Episode 096

Pat’s Story

I didn’t leave again until Wednesday. Except to visit the bathroom, of course. I skipped meals, eating from the stash of junk food and protein bars under my bed. I skipped classes. I didn’t check my phone for messages. I just cut myself off from the world.

Until myphone beeped like a semi truck Wednesday afternoon. I checked the readout. Someone was requesting a ride from the TRAC. I could guess who. I almost ignored her. But I didn’t want to let down Mrs. Lindgren.

I took a quick shower, my first in a couple of days, and I felt a little better. Walking to the TRAC to get my car helped, too. I thought I saw Melinda sitting on the front steps, so I went the long way, around the back of the building, past the fields. I wanted the extra few minutes to compose myself.

Sitting in my car, I took a moment to perform my breathing exercises as if I were getting ready to film a scene. When I was sure my mask was in place, I drove around to pick up whomever had texted me.

Melinda hopped in the front seat. She only had one crutch with her. When did she lose the other one? It was such a surprise that I forgot to jump out to put it in the trunk. She kept it in her lap.

I stared straight ahead, trying to sound cheerful. “Where to?”

“The church.”

We were silent the entire drive. I just couldn’t think of anything to say. Finally, when we got there, I parked the car and asked if I should wait for her.

“I’m early. I wanted to talk to you. Walter’s worried. He thinks you’re missing classes.”

I turned off the car and looked at her. My mask cracked. I cared about her too much to hide from her. But, I reminded myself, she had ended it. She had no right to worry about me anymore. And what was she doing talking about me behind my back?

“It’s really none of his business. Or yours.”

“Pat, we care about you.”

“If you care, why did you break up with me?”

Melinda was silent for a long time. “Pat, I still love you. I probably always will. It hurts me to see you like this. It hurts me even more knowing I caused it. But I still think it was the right decision.”

“And what if I don’t? Think it was the right decision?”

“You weren’t this angry last week. What’s going on?”

I could see the pain in her eyes, but that only made me more upset. “I don’t have to tell you anything.”

“No, you don’t. But if you want to, you can.” People began streaming out of church. Melinda waited a moment before getting out of the car. She stuck her head back in the door. “I’m gonna be awhile. If you want to come in, get warm, you’re more than welcome.”

I wanted to drive away. But I couldn’t abandon her. It got cold pretty quickly, and I decided to take her up on her offer.

I rang the bell, and a man I recognized opened the door. He was the younger of the two priests, Father Aidan. I tried to smile.

“Hi. I just dropped off my gir—I just dropped someone off. She said I could wait inside.”

“Of course.” He smiled warmly as he shut the door behind me. He gestured towards a room on my right and I followed him into a small living room. It had old couches, a couple of armchairs, and a small television. A tall bookcase stood in one corner. It reminded me of my grandparents’ house in Florida.

He turned to me, a slight trace of Ireland in his voice. “If you don’t mind me asking, is everything alright? You look distressed.”

“I’m fine.” Since I could hear the anger in my own voice, I had a feeling he could, too. But he said nothing.

He sat in a chair, gesturing for me to do so as well. “I recognize you. You usually attend the eight o’clock mass, correct?”

I nodded, but still said nothing.

“I haven’t seen you for a couple of weeks. Is everything okay?”

I shrugged. “We went home for break.”

“Oh, yes. That’s right. You’re Hartfield students. Are you in our confirmation program as well? I don’t recall seeing you there.”

I shook my head. “I was confirmed when I was in eighth grade.”

“Oh. Did you attend a parochial school, then?”

I shook my head. “We were homeschooled. We traveled a lot, between all the movies and my dad’s tours.”

Father Aidan shook his head. “I’m sorry. I forgot.”

“Forgot what?”

“I’ve become so accustomed to thinking of you as one of my young parishioners, I forgot who you were.”

I stood up to pace. How long I would have to wait for Melinda? I resisted the urge to check the time. I had a feeling I had only been there a few minutes, although it felt like hours. When I found myself near the bookcase, I couldn’t help examining the titles.

“I’ve read a few of these. They make it sound so easy, but . . .”

Father Aidan raised his eyebrows. “But, what?”

“You wouldn’t understand.”

“I see. Well, I have been a priest for fifteen years. You’d be surprised what I could understand.”

“It’s about girls.” I stared past him to avoid meeting his eye.

“Ah. And, because I’m a priest, I wouldn’t get it. How old are you? About seventeen?”

I shrugged a shoulder. “Nearly.”

He nodded thoughtfully. “When I was seventeen, I was madly in love with Jenny Anderson. I even tried out for football, because she only dated athletes.”

I gave a half-smile. “You mean soccer?”

“No, I mean American football. My family moved to Massachusetts when I was thirteen, fourteen years old. I didn’t know the first thing about the sport, but I tried out anyway.”

“Did you make the team?”

Father Aidan shook his head. “No, but I caught Jenny’s attention. We dated for nearly a year.”

“Why’d you break up?”

“We were heading to different colleges. Neither of us wanted to be tied down.”

I went back to looking at the books. I wanted to read a couple of them. I pointed to the shelf as I turned back to Father Aidan. “Do you think I could—”

“By all means. That’s why they’re there. If your friend finishes before you, feel free to bring the book home.”

“Thanks.” I turned back to the shelf. I had hoped he would leave, but instead, he simply picked up a book from an end table I had not seen and began reading.

Since none of the books were called Fixing Your Messed-Up Relationships, I picked one at random and leafed through it. The second one I picked seemed promising, and I settled into a chair.

After returning Melinda to campus, I had intended to return to my bed. Maybe read a little more of the book I had brought home from the rectory. Instead, however, I received a message from my dean that I was to meet with him during first study hours.

Caswell lived in one of the senior houses across the street from my new dorm. I rang the bell just after study hours began. He opened the door immediately. I got the feeling he had been waiting for me.

“Patrick. Please, come in.”

He led me to a small home office. Above us, I could hear girls giggling. They were supposed to be studying.

“I have been receiving reports from your teachers that you have not attended class for the past two days.”

“I haven’t been feeling well.”

“You haven’t been to the infirmary.”

I said nothing. I had no excuses and no idea how to talk myself out of this situation.

“Patrick, can you please tell me what’s going on? What happened with your roommates?”

I shook my head. “I don’t want anyone to get in trouble.”

“I promise no disciplinary action will result from whatever you tell me. For any of you.” When I still said nothing, Caswell continued. “Mr. Davidson said one of your friends had broken a school rule and that made you uncomfortable.”

“Uncomfortable?” I surged to my feet. “Uncomfortable? How would you feel if you came home and found two people in your car, then two more in your bed? Yeah, I was uncomfortable.”

I paced the room, not caring how much trouble I was in. I was angry and here was a handy outlet for that anger. At that moment, I didn’t really care if my dean kicked me out of school. I didn’t even want to be here anymore.

Caswell was silent for a moment. “I see. I assume these people were not simply talking.”

I glared at him. Did I really have to spell it out for him?

Apparently not, since he continued. “I see. But, I’m still confused. We changed your dorm. Why have you missed two days of classes?”

I stopped pacing long enough to shrug in his direction. “I’m not sure you can understand.”

“Try me.”

I took a deep breath. “I’ve had a lot going on lately. I just needed to sort it all out. And, I was finding that difficult with everyone trying to be my friend. Everyone thinks they know me because they see me on screen. But, they don’t. They don’t know the first thing about me!”

Despite my anger, Caswell remained annoyingly calm. “And did you? Sort things out?”

I shrugged. “I—You know I volunteer for Drive Me Home, right?” When Caswell nodded, I continued. “I had to drive someone to church today. While I was waiting for her, I talked to one of the priests. It kind of helped. I’m—I’m not going to keep skipping classes.”

“Well, that is good to know. However, the fact remains you missed two days of classes. I’m going to have to put you on restriction. That means you may not leave campus without express permission from me.”


He held up a hand. “You also will have Sunday detention for the next ten weeks, one for each class you missed.”


“Excuse me?”

“I only missed nine classes. Mr. Smith has a free day Tuesday.”

Caswell couldn’t quite hide his smile. “You did, however, miss Reflections today. But, very well. Nine weeks. That means they will carry into next term. Now. Let’s discuss your restriction.”

“Can I keep volunteering for Drive Me Home?”

“You must remain on campus unless you are called. I will discuss with Mrs. Lindgren whether she should accompany you.”

“What about church?”

He sent me a confused look. “I’m sorry?”

“I go to church on Sundays.”

“What time is the service?”

“During detention.”

Caswell considered this a moment. “Would you be able to attend another day?”

I held up my phone. “May I?” When Caswell nodded, I looked up the Mass schedule and sighed. “Yeah. There’s a Mass Saturday nights in Westdale. Am I allowed off campus for that?”

Caswell nodded. “You must check in with the weekend dean when you leave and when you return.”

By the time Caswell finished discussing all my restrictions, first study hours was nearly over. I crossed the street to my new dorm and went straight to my room. I was behind on my schoolwork, but I wanted to finish reading the book I had borrowed.

Melinda’s Journal

Wednesday, January 10

Last week, I couldn’t wait to get back to Hartfield. Once Walter left, I felt like a visitor in my own house. I spent as much time as possible locked in my room, playing on my phone and trying not to think about Pat.

I counted the days I could return to campus. This is my real home, and I knew I would feel better as soon as I got here.

But I was wrong. Things were different. Everything felt just the slightest bit off. I had trouble studying in the library Sunday night because it reminded me of my first real date with Pat. It was even more uncomfortable with Walter and Zayne flirting across the table.

Monday afternoon, as soon as I sat at the lunch table, I lost my appetite. I was hit with the memory of the first time Pat had joined our table, shocking Sarah and Larry.

That afternoon, as I walked to my English class, I remembered how Pat and I would sit behind the humanities building for our goodnight kiss every night. After I broke my ankle, we had moved into the rotunda after study hours.

Bu, all that is over. How am I supposed to move on when everything reminds me of Pat?

Melinda’s Story

After Hartfield beat Worthington Prep in Wednesday’s basketball game, I followed the team to the locker room. I had already changed into jeans for the game, but I wanted to throw a sweater over my Hartfield tee shirt before heading into town.

Before leaving the locker room, I texted Drive Me Home, requesting a ride from the TRAC. A return text told me a ride should be there in fifteen minutes.

I wasn’t in a hurry. My meeting with Deacon John wasn’t for a while. I walked slowly, using only one crutch as I returned to the multipurpose courts. Bracing myself for the cold, I headed outside and sat on the front steps.

Pat pulled up about twenty minutes later. I hopped in the front seat, squeezing my crutch beside me.

Pat stared out the front window. “Where to?”

“The church.”

The drive was silent. As he pulled into the parking lot, Pat sent me a sidelong glance. “So, do you want me to wait for you?”

“I’m early. I wanted to talk to you. Walter’s worried. He thinks you’re missing classes.”

Pat turned off the car, turning to face me for the first time. I could see a mixture of anger and sadness in his eyes. “It’s really none of his business. Or yours.”

“Pat, we care about you.”

“If you care, why did you break up with me?”

I was silent for a long time. “Pat, I still love you. I probably always will. It hurts me to see you like this. It hurts me even more knowing I caused it. But I still think it was the right decision.”

“And what if I don’t? Think it was the right decision?”

I longed to touch him, to comfort him. Instead, I kept my hands folded in my lap. “You weren’t this angry last week. What’s going on?”

“I don’t have to tell you anything.”

“No, you don’t. But if you want to, you can.”

People began streaming out of the church. CCD was over. I waited another moment before getting out of the car, sticking my head back in the open door. “I’m gonna be awhile. If you want to come in, get warm, you’re more than welcome.”

I didn’t wait for a response before heading to the rectory. Deacon Bob answered the door when I rang the bell.

“Melinda. You look like you’re doing better.”

“Getting there. I can almost walk again.” With a smile, I limped into the building with one crutch. “I have a meeting with Deacon John.”

“Come on in.” He guided me to an office, where a portly man sat behind a desk. He wore thin wire glasses on his balding head. In contrast, Deacon Bob, with his trim figure and full head of hair, looked like a kid, even though I knew he was at least my parents’ age.

I sat in one of the visitor chairs, surprised when Deacon Bob sat in the other and gestured to me.

“This is our Hartfield student.”

Deacon John nodded. “Yes, I’ve seen you at Mass with some young men.”

“Melinda had to switch to home study. She has been emailing me her homework, but I thought this meeting would help you match the name to the face. Melinda, you know we are switching classes this month?”

I nodded, remembering our first day when Deacon Bob explained the two deacons would alternate between the two first-year classes.

Deacon John clasped his hands together and placed them on his desk. “So, Melinda, let’s discuss the fruits of the Holy Spirit some more.”

I spent nearly an hour with the two men before Deacon John began discussing our schedule.

“I would like to meet with you each week. Could we do this time again?”

I checked the calendar on my phone. “No. We have an away game next week. I don’t think we’ll be back until after dinner.”

“What other days work for you?”

It took a little planning, but ultimately, I decided to meet with Deacon John after Mass on Sundays. I would figure out how to get back to campus later.

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.