Authors: Leila Howland
To Henry, the brightest star in my sky
1 â¢ A Young Star
t was guaranteed to be one of the highlights of the summer, maybe even of the year, maybe even of their lives, and Zinnie didn't want to miss a single moment. She plucked her mininotebook out of her back pocket, uncapped her favorite purple pen, and took a good look around.
She was at a special early showing for the cast and crew of the movie
because her very own and soon-to-be-famous older sister, Marigold, had a part in it. Marigold played a small role, but she had got to say two whole sentences on camera, and it was a pretty big deal.
Being in a movie was Marigold's dream come true, and it only took one glance at her enormous smile, made extra shimmery today by the lip gloss their mother had allowed her to wear for this special
occasion, for Zinnie to be certain that her sister was truly a star.
Zinnie couldn't help but feel that she'd had a big hand in making it happen. After all, it had been her idea to have a talent show last summer in the town of Pruet, Massachusetts, where the director, Philip Rathbone, had a vacation home, and where the three Silver sisters had spent a few fun-filled weeks at their aunt Sunny's cottage. And it was Zinnie who'd written the play in which Marigold had performed so outstandingly that Mr. Rathbone had noticed her. And it was Zinnie again who encouraged Marigold to send Mr. Rathbone her headshot a few weeks later, along with a letter telling him how nice it had been to meet him.
Zinnie had even helped Marigold write the letter, making sure it had both personality and good grammar. Zinnie was pretty certain that it had been that letter that had sealed the deal and made Mr. Rathbone think of Marigold when, after the rest of the movie had been filmed, he'd decided that the story needed an opening scene that wasn't even in the book: a scene where a normal, human girl was sitting by a tree reading, not knowing that she was falling into a dream woven by the Night Sprites.
Zinnie imagined Marigold's letter and headshot landing in Mr. Rathbone's mailbox on the very day he had the idea. She could just picture him sitting at a big desk, puzzling over which young actress would
play this small but crucial role. Then his eyes growing wide with delight as he opened the envelope containing Marigold's headshot and realized he'd actually met the perfect girl that summer. “Mildred, get this girl in here for an audition right away!” Zinnie imagined him saying to an assistant, just like the old movies she and her dad saw at the cinema that showed classics every Tuesday night.
Regardless of how it had happened, Marigold had gotten the part on the spot. And now, a few months later, here the Silver family was, making their way down the aisle of the movie theater to see Marigold on the big screen in what was sure to be the biggest hit of the summer.
This wasn't any old Cineplex at the mall; it was a fully restored historical movie theater from the 1940s in downtown Los Angeles, grand and ornate. Zinnie thought it was perfect for the exclusive advance screening of a major Hollywood movie. She paused in the aisle before following her dad down the row to their seats. She narrowed her eyes, hoping to land on the perfect details to capture this epic moment. Mrs. Lee, her sixth-grade English teacher, always said that when it comes to writing, “It's all about the details.”
Red curtains hang gloriously in front of the screen,
Zinnie wrote in the dim light.
Velvet seats snap open like hungry mouths.
She read her work over and imagined Mrs. Lee smiling out of the corner of her mouth
and tapping her pencil to her lips the way she did when she thought something was really good.
Mrs. Lee was a real author. She'd had an actual book published. Zinnie had seen it at the library and at the bookstore. It had even won an award and had one of those shiny gold stickers on it. Zinnie wasn't sure if she wanted to write books or plays orâlike her fatherâmovies, but she knew that she wanted to be a writer and that getting into Mrs. Lee's Writers' Workshop in the fall was a top priority. Mrs. Lee selected ten students from the seventh and eighth grades, and those students spent the afternoons attending plays and films and going to museums in Los Angeles, visiting bookstores and libraries, and, of course, writing. They even took a group field trip to England over spring vacation, and Zinnie was dying to go on it. One of the best parts was that the members of the Writers' Workshop were excused from mandatory afterschool sports.
This was an even bigger deal to Zinnie than the trip to England. She'd endured soccer last fall, and that had been almost as bad as basketball in the winter, though not as terrible as track in the spring. Track was lonely and boring, and it didn't help that she was always in the very back, “bringing up the rear,” as Miss Kimberly said when Zinnie finished far behind everyone else. Zinnie had come to truly hate that expression.
Getting into the Writers' Workshop was not going to be easy. Students could submit a poem, a play, a story, an essay, or even a graphic novel. The work was supposed to be submitted by the end of the school year, but Mrs. Lee said that she understood how sometimes the summer could offer a new perspective, so she'd read applications through July tenth, at which point she was going on her annual summer retreat to Laguna Beach, where she planned to finish writing her latest novel. During the final school assembly, Mrs. Lee said that the only rules were that the writing had to feel true and original. “And it really needs to be the very best example of your work,” she'd added, standing at the podium in one of her signature colorful scarves.
Zinnie wasn't going to need the extra time. She'd turned in a story on the last day of school. It was about a band of young warriors from a forgotten land, seeking to overthrow a demon king by unlocking spells that had been dormant for centuries. Zinnie felt good about it: it had action, plot, and, she thought, good use of setting, something they had focused on in English class this year. Mrs. Lee said that a writer is, in a way, always writing, and that little notes she'd taken over the years had sometimes been exactly the inspiration she'd been looking for later.
“Let's sit down,” Marigold said. “It's going to start any minute!”
“Okay,” Zinnie said, and scooted down the row, taking a seat next to their dad. Marigold, their mom, and finally the youngest sister, Lily, who was decked out in a fairy costume, followed her down the row.
Since Mrs. Lee always said that three was the magic number, Zinnie wanted to capture one last detail before the movie started. She looked around the theater. There were crystal chandeliers, golden balconies, and a ceiling with angels painted on it. Even with the splendor around her, Zinnie turned to Marigold for the final detail for her notebook. With her beauty and confidence and unpredictable moods, Marigold was an endlessly fascinating subject, especially today.
Marigold tossed her long, shiny hair and snapped a selfie with her phone. She leaned toward Zinnie, and before Zinnie even had a chance to pose, she took a picture of the two of them, giving Zinnie a little rush. There was almost nothing that Zinnie liked better than to be included in her sister's glamorous world, and Marigold had been in the best mood all day.
She'd even offered to let Zinnie borrow anything she wanted from her closet.
. This was unheard of. Zinnie had been bold enough to ask to borrow the jean jacket, the one that had become Marigold's unofficial weekend uniform. Perfectly shrunken and faded, it was her trademark piece. Zinnie had been expecting rejection, but Marigold said, “Sure,” and handed it to Zinnie as if she had a million of them. For a second
Zinnie wondered if she hadn't aimed high enough. Was there something else she could have asked for?
The theater lights dimmed. Marigold beamed as she stared up at the screen.
Future star shines bright in the darkness,
Zinnie scribbled in her notebook, even though she could no longer see the paper.