Episode 080

Melinda’s Journal

Wednesday, December 13

 (Author note: I am not sure what this journal entry should be about. Any suggestions? Leave a comment below.) 

Melinda’s Story

Wednesday afternoon was our first basketball game, and it was home. While the team warmed up on the court, I settled myself at my table, filling in the information in my book as Bethany had taught me. On the other side of the table sat a girl dressed in the blue and white uniform of Bentham Prep. An large box of tissues sat in front of her and she spent the entire warmups complaining that her coach had benched her because of a sinus infection. Since she was blowing her nose every three minutes, I was on the coach’s side.

Thankfully, her whining was interrupted when a teacher sat between us to man the tablet that controlled the scoreboard. I had seen her around campus, but I had no idea who she was or what subject she taught. When the ref blew the whistle, I focused on the game.

When one of the girls attempted to make a basket, I followed the ball. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed people sitting on the balcony as they had during our scrimmage. When the buzzer sounded, I quickly glanced again. Larry and Pat were sitting on the edge, dangling their legs. I gave a quick smile and wave. Pat flashed me his winning smile before I returned my attention to the game.

Sniffles had seen me, though. I saw her follow my gaze in time to see Pat smiling. She gasped, speaking in a loud whisper.

“Ohmygoodness! Is that Patrick McGregor?”

I was focused on the game and didn’t bother to answer. But the two girls squatting on the floor beside her, waiting to be subbed into the game, looked in Pat’s direction.

“No,” said one. “It couldn’t be. His hair is too long.”

“I think it is,” said the other in a mesmerized tone. “But what would he be doing here?”

The three girls were so distracted by Pat that they missed the buzzer signaling them into the game when the whistle sounded. Every time a player came to the table, Sniffles would point out Pat. After the third time her girls missed hearing the buzzer, the coach called a short time out to yell at her players.

“I don’t care if the president of the United States is sitting up there with a fleet of Secret Service Agents. You focus on this game!”

I tried not to giggle, but the admonition didn’t seem to help much. The team spent the rest of the half distracted. Their coach pulled them into the corner under the track to yell at them during the break. Meanwhile, I did the halftime routine Bethany had shown me. But, there was something wrong with my numbers.

I pulled out my phone to use the calculator and realized Pat had texted me. He wanted to know if he was the cause of the coach’s tirade. He could hear the lecture from the track. I nodded and smiled. He waved and headed towards the exit.

When we won 45 to 17, Clarissa had the team gather on the volleyball courts so the JV team could warm up for their game. She congratulated them on winning their first game of the season.

Erica sent her a curious look. “What was distracting them?”

“I have no idea.” Clarissa turned to me. “Did the other manager say anything to you?”

I could feel my face turning red. “Well, not exactly. See, she saw Pat up on the balcony and kept asking her teammates if it was Patrick McGregor up there.”

“What did you tell her?” Sarah smiled at me as the team giggled.

I shrugged. “She never asked me. He left at the half, but I think the players were still looking for him.”

Clarissa smiled. “No one is going to want to play here with that kind of home team advantage. Okay. Dismissed. Melinda, please stay a moment.”

Clarissa waited until all the players had left before turning to me. “You know how I feel about phones during games.”

I shook my head. “Oh! I’m so sorry! I forgot. Pat just asked if he was the reason for the coach yelling. I didn’t text him back. I promise. I just nodded back to him and he left at halftime.”

“I saw you using your phone at halftime. You were typing furiously.”

“I swear, I didn’t text anyone. Oh. Wait! Halftime? My player totals weren’t matching my running score. I was using my calculator. It turns out I accidentally marked a three-points as a two-points and was off by one. I can’t see the scoreboard during the game.”

Clarissa frowned. “Okay. But please try to be discreet if you do need your calculator. I don’t want your teammates thinking you get special privileges.”

“But, I do.” I waved my crutches. “You don’t make me run laps.”

Clarissa laughed as she walked towards the JV game where she was manning the scoreboard. I hobbled to the locker room to get my coat from my locker. Paige rushed to my side.

“Please, please, please! Can Patrick McGregor come to every game?”

I pursed my lips. “Tell you what. Let’s see how you do on Saturday. Personally, I think you can win without Pat helping you. But if you think you need him, I’ll talk to him.”

Erica slammed her locker with a smile. “We don’t need him!”

Most of the girls shouted in reply. “Of course not!”

Pat’s Story

After classes on Wednesday, I met up with Walter and his friends at lunch. Melinda and Sarah didn’t stay very long before they had to head over to their basketball game. When they were gone, I turned to my brother.

“Can I come to your match?”

He shook his head. “I’m leaving in five minutes. We’re at Tremont today.”

I made a face.

Larry looked at me. “Come with me, bro. I’m gonna watch the basketball game.”

“Sounds good to me.” We sealed the deal with a fist bump.

At my suggestion, Larry and I sat on the track, hanging on the railing with our legs dangling. It was full of students, most watching the varsity girls on their court, though some were watching the volleyball and basketball using the other two spaces in the multipurpose room. I scanned the court.

“Which one’s Sarah?”

Larry swore as he watched the pre-game huddle. “I have no idea. Don’t tell her I said that.”

I smiled and mimed zipping my lips. I scanned the cluster of girls, finding a familiar dark ponytail. I nodded my head towards it. “Is that her? Number eight?”

The huddle ended, and the girls moved towards the bench. Larry nodded. “Yup. Go, Number Eight!”

Melinda was sitting at a table between the two team benches. Beside her, a woman sat with the tablet that controlled the scoreboard. On the far side of the table was a girl wearing the uniform of the opposing team, although she kept pulling tissues from the box beside her. I had a feeling she would not be playing today.

Melinda was too busy to notice me. She was watching the game intensely, recording information into her player’s book with each basket and foul. I watched her more than the game. It took her nearly ten minutes before she saw me, but the smile she gave me was worth it. When she waved to me, I returned the gesture. The girl with the tissues looked up.

About a year ago, I started growing out my hair for one of my movie roles. As soon as that project was over, I began working on another one, and they loved the long, scraggly hair. Although I prefer my hair short, I had discovered a significant advantage to the new look. It was harder for girls to recognize me, at least initially.

The girl sitting beside Melinda squinted and made a face as she looked in my direction. I swore and turned to Larry.

“I think that girl recognized me.”

“What girl?”

“The one sitting with Melinda.”

Larry followed my gaze. The girl was trying to watch me and the game at the same time. There were two girls from the opposite team squatting beside the table, waiting to be subbed in. Tissue Girl must have said something, because they started staring in my direction.

I glanced away, trying to avoid their watchful eyes. I was here to cheer for my friend and was in no mood to deal with screaming fans. Especially not at school. My safe haven.

The buzzer sounded to signal the substitution, but the girls by the table didn’t move. The coach had to yell to get their attention. When the next girls squatted by the table, Tissue Girl had them staring at me, so they also missed their buzzer. After the third time this happened, the coach called a timeout. Even from our lofty perch, we could hear her screaming at her team.

Larry turned to me. “I don’t get the big deal. It’s not like you’re some famous celebrity or anything.”

I grinned. “You forget. I’m a rock star, once removed.” It was a joke he had made the day I met him.

Larry’s laughter rang across the track as the game resumed.

During half time, the coach brought her team to a corner of the room beneath where we were sitting. I could hear her lecturing the girls on the importance of paying attention. Feeling guilty, I texted Melinda, asking if I was the cause of the coach’s tirade.

She was too busy making faces at her book to notice my message. Finally, she pulled out her phone. I saw her puzzled expression before she nodded to me. After blowing her a kiss, I turned to Larry and got to my feet.

“I better stop distracting the other team. Catch you later.” Larry and I bumped fists, and I headed out to find Zach and Chloe.

Melinda’s Story

We had another home game Saturday afternoon. As I stowed my coat in my locker, I was surprised to hear everyone around me was more concerned about the Snowflake Ball than the upcoming game.

Sarah glanced at me as she tied her sneakers. “So, what’re you and Pat doing if you’re not coming to the ball?”

At least three of the girls turned to me with their jaws agape. “What?”

A fourth former named Maddie sent me a look of disbelief. “How can you not? You’re with the hottest guy on the planet and you’re not showing him off at the Snowflake Ball?”

I wanted to say that I would never show off Pat, but I had a feeling it Maddie would never understand. Instead, I pointed to my ankle.

“How exactly would it be fun? Don’t forget. I’m a dancer. I enjoy dancing at parties. Going tonight would just be torture.”

Maddie frowned, and I could see she was processing this information. “So, what are you doing?”

I shrugged. “We may go out to eat off campus. Our plans are kinda up in the air at the moment.”

Thankfully, I was saved from further interrogation when Clarissa yelled into the locker room for the girls to be on the court in three minutes. I didn’t bother waiting for the team. I headed to my table and had filled in all my information before Clarissa blew her whistle for warm-ups.

A few minutes later, a teacher came to man the scoreboard. This time, I had no problem recognizing him. I smiled as he took his seat. “Hi, Mr. Smith!”

“Melinda. Long time, no see.”

We both laughed at his joke. I had seen him just last night, when Walter, Pat, and I attended our NeoGenesis viewing club at his apartment. I nodded my head towards the court.

“What’re you doing here?”

“I coach boys JV. You didn’t know that? They have the next game on this court. We coaches take turn with each other’s scoreboards. Clarissa will do mine next game.”

I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to say. Thankfully, I was saved from replying as the refs called for the team captains.

A little while later, Sarah crouched beside me as she waited to be subbed into the game. “Hey. Where’s your boyfriend?”

“He went to bug—I mean cheer for—his brother today. Then, he’s going to the swim meet to cheer for Frank.”

The whistle blew and Sarah ran into the game. “Good. We don’t need him!”

Sarah was right. We won 38 to 25. But, in just over a week, I had learned a lot about basketball. As I watched the game, I realized the girls were missing most of their free throws. These were easy points that would have netted us a much higher score.

After Clarissa dismissed the team to the locker room, she came to sit in the seat Mr. Smith had vacated. I told her my thoughts about the free throws.

She slid the book to herself. “How many did they miss?”

“At least ten. But some were the ones after a foul, where they would have gotten a second shot if they made the first.”

“One and one? Hmmm . . .” Clarissa took a moment to stare at the book before turning it back to me. “Okay. Next game, do me a favor. When we get to the one and one, make your empty circle, but draw a hook like this.” She took the pen from her clipboard and drew a circle with a hook in an unused area on the bottom of the page. It looked like a pair of round glasses I might draw on a cartoon person, but missing the right-hand circle.

“If they get the first one, color it in as you normally do and make the second circle. And, when we get an automatic two free throws, connect those as well. But, make two hooks, like this.” Again, Clarissa demonstrated, making a pair of glasses with two lines for the bridge.

I nodded. “Okay. I’ll try to remember.”

“And thanks for telling me.”

“No problem.”

“Oh, Melinda. I received a notice from the community service office saying you are taking part in the Drive Me Home program. According to the Mrs. Lindgren, you are on duty this evening?”

“Yeah. My mom said it was okay. It’s not a problem, is it?”

Clarissa shook her head, though she made a sour face. “No, it’s not a problem. However, I would still like you to check in with me when you return to campus. And, if you think you will miss curfew because of a ride, please call me. Do you have my house number?”

“Yeah. It’s in my room. I’ll put it in my phone before I leave.”

“Do it now.” Clarissa rattled it off as I entered it into my phone. “Thank you. You can also call if you have car trouble. Although I like the idea of the program, it makes me nervous having students out driving at night.”

I smiled. “I’ll check in when we get back.”

While the girls on my floor took over both bathrooms to prepare for the dance, I grabbed my coat and went to sit on the main steps of the MAC. It had grown dark outside, but there was enough light that I could see Pat as he approached. He kissed me lightly as he sat beside me.

“I missed you, Daphne. I haven’t seen you since lunch.”

I smiled. “Well, we have all night for you to tell me about your day.”

“So, we can eat at the MAC Attack or go out to dinner. But we’re officially on the clock, so it has to be counter service. I don’t want to be waiting for a check if we have to go pick someone up.” He got to his feet, reaching out a hand to help me up.

I shook my head. “Not the MAC Attack.” Since we were skipping the dance, I thought we could get something a little nicer. “What’re you in the mood for?”

Pat considered for a moment as we headed towards his car. “Barneys? Subs?”

My mouth was watering at the idea. “Oh! That sounds fantastic! I really want a chicken parm.”

“I was thinking meatball. With potato salad.”

I giggled. “Stop. You’re making me hungry.”

“That’s the point. Okay. I have a serious question and I don’t want you to answer until we get to the restaurant. I would like to buy you dinner. Not because I’m a guy and feel like it’s my responsibility, or because I have a job and an allowance, because I’m actually kinda broke at the moment. I just would like to sort of make this a date, even though we’re working. And since it was my idea, I want to pay. You can pay when it’s your idea.”

I smiled as I slid into my seat. “I don’t have to think about it. I’m okay with that.”

Pat’s Story

On Saturday, I decided it would probably be best to skip the basketball game altogether. Melinda didn’t need me to cheer for her and I wanted to watch my brother wrestle.

Wrestling matches were held in a small gym behind the language building. I had been in this gym once or twice for a school dance, but never for a sport. Walking in, the locker rooms were on one side and the gym floor was sunken on the other. A blue mat covered most of the floor. It had a large, white circle drawn onto it, within which two guys were already grappling by the time I arrived.

There were about ten rows of wooden bleachers extending the length of the room as I descended the steps. The teams were lined up on the bottom-most row, cheering for whomever was on the mat, and I had no problem finding my brother.

They had new uniforms this year, wearing shorts and an athletic shirt instead of the traditional wrestling outfit. Walter was the only wrestler in his middleweight class, although I had to wait nearly an hour for his turn. Two of the opposing wrestlers had pinned their opponents in the third period of their match. Finally, it was Walter’s turn.

I watched him and his opponent take their places on the mat. They crouched near each other and shook hands. The referee signaled the timekeeper sitting at a table off to the side and blew his whistle.

The other guy ran straight for Walter’s feet, but Walter was too quick for him. They ended up locking arms, grabbing at each other’s waists for a moment. Slowly, Walter started dragging his opponent down until the other guy’s head was on the ground.

The other guy did his best to keep his shoulders off the floor, but Walter was practically laying on his face. I wasn’t sure if the guy could breathe. The ref was crawling all over the mat to check the opponent’s shoulders. He looked like he was doing some weird sort of break-dancing.

It felt like forever. Everyone in the room was shouting. The ref slammed his hand on the mat and blew his whistle. Walter had pinned his opponent! In less than one minute. The room exploded in cheers.

Walter and the other guy returned to the center of the mat and shook hands again before returning to their teammates. Walter glanced up at me, beaming. I sent him a thumbs up.

I texted Walter that I was proud of him and headed to Frank’s swim meet. Zach and Chloe were supposed to be saving me a seat, but they weren’t in the bleachers. I had a feeling they were in my dorm room and I should avoid going in there for a while.

Frank swam the butterfly, both the 50-meter and a four-person relay. Although I had missed the beginning of the meet, I was able to see both his races. He was third in his individual and his team came in second.

But the pool viewing area was hot and humid, even on this wintry day. Since I had no interest in watching the rest of the meet, I texted Frank that he had done a good job. I knew he wouldn’t see the message until he went back to the locker room, but it was the thought that counted.

Stowing my phone, I went in search of Melinda. I found her waiting for me on the MAC steps. I sat beside her for a moment, giving her a quick kiss. There were too many people around to kiss her properly, but I didn’t mind. We would have plenty of time for that later. I had big plans for our special Skipping the Snowflake Ball night.

Smiling, I ran a hand through her hair. “I missed you, Daphne. I haven’t seen you since lunch.”

“Well, we have all night for you to tell me about your day.” Melinda smiled. I think she thought I was kidding, but I really had missed her.

“So, we can eat at the MAC Attack or go out to dinner. But we’re officially on the clock, so it has to be counter service. I don’t want to be waiting for a check if we have to go pick someone up.”

Melinda frowned. “Not the MAC Attack. What’re you in the mood for?”

As I helped her to her feet, an image popped into my head. “Barneys? Subs?”

“Oh! That sounds fantastic! I really want a chicken parm sub.”

“I was thinking meatball. With potato salad.”

“Stop. You’re making me hungry.”

“That’s the point.” I smiled we headed towards my car. “Okay. I have a serious question and I don’t want you to answer until we get to the restaurant. I would like to buy you dinner. Not because I’m a guy and feel like it’s my responsibility, or because I have a job, because I’m actually kinda broke at the moment. I just would like to sort of make this a date, even though we’re working. And since it was my idea, I wanna pay. You can pay when it’s your idea.”

I wasn’t sure what surprised me more: the fact that she agreed to let me pay or the fact that she didn’t even need time to think about it. Not that I minded. I just expected her to say no.

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.