The crowd parts like a Rebel ship colliding with a Death Cruiser at lightspeed, and on the other side is an impossible moment. A girl with lightning-flecked brown eyes and a warm smile, wearing a sequined dress decorated with the Starfield logo, and I didn’t think I could like her more.

Somewhere in the middle, Harper and I meet, and though I had words with the megaphone, they’re all lost on me now and I don’t know what to say. What can I say? How do I start?

So I do the only thing I can think of.

I give her the Starfield salute—You and I are made of stars—and I hope that’s enough. She smiles and presses her hands to mine in the same pose, and then slowly, finger by finger, they fall together—

And she kisses me.

She kisses me and the world is too small and my skin is too tight and the universe is impossible and Harper Hart is kissing me. She tastes like cherry soda and maroon lipstick and stardust, and I lean into her like a sunflower to the sun. I want to memorize the shape of her mouth and the softness of her lips and the sound of the crowd humming Amara’s Waltz from the movie.

And it is perfect.

And I am happy.

And I am enough.

Then she smiles and squeezes my hand. “Let’s go dance our tiaras off, ah’blena,” she says. And as Harper pulls me into the crowd of people I’ll never know, geeks and fangirls and nerds and friends, I can’t imagine anywhere else I’d rather be.



* * *

“What a strange life we lead, ah’blen. I can’t say I’d change it for all the stars in the sky.”

—Princess Amara, Episode 41, “Worse Than Death”

I SCOOP THE REST OF MY #SAVEAMARA PINS into the cardboard box and close the lid. Slowly but steadily, the showroom is shutting down. In thirty minutes, the con will be empty, and everyone will wander back to their hotels, or to farewell parties, or home. My moms and I won’t leave until tomorrow, when we pack up the U-Haul with all the figurines and hit the road back to Asheville, and by then all of this will have been a dream.

A pretty frakkin’ sweet dream.

Every time I close my eyes, I remember the ExcelsiCon Ball—the colorful lights spiraling down onto the cosplays and nerd shirts, the music, the conga line that Milo and Bran started around the entire dance floor. The spectacle of Darien and Elle dancing, like legends returning from the depths of Reddit threads and Tumblr rumors, the Starfield waltz that followed. The moments Ethan glanced over at me, and took me by the hand, and spun me around to “Ramble On” by Led Zeppelin, laughing because I can’t dance and neither can he, this strange tension radiating off us like Super Saiyan energy. It made my skin feel tingly and my heart flutter.

And then I blink and I’m on the couch in Jess’s hotel room, with Ethan and Harper, sharing midnight pizza and watching the best Amara episodes of Starfield. I barely paid attention to the episodes at all—even my favorite ones!—because when Ethan shifted on the couch beside me all I could feel was the warmth of his elbow against mine and the way he slowly began to slouch until he fell asleep on my shoulder.

I quickly slide my box of pins off the table, trying not to let my embarrassment get to me.

This is the worst feeling ever. Knowing that Ethan and I wouldn’t work—we’re like a PS4 console and a Nintendo Switch controller. Incompatible.

Which is why I haven’t seen him all day. I mean, we don’t even have each other’s numbers. I wish I hadn’t given him the number for my favorite pizza joint instead of my real one. Stupid me.

But then, I guess it would hurt a whole lot more if I waited for him to text me and he never did. I don’t think I could go through that again.

Attendees make their final rounds through Artists’ Back Alley, and I hand out a few last pins. Harper’s phone buzzes on the table, and she reaches for it and smiles.

“Jess?” I ask, although I already know.

Harper responds to the text. “She’s in a meeting.”

“Another one? Because of what happened yesterday?”

“Something like that.”

“I hope she isn’t in trouble,” I murmur. I’d feel bad if she was, even though she did everything of her own accord.

Harper waves off my concern. “It’ll be fine.” Then she closes her sketchbook and stands, her arms outstretched. “Next time, don’t send someone pretending to be you,” she says. We hug tightly.

“Agreed.” Then we release each other and I pick up my box. The pins rattle alongside all of the artwork I bought today. “How’s your sister, by the by? Did she get into med school?”

“With scholarship,” Harper replies proudly. “And your brother? How’s the football thing?”

“We still haven’t gotten word whether he’s quarterback or not.”

“Well, if I don’t see you again before you leave, tell him good luck and I’ll catch you on the internet?”

“Always, and safe travels! Oh, one thing. It’s kinda been bothering me.”

She begins to open her sketchbook again, but then closes it. She looks up at me. “Okay, shoot.”

“Did you really think Jess was me this whole time? I mean, we know each other pretty friggin’ well and, starflame, she’s a world different from me and…Anyway, just curious.”

She taps her mechanical pencil against her nose. “Yeah, totally.”


I leave the booth. “See you next year!” I call over my shoulder as I make my way through the crowd toward the towering Nox King.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scanning the crowd for raven-black hair and brown eyes and that insufferable disapproving frown, but the con is almost over and I’m beginning to realize that so is the magic. It must be the sleep deprivation, but my chest hurts a little at the realization that I’m just Imogen Lovelace again. And in the grand scheme of things, I’m not a part of Ethan’s life.

When I get to Figurine It Out, Milo is slouched on the throne, and he sighs as I approach. Our moms are busy trying to sell as much stock as they can, knocking all of the prices down by thirty percent—which is a steal for some of the bigger pieces. They’re helping a middle-aged woman as she tries to decide between two Sailor Moon poses.

“What’s up, bro?” I ask, setting my box down on the foundation of the throne. “You look blue.”

He gives me a long look before he says, “Just waiting for the rest of my life.”

“Ah. Move over,” I say, slapping his leg. He pulls himself to sit up and I squeeze in beside him, pushing the armrests out to make room. While the back and sides are strictly figurine boxes, the seat is just a hard plastic tub. It buckles a little with both of us sitting on it.

Together we look out over the closing showroom.

“You know, I don’t think I’m all that perfect,” he begins.

I groan and begin to pry myself up, but he puts one beefcake hand on my shoulder and easily pulls me back down. “Miiii-lllooooooo, I don’t want to talk about this.”

“I do, though. I need to. Because, I don’t want to get sentimental or anything, but I’ve always thought I was in your shadow.”

I give him a deadpan look. “Excuse me?”

“You’re so smart, Mo!” he says, and begins counting my virtues on his fingers, “and you’re funny, and you’re good, and you bake the best chocolate murder cookies, and you’re personable and you amassed fifty thousand signatures on a petition to save your favorite fictional character. Everyone loves you the second they meet you.”

“But—but you—”

“What about me? I walk in and just try not to stumble over my own two feet. Everyone at school, all of our teachers, they take one look at my name and say, ‘Oh, you’re Imogen’s brother,’ because you leave a legacy so freakin’ long that I’ve got little to no chance of the teachers actually remembering my name.”

“Bullshit. You’re a great football player! And you have the perfect boyfriend, and you’re vice president and—”

“Yeah,” he interrupts, rolling his eyes, “because that’s the only way I can get out of your shadow.”

I blink, my mouth opening and closing like a fish gobbling water, trying to think of some kind of comeback. Milo feels like he’s in my shadow? I would ask if he’s joking, but there’s a crinkle between his brows that he always gets when he’s being honest. It’s so absurd that I begin to laugh, and so does he. I’ve been so bent on trying to get out from under his shadow, and he’s been trying to get out of mine, that we just made everything impossible for each other.

“Okay, okay, let’s make a deal,” I say as I wipe the tears from my eyes. “Let’s come to each other if we’re feeling this way. And talk it through.”

“Gross, like siblings who support each other?” He makes a face, and I punch him in the arm.

“Yes, like siblings who support each other—”

His phone begins to blare the Power Rangers theme song, and he digs it out of his pocket, checks the number, and shoots me a look of alarm. “It’s Coach Evans.”

“We’ll finish this conversation later—”