Episode 107

Melinda’s Story

Pat’s arms were around me as we danced slowly. I was wearing the dress I had picked out for the Snowflake Ball. It was strange because I didn’t remember actually buying it. In the background, a DJ was playing soft music. People danced near us, but not close enough for me to recognize anyone’s face. Pat smiled at me, kissing me gently as we continued to dance. He pulled me closer. Together, as if in slow motion, we started falling to the floor. No, not the floor. A beanbag chair.

Slowly, my brain started putting the pieces together. I had been snuggling with Pat while we watched a movie. We must have fallen asleep. He was kissing me goodnight, rolling us slightly to swap places. I tried to pull him closer, but he sat up slightly, tucking a blanket around me.

He kissed my forehead. “Morning.”

“Morning.” My response was automatic. When the words sank in, I sat up quickly, almost knocking Pat to the floor.

“Did you say morning? Oh . . . how much trouble are we in?”

“I don’t know. I just woke up.”

“What time is it?”

“A little after six. I was going to get up for my run.”

“Maybe, if we sneak out separately, no one will see us. Or we could sneak out together and just say we both got up early.”

“Melinda, sweetheart, you are a horrible liar. You know neither of those ideas will work.”

I sent him a curious look. I was used to him calling me Daphne, although he hadn’t done so since New Year’s. He had never called me sweetheart. I liked it.

I twirled my fingers in his hair. “What did you say?”

“Neither of those ideas will work?”

I shook my head. “Before that.”

“Umm . . . you’re a terrible, liar?”

I could see the confusion on Pat’s face. It was endearing. “Before that.”

“I don’t know.”

“You called me sweetheart.”

“It just kinda slipped out. Sorry. I didn’t even realize I said it.”

I smiled. “That makes it even more special.” I pulled him in for another kiss. We were interrupted by a cough in the doorway. I hid under the blanket.

Pat kissed my head one last time. I could feel him getting out of the chair. I waited a few minutes before daring to leave. Since no one was yelling at me, I must not be in any trouble. I met no one on my way to Meghan’s room, where Lily was just waking up. Sarah was still sound asleep.

Lily whispered when she saw me. “Hey. Where you been?”

“I fell asleep during the movie. Pat just woke me up.”

“That is just so romantic!”

“What’re you doing up?”

“I wanted to go running.”


Lily raised her eyebrows. “Do I look like I want to be a Lily-sickle? I’m heading to the gym.”

Mr. Evans was planning to drive the boys back to school sometime after lunch, but Sarah and my mothers both insisted we needed to go home before returning to Hartfield. My mother arrived mid-morning, staying for a cup of coffee and chatting with Mrs. Evans before declaring it was time to leave.

 She sent me a sidelong glance as she pulled onto the highway. “Aren’t those the clothes you were wearing when I dropped you off?”

“Mm-hmm. Fiona, the housekeeper, washed our clothes for us. Sarah and Lily and me. She washed our pajamas, too, so we could wear them again last night.”

“That was nice of her. I hoped you remembered to thank her.”

I rolled my eyes. “Of course I did.”

“Did you behave yourself while you were there?”

I fought the urge to roll my eyes again, although I didn’t quite keep the impertinence out of my tone. “Yeah. We mostly just played games and hung out. What do you think I was doing?”

“Kara said you and Pat are back together.”

I couldn’t quite read my mother’s tone. Was she pleased or concerned? Maybe a little of both?

I shrugged. “Yeah. We . . . we think we worked things out.”

“I don’t want you to feel pressured into doing anything you don’t want to do.”


“I’m just saying, I don’t want you to be with him just because you feel you have to be.”

“I really don’t want to have this conversation.” I took out my phone, digging through my bag for my earbuds.

“Melinda.” This time, there was no mistaking the warning tone.

I gave up my search with a sigh. “Mom, I care about him. I didn’t want to break up with him, and we think we worked out the things that caused us to break up in the first place. Which were about how we communicate with each other. Nothing else.”

My mother pursed her lips, clearly unconvinced. “It had nothing to do with being in a . . . physical relationship?”

I knew my face was turning red. I could feel the heat in my cheeks. How was I supposed to respond to that?

 I opened and closed my mouth several times before words finally came out. “Pat and I . . . we don’t want that.”

“I know you keep saying that–”

“Mom? We kiss. We don’t do more than that. Because we don’t want to do more than that. Because we know if we let our relationship get too physical too fast, it won’t be enough and we’ll lose what we have now.”

My mother whipped her head to narrow her eyes at me. “What do you mean? What makes you say that? What did you do?”

“Nothing! We know people who have.” I prayed she wouldn’t ask who.

My mother pursed her lips as  turned her eyes back to the road, changing the subject. “So, how’s school going?”

“Fine.” I breathed a mental sigh of relief that the worst of the conversation was over.

“Are you enjoying managing the basketball team?”

I shrugged noncommittally. “It’s not bad. I miss dancing, though.”

“Did the doctor say when you could dance again?”

“I can dance now, but mostly barre exercises and warmups until my ankle gets strong again. I’ve been trying to exercise it a little the past few days.”

“And your classes are okay?”

I nodded. “I had a physics test last week  and I know I did a great job on it. And I got a ninety-four on my last math test. And an A-minus on my last English essay. I forgot what else.”

“Have you given any thought to college?”

“No.” I pouted, annoyed that everyone always seemed to focus on something so far away. “I’m only a third-former.”

My mother waved a dismissive hand. “I didn’t mean what was your top choice. I just meant, have you thought about it in general? What you might like to study or whether you are even going.”

I sent my mother a curious look. I had never considered college optional. “Well, I always figured I would go. I don’t know what I’d study.”

“I had a classmate when I was in high school, top of the class. Everyone knew she’d be able to get into whatever college she wanted. Had to drop out our junior year to go have a baby. Instead of becoming a doctor, she ended up working in the supermarket deli.”

I sat up a little to glare at my mother. “Mom! That’s not going to happen!”

“She thought she was being careful.”

“Pat and I aren’t—we’re no—we’re waiting.”

“For how long?”

“Ugh. I don’t know! A long time. Definitely not high school. He wants to wait until marriage and I’m perfectly okay with that. So, can we just not have this conversation EVER again?”

My mother switched topics again. ”I suppose now that you and Pat are back together, you’ll be spending a lot of time with him.”

I shrugged, flopping back into my seat. “I guess.”

“Do you make time for your other friends?”

“We’re not together twenty-four-seven!”

“I was a little older than you when I had my first serious relationship.”

“Mom!” I closed her eyes, trying to pretend I was somewhere else. Anywhere else. How far away from home were we? This car ride was nearly over, right?

My mother ignored my protests. “We thought we had to do everything together. We ate lunch together, usually alone because my friends couldn’t stand him and I couldn’t stand his friends. After school, we would hang out together, again alone. Soon, my schoolwork was suffering, and I nearly lost my friends.”

“Pat and I aren’t like that.”


I shook my head. “No. First of all, my schoolwork is fine. I just told you I was getting all A’s.”

“Yes, but you and Pat haven’t been together for a month.”

“And, if anything, my grades were better before we broke up. Plus, my friends love him.”

“And, do his friends like you?”

I hesitated. “Did I tell you one of Pat’s best friends was Zach Fields?”

“Well, there’s a name I haven’t heard in ages.”

“Pat had three really close friends, including Zach. But during Christmas break, they changed. The way Brittany and Casey changed. And, Pat isn’t really friends with them anymore. So, he’s been hanging out with Walter and Larry. So, we basically have the same friends now.”

“I see.” Thankfully, road work ahead forced my mother to focus on traffic and end this horrible conversation. Just to be safe, I found my headphones, listening to some calming ballet music as I tried to forget everything my mother had just said.

I feared my mother would resume the conversation on our way back to Hartfield, so when my father came home for an early dinner, I begged him to take me back to campus. It was blissfully quiet as we listened to the radio for the two-hour drive, arriving just before study hours. After quickly gathering my books and checking in with Clarissa, I headed to the library.

Pat and Walter were already working at the study table. Throwing my bag on the floor, I collapsed into the chair beside Pat.

“Ugh! You will NEVER guess what my mother was saying during our car ride home.”

Pat put an arm around me. “Lemme guess. Did it have something to do with you and I being back together?”

I folded my arms on the table, burying my head. “She kept trying to give me all these warning about being in a physical relationship. Real subtle about it, too. Switching topics and then sneaking it back in there.”

Walter shook his head. “Better than us. Dad started telling us about his first time. With Mom.”

Pat threw a book across the table at his brother. “Walter! I had almost gotten that horrible memory packed away into my traumatic events to share with my future shrink compartment. Why’d you have to go resurrect it?”

I snuggled against Pat with a smile. “This was on your way here? With Larry?”

Walter shook his head. “Nah. Yesterday. It’s why he wanted help with the plow. Really, he just wanted to get both of us in one place where we couldn’t escape.”

Pat gave an involuntary shudder. “Next time, I’m jumping out of the truck, even if it’s speeding down the highway.”

I giggled. “How’d you get out of the conversation?”

“Walter pretty much told Dad what happened with Zayne without actually telling Dad what happened with Zayne.”

I smiled. “I tried that. My mom started talking about how I shouldn’t neglect my friends for my boyfriend. I told her we’re sharing the same friends. I don’t think she knew what to do with that information.”

“Well, I promise not to let you neglect your friends for me.” Pat kissed the top of my head before turning back to his physics book.

“Can you two do me a favor?” Walter glanced between me and Pat as he opened his math book.

I sat up a little straighter, putting some space between me and Pat. “Sorry. We making you uncomfortable?”

Walter shook his head. “No. Please promise me you two will never break up again?”

I looked into Pat’s eyes. “Never again.”

He returned my smile. “Never again.”

Pat’s Story

After supper, we were all hanging out in the video game room when Lily mentioned a movie she wanted to watch. Walter managed to find it on the television. We all agreed watching it in the playroom was better than the theater. Even Lily and Walter wanted to snuggle. I made a mental note to ask him about that in the morning.

Although the movie was funny, we all were getting tired. Somewhere in the middle of the film, I realized Melinda was falling asleep. I whispered in her hair.

“Hey. Why don’t you go to bed?”

“Mmm.” She turned into me even more. I held her close, figuring I would wake her up when the movie was over. I liked the way she felt in my arms. She fit there so perfectly. I closed my eyes to savor the moment.

When I opened them again, the screen was off. The room was dark and someone had covered Melinda and me with a throw blanket. I stroked her hair and kissed the top of her head. She nuzzled closer.

A few moments later, the alarm on my watch was buzzing. I silenced it as quickly as I could without waking Melinda. I lay there for a while, trying to figure out how to extricate myself. I didn’t want to disturb her. But I also knew the longer we both stayed there, the greater the chance my parents would find us and flip out.

Ultimately, I realized there was no easy way for me to move. She was lying on me and any movement I made would jar her. I kissed her gently on the lips.

She kissed me back. Holding her close, I slowly shifted the two of us until she was lying on the chair and I was beside her. She pulled me closer, but I could feel my self-control slipping. I sat back slightly, whispering as I tucked the blanket around her. “Morning.”

She smiled blissfully. Then, her eyes shot open and her expression turned to panic as she struggled to sit up. I nearly fell out of the chair.

“Did you say morning? Oh . . . how much trouble are we in?”

“I don’t know. I just woke up.”

“What time is it?”

“A little after six. I was going to get up for my run.”

“Maybe, if we sneak out separately, no one will see us. Or we could sneak out together and just say we both got up early.”

I played with her hair. “Melinda, sweetheart, you are a horrible liar. You know neither of those ideas will work.”

She was looking at me oddly. She had tears in her eyes. Had I hurt her? When she spoke, her voice was soft.

“What did you say?”

“Neither of those ideas will work?”

She shook her head. “Before that.”

I tucked a hair behind her ear. “Umm . . . you’re a terrible liar?” That shouldn’t bring her to tears. She already knew that.

She shook her head. “Before that.”

I had already forgotten the beginning of the conversation. “I don’t know.”

“You called me sweetheart.”

“It just kinda slipped out. Sorry. I didn’t even realize I said it.”

Was this a good thing or a bad thing? I had stopped calling her Daphne after our conversation on New Year’s. I wasn’t sure if she disliked all nicknames, or just that one.

She smiled. “That makes it even more special.” She leaned in for another kiss, pulling me back down beside her.

The playroom door opened, and I heard a throat clear. Someone had horrible timing. Melinda let out a little squeak and ducked under the blanket. I kissed the top of her head before joining my brother in the hall. He smirked at me.

“You running in that?”

I swore at him, but he followed me into my room. He made himself comfortable on my bed while I changed in my closet.

“So. You and Lily seemed pretty close last night.”

“She’s going home today. Like, LA home. No point in starting something.”

“So that’s it? She leaves and you forget about her?”

“I like her as a friend.”

I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth and splash some water on my face. As usual, I felt around to see if I needed a shave, but Saturday morning’s trim seemed to be holding. I smirked at Walter as I returned to my room.

“So, you’re saying you like her the way you like Melinda?”

His response was simply a rude hand gesture as we headed outside.

Melinda’s mother arrived in the middle of the morning, sharing a cup of coffee with Mom before announcing it was time for my girlfriend to go home. I snuck her into the gameroom for a quick goodbye kiss before reminding her I would see her later that night.

Lily’s parents picked her up on their way to the airport, arriving just as Melinda was getting into the car. Lily hugged everyone goodbye and told us she was ninety percent certain she was going to apply to Hartfield for next year.

After Sarah left, Dad brought Larry, Walter, and me back to school. Since I wasn’t allowed to drive Larry, I had left Pendek at school and Dad had played chauffeur. When we got back, I brought Hazel to Walter’s room, where Larry joined us for an awesome little jam session.

Getting back into school mode after the long weekend was a lot easier than I had expected. Melinda returned to campus shortly before study hours. She sat beside me and we settled into a comfortable routine as we began our homework. I was trying to study, but I kept reflecting on how much things had changed in the past month.

Relationships were hard. I had grown apart from my three best friends and that really hurt. Part of me missed having Chloe around to help me understand the female psyche, but playing Truth or Dare with Sarah and Melinda this weekend taught me more about the way girls think than Chloe ever did. Part of me missed joking around with my roommates at the end of a long day. But I had a much better time playing guitar with Larry and Walter this afternoon than spending time in the dorms with my old friends.

Romantic relationships could be even more difficult than friendships. But, being apart from Melinda for a month only strengthened what we had together. By the end of study hours that evening, it felt as if we had never broken up. Things between us were perfect again. And I knew they always would be. No matter what challenges life threw at us next.

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.