By the D23 Team
Everyone wants their princess moment—but in modern times, invites to royal balls in glamorous castles are much harder to find. Good news for anyone with present-day princess dreams: Disney Books’ Meant to Be Series is the fairy godmother here to cast some magic over everyday life, turning our favorite fairy tales into modern rom-coms that are an enticing escape for any fantasy fan. The first in the series, Meant to Be: If the Shoe Fits, by Julie Murphy, follows the story of newly-graduated Cindy, an aspiring shoe designer who ends up on her mother’s reality dating series, Before Midnight, and becomes a sensation. Meant to Be: If the Shoe Fits will be hitting shelves on August 3, but if you can’t wait until then, check out this exclusive excerpt from the book:
“Follow me,” Jay says as Henry helps them down from the stage. “We’ve got racks upon racks of goodies for you beauties to choose from.”
My whole body is tense with nerves as we’re herded into a back room with racks of clothing and makeup and hair touch-up stations. Some girls settle in for hair and makeup, but I know that if I stand any chance of not walking down the runway naked, I need to get first dibs on these clothes.
In a panic, I start shuffling through the items left out for us. I look for the biggest sizes, of course, which is most often an eight or a ten, but I’m also looking for anything with a shapeless or flowy cut to it. Slowly, I begin to amass a pile of clothing in my arms.
Addison clears her throat from the other side of the rack. “Um, you only need one look,” she tells me. “That’s not really fair to just start taking all the other perfectly good stuff just because you want options. Wes?” she calls. “Are there rules to this? Cindy has, like, a whole damn rack in her arms. Wes?”
I roll my eyes, but otherwise ignore her and continue my efforts even though the other women are also starting to show signs of concern. A storm of anxiety swirls in my chest, and it’s the same panic I feel when I attempt to clean out my closet. I’m so used to finding that I have zero options that it’s almost impossible for me to part with my clothing. Each piece is something I hunted relentlessly for or customized to my exact taste. I can’t exactly walk into a Forever 21 and snag a dress I’ve personally doctored to be a Badgley Mischka dupe. I hate feeling like I need so many things, but when a chance to buy something in your size is one in a hundred and a chance to buy something good in your size is one in a thousand—
“Hey, kid, what exactly is going on here?” Beck swoops to my side.
I turn to her, my teeth gritted. “Did no one consider the fact that LuMac doesn’t even make my size?”
Beck grimaces painfully and yells out, “Irina! Get over here!”
Irina stops what she’s doing, leaving a half-naked Stacy with a dress bunched up around her waist. She stomps over to Beck with her arms crossed and a safety pin clenched in her teeth. “What?”
“Do we have any options for Cindy?”
“What do you mean?” Irina asks incredulously. “She has options coming out the ears.” She motions to me. “She looks like a Black Friday sale threw up on her.”
“In her size,” Beck says as discreetly as she can, like it’s something to hide. But it’s not. In fact, accommodating me is not that hard. If you want me on your damn show, make it possible for me to be included. That’s it. It’s that simple.
Irina throws her arms up. “I can only work in the framework of the episode. This is on you and Wes. You two are—”
“Stop,” I say firmly. “Stop it. Both of you stop. You’re both to blame, but bickering isn’t going to fix anything. I need scissors, safety pins, and fabric tape. And maybe a sewing kit.”
Beck motions to Irina. “You heard her.” Once Irina has disappeared into the chaos, Beck turns back to me. “I’m so sorry. What can I do?”
“Buy me time.”
She bites down on her bottom lip, and I’m pretty sure I’ve just asked for the one thing she can’t guarantee. She nods and marches off in the same direction as Irina.
I drop to the floor with all the items I’ve accrued and immediately begin to put any items back that I definitely can’t use. A trench coat. A sweater dress. A neon-yellow slip dress.
My eye lands on a shift dress with huge nude sequins. The fabric is some kind of synthetic satin with stretch. I pull it across the widest part of my hips, and I think it might work.
Irina returns with my requested tools and begrudgingly asks, “Is there anything I can do to help?”
“Yes,” I tell her as I stand up and begin to strip down with no mind for privacy. I step into the dress, and even though it’s meant to be oversize, it feels immediately too narrow.
“That’s a dress,” Irina points out.
“Not on me it isn’t,” I tell her, yanking it up to my waist in what is now a skintight pencil skirt. “I need you to snip out these straps and tape down the freshly cut fabric so it doesn’t poke out.” I point to something one rack over that’s white and billowy in shape. “What’s that?”
Irina steps through a gap in the clothing rack beside us and reaches for the item in question, returning with a long white beach cover-up.
“It’s a tent!” Irina says gleefully. “This is perfect.”
“Helpful,” I say, my voice flat as I take the scissors halfway up the front seam and then up the back, leaving only a deep V neck and a dolman sleeve.
I slip it on over my head and find that the fabric is sheer, so my black bra underneath creates a sexy silhouette. Pulling the two panels of fabric I just cut, I tie them in a knot in front of me and let the long pieces hang, creating a nice long line down the center of my body.
“Damn,” says Stacy
“Oh,” I say casually. “This was definitely on the rack.”
Irina eyes me up and down. “It’s good.”
After we’ve sat through hair and makeup, Mallory and Zeke— who still has a job thanks to Anna—line us all up on the other side of the stage.
Jay peeks in from between the curtains with a camera in hand. “Visions! All of you! I come bearing good news. We thought we’d need a third judge to weigh in on this competition, so I am pleased to tell you that the Lucy Mackenzie has graced us with her presence on this fine day. Make her proud, people!”
My stomach plummets. As if I wasn’t already freaking out enough.
“His mom!” Chloe gasps. “Oh my God. This is a huge deal.”
“Uh, yeah, and not just because it’s his mom,” Addison says.
Sara Claire, in a fuchsia silk wrap dress, looks like she’s very nearly turning into a puddle. “Oh Lord. Moms hate me.”
Stacy shakes her head. “That can’t be true.”
“No, it is. A proven fact. My last boyfriend just broke up with me after his mom refused to give him her mother’s ring to propose. Said I was a firecracker and not the good kind.”
“I don’t think Lucy—I mean, Mrs. Mackenzie—would think something like that,” I tell her. “And everyone loves firecrackers!”
“Except when they cause forest fires,” Stacy points out.
I nod. “True.”
Sara Claire takes a heaving breath. “In fourth grade, my first boyfriend was Dylan Timbers and his mama told me that the only way she’d give up her son was if she knew the woman she was handing him over to could be a better mother to him than she could. I. Was. In. The. Fourth. Grade.”
I hold up a finger. “Okay, first off—men don’t want their partners to be their mothers… and if they do, those aren’t the men we’re looking for.”
Stacy holds up her hands and snaps in agreement.
“And second,” I add, “gross.”
Sara Claire throws herself against Stacy and me. “Hold me. I’m scared of mothers. Even my own. Especially my own.”
Stacy and I pat her on the back, and I say, “Well, at least you didn’t deconstruct his mother’s designs for her own fashion show the way that I did.”
Stacy grimaces. “‘Deconstruct’ is putting it lightly.”
The lights dim, and Mallory barks at us to get back in line.
“Ladies,” Wes says, “you’ll hit the runway one by one. There won’t be music, but we’re adding it in post, so just pretend you’re walking to music.”
“What if we’re off beat?” Jenny asks.
Wes looks at her briefly but doesn’t answer. “After we’re done, we’ll be lining you up onstage, and Lucy will have the chance to speak to you and ask any questions she might have. Break a leg!”
Luckily, I’m the second one on the runway and have little time to spiral into a panic. When it’s my turn to walk out, my hopes that it will be too dark to see Henry, Jay, or Lucy sitting in the audience of employees and random fans is immediately dashed. The lights are low, and the production lights on the runway are intense, but there’s still enough natural light bleeding through the floor-to-ceiling windows that the audience is fully visible.
I may have walked in a handful of student runway shows as favors to friends, but this is instantly nausea-making. What do I do with my hands? Do they just hang like limp spaghetti? How do models manage to look cool doing this? Maybe I just need to do the Zoolander pout. Tyra Banks’s voice telling me We were rooting for you rings in my ears.
I begin to walk, and I do my best to make each step nice and elongated while also swishing my hips, but I also think I might just look like one of those dashboard hula dancers. Keeping my eyes straight ahead for the most part, I glance down and risk a quick smile at Henry, which unfortunately means I see Lucy Mackenzie’s scowl. Well, lady, it was either this or walk the runway naked. Maybe start making clothing in my size and I won’t have to take a pair of scissors to your work.
Henry offers me a wink, and I do my best not to beam and to maintain my coolish model swagger.