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Project Princess, Page 2

Meg Cabot

  FTLOUIE: because Christy takes place in theSmokeyMountains , which are practically the same as theAppalachians , and everybody in it gets typhoid because of the unsanitary conditions, including Christy, and I am just saying, maybe that’s why we’re not supposed to touch the animals….

  LINUXRULZ: Mia, stop worrying so much. If it were really unsafe, do you think Principal Gupta would be going?

  FTLOUIE: Principal Gupta does some very strange things sometimes. Remember when she agreed to play OfficerKrupke in the drama club’s production of West Side Story?

  LINUXRULZ: Mia, instead of obsessing over the possibility of contracting typhoid and/or having to wear a gunnysack, why don’t you try to keep in mind the most important aspect of this whole trip?

  I thought maybe he meant the fact that we were going to get to make out beneath theWest Virginia stars.

  But since that seemed unlikely, given our last few conversations, I decided he must mean the whole thing where I might possibly find out that I am good at something besides recording every single last detail of my existence in this diary, which is not exactly a worthwhile skill.

  But when I realized he couldn’t possibly mean that, because I hadn’t mentioned my secret fantasy that it

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  turns out I am an excellent plasterer, or whatever. So instead I wrote: FTLOUIE: You mean the part where we are helping the poor to self-actualize?

  LINUXRULZ: No, I mean the part where you and I get to spend five whole days together without any interference from your grandmother.

  Oooooh! So he is catching on, after all!!!

  Michael’s right. Who cares about typhoid when there’s kissing ?

  Saturday, March 12, 5:30 a.m., on the bus toWest Virginia Well, the kissing hasn’t started yet.

  That’s because before we’d even gotten to the Lincoln Tunnel, Boris got carsick and had to throw up in a paper bag, and Lilly said no way was she sitting by him anymore, and told Michael to move so she could sit by me, and when Michael said no, Boris threw up some more, only this time he missed the paper bag, and it went all over the floor, and Principal Gupta and Mrs. Hill had to clean it up, but they didn’t do a very good job on account of not having any paper towels or anything, so we all had to move to the back of the bus, away from vomit fumes, and Michael was the only one who volunteered to stay with Boris and make sure that next time he threw up in the bag.

  My boyfriend is so cool. Not only is he incredibly smart and a very talented musician and skilled with computers and an excellent kisser and all of that, but he is also extremely compassionate. Maybe he will be a doctor someday, and discover a cure for cancer. I certainly hope so, because that’s the only way theGenovian Parliament is going to approve me marrying him.

  I am not worried, though. Michael is a man among men, and will doubtlessly do something extraordinary with his life that will win the hearts of theGenovian people, just as he has won mine. If only I had as many useful talents as Michael does. It would be nice if I could play the guitar and knew html.

  Anyway, even though I offered to sit up in the front of the bus with Michael and help him pass paper bags to Boris, he said, just like Daniel Day-Lewis in The Last of the Mohicans, “No, Mia, save yourself,” so now Lilly, Tina, and I are all crammed into one seat until we get to the first rest stop on the N.J. Turnpike and the bus driver can give the floor a good hosing. Principal Gupta says as soon as we pull over, she is going to buy some Dramamine and make Boris take it. Boris says Dramamine makes him

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  drowsy and robs him of his personality.

  I can’t wait.

  Anyway, Lilly has already started filming. She got a very good close-up of the vomit. She started filming at five A.M., which is the time everybody had to be atAlbertEinsteinHigh School with all of our stuff in order to catch the bus. Everybody had a lot of stuff, especially considering that this trip will only last five days.

  The person with the least luggage is Lars. Even though I lobbied very hard not to be accompanied on this trip by my royal bodyguard, m dad insisted. He said he wasn’t thrilled about my going in the first place- Dad wants me to spend every vacation I get inGenovia - but since Mom had already said I could, he wouldn’t contradict her. He wouldn’t, however, allow me to go without protection from would-be kidnappers. All of my arguing that Tina was getting to go sans personal security system – Mr. Hakim Baba has no enemies, it turns out, in West Virginia, and soWahim gets a well-earned vacation…only he’s not as happy about it as you would think, since it means Lars gets Mademoiselle Klein all to himself…well, and Mr.Wheeton – seemed to fall on deaf ears. Lars was going, my dad said, and that’s it.

  At least Lars travels light. All he brought is one small duffel bag. I asked Lars where his sleeping bag and pillow were, and he just smiled. I hope he does not think he is sharing mine. I love my bodyguard, but not that much.

  Anyway, Lilly is filming everything on the bus so we won’t forget a thing. She took a good long shot of the sign hanging over the bus driver’s head. The sign says: I AM YOUR BUS DRIVER,CHARLIE.



  While we were stuck in traffic in front of the Lincoln Tunnel, Lilly asked us what we thought Charlie would do if Principal Gupta suddenly threw herself across the yellow line.

  “Because Charlie is safe and reliable,” Tina said, “he would probably go, ‘Miss! Stay behind the yellow line!’

  “Yes,” I agreed. “But because he is also courteous, he’d probably put it like, ‘Please, miss! Stay behind the yellow line! Thank you!’”

  For some reason, this made us laugh until we felt like throwing up ourselves.

  Only six and a half more hours to go until we get there.

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  Saturday, March 12,10 a .m., somewhere along theNew Jersey Turnpike Michael and I are finally sitting together, but we are not making out yet, because Michael does not believe in public displays of affection, because, as he says, Some Things Are Private.

  Which I fully understand and appreciate.I mean, it is not like I want him to go aroundFrenching me in the caf , or whatever.

  But you know, holding hands wouldn’t hurt.

  On the other hand, it is sort of uncomfortable to hold hands for any extended period of time. Mine always starts getting all sweaty. My hand, I mean. Michael’s doesn’t. His hands are never sweaty.

  Maybe on account of him being a musician and all.

  Maybe I am suffering from a genetic mutation. I mean, on top of my flat-chestednessand lack-of-useful-skill-ism. Maybe I’ve got an extra-sweaty-hand chromosome, or something.

  Anyway, Charlie, being safe, courteous, and reliable, hosed down Boris barf when we got to the Molly Pitcher Service Area, and then we all got back on board, and with the windows down, you really can’t smell it that much. Principal Gupta gave Boris a good dose of Dramamine, and now he is unconscious with his head lolling against Lilly’s shoulder. I guess he wasn’t kidding about motion-sickness medicine causing him to lose his personality. We should give him some every day, if you ask me.

  Still, even though Boris spent most of the beginning of the trip barfing, that hasn’t stopped him and Lilly from being the first couple to get caught making out. The were first spotted sucking face in the Roy Rogers at the rest stop, and a sharp rebuke from Principal Gupta caused them to spring apart.

  But just recently I looked toward the back of the bus, and they were at it again! Those two can’t keep their hands off each other!!!

  I wish Michael would look back there, and realize maybe a little PDA couldn’t hurt…

  Oh, my God, I am so tired. And my hair smells a little like Boris’s barf. I can’t wait until we get there, and I can wash my hair, and then all the kissing can start.

  Saturday, March 12, 5 p.m., Hominy Knob, WestVirginia

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  We’re here. We finally arrived, and Charlie unloaded our bags, and then we had to pick them up and carry them to…

  OUR TENTS!!!!!!!!!

  YES!!!!!!!!! TENTS!!!!!! WE ARE SUPPOSED TO STAY IN TENTS!!!!!!!!!!!!

  I realized, of course, that we’d be sleeping intents, I saw pictures of them in the brochure.

  But the tents in the brochure had, like, wooden floors, and were raised off the ground. These tents have no wood supports at all. And they are RIGHT ON THE GROUND. WHERE THERE ARE ALSO


  I have never slept in a tent in my life. Seriously, I am not trying to be a princess about this, but, I mean, what about bears? And don’t tell me there are no bears around here, because we are SURROUNDED

  by woods, there is NOTHING but woods in West Virginia, and yeah, Principal Gupta keeps going on about how beautiful it is, and look at the mountains and smell the clean, fresh air, but hello????


  And didn’t she ever see The Blair Witch Project? I mean, I will admit I watched that entire movie with my eyes closed, but it SOUNDED really scary, and I believe it took place, um, where? OH YES, THE


  This is it. We are all so dead.

  Lars says not to worry, that he will make sure no wild animals or serial killers get into the tent Lilly and Tina and I are sharing. But I don’t know. That’s what the people in The Blair Witch Project did, and look what happened to them! All they founded of that one guy was his finger! I do not want to find Lars’s finger! I do not want to loseLars, he is an excellent bodyguard with a good sense of humor. Plus he doesn’t mind when Michael and I make out. Do you know how rare that is in a bodyguard????

  Anyway,West Virginia itself isn’t so bad. So far we haven’t met one person wearing a gunnysack or playing the banjo in a menacing way. Everybody looks…well, just like people inNew York . We haven’t met our “host family” yet. The way it works is, we are all split into groups, and then each group is assigned to a host family, and then they work on that family’s house. I was very scared about the group thing, like, that I might get assigned to a group away from all my friends, where I wouldn’t know anybody. But fortunately, you get to pick your own group. So Michael, Lilly, Boris, Tina, Mrs. Hill, Lars, me, Dr. Gonzales, and this one boy, PeterTsu , who is a junior and is on the wrestling team, are all in one group.

  I feel kind of sorry for our host family, to tell you the truth. Because I mean, except for Dr. Gonzales and possibly PeterTsu – who I don’t know anything about – none of us has ever built anything before. Some of us have never even held a hammer before.

  Our host family’s house has a fair chance of ending up looking like complete crap.

  Oh, God, there’s the bell. We are supposed to gather in the “dining tent” now for orientation and supper. I am having grave reservations about all of this. I mean, besides the tents and the whole thing where we are probably going to end up ruining our host family’s chances of getting decent housing, there

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  is the fact that they have separated the girls’ tents from the boys’ tents – which is going to make it VERY

  difficult to find a place private enough to suit Michael’s sensibilities for any make-out session that might lie in our future – with – I shudder to write it – Port-O-Lets!

  Yes!!!!! That is right!!!!!! There are not even any working indoor toilets – at least until we install our hostfamily’s . We have to use Port-O-Lets!

  And don’t even get me started on the whole shower thing. The need for solar shower bags came into startling clarity when I saw the shower area, which is just a bunch oftarped -off stalls with hooks to hang your shower bag from.

  It looks like it’s going to be wet wipes the whole way, as it is drizzling steadily and there is not a hint of sun.

  And you can’t wash the smell of barf out of your hair with wet wipes. Believe me, I tried.

  The bell again.Got to go.Must find a place to hide this journal so the bears/serial killers/ Blair Witch won’t find it while I am gone.

  I really should try to get used to all this, because if I ever want to volunteer with Greenpeace and help save the whales, the living conditions could be even worse.

  Saturday, March 12, 9 p.m., Hominy Knob, WestVirginia We met our host family. They are Angie and ToddHarmeyer and their two children, three-year-old Mitchell and two-year-old Stefano. I swear that is the baby’s name.Stefano. There is another baby on the way, too. Mrs.Harmeyer is due in a month, though if you ask me, she looks like she could blow at any moment.

  Mrs.Harmeyer has a job sweeping up hair at a beauty salon in downtown Hominy Knob, which consists of a grocery store, a credit union, a hardware store, a consignment shop, and the beauty salon. Mr.

  Harmeyer has been unemployed since the local tire factory burned down. Both Mr. and Mrs.Harmeyer are very excited about their new house. They have been living in a trailer since they got married. Mitchell is especially excited about the prospect of having his own room. Right now, he has to sleep in the same bed as his mom and dad.

  After we met theHarmeyers , and we were all standing in line to get our dinner – salad, corn on the cob, sloppyjoes (being vegetarian, I just took a bun of some of the vegetables), string beans, and cherry cobbler, for desert – Mrs.Harmeyer asked me if it was true about my being a princess and the tall guy behind me being my bodyguard, and I said it was true.

  “Well,whatchadoin ’spendin ’ your Spring Break around here, then, if you’re a princess?” Mrs.

  Harmeyer wanted to know. “If I were a princess, I’d spend my Spring Break inCabo San Lucas,ridin ’

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  on one of them jet skis.”

  I explained to Mrs.Harmeyer that I had been compelled to join Housing for the Hopeful instead of spending my Spring Break riding on jet skis out of a keen sense of civic duty and a desire to learn new skills.

  Mrs.Harmeyer just looked at me funny and went, “What?”

  So then I told Mrs.Harmeyer I was there to make out with my boyfriend. She looked really interested then and wanted to know which of the guys in line was mine, and when I pointed to Michael she went, “

  Ooooeee, he’s a looker,” which filled me with internal pride but also made me feel like smacking her.

  So then I thought I had better change the subject, and asked Mrs.Harmeyer if she knew the sex of her unborn child yet. Mrs.Harmeyer surprised me by saying she didn’t want to know, since if it was another boy, she knew she’d never push.

  I was shocked to hear a woman in West Virginia echoing the exact same thing my mom back in New York City is always saying, and I asked Mrs.Harmeyer if she, like my mom, was an opponent to the cult of the patriarchy, to which Mrs.Harmeyer replied, “Gosh, no, I just want somebody I can buyBarbies for, instead of G.I. Joes.”

  After informing Mrs.Harmeyer that I fully understood her feelings, I took my food and went and sat down by Michael. Lilly was at out table, too, filming everyone. She filmed all the Hominy Knob locals who filed curiously past our table, pausing occasionally to ask me where my tiara was ( answer: “Back in New York”), what it felt like to be a princess (“Okay”) and why on earth I’d come to Hominy Knob (“To achieve self-actualization through selflessly helping others”). I didn’t think the locals – aside from Mrs.Harmeyer – would appreciate hearing about my desire to suck face with my boyfriend.

  After dinner, Lilly declared she had enough footage for a miniseries, let alone a single episode of her show. She decided she was going to have to do a month-long tribute to Hominy Knob on her cable access show. She decided to call the documentary “Sour Mash and Medicaid: The Failure of the Federal Government
to Ease the Burden of the Rural Poor.”

  It will, she says, bring the current administration to its knees.

  After dinner, Dr. Gonzales talked for a while, but I didn’t pay much attention because I was thinking about the Port-O-Lets. Now I know why we’d been instructed to bring flashlights. There are no lights in the Port-O-Lets, so if you have to go in the middle of the night, you have to use your flashlight to see by.

  What’s more, there’s no telling what else might be sharing that Port-O-Lets with you. I mean, if you ask me, it’s the perfect hangout for spiders, possibly black widow spiders whose bite can be deadly.At least according to the Discovery Channel.

  I am definitely bringing my insect repellant with me to the bathroom every time I have to go.

  It was after Dr. Gonzales’s long, boring talk that things really started to look up. That’s because, walking back to our tents, Michael took my hand (it was dark out, so no one saw), then pulled me behind a tree and started kissing me in a highly romantic manner. It definitely took my mind off the Port-O-Lets for a little while. Good thing I had my cherryChapStick handy.

  But then Michael was like, “What’s that smell?” and I sniffed and realized he was talking about my hair, which still smelled like Boris barf.

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  Why didn’t I bring anyFebreze with me? WHY?

  Anyway, the barf smell kind of ruined the mood. Besides, you couldn’t even see any stars, it was drizzling so much.

  Oh, no.The “lights out” bell. We have to turn out our flashlights now, and go to sleep. I don’t know how anyone can be expected to sleep out here in the wilderness. There are all sorts of weird noises, like hooting owls and crickets and stuff. At least we don’t have to worry about bears, though. Lars opened his duffel bag and pulled out a pup tent, complete with an inflatable air mattress, and set it up right in front of our door. While this will make going to the Port-O-Lets in the middle of the night slightly difficult- and will also, sadly, discourage any nocturnal visitations from boys – it makes me happy to know that Lars is out there with hisGlock9 mm and hisnunchaks …even if he, like the rest of us, can’t sleep due to the incredibly noisy owls.