Jane looked in the mirror discontentedly. Every time she saw her reflection, she was reminded that despite being 14 and hot, she looked like an 18-year-old who looks like a 14-year-old. And this isn’t really what she’s going for. But she was hot.

“Honey, try on this sweater,” her overbearing mother said. “You’re going for a CW look, but I really think you’d do better aiming for AMC. They’re buying more stuff right now.”

Jane scowled. Her mother always slashed her dreams. Sequentially. She had exactly eight separate ambitions, and her mother devoted an identical amount of time to thwarting each of them. Currently, she was on her first ambition — looking like a cool teen girl. It seemed useful to start with the most general one.

- - -

Jane ignored her mother’s entreaties to change into a chunkier sweater. She walked downstairs and grabbed a banana and a can of Diet Coke, or Diet Pepsi, depending on whose… nevermind. It was exactly 7:45 am, time to meet up with her racially diverse group of friends to walk to school.

Her neighborhood was cookie-cutter — exactly the kind of thing that could be easily constructed on the Warner Brothers’ lot. Jane loved to imagine her future in low-budget terms: A yard, one child, a badly-behaved dog. Jane was a dreamer.

Shara was by far the most complicated of Jane’s friends. She was the type of girl whose personality could unfold slowly over the span of 300 pages, but she was trying to hide who she was, so instead, she summarized her entire essence by yelling, “BAZINGA!!” every 42 seconds.

- - -

Jane checked her watch. It was the bottom of page six — time for something dramatic to change in her life. Her mother called to let her know she was cutting her off financially.

“But I’m 14,” she stammered. “I live under your roof.”

“I couldn’t think of any other way to upend your life, honey, I’m so sorry,” her mother responded.

“Couldn’t you have just died or something? The financial cut-off is so overplayed—”

The phone hung up. Jane’s mother had died. But she hadn’t answered the question of whether or not HBO would buy another GIRLS

- - -

Jane remembered being 12. This flashback lasted exactly 22 minutes, and then she never remembered being 12 again. She told her mother about the memory.

“Growing up is sorta like a gust of wind,” her mother began.

“No, Mom. Pick a metaphor we can see on screen,” Jane insisted.

“It’s like spilling a glass of milk, and then pouring yourself a bigger one,” her mother finished.

Jane knocked over a glass of milk and then poured herself a bigger one.

“Jane,” her mother began. “Why even bother with metaphors if we’re only writing this to option it—”

“No,” Jane said. “You’ve said enough, Mom. We need to limit this conversation to 15-second soundbites, or we’ll never trend on TikTok.”

Her mother kept talking anyway. Yet another ambition thwarted.

- - -

Jane silently engaged in a variety of activities for exactly one second each while listening to Norah Jones. Once they were all joined together, you could see how much she transformed. By the end of “Don’t Know Why,” she had an idea of where she wanted to apply to college.

- - -

The next week, Jane fell in love with Jason.

“I love you, Jason,” she said.

“Love you too, Jane,” said Antonio.

“Wait — why is your name ‘Antonio’ now? I thought you were Jason.”

“The producers wanted it to be easier to read, for an executive making a quick decision on it. Too many ‘J’ names would trip them up.”

“I didn’t know that was a factor,” said Jane. “Is that how The Big Bang Theory got made?”

“Exactly,” said Yorrick, formerly Antonio. “No one read the pilot, but they liked that all the protagonists had names that started with different letters. And ones that were distinctive, too.”

Jane looked around. She was confused, and she was hot.

- - -

Jane’s story wasn’t anywhere near winding down. “But it’s page 340, I’m tired,” she complained to her new foster mom. Her old mom had disappeared — yet another dream of Jane’s that died.

“Honey, you need to be ready to do 100 episodes of this. We can’t solve any of your problems right now.”

“Ughhhhh, why can’t I be in a miniseries?!” Jane begged, falling to her knees in supplication. “Why can’t I be Beth from The Queen’s Gambit?”

“We tried that, sweetheart, with the orphan thing. But it turns out, networks don’t want another Queen’s Gambit.”

“What do they want?”

“Oh, it’s impossible to know.”