"The beginning of any story is critical. The first few lines alone capture the attention of your reader or audience. If you fail to excite their interest, you'll likely never win them back."

If this was a typical day at Hollywood Arts, Jade would be laser-focused on her freshmen writing teacher's lesson. If this was a typical day, Jade's notes would be impeccable, and she would already know how to later apply those notes to her own plays, stories and scripts. If this was a typical day, Jade would be outwardly content, inwardly happy, to be sitting in class another day at the school she always dreamed she would attend. The school that would help her rise to stardom.

But today was not a typical day at Hollywood Arts; it was the first school day after the Big Showcase. Today, Jade was distracted. Today, her notebook was flipped open to an empty page, not even the date written at the top of her otherwise perfect notes, despite being forty minutes into the fifty-minute lecture. Today, Jade was outwardly miserable, inwardly terrified, and it was the school's recent talent show that was the source of her rampant emotions.

It would be easy to blame Beck, and part of Jade did blame him for making her go to the showcase. Beck had worked his magic and convinced her it would be beneficial to her to watch the other students' performances. Staring blankly ahead in class, she relived the conversation last Thursday – the way Beck nonchalantly shrugged, as if it didn't matter whether she went to the show or not, but gave himself away by running his hand through his hair. "Then don't go," he responded flatly after her second refusal. In careful, measured tones, he continued. "But if you did go, you'd get to see the senior performances. And, either they flop and you'll get a good laugh, or they'll do really well and you might be inspired." Jade frowned. She hated feeling manipulated. Beck knew she couldn't resist spectacular failure, and the allure of rare inspiration was too great.

"Fine," she growled, frustrated with herself and with Beck for knowing her well enough to manipulate her. Jade hated losing arguments.

Jade was pulled back to reality by a buzzing against her leg. Her phone was vibrating; she had received a text message. She had been text fighting with Beck all morning, and she wasn't going to lose this argument, too. She typed a quick, curt response, leveling another accusation against him before forcefully pushing the power button to turn off the screen. Jade sighed. It just wasn't the same as roughly snapping her old flip phone closed, and she gained no temporary relief from the action.

She couldn't admit the true reason for her miserable mood to anyone, and she didn't want to admit it to herself. That Friday at the showcase was the first day since she started at Hollywood Arts two years ago that Jade felt intimidated by another student. It was the first time the idea that she could fail, that someone could outshine her, had ever taken hold. And for Jade, that was unacceptable and terrifying. In her world there was only room for one star, and she was destined to shine brightest.

The bell rang announcing the end of class. Jade glanced at her empty, now imperfect notebook and sighed in frustration before stuffing it into her bag. It was the first casualty, the first of Jade's failures, due to Tori Vega. Jade growled to herself, thinking of the new girl, and ignored her buzzing phone indicating Beck had responded to Jade's latest accusation. As Jade left the classroom, the storm of emotions last Friday were rushing back unbidden. She was sitting next to Beck, laughing, because the program for the showcase said the next act was by Trina Vega and everyone knew Trina had no talent. Jade was already anticipating the terrible performance, and she couldn't wait for some well-deserved schadenfreude. So far, most of the acts were just decent, and no one had really flopped. Trina's act promised catastrophic failure.

Except Trina wasn't standing on stage as the lights focused down. Someone else, a girl Jade didn't know, was pushed onto the stage. Jade's grin faltered and her eyebrows furrowed in confusion. She was about to ask Beck who this girl was when the music started, the house lights dimmed and the performer's voice carried through the auditorium.

"Here I am, once again. Feeling lost, but now and then," the girl sang in clear, crisp notes.

Jade felt, more than heard, herself catch her breath. She sat transfixed, staring in awe at this unknown singer and her beautiful, rich voice. Separate, fragmented parts of her were all wrestling for control of Jade's body, leaving her paralyzed as the performance continued. She wanted to shout and cheer, clapping as the song sped up into a lively pop song. She wanted to cry in frustration over this new threat, someone she didn't and couldn't plan for. She even felt a lurch in her stomach, some unknown mixture of feelings she couldn't place, as she watched the performer dance across the stage, now alive and smiling and perfect.

Jade winced. Perfect. That word hurt when she applied it to someone else; when she applied it to Tori, a girl who threatened everything Jade had worked so hard to achieve. Tori sang that she was going to "Make it Shine', and Jade hated the coincidence. Two stars can't both shine brightest; one will always overpower the other, obfuscating its light until it's just background noise. The Sun, the brightest star in the sky, pushes away all other stars in its wake. The Sun doesn't share the sky with lesser stars. And to Jade, Tori threatened to become the Sun, and Jade would fade to stardust.

The bell rang. Jade would be late to Sikowtiz's class, just like every class today.