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Meg Cabot

  Size 14 Is Not Fat Either

  ( Heather Wells Mysteries - 2 )

  Meg Cabot

  Former pop star Heather Wells has settled nicely into her new life as assistant dorm director at New York College—a career that does not require her to drape her size 12 body in embarrassingly skimpy outfits. She can even cope (sort of) with her rocker ex-boyfriend's upcoming nuptials, which the press has dubbed The Celebrity Wedding of the Decade. But she's definitely having a hard time dealing with the situation in the dormitory kitchen—where a cheerleader has lost her head on the first day of the semester. (Actually, her head is accounted for—it's her torso that's AWOL.)

  Surrounded by hysterical students—with her ex-con father on her doorstep and her ex-love bombarding her with unwanted phone calls—Heather welcomes the opportunity to play detective… again. If it gets her mind off her personal problems—and teams her up again with the gorgeous P.I. who owns the brownstone where she lives—it's all good. But the murder trail is leading the average-sized amateur investigator into a shadowy world. And if she doesn't watch her step, Heather will soon be singing her swan song!

  Meg Cabot

  Size 14 Is Not Fat Either

  A Heather Wells Mystery


  Barista Boy

  Sex in a cup

  Can’t you ask me out

  Instead of “Wassup?”

  “Barista Boy”

  Written by Heather Wells

  The guy behind the counter is checking me out. No, really.

  He’s hot, too. Well, in a twenty-year-old barista kind of way. I bet he plays the guitar. I bet he stays up way too late at night, strumming, the way I do. I can tell by the slight shadows under his long-lashed green eyes, and the way his curly blond hair is sticking up in spikes all over his head. Bed head. No time to shower before work, because he was up so late practicing. Just like me.

  “What’ll it be?” he asks me. But with a look. A look that definitely says,I’m checking you out.

  I know I’m the one he’s checking out because there’s no one in line behind me.

  Well, and why shouldn’t he check me out? I look good. I mean, the parts of me you can see through my bulky winter outerwear, anyway. I fully put on mascara and cover-up this morning (unlike Barista Boy, I like to disguise my under eye circles). And what with my parka, you can’t see the four—well, okay, ten—pounds I put on over the holidays. Because who counts calories when it’s Christmas? Or New Year’s? Or after New Year’s, when all that Christmas candy is on sale? There’s plenty of time to get in shape again for bikini season.

  And, okay, I’ve been telling myself that for the past five or six years, and I still haven’t actually tried it yet—getting in shape for bikini season, I mean. But who knows? Maybe this year. I have two days of vacation due to me, all I’ve accrued since passing my employment probationary period in October. I could go to Cancún. And, okay, just for the weekend. But still.

  So what if I’m five—well, maybe eight—years older than Barista Boy? I’ve still got it. Obviously.

  “Grande café mocha, please,” I say. I’m totally not into foamy drinks with whipped cream on top of them, but it’s the first official day of spring semester (spring! Right!), and it’s really cold out and supposed to blizzard later, and Cooper left this morning (for destinations unknown, as usual) without turning on the coffeemaker, and my dog Lucy wouldn’t go out because it was so cold, so I’ll probably find a nice surprise from her when I get home, and I REALLY need a little pick-me-up to help me quit feeling so sorry for myself.

  Plus, you know, as long as I’m blowing five bucks on a cup of coffee, I might as well go for the gold.

  “One grande café mocha, coming up,” Barista Boy says, doing one of those flippy things with my cup. You know, twirling it, like it’s a gun and he’s an outlaw in a western.

  Oh, yeah. He definitely plays guitar. I wonder if he sits around writing songs he can never work up the guts actually to perform, like me? I wonder if he’s constantly second-guessing his songwriting talent, like I am?

  No. He’s got the guts to get up in front of a crowd with a guitar and his own lyrics. I mean, just look at him.

  “Soy or nonfat?” he asks.

  Oh, God. I can’t face my first day back to work after break on nonfat milk. And soy?Soy?

  “Whole milk, please,” I say. I’ll be good later. At lunch I’ll just have a chicken parm and a salad, and maybe just a BITE of lo-cal frozen yogurt… .

  Mmmm, unless Magda got in more Dove Bars… .

  “You know,” Barista Boy says, as he rings me up, “you look really familiar.”

  “Oh,” I say. I’m blushing with pleasure. He remembers me! He must see hundreds, maybe THOUSANDS of caffeine-starved New Yorkers a day, but he remembers ME! Fortunately it’s so cold outside, and so warm in here, my red cheeks could easily be taken for the fact that I’m overheating in my coat, and not that I’m kvelling over his remembering me.

  “Well, I live and work in the neighborhood,” I say. “I’m in here all the time.” Which isn’t strictly true, since I’m keeping to a pretty tight budget (due to my pitiful salary), which foamy coffee drinks are definitely not part of, since I can get free coffee anytime I want from the cafeteria.

  They just don’t have mocha syrup in them. Or whipped cream. We tried to keep whipped cream canisters in the caf, but people kept swiping them in order to do whip-its.

  “No,” Barista Boy says, shaking his lusciously shaggy head. “That’s not it. Actually, has anybody ever told you that you look a lot like Heather Wells?”

  I take my drink from him. This, of course, is always the tricky part. What do I say?Yes, actually… because I amHeather Wells, and then run the risk of him asking me out simply because he thinks I still have connections in the music industry (so not. See above, re: fear of being booed off the stage)?

  Or do I just laugh and say,Why, no? Because then what happens later, after we start dating, and he finds out Iam Heather Wells? I mean, I could probably keep it a secret for a little while, but eventually he’s going to find out my real name. Like when we’re in Customs coming back from Cancún. Or when we’re signing the marriage certificate… .

  So I settle for saying, “Really?”

  “Sure. Well, if you were thinner,” Barista Boy says, with a smile. “Here’s your change. Have a good one!”

  What I can’t believe is how the entire city can be gearing up for a predicted snowstorm—I mean, trucks filled with salt and sand can be lumbering down Tenth Street, breaking off tree limbs as they go by; the grocery stores can have already sold out of bread and milk; the television can show nothing but Storm Watch updates—and still, the drug dealers are out in full force in and around Washington Square Park.

  I guess it just goes to show that we Americans still have a lot to learn from our hardworking immigrant population.

  But there they are, standing on the sidewalk in their Perry Ellis parkas, enjoying some fresh mochaccinos of their own. Since it’s the morning a significant—for New York City, anyway—amount of snow is being predicted to come down at any moment, very few people are walking by, but those who do are greeted with cheerful offers of sensimilla.

  And okay, those offers are unanimously declined. But when the drug dealers notice me shuffling dejectedly toward them, they kindly shout a list of their wares in my direction.

  I would laugh if I didn’t still feel so grumpy about Barista Boy. Plus the fact that, every single time I step out of my house, I am accosted by these guys. It doesn’t seem to matter to them that I have never once made a purchase. They only shrug as if I’m lying or something when I tell them that the strongest artificial stimulant I’v
e consumed lately is caffeine. Sadly.

  I’m not lying, though. A beer now and then is about as adventurous as I get.

  Light beer, of course. Hey, a girl’s gotta watch her figure.

  “How you feelin’ about all this white stuff that’s supposed to fall from the sky soon, Heather?” one of the drug dealers, an affable guy named Reggie, steps away from his compatriots to ask me, with courtly solicitude.

  “Better’n the white stuff you and your scum posse are peddling, Reggie,” I am shocked to hear myself growl. God, what is wrong with me? Ordinarily, I’m super-polite to Reggie and his colleagues. It doesn’t pay to antagonize your local dealer.

  But ordinarily, I have not just been called fat by my favorite Barista Boy.

  “Hey, baby,” Reggie says, looking hurt. “There is no call to be offensive.”

  He’s so right. It’s wrong to call Reggie and his friends scum, while referring to those middle-aged men who toil away for the tobacco industry as senators.

  “I’m sorry, Reggie,” I say, meaning it. “You’re right. It’s just that for nine months now, you’ve been trying to hustle me right outside my front door, and for nine months now, I’ve been telling you no. What do you think is going to happen? I’m gonna turn into a raging cokehead overnight? Gimme a break.”

  “Heather.” Reggie sighs, looking toward the thick gray clouds overhead. “I am a businessman. What kind of businessman would I be if I let a young woman like yourself, who is going through a very trying period in her life and could probably use a little pick-me-up, walk by without makin’ an attempt to engage her business?”

  And, to illustrate his meaning, Reggie takes a copy of the New York Post he’s kept tucked under his arm, and opens it to the front page. There, in two-inch letters, screams the headline,It’s On Again, over a black-and-white photo of my ex-fiancé hand in hand with his on-again, off-again bride-to-be, pop princess Tania Trace.

  “Reggie,” I say, after taking a restorative sip of my café mocha. But only because I’m so cold. I don’t actually want it anymore, because it’s covered with the taint of Barista Boy. Well, maybe I still want the whipped cream. Which is sort of good for you. I mean, it’s dairy. And dairy’s an important part of a well-balanced breakfast. “Do you really think I sit around all day fantasizing about getting back together with my ex? Because nothing could be further from the truth.”

  The fact is, I sit around all day fantasizing about getting together with my ex’s brother, who continues to remain stubbornly immune to my charms.

  But there’s no reason my local drug dealer needs to know this.

  “My apologies, Heather,” Reggie says, refolding the paper. “I just thought you’d want to know. This morning on New York One, they said the wedding is still scheduled to go on in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, with the reception at the Plaza this Saturday.”

  I goggle at him. “Reggie,” I say, stunned. “You watch New York One?”

  Reggie looks mildly affronted. “I check the weather, like any New Yorker, before I leave for work.”

  Wow. That is so cute. He watches the weather before leaving for work to deal drugs on my street corner!

  “Reggie,” I say, impressed, “my apologies. I admire your dedication. Not only do you refuse to let the elements keep you from your work, but you’re up on your local gossip. Please go right ahead and keep on trying to sell me drugs.”

  Reggie smiles, showing all of his teeth, many of which are capped—festively—in gold. “Thank you, baby,” he says, as if I have just bestowed on him some very great honor.

  I smile back at him, then continue my slog to my office. I shouldn’t really call it a slog, though. I actually have a very short commute, which is good, since I have a problem getting up on time in the morning. If I lived in Park Slope or the Upper West Side or something, and had to take the subway to work every day, forget it (although, if I lived in Park Slope or the UWS, I’d be required by law to have a child, so it’s just as well). I guess I’m really lucky, in a way. I mean, sure, I can barely afford a café mocha, and thanks to all of the holiday parties I attended, I can’t fit into my size 12 stretch cords unless I’m wearing a pair of Spanx.

  And okay, my ex is about to marry one of People magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People, and I don’t even own my own car, let alone my own home.

  But at least I get to live rent-free in a kick-ass apartment on the top floor of a brownstone two blocks from where I work in the coolest city in the entire world.

  And okay, I only took my job, as the assistant director of a New York College dormitory, in order to get tuition remission benefits and actually attain the BA I lied about already having on my résumé.

  And yeah, all right, so I’m having a little trouble getting into the School of Arts and Sciences due to my SAT score, which was so low that the dean won’t admit me until I take—and pass—a remedial math course, despite my explaining to her that, in lieu of paying rent, I do all the billing for a very cute private detective, and have never once made an accounting error, that I know of.

  But it is useless to expect a cold-hearted bureaucracy—even the one you work for—to treat you as an individual.

  So here I am, at nearly twenty-nine, about to learn the FOIL method for the first time (and let me tell you, I’m having a pretty hard time imagining a situation in which I might actually have to employ it).

  And yeah, I write songs until late into the night, even though I can’t, for the life of me, find the guts to actually sing them in front of anyone.

  But still. My commute only takes two minutes, and I get to see my boss/landlord, on whom I have a major crush, wearing nothing but a towel from time to time as he darts from the bathroom to the laundry room to look for a clean pair of jeans.

  So life’s not too bad. In spite of Barista Boy.

  Still, living super-close to my place of work has its drawbacks, too. For instance, people seem to have no compunction about calling me at home about inconsequential matters, like backed-up toilets or noise complaints. Like just because I live two blocks away, I should be able to come over at any hour to rectify matters my boss, the live-in building director, is supposed to handle.

  But all in all, I like my job. I even like my new boss, Tom Snelling.

  Which is why when I walk into Fischer Hall that arctic morning and find that Tom isn’t there yet, I’m kinda bummed—and not just because that means there’s no one to appreciate the fact that I’d made it in to the office before nine-thirty. No one except Pete, the security guard, who’s on the phone, trying to get through to one of his many children’s principals to find out about a detention one of them has been assigned for.

  And I guess there’s the work-study student manning the reception desk. But she doesn’t even look up as I go by, she’s so engrossed in a copy of Us Weekly she’s stolen from the mail-forwarding bin (Jessica Simpson’s on the cover. Again. She and Tania Trace are neck and neck for Tabloid Skank of the Year).

  It’s not until I turn the corner and pass the elevators that I see the line of undergrads outside the hall director’s office. And I remember, belatedly, that the first day of spring semester is also the first day a lot of kids come back from Winter Break—the ones who didn’t stay in the dorm (I mean, residence hall) to party until classes started again today, the day after Martin Luther King Day.

  And when Cheryl Haebig—a New York College sophomore desperate for a room change because she’s a bubbly cheerleader and her current roommate is a Goth who despises school spirit in all its guises, plus has a pet boa constrictor—leaps up from the institutional blue couch outside my office door and cries, “Heather!” I know I’m in for a morning of headaches.

  Good thing I have my grande café mocha to keep me going.

  The other students—each and every one of whom I recognize, since they’ve been in the office before due to roommate conflicts—scramble up from the cold marble floor on which they’ve been waiting, the couch being only a two-seater. I know what they
’ve been waiting for. I know what they want.

  And it’s not going to be pretty.

  “Look, you guys,” I say, wrestling my office keys out of my coat pocket. “I told you. No room changes until all the transfer students are moved in. Then we’ll see what’s left.”

  “That’s not fair,” exclaims a skinny guy with large plastic disks in his earlobes. “Why should some stupid transfer student get dibs on all the open spaces? We got here first.”

  “I’m sorry,” I say. I really am, because if I could just move them all, I wouldn’t have to listen to their whining anymore. “But you’re going to have to wait until they’ve all checked in. Then, if there are any spaces left, we can move you guys into them. If you can just hang on until next Monday, when we know who’s checked in and who hasn’t shown up—”

  I am interrupted by general moaning. “By next Monday I’ll be dead,” one resident assures another.

  “Or my roommate will,” his friend says. “Because I’ll have killed him by then.”

  “No killing your roommate,” I say, having gotten the office door open and flicked on the lights. “Or yourself. Come on, guys. It’s just another week.”

  Most of them go away, grumbling. Only Cheryl continues to hang around, looking excited as she follows me into my office. I see that she has a mousy-looking girl in tow.

  “Heather,” she says again. “Hi. Listen, remember when you said if I found someone who would swap spaces with me, I could move? Well, I found someone. This is my friend Lindsay’s roommate, Ann, and she said she’d swap with me.”

  I’ve peeled off my coat and hung it on a nearby hook. Now I sink into my desk chair and look at Ann, who appears to have a cold, from the way she’s sniffling into a wadded-up Kleenex. I hand her the box I keep handy in case of Diet Coke spills.

  “You want to trade spaces with Cheryl, Ann?” I ask her, just to make sure. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to live with a person who painted the walls of her side of the room black.