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Meg Cabot

Chapter One

9:15 A.M. EST, Tuesday, April 13

Downtown 6 platform

East Seventy-seventh Street and Lexington Avenue

New York, New York

It was a miracle.

Meena hurried onto the subway car and grabbed hold of one of the gleaming silver poles,

hardly daring to believe her good fortune.

It was morning rush hour, and she was running late.

She’d expected to have to cram herself into a car packed with hundreds of other

commuters who were also running late.

But here she was, still panting a little from having run all the way to the station, stepping

into a car that was practically empty.

Maybe, she thought, things are going to go my way for a change.

Meena didn’t look around. She kept her gaze fastened on the ad above her head, which

declared that she could have beautiful, clear skin if she called a certain Dr. Zizmor right away.

Don’t look, Meena told herself. Whatever you do, don’t look, don’t look, don’t look….

With luck, she thought, she might make it all the way to her stop at Fifty-first Street

without making eye contact or having any interaction at all with another human being….

It was the butterflies—life-size—that caught Meena’s attention at first. No city girl

would wear white pumps with huge plastic insects on the toes. The romance novel (Meena

assumed it was a romance, based on the helpless-looking, doe-eyed young woman on the

cover) the girl was reading had Cyrillic writing on it. The giant roller suitcase parked in front

of her was an additional clue that the girl was from out of town.

Though none of that—including the fact that she’d pinned her long blond braids onto the

top of her head, Sound of Music style, and had paired her cheap yellow polyester dress with

purple leggings—was as dead a giveaway to her new-in-town status as what the girl did next.

“Oh, I sorry,” she said, looking up at Meena with a smile that changed her whole face

and made her go from merely pretty to almost beautiful. “Please, you want sit?”

The girl moved her purse, which she’d left on the seat next to her, so that Meena could

sit down beside her. No New Yorker would ever have done such a thing. Not when there were

a dozen other empty seats on the train.

Meena’s heart sank.

Because now she knew two things with absolute certainty: One was that, despite the

miracle of the nearly empty subway car, things definitely weren’t going to go her way that day.

The other was that the girl with the plastic butterflies on her shoes was going to be dead

before the end of the week.

Chapter Two

9:30 A.M. EST, Tuesday, April 13

6 train

New York, New York

Meena hoped she was wrong about Miss Butterfly.

Except that Meena was never wrong. Not about death. Giving in to the inevitable, Meena

let go of the gleaming metal pole and slid into the seat the girl had offered.

“So, is this your first time visiting the city?” Meena asked Miss Butterfly, even though

she already knew the answer.

The girl, still smiling, cocked her head. “Yes. New York City!” she cried


Great. Her English was basically nonexistent.

Miss Butterfly had pulled out a cell phone and was scrolling through some photos on it.

She stopped on one and held it up for Meena to see.

“See?” Miss Butterfly said proudly. “Boyfriend. My American boyfriend, Gerald.”

Meena looked at the grainy picture. Oh, brother, she thought.

Why? Meena asked herself. Why today, of all days? She didn’t have time for this. She

had a meeting. And a story to pitch. There was that head writing position, vacant now that Ned

had had that very public nervous breakdown in the network dining room during spring sweeps.

Head writer was really where the money was on a show like Insatiable.

Meena needed money. And she was sure the pressure wouldn’t cause her to have a

nervous breakdown. She hadn’t had one so far, and she had plenty of things to worry about

besides Insatiable’s ratings.

A woman’s voice came over the subway car’s loudspeakers to warn that the doors were

closing. The next stop, she announced, would be Forty-second Street, Grand Central Station.

Meena, having missed her own stop, stayed where she was.

God, Meena thought. When will my life stop sucking? “He looks very nice,” she lied to

Miss Butterfly about Gerald. “You’re here to visit him?”

Miss Butterfly nodded energetically.

“He help me get visa,” she said. “And—” She used the cell phone to mimic taking

photos of herself.

“Head shots,” Meena said. She worked in the business. She understood exactly what

Miss Butterfly was talking about. And her heart sank even more. “So you want to be a model.

Or an actress?”

Miss Butterfly beamed and nodded. “Yes, yes. Actress.”

Of course. Of course this pretty girl wanted to be an actress.

Fantastic, Meena thought cynically. So Gerald was her manager, too. That explained a

lot about the baseball cap—pulled down so low that Meena couldn’t see his eyes—and the

number of gold chains around his neck in the photo.

“What’s your name?” Meena asked.

Miss Butterfly pointed at herself, as if surprised Meena cared to discuss her as opposed

to the ultra-fantastic Gerald.

“I? I am Yalena.”

“Great,” Meena said. She opened her bag, dug around the mess inside it, and came up

with a business card. She always had one handy for exactly this kind of situation, which

unfortunately came up all too often…especially when Meena rode the subway. “Yalena, if you

need anything—anything at all—I want you to call me. My cell phone number is on there. See

it?” She pointed to the number. “You can call me anytime. My name is Meena. If things don’t

work out with your boyfriend—if he turns out to be mean to you, or hurts you in any way—I

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