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From Twinkle, with Love(12)
Author: Sandhya Menon



Friday, June 5

AP Econ

Dear Dee Rees,

After lunch, Sahil and I talked about our movie project and how we were going to watch Dracula together tonight at Maddie’s. (But then Mr. Rivers poked his head out of class and told Sahil to stop flirting and get to class. Sahil and I both turned red and purple respectively. Come on, Mr. Rivers. Don’t you recognize a BUSINESS MEETING when you see one?)

We decided that we’re going to take notes on iconic scenes, costumes, and anything else that sticks out to us that we want to include in our movie. We were both so excited, we were talking over each other and laughing all giddily and stuff. I have never had anyone be as exhilarated about making a movie as I am. This must be how Dean and Sam Winchester feel every time they go on a hunt together. (I am the cooler, bad-boy Winchester and Sahil can be the tall and gawky-but-still-kinda-built Sam.)

Only six more hours till Dracula!




Friday, June 5

The Tanakas’ backyard

Dear Nora Ephron,

Tonight was the most fun I have had since … I don’t know when. So Papa dropped me off at Maddie’s place—

Oh, wait. I do know when. Tonight was the most fun I’ve had since that time in fifth grade when Maddie and I were having a sleepover at her place but then sneaked off in the middle of the night (Mr. Tanaka was in his studio, and when he’s painting, nothing gets through to him) and walked around her super-fancy neighborhood drawing “edgy” Dr. Seuss quotes on the sidewalks using sidewalk chalk (my favorite: one fish, screw fish, red fish, fool fish). Then the next morning we watched from the window as Lyla came out and just stared and stared at our artwork, this stupefied look on her face. It was hilarious and we laughed soooo hard. Actually, I peed my pants a little, but then I took a shower and changed into Maddie’s clothes and she swore she wouldn’t tell anyone. (She didn’t.)

Anyway. This was just as fun as that.

So, as I was saying, Papa dropped me off at Maddie’s place, and there was a blue SUV in the driveway. I figured it must be Sahil’s, and then my stomach did this weird fluttery thing, thinking of our conversation in the caf. I muscled through it and rang the doorbell, and Maddie answered wearing a gorgeous pink halter dress and wedge sandals.

“You’re here!” she squealed, and leaned in to kiss me.

“Yeah.” I followed her in. “Are you going somewhere?” Lyla, who had also been an artist and an intellectual in her home country in Eastern Europe somewhere and was now Mr. Tanaka’s creative consultant/household manager, had put some fresh orange hibiscuses in the vase on that big table in the foyer. I knew for a fact she did this only when Maddie had guests over. It was kind of a big deal when she stopped doing that when I visited because she considered me family at that point. Seeing them now hurt my feelings, but I figured—and hoped—she’d done them for Sahil more than me.

“No. I thought I could hang out and watch with you guys?” Maddie darted me a look as we headed downstairs. “If … that’s okay?”

Ugh. It was hideous that we were having this conversation, both because I wasn’t sure if Maddie wanted to hang out with me and because she wasn’t sure I wanted to hang out with her. “No, yeah. I want you to stay.”

She smiled a small smile. “Good. Sahil’s already downstairs.”

Wow. I’d forgotten how fancy Maddie’s house was. The walls were lined with super-expensive-looking paintings, both Mr. Tanaka’s and from other artists, and there were little lights beaming down on them like we were at an art gallery. Maddie’s basement is bigger and nicer than my entire house. We hung left and then passed through big double doors under a sign that said, THE THEATER in big gold letters.

Sahil was in the theater, making a fresh batch of popcorn with his back toward us. He was wearing a blue T-shirt that hugged his shoulders and shorts that skimmed his hips and fell to his knees. One of his gigantic sneakers was untied, which would never happen to Neil. I felt a squeeze of affection for Sahil.

He looked over his shoulder and his face blossomed into a crazy brilliant smile. “Hey, Twinkle!” He gestured to the popcorn popping behind the glass doors of the machine. “Hope you guys are okay with extra butter, ’cuz that’s the only way I fly.”

“Well, then, I hope you’re okay with M&M’s in your popcorn,” Maddie said, looping an arm around my shoulders, “’cuz that’s the only way we fly. Right, T?”

I was in total shock that Maddie’s arm was around my shoulder and that she’d said “we” about her and me and that she still remembered our popcorn ritual from our sleepovers. We hadn’t had one in more than a year.

I was starting to get emotional whiplash. Maybe a braver person would confront Maddie head-on. But I just wanted to hang on to the moment as long as I could.

“Right,” I forced myself to say, just before the silence became a little too long and awkward. “Definitely.”

“Hmm, all right. Well, I’m an open-minded dude. I can try that.”

I laughed and walked up to him and the popcorn machine and grabbed a bottle from the lower shelf. “But you also have to add the caramel sauce or it’s no deal.”

Sighing, he said, “Well, they say sugar comas are manageable these days,” as he reached in to grab the popcorn with a scoop. His hand hit the hot metal part, though, and yelping, he jerked back. “Holy mother of kilojoules, that’s hot!”

“Oh my God, are you okay?” Without even thinking about it, I grabbed his hand and closely inspected the red part. “Oh, whew. It doesn’t look too badly burned. You should still run some cold water over it, though, just to be sure.”

Letting go, I looked up at him. His hand remained suspended between us, and he had a goofy expression on his face. “Um,” I said, pushing my braid over my shoulder and feeling self-conscious at the way he was looking at me. I mean, he’s a boy. Who knows why they do half the things they do. He could’ve been thinking any number of unflattering things about me. Though, to be honest, he just looked sort of … amazed. And I was beginning to realize I’d extended unasked-for physical contact. Again. Like I hadn’t learned my lesson with that whole pencil on the thigh thing. I mean, not that Sahil didn’t have nice, big, manly hands that I 100 percent did not regret touching. But still. “Are you okay?”

“N-no, yeah, no. Absolutely.” He let his hand drop and reached for his popcorn, but his expression didn’t change. Something about the way he kept darting sidelong glances at me made butterflies jam out in my stomach.

Maddie was watching us with a sly little look on her face, so I cleared my throat and immediately put three feet between me and Sahil. Still looking smug, she walked over to the bar and asked, “You guys want a drink?”

For a minute I didn’t know if she meant a drink drink. So, I just said, “Um … I’ll have a Coke?” and then wished I’d said it less like a question and more like someone who’s completely comfortable with the fact that she doesn’t drink alcohol. I’m usually okay with my choices. But sometimes around Maddie, I forget that.

“Me too,” Sahil said, bringing three bowls of popcorn over to the theater seats. He handed one to me and set another one down. “Okay, these have been carameled and M&M’d, so I think we’re just about ready to begin our sugar inhalation.”

Maddie brought us three glasses with little umbrellas in them, all set on a nice glass tray. “Okay. Drinks are a go. You guys ready?”

I smiled at Sahil and then at my ex-BFF as I caught our reflections in the TV screen. Our faces were shiny, three pairs of brown eyes glowing. I took a deep breath. “Ready.”

Okay, so I knew Dracula was a classic. And I knew that Bela Lugosi was an epic actor from the ancient world whom people like Sahil still look up to today. I knew the director of Dracula, Tod Browning, was talented, because people have been talking about his work for decades now.

But somehow, I never connected all those facts with the idea that I’m gonna have to do him justice. And not just that, but I’ve now undertaken the task of gender-swapping this brilliant movie, which means people are going to be doubly interested to see what I do with it.

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