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DEDICATION

For my dear friends, far and near,

who provide support and encouragement

day in and day out.

I couldn’t do this without you

“People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect,

but *actually* from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint –

it's more like a big ball of

wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff.”

~ Steven Moffat, Doctor Who

 

1

 

August 15, 2013

In the Scottish Borders

Give’em what they want.

It had been her father’s mantra from the moment fame descended upon her.  Which was, in fact, about the same time that what she wanted ceased to matter.

“Miss Thomas!  Miss Thomas!  Over here!”

Scarlett turned and flashed a practiced smile for the photographer.  Putting on a pleasant public face when one was burdened by jet lag was an acting skill Scarlett Thomas had yet to fully master, but the crowd seemed pleased enough by her performance.

“Miss Thomas, how does it feel to be back at Dunskirk Castle?” one of the reporters asked as her agent-cum-bodyguard, Tyrone Halliday, ushered her through the throng with a firm hand at the small of her back.

Scarlett considered the looming façade of the medieval castle of Dunskirk, which sat nestled in the lazy roll of the Cheviot Hills of the Scottish Borders not far from England’s northern border.  Light and shadow marked the six turreted corner towers punctuating the many angles of the curtain walls.  Two soaring towers stood like sentinels at the center of the castle, flanking the entrance.  The jutting spires drew her eyes upward fifty feet – just as they always had – to the decorative stonework of the crenellations, merlons and machicolations.  Fancy words she had learned from an architectural historian that merely named the parts and pieces of the castle fascia that covered the original parapets and more functional battlements beneath.

While Aubroch Castle, the fictional setting of the blockbuster Puppet War movies, was written as a dark, gloomy place, Scarlett had been pleased when the location scouts chose this fairy tale location for the final setting.  Life within those castle walls had felt more like home than Hollywood ever could throughout the more than five years of filming three movies.

Like Dunskirk/Aubroch, Scarlett often felt she was all gloss and glamour on the outside with so much more veiled beneath the surface.  Something, she now feared, might never be seen again.

“It’s wonderful,” she answered honestly before adding her required publicity blurb when Tyrone’s fingers pressed into her back.  “I’m happy to be back to mark this momentous occasion.”

“There’s been rumors Anatolio might be considering another sequel,” one of the reporters shouted over the crowd, thrusting his mike at her.  “Would you be willing to make another Puppet War movie?”

The young adult fantasy series by Marco Anatolio with its three installments, Marionette, Ventriloquist and finally Broken Strings, had been literary bestsellers topping the charts for years.  The movie rights had been bought a month after the first book’s release and at fifteen, Scarlett had been cast as the brilliant but nerdy, Finley Adams, launching her into instant stardom.  That had been nine years ago and still she would always be Finley Adams to many.

“I am always open to new projects.”  Scarlett smiled tightly and moved on.

Flashing another smile, echoed by her agent’s, they worked their way up the crowd.  The castle door seemed to shrink into the distance as if she was working away from it rather than toward it, but Scarlett forged on, ignoring the reporters.  Instead she focused on the fans who lined the cordoned-off avenue, signing autographs and taking selfies with them as she progressed.

“Rowdy crowd here today,” Tyrone muttered, blocking off the press of the crowd with one massive arm.  “Better watch it. That one might not give your hand back.”

“Don’t be mean,” Scarlett murmured under her breath.  “They’re just excited.  I seem to recall a bit of the same from you when you first met my mother.”

“We’ve been over this,” he said with a grimace at the reminder.  “I did not fall at her feet.  I tripped over the edge of the rug.”

Scarlett had to grin at that.  Her mother, Olivia Harrington, star of screens big and small, seemed to have many frayed carpets surrounding her person at all times.  Assuming what Tyrone claimed was true, of course.

Gently tugging her hand free from her overly enthusiastic fan, Scarlett moved slowly onward toward the canopied platform set up just outside the castle’s outer stockade.   They were a rowdy bunch, Scarlett acknowledged, but she didn’t mind.  These were her people. She understood them, appreciated them.  Probably because she had once been just like them.  Scarlett smiled inwardly.  Once?  She still was.  A geek.  A fangirl.  She understood them better than she had ever gotten anyone in Hollywood.

Like Potterheads, Tributes, and Tolkienites, The Puppet War fan base, aptly labeled Puppeteers, was one of the biggest fandoms on the planet.  Even years after the last movie, Broken Strings, and having never made another movie, Scarlett and her costars were still followed and obsessed over.  They all made frequent public appearances at conventions like ComicCon and WizardCon and were constantly targeted by the paparazzi.

“I love your dress, Miss Thomas,” one of her fans gushed as Scarlett signed an autograph.  Scarlett smiled her thanks.  The August day was surprisingly warm and she’d donned a floor-length white cotton maxi dress with an Empire waist and tiny spaghetti straps to offset the heat.  Tyrone had insisted she add a jacket for the formality of the occasion, so she’d donned a teal cropped denim jacket.  To promote her signature Bohemian style, she wore several long, brown leather necklaces and bangles with silver charms and medallions as well as brown leather gladiator sandals.  Cross-wise over her shoulder she carried her favorite Stella McCartney Falabella tote.

“And your hair, Miss Thomas,” another gushed.  “I love it!”

“Do you really?” she asked, running a hand over her newly-shorn pixie cut.  “I’ve heard it reported that I may have lost my identity in cutting it.”  Scarlett cast an arch look at her agent, who had agreed with the assessment.  She

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