He nods, looking as grim as ever. “Yep. She’s climbing on top of that food truck. She always does things the hard way. There is an elevator. She knows there’s an elevator.” He sticks his hands in his pockets and sighs.

I grin at him, secretive and sincere. “I never got to thank you for helping me out with He-Who-Will-Not-Be-Named.”


“The guy from the meet-and-greet. I knew him—well, Imogen knew him.”

He pushes his glasses up the bridge of his nose, and the lenses flash in the street lights. “You’re welcome. I’m sorry if I was a little…overbearing.”

“You, overbearing?” I snort-laugh. “Whatever gave you that idea? But that move you pulled was really cool. What was it, karate?”

He gives me a blank look. “Mo, not every Asian guy knows karate.”

My cheeks redden. “I didn’t mean—”

“It was Mortal Kombat.”

I blink. “What?”

“The game?” He explains: “I’m kinda a world champion Mortal Kombat player, so I guess my subconscious picked up Raiden’s—”

“Okay, okay,” I interrupt, and his lips twitch up into a smile. “Ugh, nerd.”

“Ugh, fangirl,” he mimics.

An impasse.

Down the block, Jess has finally climbed onto the food truck. The fans have gathered around her, and the Starfield song has somehow bled into the very fabric of the street. The street lights glitter off the tall buildings, green oaks lining the sidewalks beside lampposts and traffic lights. The streets are empty of cars. An older Luke Skywalker, peppery beard and shaggy hair, sitting on the shoulders of the tenth and eleventh Doctors, leads the singing, conducting the music with his lightsaber.

Jess grabs something from a green-haired girl standing on the hood of the food truck and hoists it into the air.

“Is that—? She has a megaphone,” I deadpan.

Ethan takes his hands out of his pockets. “We should probably stop her,” he advises, and begins speed-walking toward his charge standing atop the Magic Pumpkin food truck. I follow this too-tall boy into the sea of people, cosplayers and fangirls and fanboys and geeks and nerds, people pretending to be other people and people just trying to be themselves, and it hits me as we edge closer to the princess in a shimmering galaxy dress atop a food truck—

I think I might like Ethan Tanaka.

And as he bobs and weaves through the crowd, moving farther and farther away from me, I realize that he’ll be gone tomorrow, and I’ll never see him again.


My voice bounces back to me. I am too small and the distance is too large. I don’t know what I was thinking, to be honest. That I’d just come outside to her hotel, Romeo and Juliet style, and recite my heart’s feelings to her? And that she’d hear me?

I’d need, I don’t know—

“Hey!” A figure stumbles out of the back of the food truck and walks over. It’s the green-haired girl from the Stellar Party. Sage, I think her name is. She holds up a megaphone. “Wanna use this?”

“Yes!” I grab it and angle it up to the hotel balconies. “Harper!”

Her name booms across the hotel windows, ricocheting off the buildings in the middle of downtown Atlanta. I wince at the loudness. A few hotel guests open their balcony doors and stray outside to see what the noise is about, but not Harper.

Please, I pray. If impossible things do happen here…

I raise the megaphone to my mouth again to call her name—

On the fourth floor, a balcony door is shoved open and out steps Harper in her pajamas, a purple silk headscarf around her hair. “What are you doing?”

What am I doing?

I have absolutely no idea.

I hold the megaphone up to my mouth. “My name is Jessica Stone,” I begin, because I am not sure where else to start, “and for a few days I pretended to be someone else. I thought I would just play a part, like I always do, and then move on, but…” I lick my lips, my voice wavering. There are hundreds of people gathering around me as I stand on top of this ridiculous food truck, the closest I can get to Harper. “I didn’t expect to meet you,” I continue, my heart thundering in my ears.

“You lied to me,” she shouts down. “Why?”

“Because…” For a split second I think I might lie to her again. Take the easy way out and blame the script and Starfield and the fans. But I think I know her well enough to know that she’ll see right through me. What kind of person would I be if I lied about why I lied to begin with?

She deserves the truth.

“Because I—at first I just needed to play the part of Imogen, but then, as I got to know you, I just became scared that…that you wouldn’t like me once I told you who I was. People always expect Jessica Stone to be the person she’s made out to be in the media and in magazines, but it felt so nice to just be me around you. And that was selfish and I’m sorry. I don’t deserve a second chance, and I understand if you never want to see me again. But…” I gather my courage as hundreds of eyes judge me, wondering why I care so much about someone I just met.

And honestly, I couldn’t tell them. I think there are people who come into your life, and you just know. For however long or short a time or however impossible it might seem—they’re important. Like a guiding star amid a storm.

I take a deep breath and continue, “But I’m not lying now when I say that I—I think I like you, Harper Hart. Will you go to the ExcelsiCon Ball with me?”

Four stories up, Harper doesn’t say anything, and the longer I wait the colder my hands feel. My heart begins to pound. What if she’ll never forgive me? What if this isn’t enough? Will anything ever be? Could anything be?

Could I be?

Maybe we are like ships at sea, sailing in opposite directions—together and then gone. Maybe Harper loves someone else. But even if she does, I’ll still have the memories of ramen, and stars, and how her lips twitch up when she’s happy—folding them into a part of me I’ll never let go, shaping me from the inside out. And I will carry on. Because, in the end, I am not a princess waiting to be saved.

I will do my own saving.

I am Jessica Stone. I am many things: a daughter, and an actress, and a fan of astronomy and the stars and the wide finite universe. I love strawberries on hot summer days and the way the moonlight shines so softly across Harper’s face tonight. I am an explorer of my own sexuality. I am a kaleidoscope of hope and dreams and wonder in the shape of a girl. I am not a porcelain doll. I am not empty. I am worthy.

I am enough.

Harper leans over the balcony railing, and she smiles and tilts her head and shouts down, “Are you really Romeo and Juliet-ing this right now?”

I press the megaphone trigger and reply. “You bet I am. And if you say no I’ll sing the Starfield theme until you come down and pry this megaphone from the fingers of my lifeless corpse.”

“GOD PLEASE DON’T MAKE HER SING!” someone in the crowd shouts. Oh look, my legacy from last night’s karaoke.

Even from way down here, Harper’s smile is blinding. “Gimme a few minutes.”

The crowd around me—which I had forgotten about—erupts into chaotic applause. I turn around and look down at the sea of people who followed me out of the convention hall, people in geek T-shirts and cosplay, toting art prints and nerdy collectibles, some of their phones aimed up at me. A Luke Skywalker cosplayer thrusts his green lightsaber into the air.

My cheeks begin to hurt and I realize that I’m smiling. Really, truly, stupidly smiling. So wide that the muscles in my face begin to ache. Because for the first time in as long as I can remember, I am happy.

Ridiculously, wonderfully happy.

In front of the truck, a familiar redheaded girl heaves herself onto the hood, followed by Sage. She motions to the megaphone. “May I?”

“Oh, sure,” I say, and I hand it off.

Elle tests the trigger and then raises it to her mouth. “Attention, my favorite weirdos and nerds, thanks to an anonymous donor, each one of you now has a ticket to ExcelsiCon’s notorious ball in the Grand Ballroom. Please check your lightsabers, spears, bows, and warhammers at the door. Now let’s go party!”

The crowd erupts into another cheer and turns in the direction of the con.

Elle giddily turns back to me. “I’ve always wanted to use one of those!”

I laugh. “I take it Dare’s the anonymous donor?”

Her grin widens. “Actually, it was Natalia Ford.” The surprise must show on my face because Elle adds, “She was at the panel, and she told me to tell you that she has an offer for you. She said to call her later.”

“And,” Dare adds, coming up beside her, “Amon is on the phone with the executive producers right now.” He’s looking very intently at his nails. “They’re having quite a discussion—”

“Jess!” someone shouts.

I quickly turn toward the sound of my name. Harper is waving from the entrance of the hotel. Jess.

She called my name—mine!

I hurry to the front of the food truck, where Sage helps me onto the hood and her girlfriend Cal helps me to the ground. Their chubby wiener dog sits in the front seat of the truck, pink tongue dangling, and howls at all the noise.