Episode 111

Melinda’s Journal

Friday, February 2

Happy Groundhog Day!

According to Oakville Otis, spring is just around the corner.

Maybe love is in the air as well?

Melinda’s Story

After dinner Friday night, I followed Walter to our usual study room, then excused myself to the restroom. When I returned, I found Erica lingering in the corridor just outside my usual study room. Walter was sitting in one of the comfy chairs, talking to someone on the phone.

Smiling at Erica, I gestured to the room. “That’s the friend you were talking about yesterday, right?” When Erica nodded, I led her inside.

As soon as Walter saw us, he tried to end the call. “Mom. I gotta go. Study hours are about to start . . . Melinda’s here. With a friend . . . No. I don’t know where he is.”

I assumed Walter was looking for his brother. I nodded toward him. “Ichthys.”

“Oh, yeah.” Walter silently mouthed thank you as he joined us at the table. “He’s at his Christian fellowship group. He can tell you about it tomorrow . . . No, don’t call during the break. It’s NeoGenesis night . . . Okay . . . I love you, too. Bye, Mom.”

Walter shook his head as he hung up. “Sorry about that. My mom has a thing against texting.”

Erica smiled. “Mine, too. It’s so annoying.”

I pointed to each of my friends. “Erica, this is Walter. Walter, this is Erica. She’s on the basketball team and she’s my lab partner.”

Walter pointed his pen at me. “You lied to me. You said the lab wasn’t hard.”

“It wasn’t.”

“Yes, it was.” Walter and Erica replied in near unison.

As we went through the calculations and wrote the rough drafts of our reports, I questioned whether I was doing something wrong. It still wasn’t all that difficult. But my explanations seemed to make sense to Walter and Erica, so maybe I was on the right track after all.

We finished our reports with plenty of time to work on other assignments. Erica looked between me and Walter as she opened her physics book. “Did you guy look at tonight’s homework yet?”

I shrugged. “I did it a couple of days ago. I wanted to get it out of the way so I could focus on my tests today and tomorrow.”

Walter nodded. “I did it last night. But I can help you with it if you’d like.”

Erica gave a sigh of relief. “Thanks. I looked at it during a free period and it was kind of confusing.”

I reviewed the assignment with them, finally understanding what Walter had told me at the beginning of the year. Explaining it to other people really helped me understand the assignment better. Even though it meant not working on something else, I felt I thoroughly understood the concepts by the time we pulled out our math assignments. Since Erica had a different math book than me and Walter, we worked quietly until the end of study hours, with Walter checking his answers against mine every few minutes.

When the study period was over, Erica turned slightly pink as she spoke to the bag she was packing. “So, Walter, I didn’t mean to eavesdrop earlier. But did I hear you mention NeoGenesis when you were on the phone?”

Walter also turned slightly red. “Maybe?”

I rolled my eyes. “There’s a small group of us that meets to watch it during the break.”

Erica’s eyes grew wide. “Not tonight’s episode?”

Walter nodded. “Yeah. You want to join us? Melinda’s great at predicting what’s going to happen next.”

Erica waited until we had exited the library before answering. “I would like that. But do I have enough time?”

“We usually finish just before second study hours.”

Erica made a face. “I have to get to the upper campus dorms.”

“Would you get in trouble if Smith writes you a note saying where you were?”

“I think that would work.”

Erica followed me and Walter to the third form boys’ dorm, to the apartment of Walter’s faculty advisor. We stepped over the baby gate and greeted our advisors.

My advisor, Mr. Price, recognized Erica immediately. “Erica. How nice to see you.”

“Hi Mr. Price. Melinda said I could join you guys tonight.”

“Of course. Are you a shunkhead?”

“Shunk, yeah!”

Everyone laughed as Mr. Price gestured for us to sit and Mr. Smith cued up the show. The advisors settled themselves in the armchairs either side of the couch while Walter took his usual place on the couch.

Erica looked at me. “Um, where should I sit?”

I pointed to the floor. “Pat and I usually sit on the floor. Why don’t you sit on the couch?” As if on cue, Pat stepped over the gate and sat where I was gesturing.

As Erica and I settled ourselves, Mr. Price raised his eyebrows. “I thought you two broke up. That’s why we couldn’t have our meetings.”

Pat turned red and looked at the floor. “It wasn’t because we broke up. It was just . . .”

“Stuff kept getting in the way,” I finished.

Walter kicked his brother. “Yeah, like you guys couldn’t be in the same room together. Now, can we please watch the show?”

Mr. Smith looked at everyone as he held the remote toward the screen. “Was everyone able to watch last week’s episode during the long weekend?”

I beamed. “We had a marathon Saturday.”

Walter nodded. “Melinda thinks Luna is in the cryochamber.”

Pat squeezed my shoulder. “And that the antidote is in the neighboring chamber.”

Erica shook her head. “No way.”

I thought I saw a smirk on Mr. Smith’s face as he pressed the play button.

Saturday morning, Erica waited for me after our physics class. “Thanks for letting me join you guys last night. Walter’s great. I had a lot of fun.”

I smiled. “No problem. You should come every week.”

“I think I might. So, did Walter say anything about me?”

I shrugged. “Haven’t seen him yet. Want to join us for lunch?”

Erica nodded her head back and forth as she considered. “Yeah. Sure. Why not? See you later!”

I headed upstairs to the fishbowl lounge, with its round window that looked into the hallway. I wasn’t surprised to see my friends already there. Sarah and Larry were whispering to each other in the chair across from Pat.

I squeezed into his chair, giving him a quick kiss before turning to Walter. “So, what’d you think of my lab partner?”

Walter shrugged a shoulder. “Seemed nice. Little shy.”

Pat held me a little tighter. “Is this the girl who watched NeoGenesis with us?”

I nodded, turning back to his brother. “Would you mind her studying with us again?”

Walter narrowed his eyes. “What’s with that tone? That’s your I’m up to something tone.”

I couldn’t quite hide my smile. “Well, it’s not like I invited her to study with us because she was having trouble with the lab.”

“Then why did you?”

“She wanted to meet you.” I turned to Pat. “So, how’s your morning going?”

Pat smiled at me as Walter balked. “Wait. I think I misheard you. What did you just say?”

I loved my best friend, but he could be so dense sometimes. Rolling my eyes, I turned my attention back to him. “She wanted to meet you. She thinks you’re hot.”

Sarah turned away from Larry. “What? Someone has a crush on Walter?” Her tone implied she found it difficult for anyone to like him.

I wasn’t the only one who had heard it. Walter glared at her. “You don’t have to say it like that.”

Sarah’s voice softened. “I’m sorry. That came out completely wrong. I’m excited for you. Really. So, who is it?”

I shook my head. “I can’t say. But she wants to hang around more.” I turned to Walter. “Would you mind?”

“Definitely. I mean, I wouldn’t mind.”

Pat’s Story

When I walked into my Christian fellowship meeting on Friday night, I was surprised by how large the group had grown. The last time I had attended, there were probably about ten students. Tonight, there had to be twice that.

While the returning students were sitting at the round table, holding quiet conversations among themselves, many of the newcomers were standing in a large clump in a corner. I considered greeting them, but I didn’t recognize any of them. Instead, I went to sit beside my physics lab partner.

Bethany turned away from her boyfriend, Will, to greet me as I took my seat. “Hey, Pat. I was wondering if you were going to make it.”

I shrugged. “Had nothing better to do. Looks like the group grew a little.” I nodded my head toward the clump of girls. They were clearly staring at me. As soon as they saw me, they turned to each other and started giggling like mad.

“Yeah. They’re from my dorm.”

I wasn’t surprised. Bethany was a prefect in Melinda’s dorm. Girls like that were the exact reason I was afraid to enter her common room.

Will smirked over his girlfriend. “I’m not positive, but I have this suspicion they’re here because of you.”

Bethany rolled her eyes. “I bet you an ice cream you’re wrong.”

“Oh, that’s too easy.”

I shook my head. Bethany was constantly making ice cream bets. I was pretty sure she was going to lose this one.

James from my Latin class plopped into a seat near me, nodding his head toward us. I turned to greet him, but I didn’t get the chance. Just behind him, our advisor walked in carrying a small gray ball of fur. She sat between me and James and looked at the cluster of girls.

“Welcome to Ichthys. I see we have some new faces. Please come join us at the table.”

I saw James cringe as the girls sat beside him, preferring to stay in a large clump than disperse themselves along the table.

As they took their seats, our advisor continued. “We didn’t get to meet last week because of the Long Weekend. So, why don’t we go around the table and introduce ourselves? Let’s see. Tell us your name, your form, and share one good thing that has happened since we were last together. Just a reminder. Everything said in this room is confidential and not to be discussed elsewhere. My name is Mrs. Jenkins. I teach philosophy and religion. And this weekend, we adopted a brand-new puppy. His name is Rocky.”

All the girls in the room cooed. Mrs. Jenkins stroked the furball, beaming proudly. She turned to her left. “James?”

“My name’s James. I’mma six formuh an’ one uh the co-presidents of Ichthys. This weeken’? Uh, I was ’cepted into my top choice college.”

“That’s wonderful. Congratulations.” Mrs. Norris pointed to the girl beside James.

“Oh. I’m Sophia. Um, I’m in the third form. Um, my long weekend wasn’t all that exciting. I went home and binge-watched a ton of movies.”

The way the girl was staring at me, I was confident I had been in some of those movies. I shifted to avoid making eye contact with her. As the introductions continued around the table, I tried not to think about all the girls staring at me.

Eventually, Will introduced himself, mentioning that he had received a hockey scholarship. “It’s not at my top choice, but it’s a full ride.”

“That’s fantastic.” Mrs. Jenkins nodded her head toward Bethany.

“Hi. I’m Bethany. Um, I’m the other co-president. Uh, I just want to say welcome to all you new members, as well as those of you we haven’t seen in a while. Um, I’m a sixth-former and when I went home last week, I found out that my brother had actually checked himself into rehab. It’s the first time he’s gone in voluntarily, so I have hope that maybe this time it will work.”

Mrs. Jenkins smiled brightly. “That is truly great news. An answer to our prayers, I hope.”

Everyone looked at me. I turned to Mrs. Jenkins to avoid making eye contact with any of the third formers. “Hi. My name is Pat Evans. Uh, I’m a fifth former. And, um, Melinda and I got back together last weekend.”

Bethany squealed, bringing her hands to her mouth as if that would make it any quieter. Will was trying very hard not to laugh at her.

She gave me a quick hug. “Oh, I’m so happy for you guys.”

The girls on the other side of the table didn’t look so happy. They were staring daggers at me. I turned back to Mrs. Jenkins.

She nodded at me. “That’s very nice. Thank you everyone for sharing. So, tonight, I thought we could talk a little about how to choose good friends and make lasting friendships. Would anyone like to start?”

One of the third form girls stood. “Um, you know what? This isn’t at all what I thought this club was going to be. I’m just going to go back to my dorm. Thanks, though.”

There was an echo of “me, too” as eight of the new girls left the room. Mrs. Jenkins didn’t seem bothered. She turned to those of us who remained. “So, who has some thoughts about friendships?”

A fourth form girl spoke. “You should have something in common. It doesn’t have to be a big something. I have a friend and we both have a dog. We don’t have a lot of other things in common, but we can share our dog stories.”

“It’s not just about sharing stories, though.” I hadn’t meant to say it out loud, but everyone was looking at me, so I continued. “I mean, I have a lot of friends I can share random stories with. But none of them are good friends. Good friends are the ones who are good listeners. And even if they don’t agree with you, they don’t try to change your beliefs.”

Mrs. Jenkins tilted her head to the side. “Can you elaborate on that idea, Patrick?”

I shrugged. “I had two friends. They didn’t share my belief that intimacy in a relationship should wait for marriage. They kept trying to change my mind about it. It’s one of the reasons we’re no longer friends.”

Mrs. Jenkins nodded. “And that’s a very important factor. Each of us has our own beliefs about God. I’m not saying you can’t be friends with, say, an atheist. But good friends will accept that you won’t change your beliefs just because they say so. In a similar vein, you must also be a good friend. You can’t try to change anyone else’s beliefs, either.”

The meeting let out a few minutes before study hours were over. Bethany and Will walked with me to Stanton. Will was the prefect on Walter’s floor, and I was heading to my NeoGenesis Viewing Club meeting at my physics teacher’s apartment.

As we reached the steps, I turned to Bethany. “I’m really glad to hear about your brother.”

Bethany smiled at me. “Thanks. But, to be fair, your news is, like, ten times bigger. Why didn’t you say something in class?”

I shrugged. “Honestly? It feels as if we never broke up, so getting back together didn’t feel like that big a deal.”

“Why’d you guys break up?”

I knew Bethany wasn’t trying to be nosy, and I probably would have no problem sharing if it were just her. But I wasn’t entirely comfortable talking about my relationship with Will around. I still wasn’t convinced he was over last month’s rumors that Bethany and I were together.

He must have sensed my discomfort. “Hey. I just remembered I have to call home. I’ll meet you in my room, okay?”

Bethany smiled at him and gave him a quick kiss. She and I sat on the cold Stanton steps as he went inside. Bethany cut right to the chase. “Why’d you guys break up?”

“Remember that book about abstinence you saw me reading? Did you ever get a chance to read it?”

“Yeah. That was a great one. It had some fantastic pointers.”

I nodded. “Melinda and I? We were having trouble communicating with each other. I mean, I don’t think either of us was really ready for a serious relationship.”

“So, what changed?”

I sighed. “It’s a long story that involves my brother, but I sort of just realized she and I needed to talk to each other more.” I stood. “I’ve got a thing. I’ll see you tomorrow?”

Bethany followed me into the dorm. “See you tomorrow.” She waved as she headed up the stairs.

I stepped over the baby gate that Smith kept on his door despite not actually having any small creatures running around. He was sitting in one armchair while Melinda’s advisor, Price, was occupying the other. My brother was sitting on the couch between them.

Beside him, Melinda was standing with some girl I had never seen before. I was a little surprised. It was usually just Walter, Melinda, and me. As I crossed the room, the new girl sat on the opposite end of my brother’s couch. I took my usual spot on the floor beside Walter’s feet. When Melinda sat beside me, I put my arm around her, resting it on the couch.

Price sent me a curious look. “I thought you two broke up. That’s why we couldn’t have our meetings.”

Melinda fidgeted uncomfortably beside me. I could feel my face get hot as I tried to avoid making eye contact. “It wasn’t because we broke up. It was just . . .” I couldn’t be near her, but I didn’t want to say that out loud.

Melinda saved me. “Stuff kept getting in the way.”

Walter kicked my shoulder as he rested his ankle on his opposite knee. “Yeah. Like you guys couldn’t be in the same room together. Now, can we please watch the show?”

I wanted to hit him back, but Smith pointed the remote at the screen and looked around the room. “Was everyone able to watch last week’s episode during the long weekend?”

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the new girl nod. Melinda smiled at Smith. “We had a marathon Saturday.”

“Melinda thinks Luna is in the cryochamber,” Walter added.

I pulled Melinda a little closer. “And that the antidote is in the neighboring chamber.”

The new girl shook her head. “No way.”

Smith smirked as he turned on the show. Melinda had not been wrong all season.

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.