Episode 083

Melinda’s Journal

Sunday, December 17

There are thousands of four-letter words in the English dictionary. Some of those are the offensive kind I try never to use. Unfortunately, it also appears that “love” is being added to that list.

Melinda’s Story

As had become his new habit, Pat dropped off me and Walter at the dining hall after church on Sunday before returning the car to the TRAC parking lot. Walter helped me to the table, with only one entrée for himself before returning to the servery for more food.

When he finally sat down, I turned to him as he bit into his waffle. “So, how was the dance?”

“I wanna hear about your night. Pat refused to tell me what happened, but he looked upset. Ran an extra ten laps. What’d you do?”

“What did he tell you?”

“Nothing. Literally. I asked, how was your date last night? And he said fine. I asked what’s wrong? And he said nothing. Did you guys break up?”

I shook my head. “No. Sarah and Larry did, though.”

“Trust me, I heard.”

“Tell me about your night and I’ll tell you about mine.”

Walter sighed.

Walter and Zayne had a lot of fun at the dance, which was very similar to last term’s Victory Ball. They met at the refreshment tables in the senior section and they had some snacks. Walter tried his best not to eat everything in sight. He was having a difficult time thinking of things to talk about, and Zayne looked like she was growing bored. Eventually, he remembered why they were there.

He gestured towards the other side of the hall. “You wanna dance?”

“Oh, I’d love to.”

Walter took her hand and led her around the massive fireplace towards the main eating area, which had become the dance floor, although the short walk took quite some time since nearly every third form girl stopped Zayne to compliment her dress.

They finally made it to the dance floor as the first slow song played. Walter took Zayne in his arms and they gently swayed with the music. Walter pulled her close.

“You look great tonight. I’m sorry I forgot to mention it earlier.”

Zayne smiled. “You didn’t have to. I saw your face when you saw me.”

“Well, I still should have told you. I’m sorry.”

Zayne shrugged. “So, are you doing anything over break?”

Walter sighed. “Well, my mom’s family is coming for Christmas. My dad’s parents are staying in Florida, so we’re going there for a few days. Then we’re in Chicago for the ball drop this year.”

“Is your dad’s band playing?”

“Yeah. We’re gonna rent a hotel room or suite or something. Pat and I will probably end up babysitting our cousins while the band plays.”

Zayne giggled. “Really? I can’t see you two babysitting.”

“Well, usually Meghan would watch the kids and Pat and I were around for emergencies, but basically just played video games. But, Meghan’s staying in New York this year. Mom won’t let Pat and I join her for New Year’s.”

“Why not?”

Walter shrugged. “Meghan doesn’t want us. I think she has a boyfriend she’s not telling us about. I plan on finding out at Christmas. I’ll have one of the little cousins ask her.”

Zayne giggled, and Walter continued. “Anyway, that’s our break. Pat said we’re having a party, but he didn’t tell me anything about it and I doubt he’s gotten permission, anyway. What’re your plans?”

“I’m going home. To Texas.”

Walter sent her a confused look. “I thought you lived in Nashua.”

“No. My parents moved to New Hampshire for work a couple of years ago. We’re from Texas. My cousins are all out there. It’ll be lots of fun.”

 The song ended, and they found it difficult to talk for a while. Walter observed the people around him, finding very few of his friends in the crowd.

Walter and Zayne danced through two more slow songs before taking a refreshment break. Zayne sent him a mischievous smile.

“So, there’s a rumor going around that you eat two entrées every meal.”

“Itch uh why.” Walter’s mouth was full of the marshmallow he had just dipped in the chocolate fountain.

Zayne giggled. “I didn’t catch that.”

Walter swallowed. “Sorry. I said, it’s a lie. I eat at least three.”

Zayne laughed harder. “I’m not surprised. I’ve seen you out running in the morning.”

“You run too?”

“Nah. I do sunrise Tai Chi. Well, I did in the fall. They don’t do it in the winter. It’s outside.”

“Oh! I’ve seen you guys.”

There was an awkward silence between them for a moment before Zayne spoke. “So, would you like to go for a walk? Or did you wanna stay for a while longer?”

Walter considered for a moment. “A walk might be nice, but can that dress handle the snow?”

Zayne shrugged. “It’s not so bad. I made it here okay.”

Walter held out an arm, which Zayne took and they went out the main entrance. Coat racks had been erected between the doorway and the table where two faculty members were checking in the students. Walter helped Zayne into her coat, and they exited through the main doors of the building, down the large stairway. Zayne smiled as she held out her dress.

“I feel like Cinderella. In a totally good way. I’m having a great time.”

“I’m glad.”

They wandered down a path towards the MAC. “So, I really like spending time with you.”

Walter narrowed his eyes at her. “You’re not pretending to need help in Latin, are you?”

“Ava did that, didn’t she?” When Walter nodded, Zayne continued. “It’s funny how our exes affect us now, isn’t it? I like spending time with you, but I don’t want to be your girlfriend.”

“Can I ask why not?”

Zayne nodded with a slight frown. “That’s the funny part. It’s not because of you, but my ex. I was with this guy last term who was a total sleaze. He actually made a bet with someone to see how many girls he could kiss in a week, without me, his girlfriend, knowing.”

“I hope you broke up with him before he got to one.”

Zayne nodded. “One of the guys on the football team, Ryan, he’s in my physics class and he told me about the bet.”

Walter nodded. “Ryan’s a good guy. The ex wasn’t Mike, was it?”

“Yeah. How’d you know?”

“Not my story to share. I’ll just say Melinda was with him for a while.”

Instead of crossing the street to the MAC, they turned right and took a stroll past the faculty and senior houses on the edge of campus. After a moment of silence, Walter tried to resume the conversation.

“So, if you hadn’t dated that narcissistic, arrogant jerk, you might want to be my girlfriend?”

Zayne took a moment to reply. “My grades last term weren’t great. It wasn’t all because of Mike, although he definitely played a part. I’m still struggling, although I’m doing better because of you. But, if I were your girlfriend, and then we broke up, who would help me with my homework?”

Zayne giggled, but Walter only smiled weakly. Zayne’s face fell. “What?”

“Would you have come to the dance with me tonight if I wasn’t helping you with your homework?”

“Probably not. But only because I wouldn’t know what a great guy you are. I would have kept thinking all football players were jerks.” She reached for Walter’s hand. “I’m glad I was wrong.”

Walter and Zayne walked aimlessly, neither bothered by the cool winter air, until they found themselves behind their dormitories.

“I’m not ready to be your girlfriend,” Zayne said coyly as they stood in the lamplight. She put her hands on Walter’s shoulders and kissed him. Walter’s hands automatically went around Zayne’s waist and drew her closer as she returned the kiss.

Walter had only ever kissed Melinda, and it had felt strange and uncomfortable. Kissing Zayne, however, was entirely different. He felt a spark of something he couldn’t readily identify and he pulled Zayne closer to drink in more of that feeling. Zayne’s hands locked around his neck and he ran his fingers through her hair.

Walter was not sure how long the kiss lasted, but it felt as if it was all evening and only seconds at the same time. Walter returned Zayne’s smile through tingling lips.

“I’m not ready to be your girlfriend, but I wouldn’t mind doing that again.” Without another word, Zayne headed towards her dormitory.

I frowned. “Well, what does that mean?”

Walter shook his head. “I was hoping you knew.”

“I dunno. You can do like Pat did and just keep being around. Maybe walk her home after study hours.”

“I do that anyway. But I can follow her all the way to her dorm, I suppose. So, tell me about your night. Why’d my brother run an extra mile and skip breakfast? Did you guys have a fight?”

I sighed. “He didn’t skip breakfast. He wanted to go get changed before coming to the dining hall.”

“He’s avoiding you. He usually has his arm around you or is holding your hand, even just sitting practically on top of you. He didn’t even sit next to you at church today.”

I winced. “You caught that, too? He’s upset with himself. He didn’t tell you what happened?” When Walter shook his head, I sighed. “I thought we’d resolved it last night, but I guess he’s still upset. You know about his chastity card? Well, he kinda tiptoed over the line last night.”

Walter blew out a breath from puffed cheeks. “Are you okay?”

I nodded. “I’m fine. I didn’t let him actually cross the line. But he’s upset that he did it.”

“Well, that explains the extra mile. I’ll talk to him. So, what’re your plans today?”

“Well, Sarah wants a girl day. I wanna sneak in some time to work on Pat’s present.”

“Will you tell me what you’re making?”

I shook my head. “I wanna surprise you, too.”

That afternoon, Sarah convinced me to go to the mall to get a mani-pedi, although I refused the pedicure. Somehow, the spa wasn’t too busy, so the people let me sit in the technician’s chair beside Sarah. They offered me the spa chair, but I had a feeling I would break my good ankle if I tried to climb into it with my brace.

Sarah looked at me as she lowered her feet into the spa tub. “So, are Walter and Zayne a thing now?”

I shook my head. “No. Apparently, she dated Mike, who was even more of a jerk with her, so she’s not ready to be in another relationship.”

“As opposed to you, who started dating the next guy she saw.”

“That’s not fair! I’d known Eliot for years.”

Sarah smiled. “I’m just teasing you. How ’bout you? How was your date?”

“I told you. We mostly just hung out.”

“You didn’t tell me any of the good stuff.”

“I thought you didn’t want to hear about boys.”

“He’s not boys. He’s his own class.”

“It won’t upset you?” When Sarah shook her head, I sent her a mischievous smile. “Well, I told him I loved him.”


“He was disappointed because he had planned to say it first.”

Sarah grinned. “Ooohhh. You guys are so cute together!”

“Did you hear about anyone else’s night?”

“I talked to Dre. She and Frank-Pete are a thing now. She’s actually calling him Pete, which is just going to drive me crazy because I know you call him Frank. And Andy went to the dance with—I forgot who. I’m pretty sure she’s another swimmer. But, they’re a thing now, too. Um—No other couple news. I saw Paige with Toby from our math class during a slow dance, but when I talked to her this morning, she said that Toby spent the entire song discussing fractals. Isn’t that a math thing?”

I nodded. “I think so. But, I sit next to him sometimes. He’s not exactly failing, but he’s probably barely passing. Why is he worried about fractals?”

That night, I noticed little changes in the way my friends interacted with each other. Larry left the dinner table as Sarah sat down. Dre sat at a completely different table with Pat’s roommate. Andy was in another section with a different group  of people I didn’t even recognize, his arm around a girl from my English class.

Zayne didn’t eat with us, but she did join us upstairs for study hours. As she and Walter sat across from me, I noticed them occasionally brushing their arms against each other. It was easy for them to do, since Walter was right-handed and Zayne was left-handed.

 Just before study hours officially began, Pat snuck into the room, although he preferred to stay in the comfy chair instead of joining us at the table. I hadn’t had any alone time with him all day and hadn’t seen him since church. I missed him and it made me a little sad that he didn’t want to sit with me.

During the break between study hours, Walter walked Zayne back to the dorm. After packing my things, I went to sit on the arm of Pat’s chair and ended up dropping my crutches.

“Oh, shunk!”

“It’s okay.” Pat’s hand automatically began tracing lazy circles on my lower back. He often did this when something was bothering me. We both liked it. But this time, his smile didn’t reach his eyes.

I played absently with his hair. “What’s wrong? You’re not yourself.”

“Did you have to tell my brother about last night?” Pat’s tone was half whine, half accusatory.

I sighed. “Pat, he asked me what was wrong with you. We can both tell you’re upset. He’s one of your best friends, and he was concerned.”

“I’m fine.” Since his tone indicated he clearly was the opposite, I raised my eyebrows. He sighed. “Okay. But it was something personal between you and me. You had no right to bring him into it.”

“I didn’t tell him anything. I just said that you crossed the line and that it was bothering you.”

Pat raised his eyebrows. “That’s not telling him anything?”

“He’s the one who told me you’re avoiding me. That you ran an extra mile this morning. He’s worried about you!”

“I’m not avoiding you.”

“Really? Then why haven’t you kissed me all day?”

“Is that all our relationship is? The physical stuff?” I could hear the anger in Pat’s words as he got to his feet.

“You know it’s not!” I was close to tears. Not because we were arguing, but because he was obviously hurting and I felt so helpless. He closed his eyes for a moment and I watched him take a few deep breaths. When he spoke again, his voice was so calm, I found it eerie.

“I’m not really in the mood to fight with you tonight.” He handed me my crutches and grabbed his bag. “I’ll see you at lunch tomorrow.” After kissing the top of my head, he walked out of the room.

I sat where I was for a moment, trying to figure out what had just happened. But, I couldn’t. I might as well be confused in my room.

I grabbed my bag and headed back to my room. It was odd to see Sarah there. She usually spent her break in Larry’s room. But, I said nothing. I didn’t want to upset her again. As I unpacked my bag and got ready for bed, I tried to figure out what was wrong with Pat.

By the time second study hours started, I still had no answers.

Pat’s Story

I was at home. I walked into my room and found Melinda sitting on my bed. She looked at me with those mesmerizing chocolate eyes, a little confused why she was there.

I sat beside her and pushed her hair behind her ear. When she kissed me, I pulled her close. With little effort, I lowered her onto to bed. All self-control gone, my hands began to explore. Her skin was soft and smooth.

And it wasn’t enough. I needed more. My mouth traveled down her neck. My hands started exploring places I knew they shouldn’t be. Her hands had were wandering as well. It was the most incredible feeling I had ever known and I couldn’t get enough of it. I never wanted this to stop.

My alarm beeped quietly in my ear. I pressed the button on my watch and blinked my eyes. I was in my bed, but in my dorm. I was alone, although I could hear Frank and Zach breathing in the bunk bed on the opposite side of the room.

I could still feel Melinda in my arms and on my lips. I needed to clear my head. I dressed quickly and headed for the TRAC, not bothering to wait for my brother.

The cool air felt good, and I longed to run outside. But I knew the paths were still icy and didn’t want to risk falling.

I had already run about a mile when Walter found me. He quickly fell into stride beside me.

“You didn’t wait for me?”

“Had some extra energy.”

“How was your date last night?”

“Fine.” I knew he wanted me to ask about his, but I couldn’t. I really just wanted to focus all my energy on running for half an hour.

“What’s wrong?” he asked after another lap.


He dropped it, although he gave me sideways glances the rest of the morning.

As soon as we arrived at church a couple of hours later, I told Melinda and my brother that I would find them and went to the men’s room. It was actually just an excuse to be away from Melinda. As soon as I had seen her approach the car, the memory of last night’s dream came flooding back to me, along with all the guilt.

When I returned to the pew, I sat with Walter between me and Melinda. I just didn’t trust myself to be near her anymore.

An hour later, I dropped my brother and girlfriend at the dining hall and drove to the TRAC alone to park my car. I needed to clear my head. Another run might help. I should probably eat something, but I didn’t want to risk seeing Melinda. The dining hall was always empty on Sunday mornings.

Unfortunately, running only helped a little. But I wasn’t sure what else I could do to clear my head. I laid on my bed, contemplating my ceiling as I mentally reviewed who would understand my inner turmoil.

I could talk to Zach or Frank, but they wouldn’t understand. Zach had lost his virginity when he went to Spain last term, and I was pretty sure he and Chloe had reached that stage of their relationship as well. Frank was looking forward to getting a girl into bed. I couldn’t talk to Chloe about this for so many reasons, but mostly because she was a girl, and I didn’t think she’d understand. Especially about my dream.

Someone knocked on my open door. I lifted my head enough to see who it was, sighing as I flopped back onto my bed. I couldn’t talk to my little brother about this. That would just be too weird.

Walter straddled my desk chair. “You okay?”

“I’m fine. Why?”

“You don’t seem fine.” He paused a moment. “Melinda told me about last night.”

Why did she have to bring him into this? “What about last night?”

“She said you . . . tried to cross the line you guys set.”

At least he looked as uncomfortable as I felt. I figured that was his punishment for trying to get involved in something that obviously didn’t concern him.

“Is she still mad at me?”

“No. She’s worried about you. You completely avoided her at church.”

“No, I didn’t.” Yes, I did.

“You know you can talk to me, right?”

“There’s nothing to talk about.”

I went back to staring at the ceiling. Walter sat there a few minutes, probably trying to figure out how to talk to me, before he gave up and left wordlessly.

By the end of the day, I really wanted to see Melinda. I figured the study room, with my brother present, would be safe enough. I still didn’t trust myself.

Walter’s girlfriend was there. I had forgotten to ask about the dance. They were flirting, so I figured the date had gone well. I would have to ask him during tomorrow morning’s run.

I kissed Melinda on the head before collapsing in one of the wing-backed chairs to read the depressing English book. It didn’t help my mood. When study hours ended, Walter walked Zayne back to the dorms and Melinda came to sit on the arm of my chair. She tried to prop up her crutches, and they fell.

“Oh, shunk!” Melinda only swore in the made up language from our favorite science fiction show. It was one of the things I loved about her.

“It’s okay.” I put my arm around her, tracing lazy circles along her back. I did that when she was upset and it usually calmed both of us.

This time, though, it reminded me of my dream. It took a lot of effort not to explore. I tried to smile at her, but I guess it wasn’t very effective.

“What’s wrong?” She played with my hair. “You’re not yourself.”

“Did you have to tell my brother about last night?” I could hear the anger mixed with the whine.

Melinda sighed. “Pat, he asked me what was wrong with you. We can both tell you’re upset. He’s one of your best friends, and he was concerned.”

He wasn’t my best friend. He was my brother. There was a difference. At least, there should be.

“I’m fine.” I was trying to reassure her, but I must not have been very convincing, because she just raised her eyebrows at me. “Okay. But it was something personal between you and me. You had no right to bring him into it.”

“I didn’t tell him anything. I just said that you crossed the line and that it was bothering you.”

“That’s not telling him anything?” I heard the anger in my voice, but I couldn’t stop it.

“He’s the one who told me you’re avoiding me. That you ran an extra mile this morning. He’s worried about you!”

“I’m not avoiding you.” I was, but I didn’t want her to know that.

“Really? Then why haven’t you kissed me all day?”

“Is that all our relationship is? The physical stuff?” I stood up. I needed to pace. I had no idea how I was supposed to talk to her about all this.

“You know it’s not!” I heard the pain in her voice and could see the tears in the corner of her eyes.

The last thing I wanted to do was hurt her. I closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths. I hated doing it, but I needed to put on an acting façade. Just to get out of this room. I transformed myself into my Patrick McGregor interview persona.

Cool, calm, and collected, I opened my eyes. “I’m not really in the mood to fight with you tonight.” I picked up the crutches and handed them to Melinda, then slung my bag over my shoulder. “I’ll see you at lunch tomorrow.” I kissed the top of her head and walked away, but not before seeing her crestfallen look.

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.