Episode 056

Melinda’s Story

After my Tuesday morning Latin exam—which I completed with enough time  to double check my answers twice—and a quick lunch, I headed to the Arts Center to work on my drawing project. Our final assignment sounded simple: Use shading to show depth when drawing two black and white images and two color ones. The problem was, I had been  having trouble finding inspiration.

I retrieved my portfolio from my locker, bringing it to my loft classroom out of habit. I wasn’t surprised to see Mr. Rockwell there.

Despite an entire term, I was still intimidated by most of my teachers. I almost turned around and left. Instead, I managed to squeak out a timid greeting. “Oh, um, hi.”

“Hello, Melinda. Have you come to turn in your portfolio?”

“Actually, I’m still working on it. I haven’t figured out what to draw.”

Mr. Rockwell waved a sweeping hand around the loft. “Well, there are many items up here if you would like to select some. Feel free to move them around, although I ask you not remove them from the loft and to return them where you found them when you are done. If you’d like, you may want to visit upstairs. There are even more items there.”

He didn’t wait for an answer before disappearing down the spiral staircase and heading into the box office. I glanced around. There were a few objects in the back corner, but I had never been upstairs. curiosity had me taking my portfolio up the back staircase to the mysterious third floor loft.

I was amazed at the random collection of objects. I recognized some as having been in my classroom before Mr. Rockwell had cleaned it for Parents’ Weekend, but there were many I had never seen before. A clay pot of artificial flowers caught my attention. picking it up, I examined it from various angles. I could do something with this.

I brought the flower pot to the counter that overlooked the loft below, placing it in the natural light shining through the glass ceiling above. Sitting beside it, I sketched out the basic shapes with a thin pencil. I then went over it again with my black, white, and gray oil pastels using various amounts of shading until it looked fairly realistic. I was very pleased with my work and decided to find something else to draw.

I left my portfolio to dig through the loft. Buried under some pieces of fabric was an old fashioned alarm clock with bells on top. It stood on three short pegs and it’s face was a yellow smiley face that contained hands but no numbers or other markings. Like the flower pot, I brought this to the counter, this time using my colored pastels.

I found a stack of books that were arranged in such a haphazard way, I wanted to capture them as they were. I brought my drawing pad to them, sitting on the floor to create my second black and white drawing.

I needed something special for my last color drawing. For some reason, not just anything would do.  I looked behind, around, and under other objects. Finally, I found an elaborate masquerade mask buried under a blanket. It was made of white porcelain, with swirls of every color accenting it. I instantly fell in love.   it was perfect.

I brought the mask back to the counter. It was even more gorgeous in the sunlight.  After sketching its general shape, I used my black, white, and grey pastels to create the shadows. I did my best to make the colored swirls as identical as possible to those of the mask. I even blended my black and grey pastels with each color to create shadows and made lighter hues by blending the colors with my white pastel.

After returning the mask to its home, I went in search of Mr. Rockwell. But, I had no idea where his office was. The last place I had seen him was the box office. I decided to start there.

The lady behind the desk directed me the second-floor. There I found  a disordered room. Mr. Rockwell looked out of place sitting at a computer on an old-fashioned wooden desk.

“Um, Mr. Rockwell?”

He glanced up. “Oh, hello. Were you able to find some inspiration?”

“There are some great things up there. I wanted to show you what I did. You don’t have to grade it right now, but if they’re not quite what you were looking for, can you let me know so that I can have time to redo them tonight?”

“Let’s see what you found.” Mr. Rockwell sounded amused as I flipped through my sketchbook to my picture of the flowerpot before passing it to him.

He nodded with an amused look in his eye. “This is very nice.”

He flipped the page to the alarm clock. “Excellent.”

He admired the stack of books. “Very good use of shadows here.”

Mr. Rockwell was silent as he turned the page to view the mask. He traced the swirls with his finger just above the page so as not to smear the pastels. Finally, he spoke just above a whisper. “This mask. Where did you find it?”

“It was up on the third floor loft. Under some stuff. I put it back where I found it.”

“This mask was given to me by a very talented friend. It was one of the last things he did before he passed away.”

I had no idea what to say. “I’m sorry.”

“You have managed to capture its beauty perfectly.”

“Thank you.”

“I will keep your notebook to comment on your drawings and I will return it at the beginning of next term. You have done a lovely job.”

The following morning, Pat and I sat in the furthest corner of the dining hall, where I tried to help him with his biology vocabulary cards. The problem was, I couldn’t pronounced any of the words.

I frowned at the last one. “Prahk-are-yo-tic,”

Pat smiled. “Prokaryotic. Cells without membrane-bound organelles.”

“Good. See, you know this stuff.”

“I just hope I remember it this afternoon.”

“Which test are you taking first?”

“Physics. I wanna sit next to Walter and bug him. Oh, Dad told me to offer you a ride home this afternoon, if your parents don’t want to drive. We’re gonna be passing right through your town.”

I shrank back a little. I would love the extra time with pat and walter. There was just one small problem. “I haven’t exactly told my parents about you yet.”

“Technically, Dad told me to remind Walter. My parents don’t know about us yet, either.”

I shook my head. That wasn’t the problem. “No, I mean, my parents don’t know about you, period. The last I told my mother was that at the Victory Ball, I was dancing with Walter’s brother and we were thinking about being more than friends, but we weren’t ready for that yet.”

“So, tell them Walter’s dad offered to drive you home.”

“And, I pull up with Adam Evans and Patrick McGregor? Then I tell my mother that you’re my boyfriend? I don’t think so.”

“Okay, I think I see your point.” Pat pouted, running his fingers through my hair. “I want to see you over break. Will you come visit me?.”

I sighed. “I’ll talk to my parents. I wanna spend time with you, too.”

Like math, I found my physics final no more difficult than any of the tests we had taken in class. I read through my answers twice, making sure I put as much detail as possible into my explanations and showing every step of my work. I checked my numerical answers slowly, since I had a tendency for computational errors.

I still finished with time to spare. Walter caught up with me as I headed down the front steps of the TRAC.

“Hey! That was easy! Now, I get to go finish my programming project.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Isn’t that due today?”

“Before I leave campus. I’m here til, like, four. Pat’s gotta take his biology exam after lunch. Oh, hey. Dad told me to offer you a ride home. We literally have to drive right through your town.”

“Pat beat you to it. And, I thought it might be a little awkward to show up with Adam Evans and Patrick McGregor at my parents’ doorstep.”

Walter smiled. “Finally. It took a whole term, but finally someone understands! However, it would just be Pat, and we can make him wear his stupid scarf. Dad didn’t want to drive in the holiday traffic, so he’s sending a car.”

I sent him a curious look. “You guys have like your own chauffeur?”

“No, but there are plenty of times they don’t want to drive, like if they’re going away for a long period of time, so they use a car service to get to the airport.”

I checked my phone.  It was still early enough that my father may not have left yet. I called the officr as I followed Walter to the dining hall lounge. My mother answered on the second ring.

“Hey, Mom!”

“Melinda. Shouldn’t you be taking your exams? Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, everything’s great. I finished my physics test a little early and now I’m done.”

“Oh, honey. Daddy got stuck on a project and he’s not going to be able to leave for a while. I know he told you two, but it may be later at this point.”

“Actually, that’s why I was calling. See, Walter’s father didn’t want to drive in the traffic, so he hired a car to come pick up Walter and his brother.”

“You want me to send a car service?”

“No. They live in Mapleview and they have to pass right by our house to get home. Walter’s dad suggested they bring me home. Would that be okay with you? Or did Daddy really want to come drive up here to get me in the holiday traffic?”

“Oh, sweetie. I don’t know. I wouldn’t want to impose.”

“Both Walter and his brother invited me. Without knowing the other one had. And both said it was their father’s idea. I don’t think I’m imposing. Walter’s my best friend. Oh, and they’ll just be dropping me off. They can’t stay cuz they need to get home.”

“And, you promise it’s a professional car service, not some random person with a car and some spare time?”

“Walter says they use this service when they don’t want to drive to the airport.”

“Oh, like Rachel does.” I shook my head. I had no idea who Rachel was, but she could be my new best friend if it meant riding home with my friends. Suddenly, my mother was in love with the idea.

“If they don’t mind bringing you home, that would be fantastic. I can even offer to drive them back when you return next month. Text me when you’re on the road.”

“Thanks, Mom!”

Walter must have been eavesdropping. As soon as I ended the call,  he called home. While I debated whether to surprise Pat or tell him he was bringing me home, I listened in on Walters call.

“Hey, Mom . . . It went great . . . No, I’m done. Pat’s the one with the extra exam . . . No, this is Walter . . . Well, it wasn’t funny. Anyway, Dad said to offer to drive Melinda home . . .Yes, she’s right here . . . No, she didn’t take it that way . . . I’m not being rude. Am I being rude?”

He looked at me, but it took a minute for me to realize he was talking to me. I shook my head, trying not to laugh at the ridiculousness of this conversation.

“She’s shaking her head no. No, she’s saying no, I’m not being rude. She wants us to give her a ride home. She already asked her mom and got permission . . . Whatever. Everyone’ll be gone by then anyway. Nobody will see it . . . Yes, I agree, it’s probably best . . . Yes, we’ll behave ourselves . . . No, we won’t distract the driver . . . Okay. I’ll text you the address when I hang up . . . I can’t text you until I hang up . . . I love you, too . . . I will. Bye!”

I giggled as Walter hung up the phone. “I have no idea what your mom was saying, but that was just completely hysterical.”

“I need to text her your address.”

I typed it into his phone. After he sent the text, he told me about the conversation as we headed into the dining hall.

“Since there’s three of us and our luggage, she’s going to call the service and see if they’ll send a bigger car. Like, probably a limo. I told her it wasn’t a big deal because everyone will have already left. Are you okay with it? We’ll be able to watch a movie while we’re stuck in traffic.”

“Sounds like fun. Can we not tell Pat that I’m coming? I kinda want to surprise him.”

“I won’t say a word. Is he joining us for lunch?”

“He wasn’t sure. He’s really stressing over his biology exam.”

Walter followed me into the servery. “I think you should have lunch with him today. Just the two of you. Every time I see him stressing out, he seems to calm down when hes with you. I’ve been noticing it a lot this past week. You’re good for him.”

“Does that mean you finally approve of him and me?”

Walter shrugged. “I guess. Still no making out in front of me, though.”

“When you’re done with your program, come hang out in my room.”

“Will do.”

Melinda’s Journal

Wednesday, November 22

Finals are nearly over and then we’re going home for break for ten days. While I’m excited to spend some time with my family, I’m going to miss spending my days with my friends. Especially Pat.

We have been together for a little over a week. In that time, we haven’t spent more than twelve hours away from each other. Now, we’re about to spend ten days apart. Sure, we’ll be able to talk on the phone, but that  isn’t the same.

I already miss him terribly.

Pat’s Story

I didn’t get to see Melinda much on Tuesday. We had breakfast, but she disappeared at lunchtime. I wanted to tell her about my Latin exam, talk to her about hers. But, when I texted her, she said she had already eaten and was working on her art project.

I had no appetite for lunch and spent the entire break reviewing my history notes. I had put all the key dates on one side of my notecard and the important people on the other. I just hoped it would be enough.

Dinner with Frank and Chloe did not help my anxiety. I ate more because I knew I had to than because I was hungry. Frank was freaking out about tomorrow’s biology exam and I promised to study with him during second study hours. Chloe was freaking out about her psychology exam tomorrow afternoon, but neither of us could help her very much.

By the time I went to study with Walter and his friends, I was convinced I was going to fail my physics exam. I sat close enough to Melinda to put my arm around her as I reviewed my notes and practiced some equations. I found that even though I was in a more advanced level than the third-formers, going over it with them helped me gain confidence to pass my exam. I spent the evening study hours trying to cram biology with Frank, but he wasn’t very helpful and my confidence dwindled.

By breakfast, I was starting to get nervous again. There was something about this biology final that was causing me a mental block. Melinda and I sat in a corner of the freshman section and she quizzed me on my vocabulary cards while we ate. She pronounced nearly every one of them wrong, but it was cute.

After we went through a few, I suddenly remembered the text my father sent me last night. “Dad told me to offer you a ride home this afternoon, if your parents don’t want to drive. We’re gonna be passing right through your town.”

She played with her eggs, talking to her plate. “I haven’t exactly told my parents about you yet.”

“Technically, Dad told me to remind Walter. My parents don’t know about us yet, either.”

Melinda looked me in the eyes and shook her head. “No. I mean, my parents don’t know about you, period. The last I told my mother was that at the Victory Ball, I was dancing with Walter’s brother Pat and we were thinking about being more than friends, but we weren’t ready for that yet.”

That was a lot more than I told my parents. My parents knew I was spending time with Walter and his friends. They had no idea I was spending a lot of time with one specific friend.

I shrugged. “So, tell them Walter’s dad offered to drive you home.”

“And, I pull up with Adam Evans and Patrick McGregor? Then I tell my mother that you’re my boyfriend? I don’t think so.”

That was the first time she had called me Patrick McGregor. It sounded strange coming from her lips.

“Okay, I think I see your point,” I lied. Despite all her claims to the contrary, was she embarrassed to be seen with me?