35 Word Pitch: Imani, an Orphan, never thought she’d be entangled in an (illegal) inter-class romance. After spontaneously meeting Andrew, an Achiever, she must decide what’s more important: a broken heart or some broken laws.
Shielding herself against the chill of the dairy section, Imani skidded her cart to a stop, and briefly considered if she’d be the one grocery shopping if she had parents. Maybe she’d be sprawled on the couch, caught up in some stupid commercial, when their van rolled into the driveway. Then her dad, with jingling keys, would yell in for her to stop being lazy and come help with the bags. She’d sigh—maybe groan—and roll her eyes. But ultimately she’d get up to help. Walking past each figure with a heavy paper bag and a snarky-early-afternoon-smile.
Something like that.
The fantasy dissolved into a dark stretch of nothingness when she recalled something a teacher had made them repeat five times over back in second grade:There’s no sense wanting what Achievers have because you will never have it.
It made sense. The ‘you’ wasn’t personal, nor was it an insult, at least from that teacher’s mouth. It was a fact. Orphans didn’t covet because it was pointless. So instead of dwelling on what she lacked, Imani edged her cart over to the cool, metal shelves popping with bright yellows and oranges and subdued whites, and picked up a bag of sliced cheddar. Tonight was macaroni night. Pressing her fingers ever so slightly into the plastic, she mouthed the price. In this life, she was mom, dad, everything.
The bag landed atop two boxes of cereal with a small smack as she whipped the cart around and started humming to herself. She’d taken two steps forward before clenching her fist and swearing emphatically. That was a little too loud.Glancing over her shoulder, she tentatively checked to see if anyone else was in the aisle, anyone close enough to get her in trouble. The old couple a few feet back didn’t even look up from their mozzarella.
I forgot to grab cantaloupes.
The last thing she wanted to do was march back across the store, but she couldn’t go back to the Andersons without everything on the list. Mrs. Anderson was a great woman (Imani wouldn’t mind having her as a mom), but she did not appreciate carelessness. Sighing, Imani thumped her fingers against the cart handle and started walking, drifting in and out of the classical music lilting from the overhead speakers. With every step, she made a game out of stepping on only the colored tiles, all the way to the produce section. Sidling up next to the overflowing cardboard bin of melons, she inhaled the fresh scent of newly showered vegetables. Propping one leg lazily on the cart, she grabbed the highest one of the scaly pile and shook it to determine the ripeness.
“Nope,” Imani popped the ‘p’ and grabbed another cantaloupe, shaking it like the maracas she’d played with in elementary school. The second one failed the test, so she squeezed it more firmly. Too hard. Tossing it back, she grabbed another one and mindlessly returned to quality testing, listening for the seeds.