Episode 068

Melinda’s Journal

Friday, December 1

The day we met

I knew at once

It was meant to be.

Different yet,

So much alike,

Best friends, you and me.

Stories we tell

Secrets we share

Like sisters are we.

Melinda’s Story

Earlier in the week, Sarah had invited me to spend Friday night at her house. Her father even offered me a ride. Sarah’s eleven-year-old sister, Crystal, was born Deaf and attended a residential school, where her parents dropped her off on Monday morning and brought her home Friday evening. Even though it wasn’t really on the way, they came to get me after picking up Crystal.

As I packed the cards back into the closet, Pat spoke quietly. “I didn’t get to say goodbye.”

“I’ll see you Sunday. I’ll try to get back to campus early.” I wrapped my arms around Pat’s neck, kissing him until I heard a knock on the door.

“Sorry.” Sarah’s smile suggested she was anything but. Crystal peered around the door and started to wave, but when she saw Pat’s arms around me, she started signing frantically.

Pat had met Crystal the last time she had visited campus. She had been ecstatic when Pat explained that he had learned American Sign Language for his latest film role. I had gotten the impression Pat had a soft spot for her.

Laughing, he signed to Crystal as he spoke. “Slow down! Melinda will tell you all about it later. I better get home. Hi, Sarah. Bye, Sarah!”

He flashed Sarah his famous smile, gave me one last peck on the top of my head, and waved to Crystal before heading out of the room. We followed him downstairs. After closing the front door behind him, I turned to hug both girls. 

“Sorry. I lost track of time. I’m already packed. I’ll go get my stuff.”

I ran back to my room to retrieve my backpack, which held my overnight things and a change of clothes. I also grabbed my sleeping bag with my pillow and stuffed animal rolled into it. After throwing my things on the floor by the front door, I led my friends to the kitchen.

“Hi, Mr. Tran. Thanks for picking me up.” 

My mother looked around. “Where’s Patrick?” 

“He left.”

“Oh. I hadn’t realized. Well, you behave yourself and Daddy or I will pick you up tomorrow evening.”

“Okay. Bye!”

I followed my friends to their car, placing my bags in the trunk beside Crystal’s before climbing in the back with my roommate. Her sister sat in the front seat of the sedan, constantly turning around so she could see Sarah and me.

As we pulled out of the driveway and headed toward the highway, Sarah shook her head without translating Crystal’s questions. “No, we’ll talk about that when we get home. I promise.” She lowered her voice to a whisper as she turned to me. “She wants to know about Patrick.”

She resumed the conversation in her regular voice. “I feel like I’ve hardly talked to you all week. What have you been up to?”

“Well, let’s see. I babysat my neighbors last Friday and I watched tv with Walter and Pat while I was there.”

“They didn’t babysit with you?”

“No. We were on our phones.”

“Oh, that makes sense.”

“Then, Monday, I went to their house.”

“You were at their house?” In her shock, Sarah had forgotten to sign. Crystal made an angry noise at her, and Sarah repeated what she said for Crystal.

“Whose house?” Crystal asked. 

“Walter and Patrick,” Sarah explained.

Crystal echoed her sister’s question. “You were at their house?” 

“What’s it like?” 

I shook my head. “There are no words. No words.”

“Okay. That’s another conversation for later. Can you tell me anything you’ve been up do that does not involve your boyfriend?”

I thought a moment. “My dad dragged me Christmas caroling at some nursing homes. I bought my Christmas dress. Ooh. And I found one for the Snowflake Ball. I didn’t buy it. I wanna go shopping with you next weekend and get your opinion.”

“Yay! Shopping trip!” Sarah clapped her hands excitedly.

We spent most of the hour-long drive listening to Crystal’s stories about her week at school, but we all had boy stories to share when Sarah’s father was not around.

Sarah’s house was a lot larger than mine, though thankfully not nearly as massive as Walter’s. They had a tennis court and pool, both of which were buttoned up for the winter. Sarah’s room was only a little larger than mine, with plenty of room for me to sleep on the floor.

Sarah showed me where to put my bags, then gave me a quick tour as we headed back to the kitchen for supper. I greeted her mother and complemented her on dinner, which was an excellent beef stew, perfect for the cold evening.

After dinner, we changed into our pajamas and gathered on Sarah’s bed to update each other on our boyfriends. I wanted to hear all about the boy Crystal had told me she liked last time I saw her. But Crystal was more interested in my story.

“Why was Patrick McGregor kissing you?”

I shrugged. “He’s my boyfriend.”

Crystal shook her head. “He’s with Poppy Sommers. It’s all over everywhere.”

Sarah interpreted Crystal’s signs, then turned to me, shock in her eyes. “What?”

I closed my eyes, taking a deep breath and trying not to shudder. “It’s a mess. So, apparently, Pat and Poppy Sommers got together this past summer.”

Crystal shook her head, signing frantically. “No, now. They’re together now.”

“I’m getting there.” I wrapped a throw blanket around myself, more to have something to do with my hands than because I was cold. “They were together over the summer. He ended things. But how did Meghan put it? Oh, yeah. Poppy’s literally crazy. So, she decided she and Pat were back together. And now she believes it.”

Crystal shook her head. “They were kissing.” 

“What?” Sarah stared wide-eyed at me.

“Poppy staged it. She figured out where Pat was going to be and had cameras following her. She kissed him and got it on camera. Then, made sure it got airtime. But it’s not real. They’re not together.”

“And you’re okay with this? I don’t know that I could do that. Stay with Larry if someone else were claiming to be his girlfriend.”

I tightened my grip on the blanket, trying to find the right words to explain the situation. “It bothered me at first. But Pat and I have talked about it a lot. I know he cares about me and there’s nothing going on with him and Poppy.”

Sarah responded slowly, as if she were picking the right words one at a time. “Have you considered the fact that he is an actor? I mean . . .”

Sarah didn’t need to complete the thought. I knew what she was trying to say. I took a deep breath and nodded.

“When I first asked him about Poppy, he tried to skip over the fact that they had been together. There was something in his eyes. I realized he was . . . not exactly acting, but not telling me everything. I called him on it. And, he hasn’t tried it again. I know he’s telling me the truth. Plus, Meghan and Walter both keep insisting Pat cares about me and there’s nothing going on with Poppy.”

“You talked to his family about this?” 

“I went to their house Monday. When I brought up the whole Poppy thing, they both offered their two cents.”

“So, you’re okay?” 

I nodded, forcing a smile I didn’t wholly feel. “Yeah, I’m okay.”

“What’s it like?” Crystal asked. “Their house?”

I smiled, glad to change the subject. “It’s really big. But they’re normal. Like, they have a dining room, but they eat in their kitchen.”

Sarah frowned. “We ate in the dining room tonight. We’re not normal?”

“I saw your kitchen table. We wouldn’t have all fit. Besides, your dining room is just part of your kitchen. It’s not, like, a separate room.”

“So, what did you do there?”

“We played Weddas.”

Sarah scrunched up her face. “Wait. I have no idea how to sign that. What are you talking about?”

I slowly spelled out the name, trying to recall the alphabet Sarah had taught me. “That game I play with Walter and Pat. You’ve seen me.”

“No, she hasn’t seen you,” Crystal replied. “She’s too busy making out with Larry to notice.”

“Yeah, you have a point. Anyway, we played that and we played some video games and then Pat and I watched a movie with his mom. Meghan drove me home. Basically, we just hung out. I had dinner with them.”

“Them, who?”

“Walter and his family.”

“Like, all of them?”

I giggled and nodded as Sarah and Crystal just stared. “They’re normal people.”

“No, they’re not. They’re celebrities. They live in a mansion. Walter’s the only normal one in that family.”

I didn’t try to argue. “So, anyway, I was going to go tubing with Walter this week, but he couldn’t go so he suggested Pat join me. Then, it rained, so we just stayed home all day.”

“Where? His house again?”

“No, he came to mine. We built a puzzle. We fell asleep watching a movie, but my mom didn’t freak out like I would have expected.”

“Lucky. My mom and I had a very long lecture when I came home. She has all these rules about where I can and can’t go with Larry.”

“Did he come visit?”

“No!” Crystal interrupted. “I wanna hear more about Patrick McGregor.”

I shrugged. “What else? We hung out yesterday. He stayed for dinner. We went tubing today, then he came over and we hung out some more. Oh. My mom met his mom when she brought me to their house Monday. Pat and I had to sit down with our moms. I think they were going to try to set some of those rules like your mom, but Pat and I had pretty much already done that.”

“You guys have rules? Like what?”

“Well, we don’t go in each other’s rooms. That’s a given.”

“Really? You’ve never been in his room? Larry’s been over a bunch of times. You’ve been in Walter’s room.”

“Yeah, but I’m not with Walter. Pat and I also don’t hang out in each other’s common rooms.”

“I hadn’t noticed that.”

“It doesn’t have much to do with us being together. It’s just weird. For both of us. I’m uncomfortable being around upper form boys. He thinks it would be crazy to put himself in the middle of a bunch of third form girls.”

Sarah considered a moment. “They would eat him alive.”

I nodded with a giggle. “What else? We don’t want a physical relationship, so nothing more than kissing.”

Sarah raised her eyebrows. “For now? Or ever?”

“I’m not sure if I’m supposed to tell you about this. But I know he talked about it with Walter, and I mentioned it to our moms. It doesn’t leave this room, though.”

“Hang on. Hey, Crystal. Why don’t you grab us some sodas?”

Crystal glared at her sister. Sarah didn’t interpret, but I was pretty sure Crystal signed something to the effect of “Why don’t you go?”

Sarah shrugged. “Okay, I’ll go. Melinda can come with me.”

“Fine. I’ll go.” Crystal signed angrily as she marched out of the room. I had a feeling she may have said more than Sarah was interpreting but said nothing. As soon as Crystal had left the room, Sarah turned back to me.

“Okay. Explain.”

I sighed. “Pat firmly believes that physical relationships should wait until marriage. Personally, I’ve never had to think about it, so I don’t have much of an opinion. But I respect him and his beliefs. Does that make sense?”

“Perfectly. Why didn’t you want to tell me about that?”

I shrugged. “It feels like gossip.”

Sarah considered a moment. “I’m not sure. I certainly won’t mention it to anyone. That was kinda one of the rules my mother was trying to set for me. I think it was no more than holding hands, but we already know I’ve broken that rule already.”

I giggled as Crystal returned with the sodas.

“What did I miss?”

“Melinda finished telling us about Pat. You didn’t miss anything. It was my turn to talk about Larry.”

“No. My turn. So, I sent Buddy a note asking if he liked me, and he checked yes, so now we’re together.”

“And what does that mean?” Sarah asked.

“Together? T–o–g–” 

Sarah shook her head. “No, I know what the sign means. I meant, what does it mean for you two to be together?”

Crystal still looked confused, so I tried a different question.

“What do you two do together?”

“Oh! We do homework together. We’re in the same math class. He likes me to help him.”

“Do you eat together?” Sarah asked.

“No. He likes eating with his friends.”

I tried. “Do you hang out after school?” 

“No, we like playing with our own friends.”

“So, you only do homework together?” Sarah asked skeptically. She turned to me. “Sounds like you and Walter.”

I shook my head. “No, it’s not. First of all, I eat nearly every meal with Walter. Plus, we do hang out outside of class. We watch NeoGenesis together. We go to church together. We play Weddas.”

I turned back to Crystal. “I had this friend at school last year. Her name was Lizzy. We had lunch together almost every day. One day, a boy in her math class, Pug, came and sat with her.”

Sarah raised her eyebrows. “Pug?” 

“There were five Michael’s in our class. We called most of them by their last names. This one was Michael Pugliesi.” I spelled the name for Crystal. “But we all called him Pug. Anyway, he joined us for lunch just completely out of the blue. I found out later that the other girls at my table knew he was considering it, but Lizzy didn’t know. So, at the end of lunch, he asked her if she would be his girlfriend.”

“I’m not seeing the point of this story,” Sarah said.

“I’m getting there. Lizzy said yes, but we couldn’t tell anyone, because she didn’t want her mother to ground her. Then about a week later, she thought he might be copying her math homework. So, one night, she did it twice, the second time writing all wrong answers. In homeroom—oh yeah, they were in the same homeroom. In homeroom, he borrowed her homework to check his answers, like he did every morning. Only, she gave him the one with the wrong answers. The next day, they got their homework back and she had an A and he had an F. They fought about it and broke up.”

“Still not seeing the point.” Sarah looked confused, but Crystal wrinkled her nose.

“You think Buddy is just copying my math homework?” 

“I dunno. But Buddy kinda sounds like Pug. Be careful, okay?”

Crystal nodded. “Larry came to visit Sarah.”

Sarah sat up a little. “Oh, is it my turn? Okay, so you know how Larry’s family is like all over the place?”

I shook my head.

“Oh. Well, they are. So,  he went to his parents’ new house in Pennsylvania Wednesday night after school. Then, for Thanksgiving, they drove all the way up to just outside Albany to eat with his dad’s side of the family. They spent the night there, then Friday, they drove over to Vermont to see his mom’s side of the family. Then, Saturday, they drove to Boston to visit his great-grandmother in a nursing home who couldn’t travel to . . . I forgot which side it was. I think it was Albany. Sunday, they went back to Rhode Island to visit some friends from before they moved. So then, on their way back on to Philly on Monday, they stopped here.” Sarah took a deep breath.

I giggled. “I’m tired just listening to you. So, it was his whole family?”

“Yeah. Kenzie basically binge watched this weird show. Superspy Amy, or something like that.”

“C.I.Amy?” I tried not to grin.

“Yeah, that was it. You’ve seen it?”

“I watched it when I babysat my neighbors Friday night.”

“Yeah, I watched an episode, too. That was more than enough for me.”

“How old is Larry’s sister? Fiveish?”

“Yeah. The show is meant for kids her age. She was glued to the screen.”

“So, what’d you guys do?”

“My mom wouldn’t let us be alone, so we agreed to stay in the living room with Kenzie. We mostly just sat and talked. It took him a lot longer to tell me about his Thanksgiving.”

Pat’s Story

Pat’s story will return in Episode 71

Attention Hammerheads

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.