3. Poppy and princesses [OLD]

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The first few days of summer vacation went by in binge-watching all the new Netflix shows, half-heartedly cleaning the spare room with Simran, signing up for library's reading program, and waving goodbye to my friends as they all headed off on fam...

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The first few days of summer vacation went by in binge-watching all the new Netflix shows, half-heartedly cleaning the spare room with Simran, signing up for library's reading program, and waving goodbye to my friends as they all headed off on family vacations or sleepaway camp.

"Hey, Mom?" I tugged on my yellow Converse, hopping on one foot.

She stirred the bubbling pot of tomato sauce, inhaling the fragrance of basil leaves and freshly cracked black pepper. Satisfied, she reached for the sea salt and oregano already lined up on the kitchen counter. "Yes?"

"How come you never sent us away to camp?"

"Did you want to go?"

I paused, thinking. "People always seem to have fun at camp. Kissing boys. Skinny dipping in the lake. Pranking counselors."

Mom stirred the sauce serenely. "We've been bad parents, clearly, in withholding this rite of passage."

"Ha ha." I straightened. "How do I look?"

She skipped her eyes over my outfit. I was wearing my softest, bluest denim shorts, paired with my faded Beauty and the Beast shirt. The graphic tee had faded with too many washes, but my daisy-colored shoes and teacup earrings brightened the look.

"Are you auditioning for a new role?" she asked in surprise. "I thought you were always Jasmine."

"Yep. Not this time." I paused on my way out the door. "And we're technically not supposed to call her Jasmine."

It was my mantra the whole drive to Poppy's Princess Playhouse, the character entertainment company where I worked summers and weekends. They specialized in children's birthday parties, although they did pretty much any kind of event from bachelorette parties to sweet sixteens.

Though the company had Princess in the title, their cast of characters included superheroes, wizards, and other non-royal fairytale characters. For the last two years I'd been stuck as Jasmine, just because I had the hair for it.

But this year, I had it on good authority that the girl who always played Beauty—legally, we couldn't call her Belle because Disney had it copyrighted—had gone on a trip with her friends before starting college on the other side of the country. Her role was up for grabs.

Which meant if I could talk to Poppy before she recast...I could finally have my role of a lifetime. The beautiful bookworm herself.

In the middle of a shopping plaza stood the Playhouse, painted bubble gum-pink with the words Poppy's Princess Playhouse hand-illustrated in gold paint across the windows. White, purple, and magenta petunias spilled over the window boxes, almost drooping with their own weight.

Next door, the bakery was winding down the morning business as the last of the brunch crowd peeled away from the parking lot, honking goodbye to each other as they left. Making a mental reminder to grab some fresh bread and pastries after, I hurried from my mom's BMW to the Playhouse.

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