Sweet Sixteen Princess Read online





  She could not be made rude and malicious by the rudeness and malice of those about her.

  “A princess must be polite,” she said to herself.


  Frances Hodgson Burnett



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  Wednesday, April 28, 9 p.m.,

  Albert Einstein High School gymnasium

  “So Lana’s dad rented the sultan of Brunei’s ten-million-dollar yacht for the night, and had Lana and her friends driven out into international waters so they could drink without getting in trouble.”

  This is what Lilly just called to tell me.

  “Lilly,” I whispered. “You know you aren’t supposed to call me on my cell phone. It is for emergency use only.”

  “You don’t think this is an emergency? Mia, Lana’s dad renting the sultan of Brunei’s yacht like that? That is a throwdown. He is basically telling your grandmother to bring it.”

  “I don’t have the slightest idea what you’re talking about.” Because I don’t. “And I have to go. I’m at a PTA meeting, for crying out loud.”

  “Oh, God.” I can hear the soundtrack for Altar Boyz in the background. Ever since Lilly started going out with J. P. Reynolds-Abernathy the Fourth, she has gotten way into soundtracks from musicals, because J. P.’s dad is a theater producer, and J. P. can get free tickets to any Broadway show he wants, and all of the off-Broadway ones, too. And even the off-off-Broadway ones. “I forgot you had to go to that stupid thing. Sorry I’m not there with you. But…well, you know.”

  I did know. Lilly was serving the last week of a grounding her parents instituted after she was brought home by the NYPD for attacking Andy Milonakis—this kid from downtown whose cable access television show was picked up by MTV—with a Dojo’s side salad. Lilly believes Andy’s getting a basic cable deal instead of her is a travesty of justice, because her own local show, Lilly Tells It Like It Is, is so much better (in her opinion), as it isn’t simply entertaining, but also highlights facts she feels her viewers ought to be aware of. Such as the fact that the U.S.’s decision to withhold $34 million from the United Nations Population Fund will lead to two million unwanted pregnancies, 800,000 induced abortions, 4,700 maternal deaths, and 77,000 infant and child deaths worldwide.

  Whereas a typical episode of Andy’s show features him holding a jar of peanut butter in one hand, a jar of salsa in the other, then making the jars dance with each other.

  Lilly is also peeved that Andy is deceiving the American public by allowing them to think he is just a kid, when we both saw him coming out of d.b.a., which is a bar in the East Village that cards. So how did he get in there if he isn’t at least twenty-one?

  This is what she asked him when she saw him eating a falafel at Dojo’s Health Restaurant on St. Marks Place, and why she claims she was forced to hurl her side salad at him, drenching him in tahini dressing, and causing him to call the cops on her.

  Thankfully the Drs. Moscovitz talked Andy’s legal team out of pressing charges, explaining that Lilly has been experiencing some anger issues since their recent separation.

  But that didn’t stop them from grounding her.

  “So how’s the meeting going?” Lilly asked. “Have they gotten to the you-know-what part yet?”

  “I wouldn’t know, because I’m too distracted, talking to YOU,” I whispered. I had to whisper, because I was sitting in a folding chair in the middle of a row of very uptight-looking parents. Being New Yorkers, they were all, of course, very well dressed, with Prada accessories. But being New Yorkers, they were also all angry about the fact that someone was using a cell phone while someone else—namely, Principal Gupta—was up at the podium, speaking. Also, of course, that Principal Gupta was basically saying she couldn’t guarantee that their kids would get into Yale or Harvard, which was making them madder than anything. At $25,000 a year—which is how much tuition at AEHS costs—New York parents expect some return for their investment.

  “Well, I’ll let you go now, so you can get back to work,” Lilly said. “But just FYI: Lana’s dad had her flown in to the yacht on the sultan’s helicopter, so she could make a spectacular entrance.”

  “I hope one of the blades cut her head off as she was getting out of it because she forgot to duck,” I whispered, avoiding the glare of the lady in front of me, who had turned in her seat to give me a dirty look for talking while Principal Gupta was giving everyone some very important information about the percentage of AEHS graduates who get into Ivy League colleges.

  “Well,” Lilly said. “No, that didn’t happen. But I heard her Azzedine Alaïa skirt flew up over her head and everyone saw that she was wearing a thong.”

  “Good-bye, Lilly,” I said.

  “I’m just telling you. Turning sixteen is a big deal. You only do it once. Don’t blow it by having one of your stupid loft parties with the Cheetos and Mr. G as a DJ.”

  “Good-bye, Lilly.”

  I hung up just as the lady in the seat in front of me turned around to hiss, “Would you please put away that—”

  But she never got to finish, because Lars, who was sitting next to me, casually opened his suit jacket, revealing his sidearm. He was only reaching for a Listerine PocketPak, but the sight of his Glock 9 caused the lady’s eyes to widen. She closed her mouth and turned back around in her seat very quickly.

  Having an armed bodyguard follow you around everywhere you go can be a total pain in the butt, particularly when it comes to finding private time with your boyfriend.

  But there are moments, like that one, when it can actually rock.

  Then Principal Gupta asked if there was any outstanding business, and I threw my arm into the air.

  Principal Gupta saw me raise my hand. I know she did.

  But she totally ignored me, and called on some freshman’s mother who wanted to know why the school wasn’t doing more to prepare students for the SATs.

  She went on to ignore me until she’d answered everyone else’s questions. I can’t really say that this shows the kind of commitment to youth-oriented issues I’d like to see in my educators, but who am I to complain? Just the president of the student council, is all.

  Which is why, after Principal Gupta finally called on me, I saw a lot of parents gathering their Gucci briefcases and Zabar’s shopping bags and getting ready to leave. Because who wants to listen to the president of the student council?

  “Um, hi,” I said, uncomfortably aware of the number of gazes—even if they were only half listening—on me. I may be a princess, and all, but I’m still not used to the whole public-speaking thing, despite Grandmère’s best efforts. “I’ve been asked by a number of AEHS students to address the Parent Teacher Association on the issue of our current physical education curriculum, specifically its emphasis on competitive sports. We feel that spending six weeks learning the finer points of volleyball is a waste of our time and our parents’ money. We would prefer our physical education funds be spent on physical education that is just that: education about our physical well-being. We’d like the gymnasium to be converted to an actual fitness center, with weight-training equipment and stationary bikes for spin classes, as well as space for Pilates and t’ai chi. And for our physical education instructor to act as both a personal trainer and health specialist, who will work with each student individually to create a personal workout and health program targeted to th