Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

Princess on the Brink

Meg Cabot


  Princess ON THE BRINK


  For Abby, with love and thanks

  “I suppose”—to Sara—“that you feel now that you are a princess again.” “I tried not to be anything else,” she answered in a low voice. “Even when I was coldest and hungriest. I tried not to be.”


  Frances Hodgson Burnett










  Begin Reading


  A Screenplay by Mia Thermopolis

  (first draft)

  Scene 12

  INT/DAY—The Palm Court at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. A flat-chested girl with upside-down-yield-sign-shaped hair (fourteen-year-old MIA THERMOPOLIS) is sitting at an ornately set table across from a bald man (her father, PRINCE PHILLIPE). We can tell by MIA’s expression that her father is telling her something upsetting.


  You’re not Mia Thermopolis anymore, honey.


  (blinking with astonishment)

  I’m not? Then who am I?


  You’re Amelia Mignonette Grimaldi Thermopolis Renaldo, Princess of Genovia.

  Tuesday, September 7, Intro to Creative Writing

  Oh, she has GOT to be kidding. Describe a room? That is our first assignment? DESCRIBE A ROOM? Does she have any idea how long I’ve been describing rooms creatively? I mean, I’ve described rooms in SPACE—for instance, in my Battlestar Galactica fan fic about Starbuck and Apollo finally Doing It.

  You know what I can’t believe? I can’t believe she stuck me in Intro to Creative Writing. I should be in Intermediate at least. I mean, with my practice PSAT scores—which, okay, were about as low as they could be in math, but were GREAT in verbal—I should have tested into it.

  And okay, the SATs don’t measure creativity (unless we’re supposed to believe that those people grading the essay part really read them).

  But my verbal score alone should prove that I’m capable of describing a ROOM. Doesn’t she know I’ve moved on from describing rooms—and even from writing novels—to writing whole screenplays?

  Because Lilly is totally right, there’s no other way I’m ever going to get a true representation of the story of my life onto the silver screen unless I write it myself. And Lilly directs it. I know it’s going to be tricky finding financing and all, but J.P. said he’d help. And he knows TONS of people in Hollywood. Just the other day he and his parents had dinner with Steven Spielberg’s cousin.

  Why can’t Ms. Martinez see that by putting me in Intro to Creative Writing instead of Intermediate, where I belong, she is repressing my artistic growth? How is the blossom of my creativity ever going to be able to bloom if no one WATERS it?

  Describe a room. Okay, here’s a room for you, Ms. Martinez:

  The four stone walls press narrowly against one another, glistening with moisture dripping from the low ceiling. The only light that filters in comes from the single tiny barred window near the ceiling. The only furnishings are a narrow cot with a thin mattress made of striped ticking, and a bucket. The purpose for the bucket is made obvious by the stench emanating from it. Is that what is attracting the rats that lurk in the shadowed corners, their pink noses quivering?


  Mia, when I said describe a room, I meant describe a room you know well. While I’m certain dungeons like the one you’re describing do exist in your palace in Genovia, I highly doubt you’ve spent much time there. Furthermore, I happen to know from my membership in Amnesty International that Genovia is not on the watch list for inhuman treatment of prisoners, which leads to my next question: When is the last time the dungeons in your palace were even used? And I believe a man as forward thinking as your father would have installed a proper sewage system in the palace by now, making thee need for buckets for human waste obsolete.

  —C. Martinez

  Tuesday, September 7, English

  MIA!!!! Aren’t you EXCITED???? It’s a whole new school year! We’re JUNIORS!!! JUST ONE YEAR AWAY FROM RULING THE SCHOOL!!!! Oh, your hair looks great, by the way.—T

  Do you really think so, Tina? About my hair? Mom and I took Rocky to Astor Place Hairstylists yesterday for his first haircut, since it was the only place open, seeing as how it was Labor Day. He wouldn’t stop screaming bloody murder about it, so I volunteered to let them trim mine first, to show him it didn’t hurt. I have to admit, I was kind of startled when they got the clippers out!

  I think it’s great. You look just like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday! What did Michael say when he saw it????

  I haven’t seen him since I got back from Genovia. We’re meeting at Number One Noodle Son tonight though. I can’t WAIT!!! He says he has something VERY IMPORTANT he needs to tell me, that he can’t tell me over the phone or IM.

  What do you think it is???? And Number One Noodle Son? That’s a little out of his neighborhood, isn’t it? Isn’t he moved into the dorm yet?

  No, not yet. Something about his housing. I think that’s what he wants to tell me. Maybe he’s getting his own apartment or something.

  OH MY GOD!!! Can you imagine if he had his own place???? No roommates to burst in on you. And his own kitchen!!! He could make you romantic dinners!!!!!

  I don’t KNOW if that’s what it is. He was very vague about it on the phone.

  He better be getting his own place. What does he think, you’re going to make out at his parents’ place, in front of Lilly…not to mention his MOM????

  Ha. Although Michael’s mom probably wouldn’t even notice, she spends so much time up at Michael’s dad’s apartment.

  Are the Drs. Moscovitz getting back together???

  I hope so! Michael says they’ve started “dating.” Each other!

  Well, that’s better than if they were dating other people, I guess. Still, they might as well just get back together, in that case. Save money on rent. God, I’m glad my parents just ignore each other, like a normal couple.

  Totally. Speaking of hair, what do you think of Lilly’s highlights?

  She says J.P. prefers blondes. I don’t know. I never thought LILLY would be someone who’d change how she looks for a GUY. J.P. must be a total sexual dynamo.

  TINA!!!! They haven’t Done It!!!!!

  Oh. I just assumed.

  OH MY GOD. WHY????

  Well, he DID go to her place in Albany that weekend.

  Whatever, that was just because his parents were checking out some summer stock companies upstate! If they’d Done It, she’d have told us. I mean, don’t you think she’d have told us?

  She’d have told you, maybe. She’d never tell ME. Lilly thinks I’m a goody-two-shoes.

  She does not!!!!

  Yes, she does. But that’s okay. I AM a goody-two-shoes. I don’t even want to SEE It. Let alone Touch It. Could you imagine having one? I’d die. Do you think Lilly’s touched J.P.’s?

  NO WAY!!!! She’d have told me. I mean, it’s true I haven’t seen her since I got back from Genovia for the summer. But still. She’d have told me if she’d…you know. At least I think so…

  She touched Boris’s.


  Well, I didn’t want to know either!!!! Boris told me!!!!


  Because of that book my aunt gave me—you know, Your Precious Gift.

  Oh, righ
t. That one about how your virginity is a precious gift you should only give to the person you marry, because you can only give it once, and you don’t want to give it to someone who won’t value it.

  Yeah. Only the book doesn’t say anything about what you’re supposed to do if after you marry the person you find out that he’s gay, something you might have known before you went to all the expense of a wedding if you hadn’t waited. But whatever. Boris saw thee book on my shelf and was worried I might be upset that Lilly had touched it before I did. Even though he’s still, you know. A virgin. It was just touching.

  Did she touch it OVER or UNDER the pants?


  I’m sorry, Tina. I know Boris is your boyfriend. But I am totally going to throw up now.

  I know. Let’s face it, Mia. You and I are going to be the Last Virgins at Albert Einstein High.

  Wow. That sounds like the title of a book.

  You should totally write it!!!! THE LAST VIRGINS.

  —Two girls cursed with Israeli-trained bodyguards, paid by their fathers to protect their daughters’ precious gifts…with their lives!

  No man shall know them—UNTIL PROM NIGHT!!!!

  Oops, Sperry’s looking this way. I guess we should pay attention. Do you have any idea what she’s talking about?

  Who cares? This is way more interesting.

  Totally. So…you really think she’s touched J.P.’s, too?

  I already told you! I think they full-on Did It!

  No. She’d have told me. Don’t you think she’d have told me?

  You’re the one who’s known her since first grade or whatever. Only you would know the answer to that. But she IS blond now.

  Hey! I’m blond! And I still have my Precious Gift!

  Oh, yeah. Sorry. I forgot.

  Tuesday, September 7, French

  I can’t believe Tina thinks Lilly and J.P. Did It over the summer. That is just ridiculous. Lilly would TOTALLY have told me if she had given away her Precious Gift.

  Wouldn’t she?

  Besides, J.P. still hasn’t even said the L word to her. Would Lilly really have sex for the first time with someone who hasn’t even admitted he loves her? I mean, she’s told him she loves him, like, nine million times, and all he ever says is Thank you. Or sometimes I know.

  But Lilly thinks that’s just his way of paying homage to Han Solo.

  It’s pretty obvious J.P. has intimacy issues. I mean, he and Lilly have been going out for six months now. And he still doesn’t even refer to her as his girlfriend. He just calls her Moscovitz.

  Michael used to call me Thermopolis. But that was BEFORE we started going out.

  Would Lilly have sex with someone who calls her Moscovitz and introduces her to people as his “friend,” and not his “girlfriend”?

  No way. Not Lilly.

  Although she did go blond. She SAYS it’s because one of the producers who optioned her TV show told her that having light hair around her face makes her features look less irregular.

  But it’s no secret that J.P. likes blondes. I mean, Keira Knightley is, like, his dream girl. He’s the only guy I know who sat through Pride & Prejudice as many times as Lilly and Tina and I did. I thought it was just because he admired the screen adaptation, but later he even admitted it was because he admired a certain tall, skinny blonde (which is weird because Keira wasn’t even blond in that movie).

  Poor Lilly. She can lose weight and dye her hair, but she’ll never STRETCH. At least, not to be five-seven, like Keira.

  Hey, I wonder if THAT’s what Michael wants to talk to me about tonight at dinner…that he found out Lilly and J.P. Did It!

  God, that BETTER not be it. If Lilly Did It and she told Michael, I will never freaking hear the end of it.

  Oh, great. We’re supposed to décrire un soir amusant avec les amis in 200 words.

  Un autre soir palpitant, et mes camarades et moi nous nous sommes installés devant la télé. Les choix ont paru interminable, les chaines, san fin. Avec le cable, n’impote quoi a été possible. Et qu’est-ce que nous avons vu? La chaine des nouvelles? La chaine des sports? La chaine des “rock-videos”? Non—la chaine douze. Oui! La chaine religieuse et ridicule—

  61 words. 139 to go.

  I passed Lana in the hallway on the way to this class. She hasn’t changed a bit over summer break, except, if possible, to get snottier.

  Oh, and she seems to have acquired a tiny clone, some Lana Wannabe who looks exactly like her, but is just a little shorter.

  Anyway, as I went by, Lana looked at my head, elbowed her clone, and started laughing.

  “Look, it’s Peter Pan!” she yelled, for everyone in the hallway to hear.

  It’s good to know that, however Lana spent her summer, she managed to retain the charm and wit she is so widely known for throughout Albert Einstein High.

  Do I really look like Peter Pan with this haircut?

  Est-ce que je vraiment ressemble Peter Pan dans cette coupe de cheveux?

  Tuesday, September 7, Lunch

  TOTALLY grabbed Lilly by the taco bar and asked her if she and J.P. Did It over the summer.

  Her very unsatisfactory answer: “Do you really think if I did I’d tell YOU, Bigmouth Bass?”

  I have to admit, this hurt. I have faithfully kept every secret she ever told me. I never told about the time she snuck her mother’s copy of The Happy Hooker out of the apartment and brought it to school in the fifth grade, and read the sex parts out loud to us at recess, did I?

  And what about that time she told Norman, her stalker, that if he got her tickets to see Avenue Q she’d send him her Steve Madden platform flip-flops, and Norman got her the tickets but she never sent him the shoes, because she’s never even owned a pair of Steve Madden platform flip-flops?

  And I never told anyone how Lilly threw my Strawberry Shortcake doll on the roof of her parents’ country house and I never saw it again until the next summer when Michael was cleaning out the gutters and he threw it down into the yard and poor Strawberry’s eyes had been chewed out by squirrels and her hair was all moldy and her face had been melted by the sun into a silent scream. Even though the sight of it emotionally scarred me for life. I really loved that doll.

  But I didn’t want Lilly to see how much her comment hurt me, so I just shrugged and said, “Whatever. I know you touched Boris you-know-where. He told Tina.”

  But Lilly, instead of gagging, as would have been the proper response, just looked up at the ceiling and said, “You are so juvenile.”

  “Seriously, Lilly.” I couldn’t help but let a little of the hurt I felt creep into my voice. “I can’t believe you didn’t tell me.”

  “Because it was no big deal,” Lilly said.

  “No big deal? You TOUCHED one.”

  “Do we really have to discuss this in the middle of the caf?” Lilly wanted to know.

  “Well, where else are we going to discuss it? Back at the lunch table, in front of your BOYFRIEND?”

  “All right,” Lilly said, turning back to the taco bar. “So I touched one. What do you want to know about it?”

  I couldn’t believe we were having this discussion over vats of sour cream and shredded cheddar cheese. But it was Lilly’s fault. She couldn’t have brought it up at one of our slumber parties, like a normal girl. Oh, no, not Lilly. She had to keep it this giant secret, until BORIS, of all people, spilled the beans.

  The thing is, even though it was totally embarrassing and sort of gross and all…I really wanted to know.

  I know. It’s sick. But I did.

  “Well,” I said. Fortunately there was no one else around, as everyone seemed to be going for the stir fry. “For starters, what did it feel like?”

  Lilly just shrugged. “Skin.”

  I stared at her. “That’s all? Just…skin?”

  “Um, that’s what it’s made out of,” Lilly said. “What would you expect it to feel like?”

  “I don’t know,” I said. It’s kind of hard to judge thes
e things through layers of denim. Especially button-fly. That is a lot of rivets. “In Tina’s romance novels, they always say it feels like molten satin over a steel rod of desire.”

  Lilly considered this. Then she shrugged again and went, “Well, yeah. That, too.”

  “Okay,” I said. “I’m officially going to throw up.”

  “Well, don’t do it in the guacamole. Will you go away now?”

  “No,” I said. “What does Michael want to talk to me about at Number One Noodle Son?”

  “Probably,” Lilly said, “that he wants you to Touch It.”

  When I lifted the serving spoon from the sour cream and aimed it at her, she shrieked and said, laughing, “Seriously, I don’t know. I’ve barely seen him this summer, he’s been so busy with his stupid electrical engineering project.”

  So I put the spoon down. I knew she was telling the truth. Michael had been busy with his Advanced Topics in Control Theory course, which he explained to me, when I asked what the heck that meant, was all about robots. His final project for the class had been a robotic arm that could be used to help perform closed-chest, beating heart surgery, “the ultimate goal,” Michael had said, “in the robotic surgery field.”