flattened by a steamroller.

  And I love it.

  “I told you so,” I say, mostly to the girl in the Renoir above my head.

  “Hey,” Luke says, getting up to head to the bathroom. “I have an idea.”

  “You’re going to hire a helicopter to pick you up here and take you downtown?” I ask. “Because that’s the only way you’re going to make it to your orientation on time.”

  “No,” Luke says. Now he’s in the bathroom. I hear the shower turn on. “Why don’t you just move in here with me? Then all you’ll have to do today is look for a job.”

  He pops his head—his thick dark hair adorably mussed from our recent activities—around the bathroom door and looks at me inquisitively. “What do you think about that?”

  Only I can’t reply, because I’m pretty sure my heart has just exploded with happiness.

  Lizzie Nichols’s Wedding Gown Guide

  There are many different styles and cuts of gowns for brides who choose a traditional long dress, but the five most common are:

  The Ballgown

  The Empire Waist

  The Column or Sheath

  The A-line

  The Fishtail


  But which shape gown is right for you?

  That is the universal question, asked by every bride in the history of time.

  Chapter 2

  A gossip goes about telling secrets, but one who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a confidence.

  — Bible: Hebrew, Proverbs 11:13

  One Week Earlier

  “Well, at least you’re not moving in with him,” my older sister Rose says, as ten shrieking five-year-old girls take turns whacking a pony-shaped piñata hanging from a tree limb behind us.

  This stings. Rose’s remark, I mean. The five-year-olds I can’t do anything about.

  “You know,” I say, irritated, “maybe if you had lived with Ang
elo for a while before you got married, you’d have figured out he wasn’t your perfect soul mate after all.”

  Rose glares at me from across the picnic table.

  “I was pregnant, ” she says. “It’s not like I had much of a choice.”

  “Uh,” I say, eyeing the five-year-old who is shrieking the loudest, the birthday girl, my niece Maggie. “It’s called birth control.”

  “You know, some of us actually take pleasure in the moment,” Rose says, “instead of obsessing over the future all the time. So birth control is not the first thing that springs to mind when a handsome man begins making love to us.”

  I think of lots of ways to reply to this, as I sit there watching Maggie decide that whacking the piñata with her stick is less interesting than whacking her father with it. But for once, I keep my mouth shut.

  “I mean, God, Lizzie,” Rose goes on. “You go off to Europe for a couple of months and come back thinking you know everything. Well, you don’t. Especially about men. He won’t buy the cow if he can get the milk for free.”

  I blink at her. “Wow,” I say. “Could you be getting more like Mom every day?”

  My other sister, Sarah, can’t keep from snorting into her plastic margarita glass at that one. Rose glares at her.

  “Oh,” she says. “You’re one to talk, Sarah.”

  Sarah looks shocked. “Me? I’m nothing like Mom.”

  “Not Mom,” Rose says. “But don’t tell me that wasn’t Kahlúa you were pouring into your coffee this morning. At nine-fifteen.”

  Sarah shrugs. “I don’t like the taste of coffee straight.”

  “Oh, whatever,Gran.” Then, narrowing her eyelids at me, Rose continues, “For your information, Angelo is my perfect soul mate. I didn’t have to live with him before we got married to know that.”

  “Uh, Rose,” Sarah says. “Your perfect soul mate is currently getting racked by your eldest.”