A Quick Note From the Author
As you may know, I have been preparing Season 1 for ebook and paperback distribution. During my final edits, I have decided to change the names of one of the minor characters. While you may not notice a difference, I wanted to point it out, since the name will be mentioned more often in future episodes.
You may remember Mr. Peters? He is Walter’s advisor, teaches physics to both Walter and Pat, and is one of the advisors of the NeoGenesis Viewing Club. Since the other co-advisor was Mr. Price, I decided to change Mr. Peters’s name to Mr. Smith.
Also, and I don’t know that you will notice this change until season four, but I also realized that Madam Cheri would work better as Madame Odette.
While I believe these are the only changes I have made so far, please let me know if you encounter a character who feels familiar but whose name you don’t recognize. It is possible I may have forgotten some of my changes.
And now, on to Season 3 . . .
My mother gave me a huge hug before I was even able to enter the front door of our house.
“Happy Thanksgiving, Melinda. Welcome home.”
As she brought my bags into the house, I took one last glimpse over my shoulder. But, the car that had dropped me off was gone. Probably already halfway back to the highway.
Leaving my bags near the staircase, I followed my mother to the kitchen. She turned when she reached the island.
“Since your father didn’t have to pick you up at school, he decided to work late. Your brother is at a friend’s house. I’ve been cooking all day. I so don’t want to make dinner. How does frozen macaroni and cheese sound?”
I frowned. “Do you have the orange kind in the blue box?” It was one of my favorite foods and not something they served at my boarding school.
My mother made a face. “If you must.” She filled a pot with water and brought it to the stove. “So, when you told me that Walter’s father was sending a car, you didn’t mention it was going to be a limo. I assumed you meant a regular car.”
I settled into one of the kitchen chairs to watch my mother. “Oh, well, I think that was the original plan. But, with three passengers and all our luggage, Mrs. Evans decided to order a bigger car when Walter told her I was coming.”
“I see. And how was your drive home?”
I shrugged. “Not bad. We hit some traffic, but we didn’t mind. There was a bag of cookies and some sodas. Walter ate most of it, but Pat and I managed to have a small snack.”
“Pat. That’s Walter’s brother, right?”
I nodded. “The car had a television, so we watched NeoGenesis.”
“That strange science fiction show you like? You subjected your friends to that?”
“It’s just one of the many reasons Walter and I get along so well. Actually, both of our advisors are fans, too, so they started a NeoGenesis viewing club.”
“That is very—no. There are no words.” My mother shook her head with an amused smile. “Is it a large club?”
“No. It was just Walter and me for a while. Pat joined us when he came back to school.”
“Back? Where was he?”
I could see the concerned look on my mother’s face and could only imagine what was going through her head. Knowing her, she probably thought Pat was some sort of delinquent who had started school more than halfway through the fall term because he had been in trouble.
I knew I had to tell her the truth, but I had been hoping for a little more time. Then again, no amount of preparation would have helped me find the words. For the first time, I really understood how hard it had been for Walter to tell me his secret so many weeks ago.
I took a deep breath. “Have I told you about what Walter’s parents do for a living?” Obviously, I hadn’t. But, I didn’t know how else to begin.
My mother pursed her lips. “Don’t change the subject. Why wasn’t Pat in school?”
“I promise, I’ll tell you. But, I have to start at the beginning. You see, Walter—you know his last name is Evans, right? Well, his dad? He’s kind of Adam Evans. Like, from CAVEmen.”
My mother just stared at me for a few moments. “Walter’s father is the lead guitarist for a rock band?”
I nodded, then spoke quickly. She hadn’t made the connection yet. “Yeah, and that means his mother is Kara McGregor.”
This time, my mother took a little longer to reply. “The child star.”
I giggled. “Well, she’s not a kid anymore, but yeah. So, Walter’s siblings are sort of Meghan and Patrick McGregor. Pat missed the first part of the term because he was filming a movie in Hawaii.”
My mother frowned. “He’s not a third-former, though. Isn’t he older than you? Why is he hanging around with younger students?”
I smiled. My mother was handling this a lot better than I had expected. “I asked him that, you know. I told you Walter was homeschooled? Well, because the kids were homeschooled, the family was usually able to be together when someone was filming a movie. This last movie, while Pat was in Hawaii, Walter was here at school. And, Meghan graduated last year and she’s living in New York. Well, Pat really started to miss his brother, so when he got back to school, he wanted to spend some time with him. But, Walter wanted nothing to do with him. At least, not in public.”
My mother held out a hand to interrupt me. “At your show, you said Walter and his brother have a weird relationship. That he didn’t want to be seen with his brother.”
I nodded, remembering the conversation with my mother after my dance performance earlier this month. “They told me a story about the last time they tried to eat out at a restaurant. The boys, their parents, their grandparents. Meghan wasn’t even with them. Long story. Anyway, they got bombarded by fans and ended up having to take their dinners to go. They ate in their van in a commuter lot.”
My mother frowned. “That’s terrible.”
“Walter lives with that every day. So, when he got to school, it was his shot at being normal. Pat feels the same way, somewhat. School is a place they don’t have to worry about being recognized.”
My mother frowned. “Are you friends with Walter because of his family?”
I had to smile at the question. “I think that was Walter’s biggest fear this term. That people would only want to be his friend to get close to his brother. But, one of the things Pat likes best about me is that I don’t see the movie star. Actually, I didn’t even notice when people started looking at me differently for being his girlfriend. He had to point it out to me.”
My mother raised her eyebrows. “You’re dating Patrick McGregor?”
I closed my eyes and winced a little. I hadn’t meant to tell her about me and Pat. At least, not yet. I was kind of hoping for never. With a deep sigh, I shook my head, telling her what I had told my friends last week.
“No. Patrick McGregor only exists in Hollywood. I’m with Pat Evans.”
My mother pursed her lips again. “And how old is this boy again?”
The fact that she was referring to him as this boy and not focusing on the movie star gave me a little hope. “He’s sixteen.”
“And you don’t think he’s a little old for you?”
“Oh, no. I do think he’s a little old for me. That’s one of the reasons I didn’t want to be his girlfriend.”
“I see. And what were some of the other reasons?”
I thought about my ex-boyfriend, a boy from home my mother knew from church. “Well, Eliot and I were friends, and then he was my boyfriend and things didn’t really end well and then we weren’t friends anymore. Pat and I were friends and I didn’t want the same thing to happen with him. And then, there was Walter. He was hanging out with this girl we all hated and I realized I was jealous of her. Not because I liked Walter, because I don’t. Not like that. I just thought she was taking away my best friend. And, I didn’t want Walter to feel that way toward his brother. Or to me.”
“Sounds like a lot of reasons not to be his girlfriend. So, why are you?”
I shrugged. “I can’t explain it. When he’s near me, I feel safe.”
My mother frowned as she took the pan off the stove. “I’m not sure I’m comfortable knowing you’re dating a boy so much older than you. Boys that age, they want certain things out of a relationship. You’re only thirteen.”
I tried not to whine. “Mooom! Pat and I have talked about this. I don’t want a . . . physical relationship with him. And, neither does he. He believes in saving all that for marriage.”
“He told you that?” I could hear the skepticism in my mother’s voice as I watched her strain the pasta and return it to the pan.
I shrugged. “Yeah. He wanted to make sure that we both . . . understood each other’s intentions.”
“But, Baby Girl, how do you know he means it?”
I rolled my eyes. “Why would he say it if he didn’t mean it?”
My mother added milk and butter to the pan. “He’s an actor. A really good one. He could just be telling you what he thinks you want to hear.”
I considered this a moment. My mother hadn’t been there for the conversation. There was no way she could understand. I shook my head.
“I don’t think he is. I think he really means it. See, okay. He’s probably going to be upset with me telling you, so please don’t ever let him find out I did. But, they’re a super religious family. I mean, Walter actually memorized the entire catechism as part of his homeschooling.”
My mother raised her eyebrows. “He did?”
I nodded. “Why do you think he’s my confirmation mentor? Anyway, Pat was telling me about this religious retreat he went on after his third form year. There were a lot of talks about chastity and it really struck a chord with him. It’s something he really firmly believes in. He even has this little card he carries around in his wallet to remind himself about the promise he made.”
“Yeah. Signing this card is some kind of promise to God that he’s going to save himself for marriage. I’m not sure I understand it, but since it means we’re thinking the same way, I didn’t really question it.”
My mother looked unconvinced as she put the bowl of pasta on the table. “I’m still not comfortable with my thirteen-year-old dating a sixteen-year-old.”
“Well, the boys invited me over during break. Maybe I can go visit and you can get to know him a little better.”
“We’ll see. So, when do you get your report card?”
Grateful for the change in subject, I took a bite of my dinner. “The actual paper one will be mailed some time next week, I think. But, I know we can check our grades tonight. Actually—” I glanced at the clock on the microwave. “I think they’re all in now.”
I grabbed my laptop from my bag by the stairs, setting it on the table. The student portal on the school website was not very mobile friendly and I hated accessing it from my phone. I logged in, surprised that each of my teachers were able to write comments. I examined my report in a stunned silence.
|ART 104||Drawing Basics||Rockwell||A||I was extremely pleased with your final project. You have shown tremendous growth this term.|
|ART 701||Dance||Nutmeg Ballet Co.||P||Melinda is an excellent dancer. We hope to see her next term.|
|ENG 101||Third Form English||Johnson||A-||Melinda has made amazing progress this term. She has shown great improvement in her essay writing and always provides excellent journal entries. She offers insightful comments during class discussions and is a pleasure to have in class.|
|LATIN 101||Latin I||Henderson||A-||Melinda is a joy to have in class. I love her enthusiasm. She should work on her vocabulary building to improve her sight-reading abilities.|
|MAT 250||Honors Geometry||Davidson||A||Melinda has a good understanding of the material.|
|MUS 751||Wind Orchestra||Williams||P||Melinda has shown improvement. Remember to tighten your embouchure.|
|SCI 151||Honors Physics||Wilson||A||Melinda had a rough start this term but has shown tremendous progress. I look forward to working with her this winter.|
At the bottom of the page was a note from my advisor.
|I have watched Melinda work pertinaciously throughout the term. I have also seen her interacting with several of her peers. Unlike many third form students, Melinda has seemed to find a constructive balance between her work and play, and her industriousness seems to have paid off, as her grades have earned her recognition on this trimester’s Dean’s List.Clarissa Price|
My dinner went cold as I stared at my computer. How had I managed to get straight A’s? I knew I was doing well, and my finals had seemed pretty easy, but I was still shocked to have received such high grades.
My mother came toward me, wiping her hands on a dishtowel. “Are your grades there?”
“Um, yeah.” I turned the computer so she could view the report herself. Meanwhile, there were still a few words my teachers had used that confused me. I used my phone to check the definition of embouchure. My orchestra teacher wanted me to work on the way my mouth was shaped when I was playing my flute. I could do that.
I took a few more bites before looking up dean’s list. I had heard the term before, but never really understood it. It took a little research, including a trip to the school’s handbook, before I realized I had made the school’s honor roll.
My mother didn’t need an explanation. “Straight A’s? And Dean’s List? Oh, Melinda. I’m so proud of you. I was worried all these boys were going to hurt your grades, but I see your advisor believes you have juggled your schoolwork and social life well.”
“So, does that mean I can visit Walter and Pat over break?”
“We’ll see.” The smile I could see through my mother’s pursed lips gave me a glimmer of hope.
As the limousine pulled out of Melinda’s driveway, my brother and I leaned out the window to wave to her one last time. “Happy Thanksgiving!”
When we could no longer see her house, I sat back in my seat while Walter rolled up the window. I could still feel Melinda in my arms and wondered how I was going to survive a week without her. At our boarding school, it was easy to see her every day. It would be eleven days before we were back on campus. A very long eleven days.
My brother smirked as the car pulled back onto the highway. “That was some kiss.”
“You were supposed to be looking at your phone.”
“You were supposed to be abstemious.”
“Ab—” I sighed, unable to even pronounce the word. I shook my head. “Where do you come up with these things?”
“I looked it up while you were mauling my best friend.”
There was something about his tone that made me want to stop bickering. It wasn’t the anger. It also sounded as if he was disappointed in me.
“I’m sorry.” I waited a beat, but it was clear he was waiting for me to say more. “I can’t exactly explain what happened. When I kiss her, it takes every ounce of restraint to . . . you know . . . just kiss. Something about knowing I wasn’t going to see her for two weeks? I slipped.”
“You need to be careful with her. She’s never been in a serious relationship.”
“Neither have I.”
I grimaced at the mention of my ex-girlfriend. “That wasn’t serious.”
“Really? Until you showed me that chastity card, I thought the two of you had, you know.”
“I’m not having this discussion with my little brother.”
“So you’ve never . . .”
“No. Never. Until Melinda, I’ve only had a couple of meaningless kisses.”
“Walter, I have no intention of doing anything more than kissing her. I’ve told you that already.”
He narrowed his eyes before turning to his phone. I took the chance to look up abstemious. Man, when did my little brother become smarter than me?
When we reached the house, the driver used the call box to have someone open the gate. Dad and Mom were both waiting for us at the front door as we pulled up the long driveway.
They greeted us with hugs and ushered us into the house. It was weird being home. Last summer, we stayed in California while I filmed one movie, then moved to Hawaii to film another one. I had only spent a handful of nights here since June. At least this break, I would be home for a week and a half.
My mother looked at me and my brother as we headed towards the stairs. “Supper will be ready in half an hour.”
“You cooked?” I immediately could hear the way my surprise could sound derisive, so I quickly added, “I mean, you made supper? I thought you were cooking for tomorrow.”
“I did some cooking for tomorrow. Granny and Aunt Maureen are coming over early to help with the rest. But, I have some lasagna in the oven.”
Walter raised his eyebrows. “You made lasagna on top of Thanksgiving dinner?”
“No. Fratelli’s made lasagna. I’m just reheating it. Now, go put your things away and come back down in twenty minutes.”
I threw my bag in my closet. I could unpack after supper. I already missed Melinda. I had told her I would text her when I got home.
As I flopped onto my bed, there was a knock on my door. I glanced up to see my older sister standing in my doorway.
“Mom said you guys had to make a stop on your way home.” She smirked as she joined me on the bed.
“We gave Melinda a ride home.” I tried to keep my voice as casual as possible. Just saying her name made my heart race. “You remember her. The gingerbread cookie.”
A couple of weeks ago, Melinda had danced in a production of the Nutcracker, which Meghan had attended with me and my friends. Melinda had been a tap-dancing gingerbread cookie. Meghan remembered. She sent me a knowing smile.
“The one you had a crush on.”
“The one he made out with on the way home.” Walter entered the room and straddled my desk chair. I didn’t remember actually inviting him in. I glared at him.
“It was just a kiss.”
“Your hands were all over her.”
“Patrick!” My sister pursed her lips.
“Do we have to have this conversation?” I stood up to pace. I could feel my face growing warm. I was mortified. This was not the kind of discussion I wanted to have with my siblings. We occasionally discussed crushes together, but we never talked about our relationships.
“Are you two together?”
“You think?” I couldn’t mask the sarcasm.
“And what happens when you break up? Walter’s gonna have to pick between the two of you?”
“We’re not gonna break up. We’re serious about each other.”
“Like you were serious with Poppy?”
“Poppy and I were never serious!”
“That’s not how she tells it.”
I looked at my sister. “She’s crazy. You know that.”
Meghan responded slowly, obviously choosing her words carefully. “At that party where you guys broke up, there was a rumor going around the house.”
Walter shrugged. “You guys were missing for a while. When she returned, she told someone the two of you had been in one of the bedrooms.”
I stopped pacing. “She . . . we . . . she . . . who?” I collapsed onto the bed.
Meghan waved a dismissive hand. “It doesn’t matter. My point is—”
“I didn’t.” I felt it important to clarify the point. “I’ve never—I don’t want—”
Walter helped me out. “He’s waiting for marriage.” I expected a smirk, but there was none. It didn’t make me less embarrassed. How had this conversation devolved so quickly?
Meghan sat up a little straighter. “Well, that makes me feel much better. I knew you had better sense. Then again, you did date her.”
“Jarrod,” I replied angrily. My ex might be a liar, but as least she didn’t cheat on me.
“Bella.” When Meghan and I turned to Walter, he shrugged. “I thought we were naming our creepy exes.”
The laughter was much needed. Meghan turned to Walter.
“Hey, Walter? Can I talk to Pat alone?”
He shrugged. “I guess.” He looked disappointed that he was being kicked out of the conversation. But, he was still only a freshman. This was a conversation for big kids.
I nodded my head toward him. “Why don’t you go set up Weddas for after dinner?” It was our favorite family board game.
Walter turned pale. “I forgot to pack it. Oh, Mom’s gonna kill me.” He ran out of the room.
Meghan turned to me when we were alone. “Are you ready to be in a serious relationship?”
Meghan shook her head. “That doesn’t mean anything. When I was with Jarrod, it was like nothing else mattered. Being with him felt so good that I just wanted to do whatever it took to keep that feeling. And, slowly, just kissing him wasn’t enough. I wanted to have more.”
My sister had never opened up to me like this before. I asked the obvious question. “Did you guys . . .”
“Almost. We came pretty close a couple of times. I think if I hadn’t caught him with Penelope, I probably would have, even though it goes against how we were raised.”
I closed my eyes. The thought of my sister with one of my costars was a little overwhelming. “Please tell me this wasn’t while we were filming Romeo and Juliet.”
“He had his own trailer.” She couldn’t quite mask the smile.
She got to her feet. “My point is, be careful, alright? It’s one thing to say you’re gonna go slow, but it’s another thing to actually do it.”
“Meghan? I’m crazy about her.”
“Then take care of her.”
Melinda is always trying to build her vocabulary. What were some words in this episode that were new to you? She will add them to her vocabulary journal.