Episode 074

Melinda’s Story

“Wonk!” Walter greeted me as soon as study hours were over. “You have an excuse not to be doing work, and you’re reading?”

“I’m fine, thanks.” i closed the short story anthology my English classmates had dubbed the brick. I hadn’t really been reading anyway.

“You look better.” Pat moved awkwardly about the room. He was clearly uncomfortable in this forbidden space.

And i suddenly felt crowded. “There’s too many people in here. We’re probably breaking some sort of fire code.” i pointed at Sarah and Larry, who had begun whispering on a corner of her bed. “You two! Go somewhere else to make out.”

Everyone laughed. Sarah smiled as she slid off the bed. “Can I get you anything?”

“No. I’m good. No, leave the door—”

Before I could finish, Sarah closed the door behind her, which was against the rules when boys were in the room.

I pointed to Walter. “You. Go sit over there for a minute and close your ears. You’re next.” Walter did as instructed, making himself comfortable on Sarah’s bed, facing the wall, and taking out his phone.

I next pointed to Pat. “You. Open the door, then come sit down.” Pat smiled, opened the door all the way, then pulled my desk chair to the bed and sat. He brought his head close to mine.

I spoke softly. “Thank you for taking care of me.”

“You’re okay now? I would have helped you back.”

“Clarissa came. Mr. Peters texted Mr. Price. She drove me back.”

Pat twirled his fingers through my hair absently.  “Does it still hurt?”

“Some. I have some meds for later, but the brace and the ice and just not moving help, too.”

“So, what did the doctor say? How long you in the cast?”

“He’s gonna check it in two weeks. But, he said it may be a couple of months. I can’t dance. Sally’s telling Madame Odette now.”

“Oh, Daphne.” Pat moved to the bed, holding me close. “I know you were excited about that program.”

I shrugged, snuggling a little closer to him. “I guess it wasn’t meant to be.”

Pat held me for a moment before leaning in for a kiss. My heart stopped beating and a warmth extended from my belly to my toes. For the first time all night, I felt better.

Fully aware we were not alone, i sat back to look at Pat, speaking quietly.

“I wanna talk to Walter for a little while, okay? I’ll see you at lunch tomorrow?”

Pat kissed my forehead. “Okay.” He returned my chair back and smacked his brother’s head. “Your turn.” He flashed me one more smile before leaving the room.

Walter sat carefully on the bed beside me. “He came to find me in the library. He was really upset. Kept checking his phone.”

“Can I talk to you about me and him? Or is that too weird?”

“It’s okay. What’s wrong?”

“Does he talk to you? About me?”


“He’s been hanging around a lot since we came back to campus. Free periods. Lunch. After classes. During study break. Today, he was going to walk to town with me, but he had his meeting for winter running. Then, he still showed up at the church.”

Walter played absently with the cold pack i had placed beside me on the bed. I wasn’t sure he was even aware he had it in his hands. “Sooo, I’m confused. You don’t want him hanging around?”

“It’s not that. It’s just, it can be so overwhelming sometimes. Is he still feeling guilty about the Poppy thing?”

While we were home for Thanksgiving break, the celebrity gossip was focused on Hollywood’s hottest new couple: Patrick McGregor and Poppy Sommers. After returning to campus, i had stopped checking to see whether anyone had figured out Poppy had made up the entire story.

Walter shook his head, calling Poppy a very unflattering name. “No. He’s frustrated about it, but Dave’s working with Uncle Brendon.”

I tilted her head slightly. “Who?”

“Uncle Brendon. Mom’s older brother. He’s our lawyer.”

“No, I know who Uncle Brendon is. I meant the other guy. Dave?”

“Oh. That’s our new agent. Pat didn’t tell you?”

“I knew you fired the last one. Didn’t know you got a new one.”

Walter nodded, passing the ice pack between his hands. “Dave’s a good guy. Did some acting with Mom when he was a kid. Had trouble transitioning when he was a teen. Decided he would rather be off screen helping kids get on screen.”

“Does voicing cartoons count as being on screen?” i was only one of a handful of people on campus who knew that as a voice actor, Walter had more credits than his brother and sister combined.

Walter bumped his shoulder against mine playfully, but gentle enough not to disturb my leg. 

I giggled, going back to my original question. “So, why’s he spending so much time with me?”

“Who Pat?”

“Yeah. I get the impression he wants to spend every waking moment with me.”

“Of course he does. He’s in love with you.” Walter said it so nonchalantly that it took me a moment to comprehend.

“He’s what? Did he tell you that?”

Walter shook his head. “No. But, I think he is. It’s the way he talks about you. He obviously cares a lot about you.”

“We’re too young.”

Walter shrugged. “My parents met when they were our age. Dad was third form and Mom was fourth. They fell in love.”

“How am I supposed to know if I love him?”

Walter shrugged again. “I have no idea. Ask Sarah.”

“You think she’s in love with Larry?”

“Well, I meant that it was a girl question.” he considered a moment. “I don’t know if Larry’s in love with Sarah. I can tell you this. The way Pat looks at you and talks about you? It’s way more intense than the way Larry talks about Sarah.”

“It sounds like you guys talk about us girls a lot. Speaking of girls, did Zayne come to the library again?” it was my turn to bump my shoulder against his.

“Yeah. She found me during dinner. When you didn’t show up to study, we decided to wait on the Latin homework and I helped her with her math a little, although she’s doing a lot better now. Then Pat showed up.”

“Was that weird?”

“Only because he was so worried about you. As we were walking here, he actually apologized for interrupting my study date. But, he didn’t want to be alone.”

“Did she ask why he was there?”

“Oh, as soon as he sat down, I introduced him as my brother. It’s getting a little easier. When he started talking about you, Zayne caught on really quickly that he’s your boyfriend.”

“So, are you two only going to study together? Or are you going to ask her out?”

“What’re you doing Sunday? I was thinking of asking her to do something, not homework, but I have no ideas. I doubt she wants to watch football.”

“Well, I wanted to get my dress for the Snowflake Ball, which Pat hasn’t asked me to, yet. But, I guess it doesn’t matter, because I can’t go.”

“Why not?”

“I can’t put any weight on my ankle for two weeks. Why would I go to the dance?”

Walter didn’t have an answer, so i continued. “While I was at the mall, I wanted to go Christmas shopping for my family. Oh, shunk! Do I have to buy Pat something?”

Walter smiled. “I have no idea. Sarah going to the mall with you?”

“I didn’t invite anyone yet. Now, I need to wait until Sunday to see how I feel. I’ll make up my mind after church. Shunk. Do I have to hopple all the way into town on my crutches?”

Walter frowned. “I’m gonna figure that one out for you. I’m your mentor. That’s my job. So, if I figure it out, can I join your shopping trip and invite Zayne?”

“If you come, Sarah will want to bring Larry. Then, I’ll have to bring Pat. Do you really want your brother on your first date with Zayne?”

Walter considered a moment. “I’ll get back to you on that.”

Pat’s Story

Walter waited for me to pack my books, and we left the library together. I turned to him. “I’m sorry for interrupting your study date.”

“Where is Pat Evans, and what have you done to him?”

“You didn’t see her. She was in a lot of pain. I felt so helpless.”

Walter put a comforting arm around my shoulder. We were practically the same height now. When had that happened?

“She’ll be fine. Sarah said it was a broken bone. That’s no big deal. Wait for me a sec.”

While Walter went to drop his books in his dorm, I stood outside, watching the field. Most nights, it was flooded with students during the break. Now that it was covered in snow, it was empty. I wasn’t surprised. This happened every winter. But it was a little depressing.

Walter returned without his backpack, Larry in tow. Larry and I bumped fists.

“Hey, man. Sarah summon you, too?”

“She was texting for Melinda. I’m not sure why. She broke her ankle, not her hand.”

“Whoa. What?” Larry sounded surprised. Walter punched his shoulder. “Ow, that hurt!”

Walter shook his head as we entered the dorm. “I saw the text Sarah sent, you moron.”

“I was going for humor.”

“Not funny.”

They continued this banter to the second floor. I felt a little left out that they both knew the way to my girlfriend’s room and I didn’t. I stood in the open doorway for a moment while they just waltzed in and made themselves comfortable.

Two desks faced each other under the front window. On either side of the room, an elevated bed was pushed against the wall. Sarah was sitting at the left desk, but as soon as Larry entered, she joined him on the bed. Melinda, meanwhile, was sitting on her bed, her back against the wall. Her leg was extended at just enough of an angle to rest her foot on her pillow near the edge of the bed. A disposable ice pack rested on her ankle, which was secured in some sort of removable cast. She had been reading the boring short stories Walter and Zayne had told me about.

Walter seemed completely at ease in the room. He straddled Melinda’s desk chair as he teased her. “Wonk! You have an excuse not to be doing work, and you’re reading?”

“I’m fine, thanks.” She closed the book with a smile.

I wasn’t exactly sure where to go. I moved into the room so I wouldn’t have to stand in the doorway. I didn’t want to sit on the roommate’s bed, where Sarah was practically in Larry’s lap. Although they were just whispering at the moment, I was sure that would change any moment. I didn’t want to sit on Melinda’s bed. Besides the fact that it would feel incredibly wrong, I didn’t want to risk hurting her. Walter had stolen the desk chair. I supposed I could sit at Sarah’s desk, but that would put me closer to the canoodling couple than my girlfriend.

I ended up just kinda standing in the middle of the room. “You look better.”

Melinda looked around. “There’s too many people in here. We’re probably breaking some sort of fire code.” She pointed at her roommate. “You two, go somewhere else to make out.”

Everyone laughed. “Can I get you anything?” Sarah offered as Larry led her to the door.

“No. I’m good. No, leave the door–”

Sarah had shut the door behind her as they left. According to co-ed rules, the door was supposed to remain open while Walter and I were in the room.

Melinda pointed at Walter. “You. Go sit over there for a minute and close your ears. You’re next. You.” Melinda pointed to me. “Open the door, then come sit down.”

I smiled, opening the door as wide as I could while my brother sat on Sarah’s bed, facing the wall and playing on his phone. I pulled Melinda’s desk chair near the bed and sat as close to her as I could. She whispered softly as I ran my hand through her hair.

“Thank you for taking care of me.”

She looked better. “You’re okay now? I would have helped you back.”

“Clarissa came. Mr. Smith texted Mr. Price. She drove me back.”

“Does it still hurt?” I wanted to hold her close, let her know I could still keep her safe. I settled for continuing to play with her hair.

“Some. I have some meds for later, but the brace and the ice and just not moving help, too.”

“So? What did the doctor say? How long you in the cast?”

“He’s gonna check it in two weeks. But, he said it may be a couple of months. I can’t dance. Sally’s telling Madame Odette now.”

“Oh, Daphne.” I moved to the bed to hold her close. Melinda was a phenomenal dancer. Her instructor had invited her to work at their ballet company off campus instead of taking classes here at Hartfield. Melinda had been looking forward to the opportunity and now it was gone. “I know you were excited about that program.”

She shrugged in my arms. “I guess it wasn’t meant to be.”

I pulled her a little tighter, and we sat like that for a moment or two. It wasn’t quite enough. I leaned closer until my lips met hers.

My heart stopped beating normally as electricity coursed through my body. For the first time that night, I knew everything would be alright.

I wanted to stay there for the rest of the night. Knowing we were on her bed made the kiss just a little more exciting. I would probably never get to do this again, and I wanted to make the most of it.

But Melinda must have been thinking differently. She pulled away to look me in the eye.

“I wanna talk to Walter for a little while, okay? I’ll see you at lunch tomorrow?”

No, it wasn’t okay. I wanted to spend the rest of the night holding her close. But, I didn’t tell her that. I simply kissed her on the forehead. “Okay.”

I put the chair back at the desk and smacked my brother lightly on the head. “Your turn.” I sent Melinda one more smile before returning to my dorm.

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.