Monday, November 27
Big. Enormous. Large.
My friend lives in a mansion.
Huge. Colossal. Vast.
Although the game didn’t take long, by the time we were finished, everyone was hungry. We headed down to the kitchen, where Walter pressed a button on the wall beside the doorway.
“Mom, do we have anything for lunch?”
Mrs. Evan’s voice emanated from the speaker beside the button. “Lunchmeat. Have some sandwiches. I think there’s some canned soup if you want to heat it. We’re having meatloaf for supper, with potatoes. Is that okay with Melinda?”
Walter held the button for me to respond.
“It sounds delicious.” I couldn’t remember the last time I had even had meatloaf. It had to have been before Hartfield. I certainly hadn’t had any at school.
Walter began taking meats and condiments from the fridge and Pat retrieved the bread and canned soup from a walk-in closet I assumed was the pantry. When Meghan went to a cabinet to get everyone plates, I began to feel useless.
I looked around the kitchen. “How can I help?”
Meghan pointed to a cabinet. “Cups. Get drinks. I want water.”
“Me, too,” chorused the boys.
“Tap?” The tap water at my house was nearly undrinkable, but I wasn’t sure about here.
Pat shook his head. “Use the fridge. It’s got a filter.”
I used the dispenser in the front of the refrigerator to get four glasses of ice water, which I carried to the breakfast nook. Meghan had set two plates on one side of the table, and a plate in front of each of the remaining benches. I placed a glass at each plate, then returned to the counter where Pat was dumping cans of soup into bowls and placing each one in the microwave.
“Here.” He smiled at me as he passed me a bowl. “This one’s chicken noodle.”
I placed the bowl in the center of the table, finding Walter had selected a seat and begun making his sandwich. When I returned to the table with a bowl of minestrone, Meghan had sat on the middle bench and was playing on her phone. The plates had been rearranged so that I could sit with Pat on the bench facing Walter.
I sat down after bringing the bowl of Italian Wedding soup to the table. Pat followed a moment later with another bowl of chicken noodle soup. But, I couldn’t make my sandwich. I was too mesmerized by the one Walter was building. He had spread deli mustard on a slice of bread, then placed a slice of American cheese, a slice of salami, a slice of cheddar cheese, a slice of ham, a slice of provolone cheese, and a slice of turkey. He then spread mayonnaise on two sides of another slice of bread and layered it with the same cold cuts before spreading more mustard on a third slice of bread to complete the sandwich.
Meghan looked up from her phone. “Where’s the lettuce and tomato?”
Thankfully, she had caught him before he had a chance to take a bite. He picked up his sandwich. “I don’t want any.”
“But, I do.” Meghan stared at the turkey on her bread. “Was there any in the fridge?”
Walter shrugged as he took a giant bite. “Prob’ly.”
Meghan simply shook her head in disgust as she went to look for the toppings. “Melinda, seriously? How are you friends with him? He’s so gross!”
“It’s not so much that we’re friends. It’s more that we have an arrangement. I let him copy my math homework and he helps me understand my Latin.”
Walter pointed his sandwich at me. “You also drag me to church.”
“Oh, yeah. That’s because I have to watch you eat.”
Everyone laughed as we made our sandwiches. As Meghan fiddled with the little pump on her waistband, Walter looked around the table.
“Does anyone else want the chicken noodle soup?”
Pat pointed to the bowl in the middle of the table. “There’s two,”.
“Not for long. Unless someone else wants some.”
“Me!” I slid the second bowl toward me before Walter could claim it. With a frown, he made a single layer version of his colossal meat sandwich.
Since Meghan chose not to have any soup, Pat ended up eating both of the others in addition to a ham and cheese sandwich.
As Walter bit into his second sandwich, he glanced at me
“So, now what should we do? More WTTE?”
Meghan and I shook our heads adamantly. “NO!”
Pat pointed his spoon at his brother. “Melinda didn’t come to play board games all day.”
Walter smiled at me. “What would Melinda like to do?”
I shrugged. “I have no idea. I had no plans for today.”
“We could watch a movie,” suggested Pat.
“We could play video games,” countered Walter.
I sat a little straighter in my seat. “That might be fun.”
When we finished eating, we returned all the food to the fridge before heading back upstairs to the playroom. Sitting in the bean bag chairs, I waited for Walter to turn on the television and gaming system while Pat passed out the remotes.
They owned a large selection of video games in all genres. I examined the boxes carefully until I found one that looked interesting. I held it up.
“Can you teach me to play this one?”
Pat smiled as Walter groaned. “That’s my favorite game. Walter hates it because he always loses.”
Pat put the game into the system and explained the basics. The screen split into four zones, one for each player. I had to select which cartoon character I wanted to be, then select my race car. Although I could customize the wheels and body, I opted to stick with the default settings, since I had no idea what I was doing.
Pat explained there were many tracks we could race, but he started with an easy one while I learned how to play. He showed me which buttons to press in order to move before starting the game.
As we drove, we could collect special items, which could be used to help in the race. Walter threw an oil barrel that caused slicks all over the track, causing me to turn around and lose the lead. Pat threw bananas that would have had a similar effect, except I was able to swerve around the peel at the last second. Meghan collected a star that allowed her to zoom along at double speed and pass nearly everyone. On the final lap, I found a clock. Pat showed me how to throw it and everyone froze for five seconds while I passed the finish line.
Even though I was not a big gamer, I had a lot of fun playing with my friends, even when Walter changed the game to one where we had to work together to defeat some evil elf lord. After a while, Walter was the only one alive, but he didn’t seem to notice. Meghan left, declaring she had something better to do, although she had no idea what it could be. Pat beckoned me to join him in his chair, where he put his arm around me. I snuggled close as he whispered in my ear.
“I missed you, Daphne. I miss holding you.”
I didn’t reply right away. He wasn’t looking for a response. As we watched Walter’s progress, or lack thereof, Pat played with my hair absently as he tried to help his brother.
“Dude! Not the arrows!”
“I know, I know!” Walter cursed under his breath as he pressed buttons furiously. His bow and arrow turned into a sword and he was able to lop off the head of a creature I thought might have been a tree, but I really couldn’t tell.
“That was close.” Walter sat back with a sigh. On the screen, his character traveled through the woods to destroy the next creature he encountered.
I turned to Pat, lacing my fingers behind his neck and bringing my lips to meet his. We held each other close until I could no longer endure the warm feeling that filled my entire body to bursting every time I kissed him. We sat with our foreheads touching for a moment while I waited for my heartbeat to return to normal.
I smiled at him. “I missed you, too.” Our lips met again, staying together for quite a while until Walter started cursing at the screen again.
Walter never seemed to tire of defeating the elf lord, so Pat offered to give me a tour of the house. He led to the corridor that overlooked the pool. Across from it was what could only be described as a movie theater. The enormous room had dark walls and a sloping floor, with a massive screen mounted to the wall at the bottom of the room. I counted four rows, each containing seven cushy red seats. In front of me was an actual concession stand, with an empty popcorn machine, a small refrigerator with bottles of soda and water, and a display case of movie theater candy.
I shook my head in awe. “Wow.”
Pat shrugged. “Mom designed this room to have movie screenings. Or, we’ll use it to watch Dad’s music videos. But, this is also where we like to watch movies, too.”
“Not, like, regular television, right?”
“Honestly, none of us watch too much tv. NeoGenesis is a must in here, though. The surround sound is incredible. Dad’ll sometimes watch football in here. Other than that, I’m not sure any of us watch anything else.” Pat shrugged. “Come on. I wanna show you the rest of the house.”
I followed him down the sloping aisle to a door at the front of the room that opened into the entryway. Passing through a window-lined corridor, we entered Mr. Evans’ music room, which was actually a small studio. In addition to an upright piano and a wall of guitars, it held some music stands and a mixing board. Pat explained that the room was soundproofed and completely wired with microphones, so the band could record in here as they practiced. Sometimes their father would record music as he wrote it, so he could share it with his bandmates later.
I was speechless.
He led me out another door into the neighboring room, whose glass wall overlooked the pool deck.
“This is the gym.”
I had already figured that out. I was facing a large circular contraption that had a bench in the center and a stack of weights on the side. I had seen commercials for smaller versions on television, but had never seen anything this large or complex. It was too complicated for me to figure out how it worked, but according to the pictures on the poster affixed to the wall beside it, this machine could be used to tone over twenty different body regions.
Beyond the home gym was an old-fashioned weight bench with a rack of free weights beside it. In the corner was a mirror with some mats and exercise balls. Across the room, there were five cardio machines, some of which I couldn’t identify. They all faced the pool, although each had some sort of computer screen.
I pointed to the one machine whose name I did know. “Why is there a screen on the treadmill?”
Pat smiled. “You can program it to any setting you want. So, if you want to take a run through the woods, you would just press this button and voila, you’re in the woods.”
“Whose room is this?”
“We all use it. Mom and Meghan like the machines and the home gym. Dad likes to use the home gym, but he prefers to run outside if the weather’s nice. Walter and I like the weight bench, and only use the treadmill in the winter.”
“Where do you go outside? Your road didn’t look that great for running.”
“Did you see the track going around the house? The driveway is kind of part of it, but it goes around the house itself. The track is about a quarter mile.”
“I knew Walter liked to run. I didn’t realize you joined him.”
“Yup. I created a loop around the campus. Showed it to Walter.”
“But, you’re going to stop that when we get back, right? I mean, it’s too cold to run.”
Pat shook his head. “Nah. We’ll keep running outside until the paths become too icy. Then, we’ll switch to the indoor track.”
I just shook my head. “No wonder you guys are always eating!”
“Hey! Don’t compare me to that gourmand!”
“Someone who really likes to eat. Usually excessively.”
“Oh! That is a perfect description of Walter! I’m gonna save that word for Weddas.”
The indoor pool had four full-sized lap lanes, which were marked on the pool floor but did not have the bubbles floating in the water to separate the lanes. The room was a little too warm for my sweater and jeans. As we made our way toward the living room, I gestured to a door just past the kitchen.
“What’s over there?”
“That’s the guest room. The bathroom open out to the pool. We keep swimsuits in the dresser in case people want to go swimming and forgot to bring a suit. Like, you didn’t bring one today because who swims in November, right?”
I giggled and Pat pointed to room in the far corner. “Over there is the library. I can show it to you later, if you want.”
There were plenty of windows, so I had no trouble seeing the bookshelves lining the walls, as well as a couple of study desks and some comfy-looking chairs.
“It kind of looks like the library study room at school.” Walter and I did our homework together in the same place most evenings. Pat had joined us enough times to know the room I meant.
He nodded. “Yeah, it kinda does. I think that’s why Walter’s more apt to study there than in his dorm. It’s like being home. That used to be our schoolroom.”
We went through the sliders into the living room. “That’s pretty much the whole house. There’s a dining room off the kitchen, but we only use that for company. And the bedrooms are all upstairs, but you’re not allowed there. So, what d’ya wanna do now?”
I thought for a little while. “How warm’s the pool?”
Pat frowned. “The filter’s broken. I wanted to swim this morning, after my run, but Mom said we can’t use it until the filter is fixed. I say we watch a movie.”
I pointed over my shoulder. “In that theater?”
“Well, yeah. That’s the best place to watch movies.”
“Um, is your mom gonna freak out if you and I watch a movie alone there?”
Pat considered a moment, then went to the intercom Walter had used earlier. “Melinda and I are going watch a movie. Anyone want to join us?”
After the four of us made ourselves lunch, we decided to play video games. Melinda took a few minutes to browse our collection before holding one up.
“Can you teach me to play this one?”
Walter groaned when he saw the box, but I had to smile. She was holding my favorite game. Were we perfect for each other or what? Meghan, who hated video games, decided to join us, and we played some easy rounds for a while. I wanted to let Melinda win, but Walter was ahead of her. One of the reasons he detested this game was because I always beat him. I couldn’t change that now, could I?
I needn’t have worried. At the last moment, Melinda threw her clock power up, which froze the rest of us while she glided past the finish line. We played a few more rounds before Walter put his elf lord game into the console. Meghan died fairly early and realized she could be doing anything else right now. After Melinda died, it occurred to me that I could either keep killing elves or snuggle with my girlfriend. I didn’t need to ponder that choice very long.
I gestured for her to join me in my beanbag chair and held her close, whispering into her ear.
“I missed you, Daphne. I miss holding you.”
She simply snuggled closer. I played with her hair while watching Walter. He was trying to fight hand-to-hand with a dryad, but he had the wrong weapon. I tried to help.
“Dude! Not the arrows!”
“I know, I know!” I could hear the frustration in Walter’s voice. He pressed buttons, swearing at the game until he had a sword in his hand and could behead the creature.
“That was close.” Walter sighed as he moved on to the next level.
Melinda turned to me, putting her hands around my neck as I kissed her. Electricity flowed through me and I wasn’t sure whether my heart was beating faster or had just stopped beating altogether. Either way, I was pretty sure it was about to explode when she rested her forehead against mine.
“I missed you, too.” She smiled before kissing me again.
When Walter starting cursing at the game again, it kind of killed the mood and I offered to take Melinda on a tour of the house. Then, we tried to think of what to do.
“How warm’s the pool?” she asked.
I frowned. “The filter’s broken. I wanted to swim this morning, after my run, but Mom said we can’t use it until the filter is fixed. I say we watch a movie.”
“In that theater?” There was something in her tone that made me realize she was a little intimidated by the room.
I shrugged. “Well, yeah. That’s the best place to watch movies.”
“Um, is your mom gonna freak out if you and I watch a movie alone there?” She was so adorable sometimes.
She was also probably right. Technically Mom said not to go in the bedrooms alone. She hadn’t said anything about any other room. But, I pictured her walking in on Melinda and I sitting alone in the theater. Even if I just had my arm around Melinda, Mom would probably freak out. I went over to the kitchen intercom.
“Melinda and I are gonna watch a movie. Anyone want to join us?”
Not only did Mom decide to join us, but when Melinda and I showed indecision about what to watch, Mom made us watch her stupid Christmas musical. Not one that she was in, thankfully. One that was older than Granny and Pop-Pop. Well, maybe not quite that old, but old. It wasn’t really that bad of a movie. But, Mom made us watch it every year.
I used the popper to make some popcorn and grabbed some diet sodas from the fridge. The theater was large enough that we didn’t have to sit near Mom. I was able to at least put my arm around Melinda and she nuzzled as close to me as she could. The chairs weren’t exactly designed for snuggling.
Walter joined us about halfway through the movie. He plopped himself next to Melinda, helping himself to her popcorn, which she had long abandoned. Mom was sitting a few rows in front of us, singing along with the trio on the screen.
Dad came home in time for supper. The band had been working at Uncle Vinny’s house, about an hour away. His house wasn’t quite as big as ours, but it did have a recording studio. I was pretty sure they were rehearsing for their upcoming tour.
When Melinda and I arrived at the supper table, the rest of my family was already sitting there. Melinda had met Dad once, so no introductions were necessary, but I could tell she was still intimidated being near him. I sat beside my brother and Melinda sat across from me.
We said our traditional table blessing, which Melinda recognized enough to pray with us, then Mom served the meatloaf and brown rice. Walter took a double helping and Meghan looked at it skeptically.
“Am I allowed to have that?”
“I used whole-wheat breadcrumbs and ground turkey,” Mom reassured her.
I made a face and saw Melinda try to suppress a giggle by taking a long sip of her water.
“Drown it in sauce.” Walter passed me the gravy boat.
I took his suggestion, eating a bite of meatloaf that was more sauce than meat. It didn’t help. I wasn’t sure if it was the meatloaf or the popcorn earlier, but I found I wasn’t very hungry. I pushed the food around my plate a little, figuring I could raid the kitchen when everyone went upstairs.
Mom turned to me. “Did you get in touch with Cynthia?” I shoved the disgusting meat into my mouth to avoid answering, almost immediately regretting doing so. Did Mom hear about the Poppy thing? By the time I choked down my food, I remembered she wanted me to tell Cynthia about Melinda.
I downed half my glass of water. “No. I left her a message, but she didn’t get back to me. The thing is, I think it’s time for a new agent.”
“Patrick.” Mom sighed. Using my full name usually meant she was angry, but in this case, I think it was more exasperated. “Just because you don’t want to tell her about your girlfriend doesn’t mean you need a new agent.”
“It’s not that.” I could feel my face grow hot.
“Pat has a girlfriend?” Dad looked from Mom to me. “When do I get to meet her?”
Walter pointed across the table with his fork. “She’s sitting right there.”
Dad looked between Walter and Melinda a few times. “But, I thought you were Walter’s study partner. The one whose math homework he copies.” He winked at Melinda and I realized she must have told him about the running joke she had with Walter.
Melinda smiled and seemed to relax a little. “Can’t I be both?”
Dad seemed to consider this a moment. “I suppose so.” He nodded as he took another bite of meatloaf.
I tried to bring the conversation back to the point. “I just don’t think Cynthia’s looking out for our best interests anymore. She’s not correcting all the rumors flying around.”
“What rumors?” Mom sat up a little straighter.
I exchanged looks with my siblings. None of us wanted to actually say it out loud. Melinda rolled her eyes. I had no idea what she was trying to tell me, but she picked up her phone. After fiddling with it for a moment, she passed it to my mother, who was sitting beside her.
Mom held the phone between herself and Dad and they read the article silently. I didn’t even pretend to eat my meatloaf. I just pushed it aside. Walter swapped his empty plate with mine and continued eating. Seriously, the guy had a problem.
Mom looked at me. “I agree that Cynthia should have fixed this, but it’s still not a reason to fire her.”
Walter pointed across the table with his fork. “What about Meghan? Cynthia didn’t fix the rumors about her either.”
“And then there’s the script,” I pointed out.
Meghan was shaking her head, but I didn’t see her until the words were out of my mouth.
“What script?” Mom asked.
Meghan glared at me as she sighed. “Cynthia sent me a script. She thinks it would be perfect for me. I read it and told her I didn’t think it was right for me, but she is insisting that it’s what I need now that I’m eighteen.”
“You can’t fire your agent over a poorly written script.”
“It’s not poorly written. Well, it is. But . . .” Meghan started turning red.
I decided to help her out. “It’s a horrible fit for Meghan, Mom.”
“There’s a lot of really foul language,” Walter added. “And, how do I put this nicely?”
Melinda spoke slowly. “If she did this movie, she would be spending more time with her clothes off than on.”
“Oh.” Mom sounded a little taken aback.
“Definitely not,” Dad agreed.
Meghan rolled her eyes. “Obviously not. I didn’t like it from the first page. The problem isn’t the script. It’s that Cynthia thinks this is a good idea.”
Mom looked around at us. “Well, I’ll tell you what. I think you are all old enough to find your own agents.”
“What about Rita?” Walter gestured to Mom as he mentioned her agent.
Mom shook her head. “She and I have discussed it. She would consider taking you on, Meghan.” Mom nodded her head at my sister before looking back towards my brother and me. “But she’s not really confident about taking on you two. Actually, she flat out told me she’d never be able to find you voice work.”
“Pat found C.I.Amy.” Walter turned to me. “Wanna be each other’s agents?”
My response was dripping with sarcasm. “Yeah. I’ll just look for scripts while doing my physics homework.”
When everyone had finished laughing, Mom turned back to Walter and me. “Do some research and we can talk about it before you boys go back to school.”
After supper, Melinda needed to go home. I wanted to drive her, but Mom said that now that we were back in Connecticut, I had to follow the laws here, which meant I could only drive family members until March, when my restrictions would be lifted. Meghan offered to drive and even said she would let me drive home if I wanted.
Walter opted not to come with us, since he had to read his scripts for the rest of the week. He didn’t need to memorize anything, but Sammy McSmartypants sometimes had some difficult words to pronounce. The character was perfect for Walter, but he still needed to make sure he was familiar with the material before heading into the studio tomorrow.
About halfway to Melinda’s house, when I pulled her close to me in the cozy backseat, I realized the advantage to my sister driving. Melinda and I kissed the entire way back to her house.
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.