Episode 108

Melinda’s Story

As I headed up the science center staircase, I saw my roommate entering the building. Sarah waved as I joined her.

“Hey, Melinda.” She looked all around as we headed towards the doors at the opposite end of the corridor. “Where’s your boyfriend?”

I shrugged. “On the phone. Why?”

“Oh, no reason.”

There was something about her tone. I sent her a pointed look. “What is it?”

She sighed as we headed outside into the cold late-January air. “It’s just that, ever since you guys got back together, it’s like he’s always around.”

I rolled my eyes. “We were snowed in, Sarah. What did you want me to do? Pretend he wasn’t there? As I recall, you and Larry were inseparable this weekend, too.”

Sarah pretended to sneer. “I didn’t mean at his place. I meant, well, it’s just that we’ve been back for two days now, and I feel like other than class, I never see you without him.”

I pointed at her. “Basketball.”

“He walked you to and from practice yesterday, and I saw you watching him run on the track while you were supposed to be managing.”

I rolled my eyes. “I was doing my homework. It’s not like Clarissa had me counting free throws or anything.”

“My point is, I know you guys are making up for all that time you were apart, but I just feel like maybe you need some time away from him, too. Just saying.”

I thought about what she said as we waited to cross the four-way intersection. Pat and I had been spending a lot of time together. Even after a month apart, it was as if we had never broken up. 

But Sarah was right. We were spending more time together than we used to. Actually, I couldn’t think of a time outside of classes that I hadn’t been with Pat.

My introspection was interrupted when someone threw an arm around my shoulder. “Hola, chiquitas.”

I turned to my lab partner. “Oh, hey Erica.”

 “Where are you girlies heading?”

“Dining hall.”

“Sweet. I’ve got math. I’ll walk with you.”

The traffic had finally let up. After we crossed the street diagonally, Erica turned to me. “If you could eat only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?”

I giggled. We always played this game on the bus on our way home from basketball games. I didn’t even need to think about my answer. “Macaroni and cheese. The kind that comes in a blue box. It’s my favorite.”

While Sarah and Erica laughed, I turned to my roommate. “Sarah. If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go?”

“Ooh. Um . . . Vietnam. I’d love to see where my great-grandparents are from. Erica. If you could go out with your television crush, who would it be?”

Erica giggled. “I have a huge crush on Drake Anderson from DragonWorld.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Isn’t that a cartoon?” I was pretty sure my eleven-year-old brother watched that every weekend.

So did Sarah. “Oh! He is so cute! Larry and I love that show. We watch it every Sunday morning. Actually—” She turned to me. “I think the guy that does the voice for Drake is the same guy that does Sammy McSmartypants.”

I wasn’t surprised. Wally McGregor was the voice of many animated characters, including Sammy McSmartypants. Only a handful of people at school were aware that Wally McGregor was my best friend, Walter Evans.


I shook my head, bringing my attention back to the game as Erica smirked. “If you could change one thing about your boyfriend, what would it be?”

“His hair.” I didn’t think my friends were laughing at my comment. I was pretty sure it was the fact that my reply had been so quick.

Sarah nodded. “Yeah. What’s up with that? He used to have that preppy look. Now it’s kind of scraggly.”

I shrugged. “He grew it out to film Romeo and Juliet, then the producers for his last movie liked it. I guess they were going for the surfer casual kind of look.”

Sarah wrinkled her nose. “But he finished that movie months ago. Why is his hair still so long?”

“He thought it might help make him a little less recognizable.”

“I think it makes him look even hotter.” Erica shook her head in awe. “I still can’t believe you’re with Patrick McGregor. I’m not sure I would even be able to talk to him.”

I rolled my eyes. “Patrick McGregor only exists in Hollywood. I’m with Pat Evans.”

“He’s still hot, no matter what you call him. Anyway—” She gave a wave as we approached the dining hall steps. “Later chicas.”

Erica continued to the neighboring math building while Sarah and I went upstairs to the second-story entrance of the dining hall building. Inside, we headed straight to the common room, an area with several couches arranged around an unlit fireplace.

Sarah immediately sat beside her waiting boyfriend while I made myself comfortable on a neighboring couch. While I waited for my friends to remove themselves from each other’s lips, I pulled out my English book to read ahead. A moment later, someone tugged my hair. 

I spun around to see my best friend, trying not to smile as he whipped his hand behind his back. Rolling my eyes, I shut my book as Walter perched himself on the arm of my couch.

“Hey. Where’ve you been? I thought you’d beat us here.”

Walter shrugged. “I wanted to talk to Mr. Johnson about the essay he returned today. Where’s my brother?”

I rolled my eyes. “I saw him after physics. Before he could do more than say hi, your mother called. I find it very ironic that he uses She Bugs Me for her ringtone.”

Walter laughed. “Uncle Colin says he wrote it about an ex-girlfriend, but so much of it applies to Mom. I gotta wonder sometimes.”

“What song would you pick?”

Walter shrugged. “My phone rings. I check the screen. I don’t need different songs. That’s such a Pat thing.”

As if on cue, his brother walked into the lounge. His smile reached his blue eyes, so much like his brother’s yet somehow more alluring. He was taller and slimmer than his younger brother, who was still several inches taller than me and solid muscle.

My heart melted at the sight of my boyfriend. I hardly noticed Walter move to his own seat. At that moment, I only had eyes for one person. 

I sent him a warm smile. “Hey. We were just talking about you.”

Pat jerked his head towards the door. “Wanna go for a walk?” 

It sounded like an excellent idea, but I didn’t want to exclude my friends. I glanced around. Sarah had yet to extricate herself from Larry, but Walter nodded toward me. “Go ahead. I’ll catch up with you after Reflections.”

I was glad he didn’t mind. I sent him a huge smile as I grabbed my bag. Crossing the room, I took Pat’s hand and lead him towards the exit. We didn’t go far. Just inside the double doors, where it was still warm, I locked my arms around his neck. His gentle kiss sent a feeling of warmth radiating from my belly to the tips of my fingers.

We didn’t stay there long. After only a few moments, Pat took my hand, lacing his fingers in mine as best he could with our gloves, and led me towards the nearby chapel. We would both have meetings there at the end of the class period. 

As we entered the building, Pat squeezed my hand. “So, can we talk about Valentine’s Day?”

I shrugged. “I didn’t get you anything yet.”

“I don’t want you to. I was thinking maybe we could go out to dinner.”

“Anywhere in particular?”

Pat shook his head. “Nowhere specific. But an actual restaurant, not the MAC attack.”

I tried to imagine having a romantic dinner at the snack shop in the MacMillan Activities Center. I couldn’t help but smile as I thought about all the people stopping to say hi while we were trying to have alone time.

Then I remembered that Valentine’s Day was on a Wednesday. My smile quickly faded. “I think we have an away game. Usually, that means we don’t get home until close to study hours.”

Pat shrugged. “I could have Mrs. Lindgren put us on duty for Drive Me Home.”

Although the idea was tempting, I frowned. “That would feel like breaking a rule. I mean, I don’t mind being on duty. But being off campus and at a restaurant when we’re supposed to be studying?” I shook my head as we settled into a pew in the back.

Pat put his arm around me, and I leaned close, my back to him as he crossed his arm across my chest. He kissed the top of my head. “Well, how about instead of going out on Valentine’s Day, we just celebrate it early?”

That was an intriguing idea. “What’d you have in mind?”

“Sweetheart Dance at Bruckman.”

I scrunched my face. “Isn’t that the gym where Walter has wrestling?”

I could feel Pat’s head nodding on top of mine. “One of the clubs—I think it’s the environmental one—has a dance there every February as their annual fundraiser.”

I made a face. “Why is an environmental club hosting a sweetheart dance?”

“It’s a fundraiser. Who knows? Maybe the baking club will sell treats.”

“There’s a baking club?”

“Did you even attend the activities fair in the fall?”

I craned my neck to look Pat in the eye. “How would you even know about it? You were off filming a movie in Hawaii.”

He gave me a quick kiss. “You didn’t answer my question. Would you like to go to the dance with me next Saturday?”

“I would love to.”

“Fantastic.” He kissed me again, this time long enough for my heart to stop beating. “So, is basketball home or away today?”

“Away, but I was told the school we’re going to isn’t very far away.”

“Which school?”

I shrugged. “I wasn’t paying attention. If I get back early enough, I was thinking of going to the studio in the TRAC before dinner. Try dancing for a little while.”

Pat pulled me a little closer. “Is your ankle ready for that?”

I instinctively rolled my left ankle in a small circle. “The doctor said it was healed. I’ve been stretching it for almost a week. I think I’ll be fine.”

“Just be careful, okay?”

I turned to face him. “Of course. I have no intention of being back on my crutches anytime soon. Now, unless you have a burning desire to discuss my ankle—” I kissed him for the rest of the period, until the first of my classmates arrived for Reflections.

As soon as the bus carrying the thirds basketball team pulled out of the Hartfield parking lot, my advisor, who was also the coach, stood. “Ladies!”

Everyone stopped talking to give Clarissa our full attention. “Today, we are playing against Tremont. They are a tough team. They’ve got more wins this year than we have. But I am confident you girls can beat them.”

“How?” asked a girl behind me.

“With this.” Clarissa held up a large plastic storage bag full of miniature chocolate bars. “I promise that, barring any injuries getting off the bus, each of you will get playing time. You will earn one chocolate for each half you play. If you make a basket, you get an extra chocolate. Two if you make a three-pointer.”

Clarissa looked straight at Erica. “I will take away a chocolate for every foul against you. If you foul out, you forfeit all your chocolate.”

The whole bus giggled. Our last game, Erica had received the maximum number of fouls and was kicked out of the game with over five minutes left on the clock. None of us could tell whether Erica or Clarissa had been angrier.

Erica’s voice carried over the giggles. “It wasn’t my fault. That ref had it out for me.”

Clarissa’s voice was firm but kind. “I agree. But you were being a little too aggressive as well. Keep it in check today.”

Erica nodded, and Clarissa turned her attention to me. “Our manager keeps impeccable notes. She will announce the rewards when we return home.”

I always took my manager position seriously, but today I paid extra attention to the game. Although I was polite when the manager on the other side of my table tried to engage me in a conversation, my eyes remained glued to the court. As always, I noted each player that went into the game and how many baskets she scored. I even made special notes to denote foul shots versus regular baskets.

When the teams went to the locker room after the game, Clarissa gave me permission to return to the bus to do my calculations. Because of my meticulous notes, it didn’t take me very long. After double checking my numbers, I tore a sheet of paper from my notebook and made a list.

Eventually, the rest of the team returned to find me sitting just behind the driver with my player’s book in my lap. No one seemed to care that we won the game. Each girl tried to find out how many chocolates she had earned, but I kept my lips sealed until the bus had started back towards campus.

As we pulled out of the parking lot, Clarissa turned to me from the opposite seat. “Okay, Mademoiselle Manager. Give us the statistics.”

“Well, Erica, you were in both halves, and you made five baskets, but you got four fouls, so you only get three chocolates.”

The entire team laughed as Erica made her way to the front of the bus to retrieve her reward. I announced the girl who had earned the next highest number of chocolates, continuing through the roster until all fifteen girls had received her chocolate. 

When I was done, Clarissa turned to me. “I think our manager deserves a reward as well for keeping such fantastic notes.”

As the bus cheered, Clarissa handed me a handful of candies. Smiling, I returned to my seat beside my roommate to eat my chocolate and write in my journal.

Melinda’s Journal

Wednesday, January 31

Before Pat and I broke up, he often spent time with his other friends. But now that he’s no longer speaking to them, we seem to spend a lot more time together. 

I love Pat and I love spending time with him. But I have other friends and want to spend a time with them. Preferably without Pat.

Don’t get me wrong. I love that he gets along so well with my friends. It’s just, sometimes, I think it would be better if he had someone else to hang out with.

Pat’s Story

Pat’s story will return in Episode 109.

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.