A princess on Another Planet


НазваниеA princess on Another Planet
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Дата публикации28.06.2013
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^ A Free Man in Paris
June 20th, I write.

I press my knuckles to my lips and look out the window.

Amtrak train. Dad, Missy, and Dorrit take me to the station to wave good-bye. I kept saying Missy and Dorrit didn't have to come. I kept saying it was no big deal. I kept saying I was only going for the summer. But we were all nervous, stumbling over one another in an attempt to get me out the door. It's not like it's 1893 and I'm going to China or anything, but we sure as hell acted like it.

And then we were standing on the rickety platform, trying to make small talk. "Do you have the address?" my dad asked for the umpteenth time.

"Yes, Dad. I wrote it down in my address book." Just to make sure, I take the address book out of my Carrie bag, and read the entry out loud: "Two forty-five East Forty-seventh Street."

"And money. You have money?"

"Two hundred dollars."

"That's only for an emergency. You won't spend it all in one place?"

"No."

"And you'll call when you get there?"

"I'll try." I'll try--but my words are drowned out by the long, slow holler of the approaching train as the speaker crackles to life. "Eleven-oh-three train to Penn Station New York, and Washington, D.C., arriving in approximately one minute--"

"Good-bye, good-bye"--hugs all around as the giant locomotive rolls slowly down the tracks, wheels screeching like a hundred crows--"good-bye, good-bye"--as my father heaves my suitcase up the steps and I clap my hat to my head--"good-bye, good-bye"--the train starts with a jerk, the doors close and my heart heaves to the bottom of my stomach--"good-bye, good-bye"--relief.

I make my way down the aisle swaying like a drunken sailor. New York, I think, as I plop down onto a cracked red leather seat and take out my journal.

Yesterday, I said good-bye to all my friends. Maggie, Walt, The Mouse, and I met at the Hamburger Shack for one final hamburger with sauteed onions and peppers. Walt's not working there anymore. He got a job at a law office, answering phones. His father said that even though he couldn't forgive Walt for being gay, he was willing to overlook it if he was successful. The Mouse is going to her government camp in Washington, and Maggie is going to Hilton Head for the summer, where her sister and brother-in-law have rented a cottage. Maggie's going to help out with their kids, and no doubt hook up with a few lifeguards along the way.

I heard Lali is going to the University of Hartford, where she's planning to study accounting.

But there was one person I still had to see.

I knew I should have let it go.

I couldn't.

I was curious. Or maybe I had to see for myself that it was truly over. I needed proof that he absolutely did not love me and never had.

On Saturday evening around seven, I drove by his house. I didn't expect him to be home. I had worked up this idea in my head that I would leave him a note, saying I was going to New York and I hoped he would have a good summer. I convinced myself it was the right thing to do--the polite thing--and would somehow make me the bigger person.

His car was in the driveway.

I told myself I wouldn't even knock. I would leave the note on the windshield of his car.

But then I heard music coming from the house. The screen door was open, and suddenly I just had to see him one last time.

I knocked.

"Yup?" His voice, slightly annoyed, came from the recesses of the family room.

I knocked again.

"Who is it?" he demanded, this time with more irritation.

"Sebastian?" I called out.

And then he was there, staring at me from behind the screen door. I'd like to say he no longer affected me, that seeing him was a disappointment. But it wasn't true. I felt as strongly about him as I had on that first day I'd seen him in calculus class.

He looked surprised. "What's up?"

"I came to say good-bye."

"Oh." He opened the door and stepped outside. "Where are you going?"

"New York. I got into that writing program," I said in a rush. "I wrote you a note. I was going to leave it on your car, but..." I took out the folded piece of paper and handed it to him.

He scanned it quickly. "Well." He nodded. "Good luck."

He crumpled up the note and handed it back to me.

"What are you doing? For the summer, I mean," I asked quickly, suddenly desperate to keep him there, for at least a moment longer.

"France," he said. "Going to France." And then he grinned. "Wanna come?"

I have this theory: If you forgive someone, they can't hurt you anymore.

The train rattles and shakes. We pass hollow buildings scrawled with graffiti, billboards advertising toothpaste and hemorrhoid cream and a smiling girl in a mermaid outfit pointing at the words, "CALL ME!" in capital letters. Then the scenery disappears and we're going through a tunnel.

"New York City," the conductor calls out. "Penn Station."

I close my journal and slip it into my suitcase. The lights inside the car flicker on and off, on and off, and then black out altogether.

And like a newborn child, I enter my future in darkness.

An escalator that goes on forever. And then an enormous space, tiled like a bathroom, and the sharp smell of urine and sweet warm sweat. Penn Station. People everywhere.

I stop and adjust my hat. It's one of my grandmother's old numbers, with a long green plume and a small net. For some reason, I thought it was appropriate. I wanted to arrive in New York wearing a hat.

It was part of my fantasy.

"Watch where you're going!"

"Get out of the way."

"Do you know where you're going?" This from a middle-aged lady wearing a black suit and an even blacker scowl.

"The exit? Taxis?" I ask.

"That way," she says, pointing to yet another escalator that seems to rise straight up into nothingness.

I get on, balancing my suitcase behind me. A man, weaving this way and that, comes up behind me--striped pants, jaunty cap, eyes hidden behind dark green glass in gold-rimmed sunglasses. "Hey, little girl, you look lost."

"I'm not," I say.

"You sure?" he asks. "I got a real sweet place you can stay, real nice place, hot shower and pretty clothes. Let me help you with that bag, honey, that looks real heavy--"

"I have a place to stay. Thank you." He shrugs and walks away with a rolling gait.

"Hey! Hey," someone yells impatiently. "You want a taxi or not? I don't have all day here--"

"Yes, please," I say breathlessly, hauling my suitcase across the sidewalk to a yellow cab. I plunk the suitcase onto the curb, place my Carrie handbag on top of it, and lean into the open window.

"How much?" I ask.

"Where you going?"

I turn around to pick up my bag so I can give him the address.

Huh?

"Just a minute, sir--"

"What's the problem?"

"Nothing." I scramble around my suitcase, looking for my bag. It must have fallen. My heart pounds as I flush in embarrassment and dread.

It's gone.

"Where to?" the cabdriver snaps again.

"Are you going to take this cab or not?" demands a man in a gray suit.

"No--I--er--" He brushes past me, gets in the taxi, and slams the door.

I've been robbed.

I stare into the open maw of Penn Station. No. I cannot go back. Will not.

But I have no money. I don't even have the address of the place I'm staying. I could call George, but I don't have his number either.

Two men walk by, carrying an enormous boom box. A disco song blares from the speakers--"Macho Man."

I pick up my suitcase. A tide of people carries me across Seventh Avenue where I'm deposited in front of a bank of phone booths.

"Excuse me," I call out to various passersby. "Do you have a dime? A dime for a phone call?" I would never do this back in Castlebury--beg--but I figure I'm not in Castlebury anymore.

And I'm desperate.

"I'll give you fifty cents for your hat." A guy with arched eyebrows regards me in amusement.

"My hat?"

"That feather," he says. "It's too much."

"It belonged to my grandmother."

"Of course it did. Fifty cents. Take it or leave it."

"I'll take it."

He places five dimes in my hand.

I drop the first coin into the slot.

"Operator."

"Do you have a number for George Carter?"

"I've got fifteen George Carters. What's the address?"

"Fifth Avenue?"

"I have a William Carter on Fifth Avenue and Seventy-second Street. Would you like the number?"

"Yes."

She gives me the number and I repeat it over and over in my head as I drop my second dime into the slot.

A woman picks up. "Hello?" she asks in a strong German accent.

"Does George Carter live there?"

"Mr. Carter? Yes, he does."

Relief. "Can I talk to him?"

"He's out."

"What?"

"He's out. I don't know when he'll be back. He never tells me."

"But--"

"Do you want to leave a message?"

"Yes," I say, defeated. "Can you tell him Carrie Bradshaw called?"

I hang up the phone and put my hand over my face. Now what? I'm suddenly overwhelmed--exhausted, frightened, and charged with adrenaline. I pick up my suitcase and start walking.

I manage one block; then I have to stop. I sit on top of my suitcase to rest. Crap. I now have thirty cents, some clothes, and my journal.

Suddenly, I get up, open my suitcase, and pull out my journal. Is it possible? I had my journal with me that day at Donna LaDonna's house.

I paw through the pages, past my notes on the queen bee and the Nerd King and Lali and Sebastian--and, finally, there it is, all alone on its own page, written in Donna LaDonna's loopy scrawl and circled three times.

A number. And underneath, a name.

I haul my suitcase to the corner, to another bank of phone booths. My hand shakes as I push my third dime into the slot. I dial the number. The phone rings and rings. Seven times. Nine. Ten. On the twelfth ring, someone picks up.

"You must be awfully desperate to see me." The voice is languid, sexy. Like the owner of the voice has just gotten out of bed.

I gasp, uncertain of what to say.

"Hello? Is that you, Charlie?" Teasing. "If you're not going to talk to me--"

"Wait!" I squeak.

"Yes?" The voice becomes suddenly suspicious.

I take a deep breath.

"Samantha Jones?" I ask.
^ About the Author

CANDACE BUSHNELL is the critically acclaimed bestselling author of SEX AND THE CITY, LIPSTICK JUNGLE, ONE FIFTH AVENUE, 4 BLONDES, and TRADING UP, which have sold millions of copies. SEX AND THE CITY was the basis for the HBO hit show and film of the same name. LIPSTICK JUNGLE became a popular television series on NBC. She lives in New York City.

Visit www.AuthorTracker.com for exclusive information on your favorite HarperCollins author.
^ Credits

Jacket art (c) 2010 by Holden Designs
Copyright

This book is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogue are drawn from the author's imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

THE CARRIE DIARIES. Copyright (c) 2010 by Candace Bushnell. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins e-books.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available.

ISBN 978-0-06-172891-4 (trade bdg.)

ISBN 978-0-06-199483-8 (int. ed.)

EPub Edition (c) February 2010 ISBN: 978-0-06-199189-9

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