The interviewer's eyes widened behind her candy-apple-red glasses. She was petite and blond, stylish in a '60s pinup meets Revenge of the Nerds sort of way. "But thousands of fans would 'love' to see you back! And your character, too. Have you heard of the #SaveAmara initiative?"
I shook my head.
Dare jumped at the chance to inform me. "Oh, it's a Twitter hashtag created to rally the fandom and save the princess from her fate."
The interviewer nodded enthusiastically. "The user who created it claims that Amara deserved better, especially in this reboot. She deserved to live, not to be fridged for Prince Carmindor's character development."
It was all I could say.
I curled my fingers tightly around the phone in my lap. It buzzed again. Another Instagram comment. Or Twitter. I wished it was neither.
The interviewer went on. "Natalia Ford, the actress who originally played Amara, whose shoes you stepped into, has already voiced solidarity for the movement, pleasing a lot of older fans. She has also recently criticized your interpretation of Amara, saying that you don't embody the spirit of the character. Does that bother you?"
For other people to not like you? The fandom to not like you? That's what she didn't say, but I saw it in her eyes. I was surprised, really, that it had taken this long for an interviewer to bring it up.
I'm a girl in Hollywood, I wanted to tell her. I'm either too fat or too skinny or too pretty or not pretty enough. Nothing bothers me.
But that would've been a lie, as evidenced by my death grip on my phone.
"Erin, right?" I said, when I should've not taken the bait. But I was too tired to stop, and I wasn't paying attention to Dare's signals to shut up. If you know anything about my overly enthusiastic costar, it's that he's never subtle about anything. I just didn't care. "Tell me, Erin, what has Natalia Ford done since she played Amara, what, twenty years ago?
Another one-off Starfield special? Ms. Ford doesn't have a career. I do, in spite of what everyone says. That's all that matters—"
"I must be early," a calm voice interrupted. "That tends to happen to people without careers."
My blood ran cold.
In the doorway stood a woman with piercing brown eyes and peppery-gray hair pulled back into a bun. Her face was heart shaped, eyebrows dark and severe, her lips pursed. Though she was short, standing in that doorway she commanded the room. Trade her monochromatic pantsuit for a dress made of galaxies and starlight, and she was still the princess of the universe. In her arms sat a hairless cat who surveyed the room with narrow emerald eyes, looking almost as dour as his owner.
So, yeah, my second mistake was insulting Natalia Ford.
And my third mistake?
After that disaster of an interview, I needed to take a breath. Dare warned me that we had to be at a panel in ten minutes. It felt like every one of my days at this loud overcrowded convention was planned down to the second, squeezing as much of Jessica Stone out of my appearance as possible. But I needed quiet. I needed to breathe.
So I excused myself to the restroom to collect myself, and that was my third mistake. If I'd never gone to the bathroom, if I'd never left Dare's sight, if I'd followed him straight onto that stupid panel...