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From Twinkle, with Love(7)
Author: Sandhya Menon

She waved a hand. “You know what I mean. Come on, Twinkle. This is your chance. Neil knows who you are now, and he thinks you’re pretty.” She shrugged. “You just need a chance to get in his vicinity, which you can one hundred percent do once you and Sahil become friends doing this whole movie thing.”

I felt a slow grin spreading across my face. “You’re right.”

This movie could be the answer to all my dreams. It could be how I finally shed that cloak of invisibility. God, I’m so ready.



Wednesday, June 3

Lunchtime, on the green

Dear Ava DuVernay,






Five measly minutes and Sahil will be here. How do I know? you ask. Well, because I ran into him in the hallway and he said so. Apparently, he had to go update his blog. This might be the beginning of incredible things. The chance to show the world all the stories I have crammed inside me, just waiting to get out. Like in Supernatural, when those Leviathan things were in Castiel’s tummy and you could see them stretching the skin and stuff. I mean, ew, but also an illustrative way to show you what I mean.

Oh, crap, there he is. Sahil, I mean. Not Castiel (though how cool would that be?).

Wednesday, June 3

AP English

Dear Jane Campion,

Ms. Langford is showing us that movie The Crucible. It’s super cool because Arthur Miller adapted his own play into the screenplay for this movie. (Patrick O’Cleary and Caveman Callum don’t seem to care. They sit right in front of me and are doodling pictures of different kinds of boobs. They think they’re being all sneaky, BUT I HAVE EYES.) Imagine if I did that one day. Not the drawing boobs thing, but the writing plays thing. I could be a playwright and a director. Jane, your films were about sticking it to the man, snapping back at the patriarchy by showing strong female protagonists who didn’t conform to gender roles. I could be one of those protagonists. They’d call me Twinkle the Glass Ceiling Smasher, and the world would be engulfed in a veritable tsunami of movies and plays and stories by women.

That reminds me:

I’m going to be directing a real movie for Midsummer Night!

Sahil and I made it official at lunch.

I was sitting on the picnic tabletop when he came up to me and, grabbing my hand to shake it enthusiastically (even though I hadn’t offered it), said, “I like your T-shirt.”

It was my female filmmakers shirt, with a picture of you, Ava DuVernay, Sofia Coppola, and Haifaa al-Mansour. “Oh, yeah.” I looked up at him and smiled. “It’s my favorite. I like yours, too.”

He was wearing a vintage Night of the Living Dead T-shirt. When people love something so much it fuses with what they wear, I feel this instant connection to them. The melding of passion and fashion is the song of my people. Sahil pulled at the front of his shirt and turned pink. “Hey, thanks. So, um, you want to talk about the movie?”

“Sure.” I patted the tabletop beside me. “Hop on up.”

After the slightest pause, Sahil dropped his backpack on the ground and climbed up to sit beside me. You’d think close proximity to a boy would make me nervous, but I was way, way too excited to care. Pulling my notebook and pencil out, I scooted closer to him. “So, I’m super psyched about this. I think it could be great!” I was flinging my hands around (I like to talk with them), and the pencil flew out of my grasp and landed on Sahil’s lap.

“Oops, sorry,” I said, and without thinking about it, I reached over and grabbed the pencil. My hand brushed his thigh through the thin fabric of his shorts. His upper thigh.

We both froze.

“Um, so s-sorry,” I said, jerking my hand back like I’d accidentally touched the surface of the sun. “I just, um, the wood of the pencil …” I trailed off, horrified. Why was I talking about wood?? “I mean, um, it was slippery and—” Aaaahhh. Now his face looked all pink and sweaty, which I’m sure complemented my purple, sweaty one. TWINKLE. Stop talking. “Anyway. Um, movie?” I finished, apparently no longer able to speak in complete sentences.

“Yes,” Sahil agreed, sounding relieved.

I squinted up at him in the sun. You know, I’d never noticed before, but his black hair has glints of red in it. It’s gorgeous. I wonder if he gets that from his mom (she’s white). I wonder if Neil has that too. Anytime I’m in his vicinity, though, my senses go completely dead from shock, so I haven’t noticed. “So, do you have an idea of what genre of film we should make?”

His face, which was still stupefied-looking, suddenly became animated. “YEAH! Yes. So, I was thinking we could do a remake of Dracula. Like, the really old, classic version from 1931?”

I stared at him, nerves back once again, internal panic building. I was supposed to be the film expert here. The only acceptable answer to that question would be, Why, yes, Sahil, I know exactly what you’re talking about. But I totally didn’t. I’m more of a documentary and modern movies kind of girl. I mean, I’ve watched some Alfred Hitchcock, but that’s about it.

Okay, Twinkle, I told myself. Time to fake it till you make it. You can’t sink this now. Especially not after your pencil disaster. “Oh, right, Dracula,” I said, nodding intelligently.

“Right.” Sahil returned my nod, only his was super enthusiastic. He was clearly pumped (as I’d been before I realized I was about to be exposed as a charlatan). He had clearly watched the stupid movie. “So, I have my own ideas of what scenes we should shoot, but what are your faves?”

Crap. Okay, what do all vampire movies have in common? “Um …” I tapped my pencil on my notebook, trying to buy time. “Well, I liked the one with the … ah, bat? And the, ah, castle? It was such a great castle.”

Sahil studied me. The corner of his mouth twitched. “You … haven’t seen Dracula, have you?”

I hung my head, feeling pathetic. What sort of film expert has never watched Dracula? “No, sorry,” I mumbled.

Laughing, he said, “Totally okay. This gives me a chance to convert another unsuspecting human to becoming a Bela Lugosi nerd, which is my mission in life anyway. I’ll bring you the DVD tomorrow.”

I grinned. My (as yet nonexistent) street cred as a director didn’t seem to be damaged. It was pretty cool how Sahil accepted my shortcoming without judgment. Maybe it wasn’t that big a deal to anyone but me. “Wait. Did you say DVD?”

He nodded.

“Wow,” I said. “That’s pretty old-school.”

Sahil raised an eyebrow. “It’s kind of my thing.”

I snorted. “Okay, but if you want to capture people’s attention at Midsummer Night, you have to go all out. You can’t have a plain retelling. We need to put a spin on it that no one’s done before.”

Sahil frowned. “So, what are you thinking?”

I gnawed on my pencil eraser. “Ooh.” I sat up straighter, an idea growing. “What about this? Dracula, but gender-swapped. Like, a Dracu-lass!”

Sahil beamed. “Bella instead of Bela! I love it!”

“Excellent.” I hopped off the table and began to pace in the grass, energized now. “So, we could have our Dracu-lass be a total man-charmer like Dracula was a lady-charmer. All the roles in the film could be gender-swapped.” I glanced at Sahil, realizing fully how important this idea was to me. Changing lives could start right here, right now. “Are you okay with most of the cast being female? Because I think probably a movie made in 1931 had mostly male leads?”

Sahil nodded immediately. “It did. And I’m on board. It’s about time someone shook up Dracula.”

I grinned, my heart all warm and happy. It was all … clicking. We were on the same page about everything. Maybe making a movie with Sahil wouldn’t be as hard as I thought. “Precisely what I was thinking.”

“So, we’re going to need to get costumes and props. Maybe we could go this weekend.”

I pursed my lips, feeling that bite of tension I always felt when the people of PPC, who seemingly had limitless pockets from Narnia, talked about money. I’d love to easily say, “Sure! Let’s do it!” But my family doesn’t have random spending money. Every dollar I use is taken from someone’s lunch or clothes allowance or Support Group for Reincarnated Individuals and Those Who Love Them fees. “Um … I don’t know if I can afford too much. …”

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