Episode 032

Melinda’s Story

I rushed into the library Wednesday night, reaching our study room a few minutes after study hours officially began. I wasn’t surprised to see Ava beside Walter. She had been studying with us every night this week. As I pulled out my books, Walter looked up.

“Hey. You missed supper.”

“I grabbed dinner in town with Eliot after our class.”

“Where’d you go?” There was something in Ava’s tone I didn’t like. It was as if she didn’t think it was possible to eat in town. I shrugged it off.

“There’s this Chinese takeout down the hill. They have a couple of tables, so we got our food and stayed there until his aunt picked him up.” I turned to Walter. “How was your game?”

“We won. Larry got a touchdown. I tackled someone.”

“Fun.” I turned to Ava. “Did you get to watch?”

Ava wrinkled her nose in disgust. “Football is a barbaric sport. I did my nails. There’s no good salon in town. I cannot wait to go home. Get them done properly.”

I glanced at her pea green polish. “They look nice to me.”

Walter changed the subject. “Football has been really time consuming lately, so I’m going to try to get a little ahead on my homework.” He sent me a pointed look.

Although my ex had turned out to be a creep, he was the one who had given me the idea to be at least one night ahead in my homework. Since I studied with Walter nearly every night, he had developed the same habit. At least, he had until Ava started working with us.

When I didn’t challenge his excuse, he turned back to Ava. “I finished all my work due tomorrow, so I’m going to work on tomorrow night’s assignments. But, I can still help you with your math, if you want.”

There was a sour note in Ava’s response that I didn’t think Walter even noticed. “I think I’ll work on French.” She removed the book from her bag and brought it to the comfy chair. Meanwhile, I wordlessly started tackling the first geometry problem.

I had managed to complete about three before Ava slammed her book shut. She huffed back to the table, collapsing in her seat with an exasperated sigh.

“Ugh. French is so BOR-ing. I think I just read four different ways for Pierre to buy food. Pierre is at the store. Pierre is shopping. Pierre is at the market. Pierre is buying food. My mind is numb. I need a study break.”

I glanced at my watch. It hadn’t even been fifteen minutes. Ignoring the interruption, I kept working on my math. Ava’s boredom wasn’t my problem. She was Walter’s girlfriend. He could deal with her.

She angled herself to face him. “So, I’ve told my parents all about you and we were thinking maybe you and your parents could join us for dinner Friday night.”

I looked up to see Walter turning bright red. He opened and closed his mouth a few times. If I hadn’t known any better, I would have thought he was gasping for air. It was almost comical. It took a lot of effort not to laugh.

But, I knew he was trying to protect his secret. And he was my friend. I sighed and turned to Ava.

“Your parents are coming in Friday? That’ll be nice. My parents are super busy with work and my brother has a bunch of activities. They’re only coming for the day Saturday.”

Walter nodded, his color returning to normal. “Yeah. I haven’t asked my parents their plans yet, but my brother and sister both need them a lot more than I do right now. I’m not even sure if they’re coming this weekend.”

“Why don’t you want to introduce me to your parents?” Ava sent Walter a pout so perfect, I was certain it had been practiced.

“It’s not that. I just really don’t think they’re going to be able to make it. They both have really demanding careers and they don’t come to campus very often. When my sister was here, I came to every Parents’ Weekend. Once was with my mom. The rest were with my grandparents. Pop-Pop is an alum and he loves visiting. Now that I think of it, I think the only time both my parents were here at the same time was my sister’s graduation. No, wait. There was one other time. I remember a bounce house. Reunion weekend? Probably.”

I stared at Walter. He had just volunteered a lot of personal information about his guarded family life. Did he realize he had just opened himself up to a bunch of uncomfortable questions by Ava?

He was lucky that Ava didn’t seem to care. “That is so sad. That your parents care more about their work than visiting you.”

“No, it’s not that. They just travel a lot. I mean, we talk literally every day. Actually talk, too, since my parents don’t like to text. We just don’t see each other a lot.”

“Well, my parents are taking time off from work to come visit me.” I was pretty sure the snottiness in Ava’s tone was too subtle for Walter to notice. “And, we’d like if you could join us for dinner Friday night. Think about it. Poor Ma-Wah.”

Watching Ava flounce back to the comfy chair, I tried to translate the butchered French. Eventually, I shook my head and returned to my math homework.

A few minutes later, Walter broke the silence. “Are you having any trouble with question two? I think I added something wrong.”

“Probably, since it’s a proof and there’s nothing to add.”

He glared at me, stealing my page. After comparing our answers, he crossed off something on his own paper. “I meant, I added something into the proof wrong. And I did. But, you did, too. It’s the converse of the corresponding angles postulate. You wrote CAP. You did it write, just wrote the wrong thing.”

Ava was suddenly sitting beside Walter again as he returned my paper. When we finished math and decided to move on to physics, Ava decided to join us. Unfortunately, we were in honors and she wasn’t. Her textbook was completely different from ours. The three of us ended up working quietly, with me occasionally asking for Walter’s help on the review questions.

By the time we finished our Latin homework, study hours was nearly over. Ava, who had been busy writing in her English reflections journal, glanced up when she saw us packing our books.

“Oh, is it finally break time?”

I shrugged. “Nearly. It’s too late to start another subject before the library closes.”

“Oh, good. I need a break.”

From what? All I had seen her do was flip through her French book and doodle in her reflections journal. A phrase drifted across my memory. Don’t be snide; keep it inside.

“Why are you smiling?” Ava glared at me.

“Was I? I’m sorry. I was just remembering something my homeroom teacher used to say in sixth grade.”

“Oh. What was it?”

“It doesn’t make sense out of context. It was just something that popped into my head.”

I followed Walter and Ava out of the library and across the street to the dorms, listening to Ava chatter about her plans for her long weekend at home.

I was surprised to see Sarah sitting at her desk when I returned to my room. Study hours were over. She should have been with Larry, either here or in his room. I sent her a puzzled look.

“Why aren’t you in Stanton?”

“Oh, yay. You’re back. Break time.” Sarah umped up and began pulling pajamas from her wardrobe. “Why weren’t you at dinner?”

“I ate in town with Eliot after CCD. Why are you not in Stanton?” I pulled out my own pajamas and began to change.

“Larry told me not to come over tonight. He wants to chat with Walter about Ava.”

Sarah climbed onto her bed with a groan, settling herself with her back against the wall.

I did the same on my own bed. “What about Ava?”

“She joined us for dinner. It was pretty much torture. Larry and I made sure we did NOT do that thing you and Walter keep teasing us about. We made sure to include Walter and Ava in our conversation. Especially since no one else was. Except, Ava monopolized it by telling us about her day in so much detail, it felt like it took longer for her to tell it than for her to actually live it. Like I care what color socks her French teacher was wearing.”

I giggled. “What color?”

“Yellow. I’m not sure why that particular piece of information stuck in my head, but it did. Anyway, Larry said something like how difficult his math class had been that afternoon and Ava jumped right in to say how grateful she was that Walter had helped her with the homework last night. Ad she just wouldn’t stop talking.”

“I don’t see that side of her. Then again, I only see her during study hours and we try not to talk too much in the library.”

“I’m trying really hard to like her, since Walter does, but I just don’t. I can’t put my finger on it. I thought she was a little too self-centered. Not that she always has to talk about herself, but that she wants everything to be about her. Like she needs a lot of attention.”

I nodded slowly. “Yeah, I could see that. I had a revelation today.”

“About what?”

“So last night, I was completely not paying attention. I was thinking about Walter and Ava and realized I was jealous.”


I threw a pillow at my roommate. “Not like that. I told you. I like Walter as a friend. But, Ava is intruding on my friend time with him and that was making me jealous. So during the form meeting today, I was completely not paying attention and I started thinking about Larry.”

“Can’t have him. He’s mine.” Sarah threw the pillow back at me.

I scrunched my face, sticking out my tongue. “Ha ha. No. I mean, he intrudes on my friend time with you and I don’t mind because he’s my friend, too. So then, I thought that maybe if Ava and I were friends, I wouldn’t be so jealous.”

Sarah shrugged. “I guess that makes sense. So, are you going to try to be her friend?”

I shook my head. “That was the second part of my revelation. I can be polite and maybe try to engage her in a conversation. But, I don’t think we could ever be friends. We have nothing in common and I just kind of don’t like her. I can’t see myself hanging out with her without Walter around.”

“I get the feeling she feels the same way about you. She looks down on a lot of people. Not so much me, because she found out I’ve been to boarding schools forever. But, I can tell she doesn’t think much of Walter being homeschooled. And she really doesn’t think highly of you going to public school. I don’t think she liked Eliot being a townie, either.”

“She’s really snobby, isn’t she? I don’t like thinking that way, but—”

Sarah nodded. “Yeah, I feel the same way. It’s more or less what I told Larry after dinner.”

Melinda’s Journal

Friday, October 20

 (Author note: I am not sure what this journal entry should be about. Any suggestions? Leave a comment below.)