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The Princess Present (princess diaries)

Meg Cabot

  The Princess Present

  ( Princess Diaries )

  Meg Cabot



  Thursday, March 10, the loft

  I am completely exhausted. I don't know why, when I must already bear the burden of having been born

  a princess-even though I was not aware of it until recently-that I also have been cursed with such a trying


  I mean, it is bad enough that they waited until I was nearly fifteen before letting me in on the whole

  "oh-by-the-way-you're-a-princess" thing. But now they can't even agree on whether or not I can spend

  my Spring Break with the rest of the Albert Einstein High School Gifted and Talented class inWest

  Virginia , volunteering for Housing for the Hopeful.

  As if doing good works for the less fortunate was not what being a princessis all about!

  And okay, I can see how my whole Princess-Di-and-the-landmines argument didn't work onGrandmère

  - who thinks I spend enough time in my overalls as it is- but my MOM? I just spent an hour impressing

  upon my mother Housing for the Hopeful's "theology of the hammer": how partnerships founded on

  common ground- for instance, a lot of people from different cultural, religious, and socioeconomic groups

  getting together to build a house- bridge theological differences by putting caring into action. I mentioned

  how everyone, no matter how uneducated, can use a hammer, turning it into an instrument that manifests

  peace and love.

  My pregnant mom- who was lying on her bed watching Stolen Women: Captured Hearts on the Lifetime

  Movie Channel with a carton ofHäagen-Dazs chocolate-chocolate-chip ice cream balanced on her

  enormous belly (even though she is supposed to be limiting her saturated fat intake to less than twenty

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  grams daily due to her more-than-thirty-pound weight gain in the past half year) - just looked at me and

  asked, "Mia, are you in a cult?"

  OH, MY GOD! Only the extreme hormonal imbalance my mother is going through right now could

  make her believe that my working to provide affordable housing for the poor so that they can live in

  dignity and safety is in any way comparable to religious fanaticism.

  When I mentioned that out loud, however, my mother shrieked, "Frank! Come here, quick! Mia's in a


  Thank God Mr.Gianini came into the bedroom- he'd been in the living room, practicing his drums- and

  explained to my mother in a calm, reasonable voice that Housing for the Hopeful is not a cult, that it is a

  nonprofit, nondenominational organization dedicated to eliminating substandard housing and

  homelessness worldwide. He also said that he himself had volunteered to escort students from Albert

  Einstein the past five Spring Breaks, and that the only reason he hadn't gone this year was on account of

  my mom being pregnant with his unborn child, the sex of which we do not know because my mom says if

  she knows it's a boy she won't have any incentive to push, men being the reason we even need

  organizations like Housing for the Hopeful. Because male politicians make such bad decisions when they

  are elected to public office, such as starting expensive and unnecessary wars before making sure all their

  constituents have decent housing first, etc.

  So then I pointed out to my mom that Tina Hakim Baba, who isn't even inGifted and Talented, and

  whose father owns a bunch of oilwells and is always worried about Tina getting kidnapped by some rival

  oil baron's henchmen, has been given special permission to go. And that LillyMoscovitz , resident school

  genius and my best friend, is going. Ditto her boyfriend, BorisPelkowski , violin virtuoso and mouth


  Then I added that my own boyfriend, Lilly's older brother Michael, is going, as well. I tried not to look

  too eager as I stressed this last piece of information. I mean, really, there's no reason to belabor the fact

  that Michael and I would be together, without parental supervision, in the wilds ofWest Virginia for five

  whole days. I was pretty sure my mom wouldn't be too thrilled if she realized this was the primary reason

  for my wanting to go. I tried to make it sound like my primary reason for my wanting to go was my desire

  to help those less fortunate than me.

  Which is completely, 100 percent true.But also...well, I sort of want to make out with my boyfriend

  without having his parents or my mother or stepfather or grandmother barge in on us.

  I stressed to my mom that the trip is totally a school sanctioned outing, and would be fully supervised by

  Dr. Juan Gonzales, the director of the Northeast Division of Housing for the Hopeful; Albert Einstein

  High School's principal, Principal Gupta; Mrs. Hill from my Gifted and Talented class (not that I am

  gifted or talented, but whatever); Mademoiselle Klein from French; and Mr.Wheeton , the track coach

  and Health and Safety teacher.

  Oh, and that-hello-the Appalachian Mountains are only, like, seven hours away from Manhattan by bus,

  and the whole trip is only for five days, so what is the BIG DEAL????

  But my mom still looked a little skeptical...

  ...until I mentioned thatGrandmère had declared that my wanting to go at all was entirely Mom's fault,

  for enrolling me in such a hippy-dippy school in the first place.

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  When I told Mom that, she got thislook in her eye, and went, "Your grandmother said that? You know

  what, Mia? You can go. Now get out of the way, you're blocking Janine Turner."

  It's a wonder I'm as well adjusted as I am, if you think about everything I have to put up with.

  Well, whatever. After all that arguing, I'M GOING TOWEST VIRGINIA !!!!!!!!! I must summon my

  last ounce of energy to tell my one true love of our impending bliss:

  FTLOUIE: Michael! My mom said I can go!

  LINUXRULZ: Oh, hey, that's great.

  Oh, hey, that's great?That's IT? This is the full extent of Michael's appreciation for all my hard work

  and whining?Oh, hey, that's great? Maybe it just hasn't sunk in yet.

  FTLOUIE: ToWest Virginia ! Where we will be alone AT LAST!

  LINUXRULZ: Well, not really.Because everybody else in G and T is going to be there, too.

  Oh, my God. This is going to be harder than I thought. Michael is obviously not thinking along the same

  lines I am concerning this trip. He is probably looking forward to doing some good for the less fortunate.

  Which I am too, of course.

  But I am also looking forward to making out with my boyfriend under theWest Virginia stars....

  Must work on planting seed of romance in him, so it can come to fruition in time for major make-out

  session in our nation's thirty-fifth state!!!!!!!!

  Friday, March 11, Homeroom

  Lilly is so excited about theWest Virginia trip she can't talk about anything else. But she is excited for a

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  different reason than I am. She is bringing her video camera, and she is going to tape the trip and show it

  later on her public access cable telev
ision program,Lilly Tells It Like It Is. She says it is going to be a

  searing commentary on the inadequacies of our public housing system.

  "You should write something about it, Mia", Lilly just said to me. "You know, something allegorical, like

  about how building a house compares to building an analytic framework for government policy of a small

  European principality likeGenovia . I bet anything they'd put it in the school paper."

  But really Lilly was just rubbing it in that, ever since I discovered that my only talent is that I can write

  things in a semi-entertaining manner and joined the school paper,The Atom, all the editor has let me write

  is the weekly cafeteria menu, since I'm a freshman and I haven't Paid My Dues.

  But even if Icould get LeslieCho to print my story, it's not like I actuallyknow anything about building

  houses. It's not like I am going to be able to contribute anything to the Albert Einstein High School

  student construction team, considering what atalentless freak I am- except maybe for the whole writing

  thing. But what good, under circumstances such as these, is being able towrite? It would be so much

  cooler if I were skilled at using a lathe, or something actuallyuseful to society.

  Maybe I should just face the fact that the only thing I can do moderately well is write, and possibly order

  Chinese food, and that is highly unlikely that I have some kind of hidden talent for hanging drywall and

  that I am going to discover it while building houses for the homeless over Spring Break.

  Although- I am sorry- but if I were a poor person, I would so rather have me than BorisPelkowski build

  my house. Even if the alternative wasno house, I would not want Boris building my house. I know Boris

  is the most gifted person in our whole Gifted and Talented class, but since during a school orchestra

  concert Boris went into the third-floor stairwell so he could practice his solo in private and he ended up

  locking himself out and had to bang on the steel doors for hours before anyone found him. I mean, the

  concert had already ended by then, and everybody had gone home. It was lucky the custodian was still

  on duty or Boris might have been trapped in that stairwell all weekend. Without food or water, he might

  have died, and on Monday when everybody came back to school, all they'd have found was this

  skeleton clutching a violin and wearing a sweater tucked into its pants.

  But that's just my opinion.

  Friday, March 11, Lunch meeting of theAlbertEinsteinHigh School Housing for the Hopeful Brigade

  I am starting to have grave reservations aboutWest Virginia , and not just because Michael hasn't once

  asked me if I am planning on bringing my cherryChapStick (his favorite flavor). I mean, I know there are

  poor people there and all, but it is still inAMERICA , for crying out loud.

  But Dr. Gonzales just gave us this list of things we need to bring with us, and Lilly and Michael and Boris

  and Tina and I are just sitting here, reading it, going,Hello , is this a joke? Like, what is a five-gallon solar

  shower bag? Where would you even buy one of those? And what is with the potassium-rich, non-melting

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  snack items? What are THOSE? What are we going to need potassium for? Don't they have grocery

  stores inWest Virginia ? I mean, can't we just go to the deli and buy a banana?

  Other things we are supposed to bring include:

  Tool belts or cloth nail pouch

  Hammer with claw

  Gloves for handling rough lumber, hammers, shovels, etc

  25-to-30-foot tape measure

  Utility knife

  Wire cutter and/or tin snips to cut bailing and chicken wire

  Small nail puller or cat's claw

  Carpenter's pencil

  Smallsquare : combo, tri, or carpenter's

  Small (short shank), sharp handsaw

  Plumb line (optional)

  Um, hello.I am a princess. I don't have any of these things. Need a scepter? I'm your girl. Nail puller?

  Not so much.

  And hello, you would think they would give us some lessons on, like, gypsum board or whatever, but

  no. Instead, Dr. Gonzales just gave us these release forms that our parents are supposed to sign, saying

  that they won't hold Housing for the Hopeful responsible in the event that we are maimed or killed on the


  Maimed or killed!!!!!

  Tina Hakim Baba just raised her hand and wanted to know why the handout says we need to bring a

  week's supply of wet wipes with us. Dr. Gonzales says because on cloudy days our five-gallon solar

  shower bags might not warm up enough and so we should be prepared either to take a cold shower or

  use wet wipes to clean ourselves.

  Um, excuse me, but do wet wipes even work onb.o .? How am I going to make out with my boyfriend if

  I SMELL?????

  Ireally started panicking when Dr. Gonzales asked us all to turn to page 2 of the handout. That's

  because page 2 said:

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  · Drink plenty of sports drinks, Gatorade, or cranberry juice the week prior to departing. Drink

  the Gatorade provided to you at the worksite to raise your electrolyte and potassium levels.

  · There are a great many flying insects in this climate. You will need insect repellant.

  · Don't pet the local animals since they often carry diseases. Wash your hands immediately if

  you do.

  · Don't drink the shower water or water from the local spigots.

  Don't drink the water or pet the animals?Insect repellant?Gatorade?

  Oh, my God, what have I gotten myself into????????

  Friday, March 11, princess lessons, the Plaza Hotel

  Grandmèrecan't believe Mom is letting me go toWest Virginia . She says she doesn't know who's

  crazier, Mom for letting me go, or me for wanting to go in the first place. She read over the release forms

  and told me she hoped I'd have fun in boot camp.

  "It's not boot camp,Grandmère ," I told her. "It's a nonprofit, nondenominational organization

  dedicated to eliminating substandard housing and homelessness worldwide."

  "Then why,"Grandmère wanted to know, "does it say here that you need to rise every morning at six


  "Because," I said, snatching the forms back from her, "that's probably when they serve breakfast."

  Grandmèreshook her head. "The last time I got up at six A.M. was when the Germans were shelling the

  palace, back during the war. Nothing short of anti-aircraft fire should get a princess out of bed before

  eight. Anything earlier is indecent. It is not too late, Amelia, for you to join me inPalm Springs , where I

  am going to relax from the stress of our daily princess lessons. It isn't easy, you know, teaching a young

  girl all she needs to be regent, day in, day out. Are you sure you don't want to come with me? There's

  no need to wear insect repellant in the desert. And there won't be any wet wipes. Just the beautiful

  crystal waters of the hotel pool, and Belgian waffles from room service..."

  "No!" I yelled, because the waffle part sounded really tempting. I bet nobody at the spa where

  Grandmère is going ha to worry about their potassium level. "I am going to spend my Spring Break doing

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  something good for mankind."And, hopefully, making out with my boyfriend. Oh, yes, and discovering

  that I am a skilled shingle layer. Hey,
you never know. "Remember Prince William? He spent a YEAR

  after high school inChile helping the poor. I'm just going toWest Virginia , and only for five days. I think I

  can gold out for five days of getting up at six A.M."

  Grandmèrejust took a sip of her sidecar and pettedRommel , her semi-bald toy poodle.

  "Suityourself ," she said. "But I hope this doesn't mean you are going to start going about in native

  wear, like those bulky Chilean sweaters Prince William started wearing. You know how wool gives you

  a rash."

  I toldGrandmère they don't wear sweaters inWest Virginia , and she asked what they do wear, then,

  and I had to admit I didn't know. That's when she stabbed a finger at me and went, "Ah ha! I'll tell you

  what they wear inWest Virginia ! Gunnysacks! That's what they wear inWest Virginia !"