Episode 047

Melinda’s Journal

Sunday, November 5

I stand alone in the dark. My heart pounds a rhythm in my throat for an eternity. I must not move. I take slow, deep breaths. “I can do this.” I repeat to myself. “I can do this.”

Suddenly, I’m bathed in light and sound. I still do not move. Listening carefully, I count to four. My feet move slowly, my body follows. Each move is precise, sound echoing off the floors and back to my ears. Sound I alone can hear. A melody within the melody. Click – it – y, Clack – it – y. Click – it – y, Clack – it – y.

My feet are moving faster as I whirl about the stage. This way, that way. In the air and down again. Move to the left. Rat – a- tat, rat – a- tat. Move to the right. Rat – a – tat, rat – a – tat. Wings! Wings! Wings! Put-ta-put! Put-ta-put! Put-ta-put!

My body is one with the music. I am no longer counting. I am no longer thinking. I am no longer in control. The music directs my feet and arms. The music is my puppetmaster. Tak-a – tak-a, tak-a – tak -a.

It continues forever, and is over too quickly. As suddenly as it started, it ends. I stomp into a final pose. Thick – thick – thump.

I stand alone in the light. My heart pounds a different rhythm in my throat for an eternity. I must not move. I take short, panting breaths. “That was awesome.” I repeat to myself. “That was awesome.”

Suddenly, the lights go out. I’m bathed in darkness. Applause rings out as I tiptoe off the stage. Tith. Tith. Tith.

Melinda’s Story

Last week, Pat had joined me and Walter for the holy day mass, so I wasn’t surprised to see him walking with us Sunday morning. I had to admit, going to church with my best friend instead of my family had felt weird. Adding his celebrity older brother that I kind of had feelings for? Beyond strange.

I thought nothing of his sunglasses and watchcap until we sat down. After insisting we sit in the back, he left them on, as well as his parka. Somehow, I had ended up sitting between the two boys. Walter leaned over me to yell at his brother in a whisper.

“Lose the sunglasses.”


“Fine, but you need to ditch the hat. No hats in church.”

Scowling, Pat shoved the cap in his pocket as we all stood to sing the opening hymn.

As usual, Walter and I went to breakfast after mass, but Pat ditched us. After Walter removed his egg sandwich and three extra waters from my tray, he nodded in my direction as he returned to his seat.

“So, what time is your show over? I mean, will you be done by study hours?”

I shook my head mournfully. “The second show doesn’t even start until seven. I’ll be lucky if I’m back before second study hours.”

“Oh, man. And, I’m falling behind. I didn’t do tonight’s homework on Friday because of the pep rally.”

“Really? I finished it during second study hours. Including my English essay due tomorrow. And, I finished reading Odyssey through . . . I think I read through Book Twenty.”

Walter raised his eyebrows. “I think that’s all the reading for the week.”

I shrugged. “What can I say? It was a long dress rehearsal yesterday. I think I’m going to try to work on physics today. I want to stay ahead in all my classes. Hey, have you noticed the work getting easier?”

“Ah!” Walter covered his ears. “Don’t say that! You’ll jinx yourself.”

I giggled. “No. I’m serious. I feel like back in September, I spent hours trying to understand the assignments and now it doesn’t take nearly as long.”

“I’m not going to agree with you. In fact, I’m going to say that I think the work is getting harder. I may need to pull an all-nighter to get tonight’s assignment done.”

I gathered my plates as I stood. “Let’s just hope you didn’t just jinx yourself.”

My parents were coming to the matinee show. I made sure to text them before I disappeared into the black box. My mother wanted to come find me before the show, but I told her I’d rather wait. Besides the fact that I would never receive their text when they arrived, I wanted to keep my costume a surprise.

I was the last one to arrive in the dressing area and I was about ten minutes early. I guess Madam Cheri’s punctuality lecture had been effective.

I quickly changed into my costume and was putting the final touches on my makeup when I heard the overture beginning. I grabbed my physics book and settled into my corner. By intermission, I had finished all  my work through Wednesday and wished I had brought something else to study.

My class had a flawless performance, as did the other advanced classes. Standing in the wings at the end of the show, I could hear the applause as each class did their curtain call. Was it my imagination, or did my class receive the loudest applause?

When the curtain closed a final time, I followed my classmates to the dressing area. I quickly threw my robe over my costume and swapped my tap shoes for sneakers. Heading up the back stairs, I found my parents in the Art Center courtyard.

My mother gave me a hug, careful not to disturb my hair. “That was one of your best performances.”

My brother nodded. “Yeah. I wasn’t totally bored. I liked the dancing chocolates, but you guys were totally the best.”

I smiled as my father hugged me. “Excellent job, sweetheart.”


My mother looked around. “So, are you able to take a break for dinner? We were thinking we could take you out?”

Going out to dinner after my performance was one of my favorite traditions. I frowned. “I can’t leave. Actually, I wanted some books and I’m not even sure I can run to my room to grab them. I don’t really want to change and I can’t wear my costume across campus.”

“I can bring them for you.”

I turned around. Sarah gave me a big hug. “You did a great job. I’ve never seen the Nutcracker before, but that was awesome.”

Larry nodded beside her. “Yeah, I wasn’t totally bored.”

I giggled, pointing to Joey. “That’s what my brother said.”

Sarah sent me a knowing look. “Walter and his brother were here. But, they started arguing and both huffed off. But, they both said you did great, too.”

I was glad Pat had left. I still hadn’t gotten over the fact that Joey had tracked him down for an autograph. The last thing I wanted was him acting like a crazy fan in front of the guy I kind of liked.

I told Sarah what books I needed and she promised to bring them after dinner. After she and Larry headed off to the dining hall, I led my parents into the Arts Center lobby so we could sit on the couches.

My mom smiled as she sat beside me. “So, how are your classes going?”

“Really well. I’m ahead in most of my assignments and I told Walter this morning that I thought things were getting easier. He said I jinxed myself and he’s probably right, but at the moment, things are good.”

She smiled. “Did you go to the dance last night.”

I nodded. “Yeah. I was a lot of fun.”

“Did you go with anyone?”

“Not exactly. I mean, I with Walter, but just as friends since neither of us had real dates. We ended up spending most of the night with his brother and a couple of his friends.”

My mother frowned. “I’ve been hearing a lot about Walter’s brother lately.”

My dad got to his feet. “Hey, Joey. Why don’t we go grab a milkshake before dinner?”

“Awesome! Later!”

I turned to my mother. “Dad didn’t have to leave.”

“Tell me more about the dance.”

I sighed. “Walter and Pat—that’s his brother—they have a weird relationship. They’re really close, best friends. But, only when they’re alone. Walter doesn’t want anyone to know they’re brothers. The three of us spent a lot of time together when we were here during Parents’ Weekend and it’s weird but I fit right in with them. And now, I guess, Pat’s kind of my friend, too.”

My mother sent me a curious look. “Just friends?”

I sighed. “Last night at the dance, Pat and I were dancing together and yeah, both of us thought maybe we’d like to be more than friends. But, I’m not really ready for that to happen.”

“I thought you were seeing Eliot.”

“We broke up. I thought I told you.”

“I may have seen a text or email. Do you want to tell me what happened?”

I shrugged. “It’s just, Eliot and I were friends, but it turned out we didn’t really have a lot in common so being together just didn’t work.”

“Well, I’m not thrilled about all these boys.”

When I tried to interrupt, she held up a hand to stop me. “But, I will wait until Thanksgiving to discuss it with you. We’ll see how all these boys are affecting your grades.”

I breathed an internal sigh of relief. I knew I had been doing well in all my classes. I was confident that all these boys, as my mother put it, wouldn’t hurt my grades.

I told my mother more about my classes and did my best to describe the pep rally until my father returned. He had brought me a cheeseburger basket and milkshake.

I gave them all hugs and thanked them for coming before disappearing into the black box with my supper.

While I ate, I congratulated everyone else on their performances. When they saw my meal, several of my classmates decided to have their family members grab them dinner as well.

I finished eating as the second show was getting ready to begin. When the party guests marched through the black box, Sarah arrived with my Latin books.

I gave her a big hug. “Oh, thank you!”

She smiled. “No problem. I texted to see if your parents were still here. When you didn’t answer, I figured you were already in this dungeon. I needed an excuse to come see you. I wanted to tell you about the matinee.”

I giggled. “I was there.”

“Not where I was.” Sarah looked around. “Um, can we go somewhere else?”

I frowned. There were a lot of people crammed into this small space. I knew the girls dressing room wasn’t much better. The ballerinas had been camping in there. I went over to Brody and Livvy sitting near the television. “Brody? I have a favor to ask.”

“What’s up?”

I pointed towards the rehearsal room the younger girls were using as a dressing room. “I wanna go talk to my friend for a little while. We’re just gonna go over in that hallway there. Can you come get me during intermission if I’m not back?”

He nodded. “Not a problem.”

Sarah and I found a quiet spot in the hallway where we could sit on the floor.

“Okay. Tell me all about it.” I folded my hands in my lap, giggling at myself.

Sarah rolled her eyes. “You’ve been in this place too long. Okay. So, when Larry and I went to lunch, Walter reminded us about your show. So, Larry said we should get here early to get good seats. Then, the people in the theater said we needed tickets.”

“I thought students were free.”

“Well, we are. But, we still needed to go get actual tickets from the box office.”

Sarah looked at the map of the auditorium the woman behind the desk had handed her. Larry and Walter each looked over one of her shoulders to examine it with her.

Larry pointed to the middle of the balcony. “There. We never get to sit up there.”

Walter frowned. “What about closer to the front?”

Sarah returned the map, pointing to the seats they had selected.

The woman nodded. “I just need to see each of your IDs.”

After they received their tickets, they exited into the courtyard.

“Hey, third-formers!”

Sarah looked around. Patrick McGregor was walking towards them from the direction of the dining hall, smiling that infamous smile. She still couldn’t fathom how Melinda could talk to him without being mesmerized by that smile. And those eyes.

She looked away to keep from drooling and noticed Patrick McGregor wasn’t alone. The boy she had seen with Melinda last night was there. What had she said his name was? Frank? Or Pete? Something like that. There were a couple of girls, too.

“What’re you doing here?” Sarah could hear panic in Walter’s voice. She thought he had been addressing his brother, but she realized he was staring at one of the girls. She had big sunglasses that hid her face and a ski cap that allowed only a bit of her red hair to sneak out.

She shrugged. “Pat invited me.”

Walter scowled.

Patrick McGregor looked at Sarah. “Where you guys sitting?”

“Oh. Um . . .” Unable to speak, she held up her ticket and was rewarded with that winning smile again.

“Sick. We’ll sit near you. Meetcha in there!”

Patrick McGregor and his friends disappeared into the box office, leaving Sarah and Larry with a grumbling Walter.

“Why do they have to make my life miserable? Come on. Let’s go sit down. Hopefully no one will be up there.”

They entered the glass room and headed towards the large staircase on the right that curved up to the second story. A bored-looking usher stood at the foot of the stairs dressed in jeans and a purple Nutcracker T-shirt. He glanced at each ticket, not even bothering to check whether they were supposed to be upstairs, then handed each a folded sheet of pink paper.

Upstairs, they went through a doorway into the auditorium and found their seats. A few moments later, Patrick McGregor and his friends sat behind them.

The girl in the sunglasses sat directly behind Walter, ruffling his hair affectionately. “So, you’ve been avoiding me. How’re things?”

Walter frowned. “I don’t know. Are you Nice Meghan or Mean Meghan?”

Patrick McGregor winced. “Ouch. But, he does have a point.”

Meghan McGregor removed her sunglasses as she made a face at her brothers. “You try living with Mom asking you every ten minutes what your sugar levels are.”

Walter turned to face his sister. “I thought she moved out.”

“She did. And that’s why I’m Nice Meghan again.”

“Meghan, these are my friends. Larry, Sarah, this is my sister, Meghan.”

She waved. “Pat said your other friend, the one I met, is in the play.”

“I think it’s called a ballet.”

“Which is stupid,” said Patrick McGregor, “because Melinda is tap dancing.”

Meghan McGregor closed her eyes. “Oh, please. Don’t start snapping at each other.” She turned to Sarah. “Have they been like this since Pat returned?”

Sarah was unable to speak. Meghan McGregor was talking to her. What was she supposed to say?

Larry rescued her. “They don’t spend much time together, so we haven’t seen a lot of it.”

“No,” Walter corrected. “Melinda is usually around as a buffer. Besides, you guys are just off in your own little world so you much you don’t see us.”

Larry grinned. “There is that.”

The house lights dimmed and they grew silent watching for their friend. After the third or fourth number, Sarah could tell Larry was growing bored.

“When’s Melinda on?”

“Second act,” Patrick McGregor answered from behind him.

“Look in the program,” Walter added.

Larry used his phone to illuminate his program. Sarah looked over his shoulder, pointing to Advanced Tap written beside Mother Ginger and Her Children. Larry groaned and Sarah elbowed his side.

After another few minutes, Larry leaned closer to Walter on his other side. “Okay, bro. You know everything. Tell me what’s going on here.”

Walter sighed. “Okay. That girl there? Her name’s Clara. Did you see a little while ago, she was given a nutcracker toy? Her brother broke it on her. Now the party’s over and she’s going back and . . . There it is. The nutcracker is coming to life.”

Walter continued explaining the tory to Larry. Sarah was secretly glad. She had been having trouble understanding what was happening.

When the house lights turned back on for intermission, Meghan McGregor looked around. “So, how was the Victory Ball last night?”

Everyone grew silent. Sarah made sure not to glance at either Walter or his brother. Finally, Frank-Pete smiled.

“You remember Bianca Connors?” When Meghan McGregor shook her head, he shrugged. “Oh, well, she’s my form. Anyway, she came to the dance with me, but then she went off to dance with Kevin Becket and ditched me. So, I grabbed Melinda since these two,” he pointed at the brothers simultaneously, “were—well, anyway, I danced with Melinda and that got Bianca nice and jealous and she came right back to me. So, I had a good night.”

Meghan McGregor narrowed her eyes at her brother beside her. “You two were what?”

Patrick McGregor shrugged. “It’s a long story.”

“We’ve got fifteen minutes.”

“It’s not really something we need to talk about here,” Walter added.

“We’re the only people up here. And, I get the feeling everyone else knows what happened. Tell me, or I’ll turn into Mean Meghan again.”

“You weren’t really mean,” Patrick McGregor began.

Walter nodded. “Yeah. It was more like . . . cranky.”



Meghan McGregor held up a hand. “I get the point and nice attempt to change the subject.”

The girl on Meghan’s other side rolled her eyes. “Pat has a not-so-secret-anymore crush on Melinda and Walter’s jealous.”

“Chloe!” Both brothers shouted at the same time and, for the first time, Sarah could actually see the family resemblance. They were both turning bright red as they glared at Chloe.

She shrugged. “What? It’s not like it’s a big secret. We all know about it.”

Meghan McGregor looked at both her brothers, then glanced around the empty balcony. They were the only people there. She pointed to each of her brothers in turn. “You and you. Come with me.”

She led them to the back of the balcony where the three of them held a whispered conversation for the remainder of intermission while everyone else played on their phones to avoid discussing what had just happened.

When the house lights again dimmed and everyone returned to their seats, Sarah was pleased to see both boys were smiling and appeared to be friends again.

Sarah found the second act more entertaining, especially liking the dancing chocolates. A little while later, Larry pointed to the stage.

“Is that Mother Ginger? Where’s Melinda?”

A woman with a large, billowing skirt was dancing onto the stage. The other dancing candies had all come out together in some sort of line, but Sarah could not see any children. She shrugged a shoulder.

“She must be backstage somewhere.”

Mother Ginger moved to the back of the stage and lifted her skirt. Two gingerbread men crawled out and began dancing to the front of the stage. Melinda and another girl were the last to join the line in the front of the stage.

Everyone in the balcony cheered loudly as Melinda returned to the large skirt.

“That was really cool!” Frank-Pete said.

“Definitely the best dance so far,” agreed Larry.

When the show ended, Sarah turned to her friends. “We should go tell Melinda she did a good job.”

Patrick McGregor nodded. “Definitely.”

Walter stared at his brother. “Not uh. You can’t go.”

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t want people to see me with you two.”

Meghan McGregor pinched her nose between her eyes and sighed. “Not this again. Walter, are you ever going to grow up?”

“Not uh.” He turned to Sarah. “Tell Melinda I said she did a great job and I’ll catch up with her later.” He stormed out of the balcony.

Meghan McGregor looked at her other brother with a sigh. “It’s a phase, right?”

“Well, I’m sick of it.” Patrick McGregor turned to Sarah. “Tell Melinda the same from me. I need to go pound some sense into my brother.”

He was stuck between his sister and his friend, so he jumped over his seat into the row behind him before stalking out.

Frank-Pete swore. “We better go get him before he does something stupid.”

“Fine.” Chloe sounded exasperated as they made their way down the row towards the exit, Larry and Sarah following in their own row. “I really hate getting in the middle of your family’s drama, Meghan. Can’t we put you all on a reality show and let them hash it out there?”

When Sarah finished her story, I wasn’t quite sure what to say. “Wow. I kind of agree with Meghan. Walter needs to stop this. But, I never said that.”

Sarah smiled. “Yeah, Larry and I didn’t say the same thing. We also elected you to be the one to figure out how to tell him.

I made a face. “Fine. I’ll talk to him tomorrow.”

“You could just invite your boyfriend to join you at dinner and let him explain it.”

“He’s not my boyfriend. Oh, so my mom asked about the dance last night.”

I briefly told Sarah about my conversation with my mother before she decided she better get back to the dorm. 

Melinda’s Journal

Sunday, November 5

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

Pat’s Story 

Meghan arrived on campus Sunday in time to have lunch in the dining hall. When Frank found out she was coming, he decided to join us to watch the show. We ate in the senior section with Chloe and I could tell Meghan was really enjoying herself. I think she missed Hartfield more than she had let on.

When we headed to the Arts Center, she bundled herself back up in her ski cap and big sunglasses. I raised my eyebrows at her.

“Why are you disguising yourself? You’re at Hartfield.”

“I’m not. I’m just cold. And, it’s bright out.” Since Chloe was also wearing her hat and sunglasses, I didn’t disagree.

We ran into Walter and his friends in the courtyard as they were coming out of the box office. I greeted them brightly.

“Hey, third-formers!”

“What’re you doing here?” Walter glowered at Meghan.

“Pat invited me.”

I turned to Sarah. “Where you guys sitting?”

“Oh. Um…” I knew she was still uncomfortable talking to me, even though I had been joining them for lunch. She showed me her ticket and I memorized her seat number.

“Sick. We’ll sit near you. Meetcha in there!”

I went into the box office and told the lady where we wanted to sit. Meghan paid for her ticket, but the rest of us were free. I offered to pay for Meghan, since I invited her, but she didn’t seem to mind.

We went back across the courtyard to the main theater and up the stairs to the balcony, sitting in the seats right behind Walter.

Meghan ruffled Walter’s hair. “So. You’ve been avoiding me. How’re things?”

Walter was still testy. “I don’t know. Are you Nice Meghan or Mean Meghan?”

“Ouch.” I turned towards my sister. “But, he does have a point.”

Meghan made a face as she took off her hat and coat. “You try living with Mom asking you every ten minutes what your sugar levels are.”

Walter turned to face us. “I thought she moved out.”

“She did. And that’s why I’m Nice Meghan again.”

Walter smiled. “Meghan, these are my friends. Larry, Sarah, this is my sister, Meghan.”

Meghan waved at them, but they didn’t wave back. Sarah was obviously still starstruck. Larry may have been as well. Meghan looked back at Walter.

“Pat said your other friend, the one I met, is in the play.”

“I think it’s called a ballet,” Walter corrected her.

“Which is stupid, because Melinda is tap dancing,” I pointed out.

“Oh, please. Don’t start snapping at each other.” Meghan tried to talk to Sarah, but Sarah had gone mute. It didn’t matter much, since the show was starting.

Ballets are boring. After a while, I started skimming the program. I heard Walter’s friend ask him what was going on. I listened as my brother explained the story. When did he get so smart?

When the lights came on for intermission, Meghan asked about the Victory Ball. Everyone started looking in different directions. Finally, Frank spoke.

“You remember Bianca Connors?”

Meghan shook her head. Frank shrugged. “Oh. Well, she’s my form. Anyway, she came to the dance with me, but then she went off to dance with Kevin Beckett and ditched me. So, I grabbed Melinda, since these two were…” He pointed to me and Walter, then changed his mind about what he wanted to say. “Well, anyway, I danced with Melinda and that got Bianca nice and jealous and she came right back to me. So, I had a good night.”

“You two were what?” Meghan turned to me.

“It’s a long story.”

“We’ve got fifteen minutes.”

“It’s not really something we need to talk about here,” Walter said.

“We’re the only people up here. And, I get the feeling everyone else knows what happened. Tell me, or I’ll turn into Mean Meghan again.”

“You weren’t really mean,” I said.

“Yeah,” Walter agreed. “It was more like…cranky.”



Meghan was obviously trying not to smile. “I get the point and nice attempt to change the subject.”

“Pat has a not-so-secret anymore crush on Melinda and Walter’s jealous,” Chloe declared.

“Chloe!” Walter and I both chastised. I saw Walter turning red and felt my own face growing hot.

“What?” Chloe shrugged. “It’s not like it’s a big secret. We all know about it.”

Meghan pointed at Walter. “You.” She then pointed to me. “And you. Come with me.” We followed her to the back of the balcony.

“Walter? What’s going on?”

“Melinda and I went to the dance as friends. Pat danced with her and he kissed her.”

Meghan looked at me, then back at Walter. “You’re jealous?”

“Not…yes, but not because I like her. I don’t want him to take away my best friend.”

“That makes sense.” She turned to me. “So, are you two together now?”

I shook my head. “No. She…She needs time to figure it out.”

Meghan turned back to Walter. “If they’re not even together, I’m not seeing the problem.”

“They’re gonna end up together. And when they break up, I’m gonna have to choose between them.”

“Like you ever spend time with me in the first place,” I pointed out.

“Yeah,” agreed Meghan. “What’s with that? Pat asked me here because he didn’t want to come alone and said he couldn’t come with you.”

Walter sighed. “No one here knows who I am. I don’t want them treating me differently when they find out.”

“Walter, that’s ridiculous.”

“Is it?” He turned to me. “Sarah can’t even talk to you, and you’ve been eating lunch with us nearly every day since you’ve been back.”

“Is she treating you differently?” I countered. “I’m used to girls being tongue-tied or shrieking when they’re near me. I don’t care.”

“Walter? How long are you going to keep this up?” Meghan asked.

Walter sulked, but didn’t respond.

“How’re you doing?” I eventually asked Meghan. “Are you actually taking care of yourself? Or is it like when you were here?”

Walter looked up. “You were sick here?”

Meghan nodded. “I don’t think Mom knows about all the incidents, but yeah. I didn’t always take good care of myself when I was here.” She turned back to me. “I’m doing well. For real this time. I feel better, too. I don’t think I realized that not taking care of myself was affecting my mood.”

We talked for a while about Meghan’s life in New York until the lights dimmed, returning to our seats as the second act started.

There were several numbers before Melinda was on, but soon it was her turn. A very ugly woman came onto stage wearing a large hoop skirt. After bowing to the dancers already on stage, she stood to the side. Her skirt lifted and two gingerbread men crawled out. Two girls came out next. Melinda was the last of the eight to emerge, tap dancing to the front of the stage. She had told me she was a fairly good dancer, but I was pretty sure her routine was flawless. At the end of the number, she crawled back under the dress with her classmates and they made their way off the stage.

We all agreed it was our favorite number. When the show was over, Sarah suggested we go congratulate Melinda.

“Definitely,” I agreed.

“Not uh.” Walter shook his head at me. “You can’t go.”

“Why not?”

“Because I don’t want people to see me with you two.”

Meghan closed her eyes, pinching the bridge of her nose with a sigh. “Not this again. Walter, are you ever going to grow up?”

“Not uh.” He told Sarah to talk to Melinda for him and stormed off.

Meghan turned to me. “It’s a phase, right?”

“Well, I’m sick of it.” I turned to Sarah. “Tell Melinda the same from me. I need to go pound some sense into my brother.”

I leapt over the seat behind me and stalked after Walter.

He was already long gone by the time I got outside. I considered going to his dorm, but figured I should cool off first. I walked up the hill and around the language building before going across campus to the math building. By the time I reached his dorm, I had cooled off enough to just keep going to my own.

Melinda’s Story

When I returned to the black box, the second performance had barely started. I had plenty of time to finish two Latin assignments before the marzipan started lining up for the greenroom.

The second performance was as flawless as the first. By the time we returned to the black box, my classmates and I were beyond excited.

Livvy looked around the room. “Okay. I know I say this every show, but I really think that was our best show ever.”

Brody nodded, turning to one of the ballerinas. “Destiny, you are definitely going to be invited to company after that performance.”

The girl beamed. “Oh, I hope so!”

One of the other boys in my class clapped his hands. “Okay. Huxley’s. I’m driving.”

Brody smiled at me. “You coming?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Livvy put an arm around me. “It’s a tradition. After every show we go to this diner. You should come.”

I frowned. “That sounds awesome. I would love to go. But, I’m not allowed to leave campus.”

“Boo. I mean, I get it, but boo.”

Brody shrugged. “Maybe next time.”

They continued chattering about the show, comparing it to previous ones, while we changed out of our costumes. For the first time since joining the class, however, I didn’t feel as if I belonged. It wasn’t because I hadn’t been a part of their previous shows. There were girls in the jazz and ballet class that were new this year as well. It was because I knew I wasn’t going to be in the next one.

My dance class was done for the term. Sure, I would probably choose dance as a sport again next term, but joining Mr. Pablo’s class had centered around this performance. If they weren’t going to be rehearsing here anymore, I didn’t see how I could dance with them.

Hugging my classmates in the parking lot was bittersweet, but they didn’t seem to notice. I didn’t think any of the realized I wouldn’t be dancing with them tomorrow afternoon. I was sure of this when Livvy shouted “See you tomorrow” as she drove away.

As I headed back to the dorm, I checked the time. I was a little surprised to see a message from Pat. How did he even have my number?

He didn’t, I realized. He had sent me an email through the school system. He had written Great job today underneath a picture of a gingerbread girl. I smiled all the way back to my dorm.

Since it was nearly time for break, I decided to make quick detour. I passed my own dorm and went straight to Stanton. There were a few guys studying in the common room. None of them seemed to notice me heading down the hallway.

Mr. Peters looked up from his kitchen table when I knocked on his open door.

“Oh, hello, Melinda. Come on in. How can I help you, and if you don’t mind my asking, what’s with the new look?”

I raised my eyebrows. “What new look?”

He gestured to his face. I had forgotten I was still wearing my makeup. I rolled my eyes.

“I was a gingerbread cookie. I forgot to take off my makeup.” I pointed to the ceiling. “I was hoping to talk to Walter. Do you know if he went to the library tonight?”

“He was in his room when I last checked.” Mr. Peters glanced at the clock on the stove. “There’s only ten minutes til the break. You have permission to visit with him now.”

“Thanks, Mr. Peters. Actually—” I pointed down the hall. “Would you mind if I go wash this junk off my face first?”

He smiled. “Go right ahead.”

I would have preferred to wash with my special facial cleanser, but I settled for Mr. Peters’s hand soap. Even scrubbing twice, I couldn’t get it all off. But, at least I looked a lot less like a clown.

Mr. Peters was still in the kitchen when I returned. “Thanks. I’m gonna head upstairs now.”

He nodded. “If the prefect gives you any trouble, tell him to come speak with me.”

I waved as I stepped back over the baby gate. Anyone studying in the dorm had their doors open and I couldn’t help peering in as I made my way up the stairs and down the hall. Larry and Andy were both working on their computers with headphones on. Across the all, Walter was working on his computer. I knocked on the open door.

“Come in.” He didn’t bother looking up.

I dropped my dance bag on his bed as I walked up to glance over his shoulder. When I saw he was working on math, I pointed to a random problem.

“Number four is wrong.” I had no idea what the question even was, nevermind the answer.

I giggled as Walter glanced between me and the book. He shook his head as he got to his feet.

“Oh. Um, hey. What’re you doing here? Is it break already? Oh. I should go check you in with Peters.”

I rolled my eyes. “Hi. Nice to see you, too. I already saw Mr. Peters and he said I could stop by. Break is in a couple of minutes. I needed to talk to you and I figured your room would be better than out on the field.”

Walter swore under his breath. “Are you and Pat a thing now?”

“No. In fact, I haven’t seen him since church. This is an—oh, I forgot the word. When everyone gets together to tell someone they have a problem. Inner-something.”

Walter raised his eyebrows. “Intervention?”

“Yeah, that’s it! So, this is an intervention.”

“Well, I’m not really sure what for, but I think I need to close the door. At least a little.”

He eyed me suspiciously as he headed to the door. A prefect beat him there. He pointed to me.

“You’re not supposed to be here.”

I shrugged. “Mr. Peters said I could come up because there was only a couple minutes left for study hours. And that you could ask him if you had any questions.”

The prefect looked between Walter and I a minute before settling on Walter. “Door stays open.”

Walter inclined his head towards me. “I kind of don’t want anyone eavesdropping on a sensitive conversation.”

The prefect sighed. “Halfway. And I’ll be checking on you guys myself.”

“Thanks, man.” Walter exchanged fistbumps with the prefect before partially closing the door and sitting on his bed.

I was too nervous to sit. I paced in front of him as I tried to figure out what to say.

“So, Sarah came to visit me between shows.”

Walter’s face lit up. “You were fantastic. I don’t know much about dancing, but it looked good from where I was sitting.”

“Thanks. It would have been nice if you could have come told me that after the show, you know.”

Walter looked at his feet. “I know. It’s just—”

“Sarah told me what happened.”

Walter brightened. “Oh! So you get it.”

I sat near his feet. “No, actually, I don’t. And, neither do Sarah and Larry. And, I know we can’t completely understand what you’re going through because none of us have a brother who’s a movie star. But, we know you love your brother and none of us can understand how you can treat him the way you do.”

Walter shrugged. “He understands.”

“According to what Sarah told me, he doesn’t. And neither does Meghan.”

“So, what? He asked you to talk to me?”

“No. I told you. I haven’t talked to him since this morning. Sarah told me about what happened after my show. She said that Meghan said you need to grow up. And, I agree with her. I know you’re worried about how people will treat you once they find out Pat’s your brother, but if you keep showing this side of yourself—” I shrugged. I couldn’t really threaten Walter that I would stop being his friend.

He didn’t look angry with me. Just, frustrated at the situation. He huffed out a breath. “Fine, oh wise one. What exactly is your solution?”

I pursed my lips. I didn’t think I deserved his attitude. But, I decided to ignore it under the circumstances.

I sighed. “I don’t have all the answers. But, I don’t think you should be afraid of being seen with your brother. Let him join you for a meal once in a while. Wave or say hi if you pass each other on a path. I don’t really know.”

“And what happens when people start treating me differently?”

“Have I?”

“Yes. You’re meaner to me.” Walter smiled, although it did not quite reach his eyes.

“Only because you’re mean to your brother.”

“Why don’t you want to be Pat’s girlfriend?”

“Huh?” I was startled by the abruptness of the question. “Don’t change the subject.”

“I’m not. It’s connected. Humor me. Why don’t you want to be his girlfriend?”

I sighed. “It’s complicated.”

“Try me.”

“It’s not that I don’t want to be his girlfriend. Part of me does. But, I’m scared of how things would change.”

“Like what?”

“I had a lot of fun with the two of you during Parents’ Weekend. I like spending time with him, but I’ve never really spent time with just him. Eliot and I got along fine when there were other people around, but when it was just the two of us, there wasn’t anything there. I like Pat as a friend and I don’t want that to change. And I’m scared that if we’re together, it will change. Does that make sense?”

Walter nodded. “Is that the only reason?”

“You kidding? He’s three years older than me. That feels significant, though I can’t really explain why. And, then my last two boyfriends turned out not to work out so well. So, I don’t know if I want to be in another relationship, especially just now. And, there’s you, of course.”

Walter raised his eyebrows. “Me?”

“Yeah. I don’t want you to get stuck in the middle. I don’t want to make you uncomfortable or feel like you have to choose between us. Or for you to stop hanging out with me.”

“So, those are the only reasons you don’t want to be his girlfriend?”

“Those are a lot of reasons.”

“I know. I just, I thought it was because you didn’t want people to treat you differently.”

I sighed. “Yeah, I mean, I guess that’s a thing. But, I hadn’t really even thought about it.”

“You know what Pat told me last night? One of the things he likes best about you is that you don’t see him as someone famous. You see him as a regular guy. And I think, sometimes, maybe I don’t.”

I smiled. “I can’t stand my brother most of the time. But, one summer, when my dad first started his own business, my mom went to work for him and my brother and I stayed home alone every day. My mom was really nervous and we weren’t allowed to leave the house, not even to play in the yard or ride our bikes. But, we were best friends that summer. We got along great. Until my friends came over. Then, he was my annoying little brother again.”

Walter smirked. “That’s a cute story. What’s it have to do with me?”

I rolled my eyes. “I think you and Pat are kind of the same way. When it’s just the two of you, you’re great friends. But, when other people are around, you tend to turn into the annoying little brother.”

Walter smiled. “Meghan found me hiding in the library. She said almost the same thing. She just wasn’t quite as nice about it.” 

“So, last night, Pat asked me if we could hang out this week, like we did during Parents’ Weekend. I think maybe you should join us.”

Walter smiled mischievously. “Why? You think you need a chaperone?”

I hit his foot. “Because I think it would be nice for you and your brother to spend some time together in public.”

Walter frowned. “I’ll think about it.”