Title: THE TEMPORARY DEATH OF MILLIE KRUP
35 word pitch: Portland teen Millie Krup dies from bacterial meningits. But only briefly. When she awakens and recovers, her priorities have flipped. She must choose between following her wanderlust dreams or helping her dad get sober.
First 500 words:
I’m sick. Like, doped out on cold medicine sick. Sucking on lozenges until my tongue is puckered and purple sick. Exhaustion hanging off me like old scarves sick. But I’m not deathly ill. At least I don’t think I am.
I trudge through the halls of Portland’s dingy Cannon High School, a hulking building with turrets and cornices. It could be a movie set for a 1920s insane asylum.
I wish I were in bed watching the Travel Channel and sipping ginger ale from one of the bendy straws my mom gives me when I feel exceedingly blah.
Soon. I have to make it through one more period before I can catch the Portland TriMet, go home, and crawl under my fraying quilt. The relief of being able to close my eyes and sleep feels so far into the future I almost cry.
On the north stairwell, between the second and third floors, a waterfall of kids are rushing past when I see Leah Silverman and Jace Wells. Oh God. Not now. Please not now. I want to weave back down to the ground floor and run out to the parking lot, sucking in cool March air.
But it’s too late. I’m surrounded by bodies, unable to escape.
Our trajectories collide on the landing. Leah looks like she swallowed a jellyfish, brow furrowed and lips twisted. Jace bumps his aviator sunglasses over his eyes and hitches up one side of his mouth.
“Hola, Millie,” Leah flips her satiny hair in a way initially meant to grab boys’ attention but which has now become habit. “I heard you’re muy enfermo.” Very sick.
I mumble, “Sí.” Leah and I are language geeks. Specifically, we have both taken Spanish since sixth grade and pepper our interactions (which have dwindled to almost nada) with Español. I even wear a t-shirt that day under one of my usual oversized cardigans that says Como Se Llama? next to a drawing of an actual Llama.
She obviously feels as awkward as I do, her gaze darting to the high arched windows and at the kids streaming past. “So how’d you do on the test?” she refers to a Spanish exam we took that morning.
My pulse throbs in my neck and wrists. I wish I could take a deep breath without coughing.
It’s hard to believe last week Jace, the school’s lacrosse goalie and my two-year crush, was catching my eye across the cafeteria, sometimes offering a full nod or slow cat-like blink. Making me think I had a chance with him.
“I’m sure she killed it,” he says out of the side of his mouth.
“Doubtful,” I shake my head, wishing I could dislodge the thousand tons of sand in there. I say nothing about how desperately I want to have killed it. I need to keep my grade up to be eligible for the summer Barcelona trip I’ve been saving money for all year.