Episode 094

Melinda’s Journal

Sunday, December 31

There is an old tradition of sharing a kiss on New Year’s. The last kiss of the old year and the first kiss of the new one. It’s supposed to be some kind of luck for the relationship or something. I’ve never been with anyone on New Year’s, so I’ve never shared that kiss. Does not having someone on New Year’s mean I’m going to have bad luck in relationships this year?

Melinda’s Story

“Melinda’s here! Melinda’s here!” Six-year-old Callie jumped excitedly as she opened the front door. “Look! I lost another tooth!”

Four-year-old Beth came up behind her older sister. “What happened to your foot? And who’s him?”

I pointed to Walter as he closed the door behind us. “This is my friend Walter. He’s here to help me because I hurt my foot.”

Beth took Walter’s hand and dragged him to the kitchen. She looked over her shoulder at me as I followed them. “What happened to your foot?”

“I was walking in the snow and I slipped. I broke it.”

“Can I try your crunches?” asked Callie.

“Girls, let Melinda and her friend inside,” sighed Mrs. Dyson. “Come finish your dinner.”

Callie climbed back into her seat. “We’re having chicken nuggets!”

Beth shook her head so hard, her blonde pigtails smacked her face. “Not uh! They’re dinosaur nuggets.”

Walter smile at the girls. “Those are my favorite kind! I think brontosaurus tastes the best, but the T. rex is pretty good, too.”

Mrs. Dyson turned to me as she wiped her hands on a dishtowel. “Hi, Melinda. How’s your ankle?”

“It’s getting better. I can put weight on it now.”

“Look at that! When I was your age, I had to wear a nasty plaster cast for two months.”

“Roar!” Walter had picked up two of the nuggets and was making them attack each other. “You better eat him before he gets the triceratops!”

Callie obeyed, chomping off the head of the tyrannosaurus rex. Beth took the triceratops and drowned it in ketchup before eating a tail.

I shook my head. “Mrs. Dyson, this is my friend Walter. Walter, this is Mrs. Dyson.”

“Nice to meet you.” Walter gave a small wave.

“Is he the homework best friend or the mall best friend?” Callie asked.

Walter raised his eyebrows at me. I smiled at Callie. “Which do you think?”

Beth frowned. “I don’t know. Are you smart?”

“Beth!” Mrs. Dyson chastised. “That’s not a nice thing to ask.”

“But I need to know if he’s smart. He can’t be the homework friend if he’s not smart.”

I tried not to laugh. “I’ll tell you what. He’s gonna play with us tonight and then you can decide if he’s my homework friend or mall friend.”

“Or boyfriend,” added Callie.

Walter shook his head with a smirk. “No. I’m not the boyfriend.”

Mrs. Dyson smiled and gave me some last-minute instructions, including what time to put the girls to bed. Since they were already in pajamas and had been fed, the girls were ready to play with us as soon as their parents left.

“I wanna play cupcakes!” Beth held up her favorite card matching game.

Callie shook her head. “No! You cheat. I wanna play checkers.”

Walter pointed between himself and me. “Well, there are two of us, so we can each play a game with you.”

“Yay! Okay. You can play cupcakes.”

Walter leaned close to me, his voice low. “Am I allowed to win?”

I smiled. “You can’t win. She cheats.”

“Yeah, but so can I.”

I let Callie beat me in checkers. She was just jumping my last piece when Beth exclaimed, “You can’t do that!”

“But you just did!” Walter argued.

“That’s because I’m the kid. You’re the grownup. Grownups have different rules!”

“I don’t wanna play the grownup rules.” I didn’t think Walter was faking his whine. How many children I was babysitting?

I pursed my lips. “Uh oh. If we can’t play fair, we have to put the games away.”

“Can we watch a movie?” asked Callie.

“With popcorn?” added Beth.

Their mother had already said that was fine, but I pretended to think about it for a moment. “I’ll make you a deal. You can watch your movie, but when I pause it, you need to brush your teeth before we watch the end. And no more snacks after that. Deal?”

Both girls nodded and started running to the couch.

“Excuse me.” I pointed to the floor where both games were scattered about. “No one is watching anything until you clean this up.”

Once the girls put their games away, Walter helped put them back on the shelf while I went to make the popcorn. When Walter appeared in the kitchen, he was laughing.

“You’ll never guess what movie the girls wanted.” He removed the bag from the microwave for me.

C. I. Amy. They’re the ones that told me about it.”

“I’m not sure I’ve ever watched an entire episode.”

“Then, go watch it. But, you need to bring the popcorn. I can’t carry it with my crunches.”

Walter laughed as he followed me back to the living room.

After the first episode, I paused the television and made the girls brush their teeth. I allowed them to watch one more episode before they went to bed.

“I wanna watch the one with the pyramids!” Beth said.

“I wanna watch the one with the party!” Callie said.

“Why don’t we let Walter choose?” I handed him the remote and let him scroll through the episodes available on demand. I heard him muttering as he read through each episode.

“This one.” He pressed a button and a moment later, the opening credits were playing. “I remember I wanted to watch this one.”

I turned to him as the show started. “Is it weird? Watching it?”

“Sorta. I’m the duck.”


Walter smiled, pointing to the screen, where an animated duck was speaking. “Nice to meet you,” Walter said in the same voice.

“Wow!” Callie turned around. “You sounded just like him.”

“Can you do other voices?” Beth asked.

Walter nodded. “When you girls go to bed.” When they turned their attention back to the screen, he spoke low so only I could hear. “Sometimes they ask me to do other characters. I remembered I had a lot of fun with the duck here. It’s a little weird knowing that’s me, but mostly I’m used to it.”

After Walter gave both girls piggy-back rides to Callie’s bed, he read them a bedtime story using different voices for each character. Both girls were asleep by the time everyone lived happily ever after.

“Now what?” He followed me down the stairs, having tucked a sleeping Beth into her own bed.

I shrugged. “The only other time I’ve been here at night, I watched tv with you and then . . .” I had spent the night talking to Pat until the Dysons returned. But I didn’t feel like voicing that part aloud.

Walter suggested a game he had invented. “Weddas? The Travel Edition?”

I sighed. “Yeah, I guess. There’s paper in the drawer there. Probably not graph paper, but we can make do. Did Pat tell you what I made him?”

“Yeah. He sent me a picture. A Weddas board game blanket. With all the tiles.”

“Walter? I liked having him as a friend. I liked playing Weddas with you guys. It’s fun playing with you, but it’s more fun playing with both of you. Is he gonna stop being around?”

“You know I’m not the one you need to ask.” Walter held me close as I cried tears I didn’t realize I had.

We turned on the television to watch the ball drop while we played Walter’s vocabulary game. The host was interviewing every celebrity he could find lingering. About an hour before midnight, Pat’s big interview aired.

I spent the first five minutes wanting to tell Pat how great he looked, only to remember that we weren’t together any more. It hurt to see him so upbeat while I was feeling so downtrodden.

In addition to the director, the four kids playing the lead roles in the movie were all at the interview and the talk show hosts didn’t forget to ask about a potential love interest between Pat and his on-screen costar. They both laughed humorously before she admitted she was dating a different Hollywood star. My heart broke all over again when Pat said he wasn’t seeing anyone.

Watching CAVEmen play thirty minutes later was fun because Walter was picking out their errors, such as the drummer being half a beat ahead for an entire verse. After their quick set, the host found Kara and Patrick McGregor. Of course, the host asked who Pat was going to kiss at midnight.

Pat flashed his famous smile at the camera. “Oh, I’m sure I’ll find someone.”

Walter swore. “Sometimes I forget how good an actor he is.”


“I talked to him this afternoon, after he filmed that earlier interview this morning. He said Dad wouldn’t let him fly because he’s so distracted. Upset about you.”

“He doesn’t look it.”

“He’s miserable. Pretty much like you are.”

I pursed my lips. “You’re saying I should get back together with him?”

“No. I’m just saying you’re both miserable.”

As the ball dropped, Walter and my phones both signaled incoming messages. Walter smiled and went to talk to Zayne in another room. I muted the television as I accepted the video chat request.

I sighed. “Happy New Year.”

“Happy New Year.” Pat’s reply was equally unenthusiastic.

“I saw you on tv.”

“Just now?”

I nodded. “And earlier. Your big interview.”


“And I wanted to punch you for moving on so quickly. Joking around about finding someone to kiss at midnight. Then Walter reminded me you’re an amazing actor.”

“Why is my personal life everyone’s business?” Pat sounded exasperated. “Not you, I mean—”

“I know. It’s because you’re a celebrity. Everyone wants to know everything about you. But they don’t know the first thing.”

“But you do. I miss you, Daphne.”

I shook my head adamantly, tears stinging my eyes. “No. I’m not Daphne. I’m not a tree.”

“I know. You’re Melinda. You are an amazingly insightful girl who knows me better than I know myself.” When I raised my eyebrows, Pat explained. “I rushed you into a relationship you weren’t ready for. It never occurred to me that I wasn’t ready, either.”

I sniffed, wiping my eyes with my wrists. “When we get back to school . . . are you going to still hang out with us?”

“Will it be too weird?”

I shrugged. “Probably. But I like having you around. Walter does too, even though he’d never admit it.”

“Hey, where is he right now?”

I smiled. “Talking to Zayne. She called right when you did. Called him yesterday, too.”

“Yeah. He told me. Said you guys had fun in the city yesterday.” Pat looked behind himself for a moment. “Dad’s playing another set. Mom wants me back outside playing the happy celebrity.”

“Stay warm.”

Pat nodded and ended the call. I called to the other room. “Your dad’s playing again. And I think it’s your turn.” 

The following morning, I was sitting in the kitchen when Walter came in the back door. I raised my eyebrows in his direction.

“Where were you?”

“Running.” Walter was panting. “I run every morning. You know that.”

“You didn’t go yesterday.”

“Sure I did. You just didn’t notice because I was back before you woke up.”

“But why are you wet?”

Walter shook himself like a wet dog. “It’s snowing. Not enough to affect the roads. Just enough to be wet.”

I shook my head. “You want breakfast?”

“Nah, not yet. I wanna change.”

My mother passed Walter as he was heading upstairs. She pointed over her shoulder as she entered the kitchen. “Why is Walter all wet?”

I rolled her eyes. “He went for a run this morning. In the snow. Apparently, he went yesterday before we woke up.”

“Kara warned me he might. She said the boys are crazy like that. So, did you have fun last night? Karen said Walter was getting along great with the girls before she left.”

“They had a ball. We played games and watched their favorite show. Then Walter read a story, with different voices for each character, to put them to bed.”

“What did you do after the girls went to bed?”

“Remember when Pat came over and we played that vocabulary game? Walter and I played that while we watched the Chicago ball drop.”

“Why Chicago?”

“So he could see his dad. The host interviewed Mrs. Evans and Pat, too.”

“I’m sorry he couldn’t stay with us.” My mother sounded sincerely disappointed.

I sighed. “It’s okay. It was better this way. We broke up.”

“You did what?” My mother’s face was almost comical. I was pretty sure I could have told her I had been arrested and she would be in less shock. She sat across from me at the table.

I shrugged. “We broke up. The other night, when I stayed at their house.”


“It’s complicated and I don’t really want to discuss it. But I just didn’t think we were ready for such a serious relationship.”

“You dumped him?”

I couldn’t quite hide the whine. “Mom. Don’t say it like that. Makes me sound mean. I broke up with him.”

“Oh, sweetie.” My mother came around to give me a hug. “Are you okay?”

“Not really, but I’m getting there. Having Walter around has actually been pretty nice.”

My mother returned to the counter to make breakfast. “So, you’ll never guess who I ran into last night.”

I smiled. “The Dysons.”

“Well, of course them, but also the McCrorys. They said they ran into you the other day at the Sportsplex.”

“Oh! I forgot to tell you I went there. Are you mad?”

My mother shook her head. “No, I knew who you were with, and I like Walter’s family. Lisa said she was concerned you were falling into a bad crowd.”

“Like her daughter?” I couldn’t keep the bitterness out of my voice.

“I know you’re not talking to them anymore. Can you tell me what happened?”

“What happened where?” Walter asked as he took a seat beside me.

“My mom wants to know why I’m not friends with Brittney and Casey anymore.”

“Are those the two girls who tried to embarrass you?”

I nodded, then added with a shrug. “You can tell her.”

Walter turned towards my mother, who was pouring pancakes onto the griddle. “So, we went to this amazing fro-yo place and Melinda had just sat down when these two girls pull up a chair. They were wearing these tight revealing clothes that were really kind of off-putting and too much makeup.”

My mother nodded, flipping the pancakes. It was interesting to hear Walter’s point of view on the incident at Java Twist. By the time he finished, my mother brought two short stacks to the table, returning to the stove to make more.

When he was done, I figured I would tell my mother the rest of the story. “The last time I came home, they brought me to the football game. They changed into even skimpier clothes and went off to meet their boyfriends. The ones their parents probably didn’t know about.”

My mother nodded her head towards me. “Were the boyfriends the ones smoking?”

I remembered my mother’s concern when I had climbed into the car smelling like an ashtray. I nodded. “The girls joined them. Then, they both ditched me and left me with some strange guy.” I didn’t see the point in telling her the guy assumed I was there just to make out with him. Instead, I shrugged. “That’s when I left.”

“Well, I’m sorry you lost your friends.” I could hear the sorrow in my mother’s voice.

“It doesn’t matter. Walter isn’t such a bad girlfriend.”

He winked at me. “Yeah, but I still can’t get that hair braiding thing right.”

Pat’s Story

Morning shows made no sense to me. A bunch of people sitting around drinking coffee and talking about nothing in particular. Weekends were supposed to be a day off from this inanity.

But, one of the publicity people for the movie not only found this show, but convinced them to pre-tape the interview. The network was planning to air it each hour on their network coverage of a local ball drop. The best part? While the four of us were sitting in an LA studio, our interviewers were in New York. Where I just was! I could have taken the train in like my brother.

While we were in makeup, I closed my eyes and did the focusing exercises I usually used to get into character. I was no longer Pat Evans, but Patrick McGregor, Hollywood actor. I had to be positive and energetic, pretty much the exact opposite of how I was feeling at the moment.

They sat us in a semi-circle so we could see each other and still look at the camera. Our director was in the middle. I was on one end, with my costar Hana beside me. The interview started off fairly routinely. Our director told everyone about the general plot and theme of the movie and we watched some clips. The hosts spent a lot of time speaking with the younger boys before turning to me and Hana.

At the end of a clip, the effervescent blonde reappeared on the television screen we were all facing. “So, Hana and Patrick. You really seemed to have some chemistry on the screen. Does that chemistry continue off the screen?”

Hana and I both laughed, as we knew we were supposed to. She held my arm flirtatiously, looking at the camera. “Patrick and I got along really great, Kelly. But, we’re just friends. I’m actually with Jarrod Handy right now.”

“And what about you, Patrick? Anyone special in your life?”

I smiled. “Not right now.”

“What about me?” Matt signed as we went to commercial. “They never ask if I have a girlfriend.”

He was talking to his interpreter, but I had seen his question. I smiled as I responded.

“Do you?”

He shook his head. “No. But it would be nice to be asked once in a while.”

I smiled. “I met someone you used to go to school with. She’s a big fan.”

“What’s her name?”

I spelled out her name before showing Matt her name sign. “Crystal . . . I forgot her last name. Her sister is friends with my girl—brother.” I had started signing girlfriend. Since the sign for girlfriend and the sign for sister started the same way, I hoped Matt would think I just mixed up my siblings. “Dark hair, dark eyes. She was in your class, I think.”

“I remember a Crystal! Wait. She’s a fan of who? Me or you?”

“Well, both of us, I guess. But, I’ve met her a few times now, so she’s not like totally crazy fan.”

Matt smiled. “I’m heading to New York next month. Can you maybe hook us up?”

“I’ll see what I can do.”

“And we’re back in five,” the production assistant announced. “Four . . . three . . .”

After the interview, it was back onto the plane for the quick hop to Chicago. Dad still wouldn’t let me fly. But neither did he. He hired pilots and suggested I rest for the four-hour flight. I did so in the small room off the galley, where I could ignore everyone.

Walter called while we were in flight. I recognized Melinda’s spare room in the background.

“How was New York? And where are you sleeping? On the table?”

He angled the phone to an inflatable mattress on the floor. “New York was fine. Tried to ditch Meghan, but she found us. Brought us to Pop-Pop’s new show. Apparently, she’s been helping Granny. Oh, I got to meet the boyfriend. His name’s Kyle.”

I remembered her saying his name the other night. “And?”

“She says they’re just friends. He’s got a girlfriend. But I’m pretty sure she likes him.” Walter shrugged. “Zayne called while I was in New York.”

I tried to be happy for my brother. “Did she have a question about her math homework?”

He made a face at me. “She was disappointed her parents wouldn’t let her come back to Connecticut for your party.”

I swore. I had forgotten about the party. “Are any of your friends coming?”

He shook his head. “I think Melinda’s the only one who could make it and I haven’t asked her but—”

I could finish that sentence easily enough on my own. “Yeah. I don’t really feel like having a party anymore. Especially if it’s just Zach and Chloe. Frank wasn’t sure he could make it.”

“Where are you? You look like you’re in my room on the plane.”

“It’s not your room.”

Walter frowned. “Why aren’t you flying?”

“Dad wanted to rest before the show.”

“Couldn’t he rest while you fly?”

“He won’t let me fly.” Saying it out loud made it sting just a little more.

Walter was silent a moment. “You ready to talk about what happened?”

I shrugged. “What’s to talk about? She broke up with me. The end.”

“You’re both miserable.”

“I’m not the one who ended it!”

“No. But you’re the one who started it.” Walter ended the call before I could figure out what he meant.

When we got to the airport, Aunt Katie was waiting for us. She drove us to the hotel where CAVEmen had booked the entire top floor. The band would be playing at a nearby amphitheater.

Aunt Katie spent most of the ride complaining loudly about having had a difficult time finding a babysitter. Ultimately, she had convinced her mother to watch the children. I silently wondered if her brats would behave any better for their grandmother than they had for me and Meghan last year.

I was settling into my room, which meant I was lying on the bed staring at the ceiling, when Mom came in. “Your father said you’re not feeling well today. Would you like to stay here during the celebration?” She sat beside me, feeling my forehead with the back of her hand.

I shook her off as I sat up testily. “I’m fine.”

“Is this still about the other day?”

She must have taken my silence to mean yes.

“I’m sorry, but you know how I feel about your girlfriend in your room.”

“We broke up.”

“And I’m sorry that—What?” she looked at me with wide eyes.

“We broke up.”


“Friday night.”

Mom was silent for a while before deciding to just leave me alone. She paused at the door. “If you want to stay here, you’re welcome to. But if you’re coming to the celebration, meet me in the living room at ten.”

I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Part of me wanted to just stay in my room for, well, forever. Part of me wanted to be around other people to take my mind off things. I guess the big question was: who did I want to be that night? Pat Evans or Patrick McGregor?

I decided Patrick McGregor would have a lot more fun than Pat Evans was having. However, once I joined the melee, I realized that it took a lot of effort to be the fun-loving celebrity everyone wanted to see. As I expected, there were television cameras all around. Mom and I did a couple of interviews. Everyone’s favorite question? Who was I going to kiss at midnight? My question? Why did it matter?

The amphitheater shared backstage facilities with a much smaller theater, which was being used for the backstage party. As midnight approached, I thought maybe Pat Evans had the right idea. I didn’t want to be near all these people. I found a greenroom and called the one person I thought might understand.

“Happy New Year.” Melinda’s pitiful face filled my screen. Walter was right. She sounded miserable.

I sighed. “Happy New Year.”

“I saw you on tv.”

“Just now?”

Melinda nodded. “And earlier. Your big interview.”


“And I wanted to punch you for moving on so quickly. Then Walter reminded me you’re an amazing actor.”

I didn’t bother to hide my frustration. “Why is my personal life everyone’s business? Not you, I mean—”

“I know. It’s because you’re a celebrity. Everyone wants to know everything about you. But they don’t know the first thing.”

“I miss you, Daphne.”

Melinda shook her head and I could see tears in her eyes. “No. I’m not Daphne. I’m not a tree.”

“I know. You’re Melinda. You know me better than I do.”

I hadn’t meant to say it. I could see Melinda was confused. I sighed, telling her what I had realized while staring at my ceiling the past two days. “I rushed you into a relationship you weren’t ready for. It never occurred to me that I wasn’t ready, either.”

Melinda sniffed, wiping her eyes with her wrists. “When we get back to school . . . are you going to still hang out with us?”

“Will it be too weird?”

“Probably. But I like having you around. Walter does too, even though he’d never admit it.”

“Hey, where is he right now?”

Melinda smiled. “Talking to Zayne. She called right when you did. She called him yesterday, too.”

I smiled. I was happy for my brother. “Yeah. He told me. Said you guys had fun in the city yesterday.”

“You in here, Pat?” I turned to look at my mother in the doorway. “Oh, good. Dad’s on in a few minutes. Come back outside.”

She left the room without waiting for a response. I turned back to my phone.

“Dad’s playing another set. Mom wants me back outside playing the happy celebrity.”

“Stay warm.” Melinda sent me one last smile as I ended the call.

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.