I read through the final journal entry twice more before I was completely satisfied. Raising my hand one last time, I told Mr. Johnson I was finished.
He whispered as he collected my blue book and journals. “Have a great Thanksgiving.”
I grabbed my bag and headed outside, passing a number of people on my way to the exit. I was probably one of the first people to leave the exam. Had I done something wrong? Were my essays too short? Oh no. What if I skipped an entire part of the exam?
“Daphne! Wait up!” I turned to see Pat calling from behind as I was about to cross the creek. I waited for him with a smile as he jogged closer, swinging his arm around my shoulder when he reached me.
He kissed the top of my head. “How’d it go?”
“Well, I thought it was really easy, but now I’m wondering if I did something wrong because I finished so quickly.”
“What’d you have to do?”
“Well, the first part was multiple choice. I was given the definition and had to select the right vocabulary word.”
“I had that, too. I think I did pretty well, thank you Weddas. How’d you do?”
“I read each definition and then thought of the word before I looked for the answer. And it was always one of the choices, so I think I did really well. But, maybe I didn’t.”
“I’m sure you did fine. What else did you have to do?”
Melinda smiled. “I had to pick my favorite myth and summarize it. Wanna guess which one I picked?”
He smiled. “I don’t think I need to, Daphne. What else?”
“I had the timed essay Mr. Johnson had told us about. I wrote my outline on the notecard.”
“Yeah, I saw you doing that the other day. I still can’t believe you managed to cram all that onto your card.”
“It was so easy to write it out because I had already done the outline. Last night, I used the notecard to think about how I wanted to say what I wanted to say. So, when I was writing, it just all spewed out. I needed another blue book.”
“We had a timed essay to compare two of the novels we read. We got to pick the novels and a thesis. I wrote a couple of outlines out the past few days, but I just didn’t like them. I didn’t figure something out until last night, when I just wrote an entire essay. Then, I turned that into an outline, made the font impossibly small, printed it out, and taped it to an index card.”
“You did not!”
Pat pulled the card out of his pocket . He had been telling the truth, although the font was not too terribly small. He did need to place some of his lines sideways in order to fit everything on the card, though.
I looked back at him. “Did you have an extra credit? We got to rewrite one of our journal entries.”
“That’s cool. Our extra credit was to make a venn diagram comparing two characters from two novels, not the ones we used in our essay. Since I didn’t have notes on that one, I’m not sure I did a great job on it.”
We ascended the large stairs in front of the dining hall and Pat held the door for me.
I took his hand as we crossed the lounge. “Wanna have lunch with me? Or are you meeting Frank and Chloe?”
Pat scoffed. “I’ll catch up with them at dinner. I know you have another exam after lunch, but can we spend some time alone together? Even if it’s just me watching you study?”
I smiled. “I have math this afternoon, and there’s not really much I can do to study for it. I want to review my theorems, but that won’t take too long.”
Pat paused in front of the servery. “Can we have lunch alone?”
“I don’t mind. But, can we? I mean, won’t people just sit with us?”
“I have an idea. Get your tray and everything and meet me at the salad bar.”
I explored the servery before deciding on baked potato soup and a cheese sandwich, balancing the meal with a small salad. I grabbed a couple of glasses of water and returned to the salad bar.
Pat led the way to the far right corner of the room, through a small unmarked door. We went up a flight of stairs to a small room. Inside was a single dining hall table and a window that looked out towards the humanities building. Across from the window was a door identical to the one we had just entered.
I looked around as I set my tray beside Pat. “What is this place?”
“My area of refuge. There’s a long history to this room,” Pat bit into his turkey club grinder. “You know the dining hall was always the dining hall, right?”
I rolled my eyes. “What else would it be?”
Pat shrugged. “Well, some of the dorms used to be classrooms and the admissions office used to be the infirmary. Anyway, this was always the dining hall. This room used to be the faculty dining room. That door there leads to the balcony. You’ve seen the balcony, right?”
I had to think about it, but now that he mentioned it, I could recall seeing a balcony right about where we were sitting. I had become so used to its presence that no longer noticed it.
“Yeah. Why is it there?”
“No clue. Anyway, my mother was already really well-known by the time she attended Hartfield and meal times were especially difficult for her because everyone would be staring at her or asking for her autograph. Pop-Pop is on the board of trustees and when she told him how hard a time she was having adjusting, he spoke to some of his fellow trustees. Someone remembered this room and well, it became her safe haven. She would eat meals here for a while, ‘til things calmed down.”
“And she told you about it?”
Pat shook his head. “Meghan had a hard time adjusting, too. Her third form year, House Arrest had just been released and she had a hard time trying to figure out who wanted to be Meghan Evan’s friend and who wanted to be near Meghan McGregor.”
“So, your mom told her about this room.”
Pat nodded. “My third form year started out almost as rough as Meghan’s. GnomeWorld premiered the week classes began. I told you, it was easier for me to hang out with her. Her friends didn’t care how famous I was. They teased me about being a third former.” Pat smiled at the memory.
“Is that why you call Walter third former?”
Pat nodded. “Meghan got annoyed that I was always hanging around, so she showed me this room. Told me to try bringing a friend or two here when I was feeling overwhelmed.”
“And today? Are you feeling overwhelmed today? Or did you just want privacy?”
“You haven’t noticed, have you?” Pat reached out to play with a stray hair on myu head.
“Everyone’s staring at you when you’re with me.”
I thought about it, eventually shaking my head with a frown. “No, I hadn’t noticed.”
Pat pulled me close. “You’re awesome.” His voice was just above a whisper as he leaned in to kiss me.
I’m pretty sure my heart actually stopped beating completely as he gently moved his hand slowly up and down my back. A warmth tingled from head to toe until I thought I might burst. I never wanted this feeling to end.
But, eventually, it had to. Pat rested his forehead against mine with his eyes closed.He swore in an amazed whisper. My response was just as soft.
“What was that?”
“I have no idea. How long until your next exam?”
The word exam brought me back to her senses. I sat up and checked the time. I only had about an hour before I needed to get back to the TRAC.
Pat took another bite of his sandwich. “Why don’t we get some fresh air. I can quiz you.”
“I think I just want to read them through on my own. But, you can sit with me,.”
Although it took two hours to complete, I didn’t think my math final was any more difficult than any of our tests had been this term. I spent the time to review each question, making sure my proofs were as concise as possible and that I didn’t make any silly computational errors.
Our extra credit assignment was a very difficult proof. I tried to do it three times before I finally figured it out. After checking that it was as concise as possible, I turned in my test and went in searCh of my boyfriend.
He was studying in the library, of course. After a very long, heart-stopping kiss, I told him about my exam. He assured me that I had done my best and would have no difficulties passing. Since I was pretty sure he was right, I suggested we study for our Latin exams.
We spent the rest of our afternoon doing vocabulary drills. I held up one one of his flashcards and he gave me the definition. Then he held up mine. By dinnertime, we were both able to get through our piles without missing a word.
At dinner that night, my friends obsessed over their upcoming exams. Nearly everyone had found today’s tests to be difficult. Despite their complaints I remained strangely confident.
I waited until Walter and I were walking alone to our study room before asking his opinion.
“Am I not giving these exams enough of my attention? Should I have been studying instead of having lunch with Pat?”
He smirked. “I was wondering where you disappeared to.”
I hit him, hurting my hand more than his muscular arm. Ignoring me, he shook his head.
“No, I think you studied the right way. You’ve been studying for a week, not starting the night before. The people who are the most stressed are those who haven’t been preparing and are trying to cram it all in now.”
I sighed. “I guess you’re right. Are you worried?”
Walter considered a moment. “Not really.”
Tuesday, November 21
Over the past three months, I have been writing in my journal for English class. Now that Mr. Johnson has collected them, it feels weird not to try to write something down every day. I still feel compelled to write, so I have decided to start keeping a diary.
I’m not exactly sure what I want to write about today. Until yesterday, I was really worried about finals. Everyone seemed to be making a big deal out of them.
But, I’m not that worried anymore. Yesterday’s tests weren’t as difficult as I expected them to be. I’m hoping the rest of my week goes as smoothly as yesterday.
When I started second guessing myself, I decided I was finished with the exam. I raised my hand, turned it in to my teacher, and stood to leave. Only then did I realize Melinda’s seat was vacant.
When I left the building, I saw her down the road. I called to her, jogging to catch up to her just before crossing the creek. I put my arm around her and held her close. We took a few minutes to discuss our exams as we headed towards the dining hall. As we entered the building, Melinda invited me to have lunch with her.
I wanted to be alone with her, I realized. I had my entire afternoon free. I was supposed to be using it to study for tomorrow’s exams. But, I could do that during her math exam. I wanted to spend every free moment with her. Because, in a few days, we were going home and I wasn’t going to see her for over a week.
“Can we have lunch alone?” I squeezed her hand as we approached the servery.
She shrugged, releasing my hand to grab a tray. “I don’t mind. But, can we? I mean, won’t people just sit with us?”
I had something special in mind. I told her to meet me at the salad bar and went off to figure out what I wanted to eat. I wasn’t sure if it was finals or the realization that I would be going home soon, but I didn’t have much of an appetite. I grabbed a bowl of soup, made a quick PB&J, and balanced it out with a salad. After grabbing a couple of waters, I found Melinda waiting for me.
I said nothing as I led her to my sanctuary, a small dining area just upstairs of the main dining hall. I knew not many people were aware of this room’s existence and I could see Melinda’s awe as we sat at the lone table.
I explained to her how this room used to be the faculty dining room, like a hundred years ago. Like Meghan and I, Mom was already famous by the time she started at Hartfield. When she told her father how hard it was to eat because everyone wanted her autograph or was staring at her, Pop-Pop talked to some of his Board of Trustees friends. Someone remembered this room and Pop-Pop showed it to Mom. When Meghan was a third-former, Mom showed it to her. When I was a third-former, Meghan showed it to me. I supposed it was my turn to show Walter, but I didn’t think he needed it.
I did, though. Although we had been spending a lot of time in the library, there were times when Melinda and I were just walking around campus, holding hands. Times we were in the dining hall, eating together. The staring had begun. Whispering, too. No one seemed to want to come out and ask if Melinda was my girlfriend.
When I pointed this out to Melinda, she admitted she hadn’t noticed. And, I knew she meant it. She had half the campus staring at and whispering about her, but she didn’t even notice. As I leaned in to kiss her, I thought about how lucky I was to have her.
“You’re awesome.” My whisper was barely audible as my lips met hers. I held her close, moving my hand slowly up and down her spine. More than once, I thought about reaching under her shirt to feel her bare skin, but I managed to just barely contain myself. I rested my forehead against hers, swearing under my breath. She spoke in a breathless voice.
“What was that?”
“I have no idea.” But I wanted to do it again. We were alone in a room no one knew existed. No one would disturb us. At that moment, I wanted to be as close to her as possible. “How long until your next exam?”
I had said the wrong word. She sat up and the moment was gone. As she checked the time, reason returned and I suggested we go somewhere where I could help her study.
We ended up in the library, where I remained while she went off to her math exam. I set a dinner reminder, at which time I texted Frank and Chloe to make sure they ate.