“Game,” Walter announced as his ball swooshed into the basket.
Sarah shook her head. “Not uh. You guys only had nineteen.”
Larry put his arms around her waist. “He was outside the key. Counts as two.”
“No, he wasn’t.”
I panted with my hands on my knees. “Sarah. We’re down by eight. Please let them win.”
Erica looked around. “Anyone up for a rematch?”
I shook my head. “I’m out.”
Pat reached for my hand. “Let’s go for a walk?”
I nodded. “I’d like that.”
Erica and Walter started a game of one-on-one while the rest of us put on our coats and headed outside. We parted ways at the MAC, where Sarah and Larry went inside while Pat and I continued along the drive to the VAPAC.
I told him about my adventures at the food bank that morning, including Walter’s new nickname. As we headed up the concrete staircase, making our way up the hill toward the language building, I changed the subject.
“So, how about you? How was the old folk’s home?”
He sent me a mischievous smile. “I wouldn’t know. I didn’t go.”
“Long story short? Lindgren had me act as a personal chauffeur for this woman named Granny Smith. She was a riot. Reminded me of my Granny.”
I smiled. “I love your Granny.”
Pat sent me a confused look. “When have you met Granny?”
I shrugged. “The day after we broke up. Walter had to go into the studio to re-record something. I went with him, then Meghan took us to your grandfather’s new show. It was so cool. I’ve never been backstage at a Broadway theater before. It was still what? A week before they opened? Anyway, I got to meet your grandparents.”
Pat frowned. “Hmm. Walter never told me that. What was I saying?”
“Something about a granny.”
He snapped his fingers, pointing at me. “Oh, yeah. Granny Smith. She told me to call her that. Like the apple. Anyway, I took her to the hair salon. And the bank. And the post office. And the grocery store. Then she made me stay for cookies and lemonade.”
“That doesn’t really sound like doing community service.”
Pat sent me a mischievous smile. “I know. It was sick. Anyway, while we were in the hair salon, this woman comes up to me and said she recognized me. I thought it was going to be like dinner the other night, even though she was Mom’s age.”
I giggled. “I don’t think old women scream when they see you.”
“Okay. So, maybe not quite the same melee. But it wasn’t. You’ll never guess where she recognized me from.”
“You’re not seriously going to make me name every movie you’ve ever been in, right?”
Pat laughed. “From church. We got to talking, and she told me that Granny hasn’t been able to attend the Monday night Rosary. I talked to Lindgren, and she said that as long as my dean agreed, which he did, I could drive her Monday nights.”
I smiled up at him. “That’s really sweet of you.”
Pat shrugged. “It felt like the right thing to do.”
While we were talking, Pat had led me over a bridge I had seen daily but never crossed. It led straight to a courtyard where two L-shaped buildings formed a type of square.
I looked around. “I don’t think I’ve been up here yet.”
“I lived here last year. Drummond Red.” Pat pointed to the building on the left.
Pat shrugged. “There’s two wings. I’m not sure about this year, but last year, the girls’ side was yellow. Ours was red. There weren’t a lot of us, so when we took our dorm photo for the yearbook, we just took one as an entire dorm and called it Drummond Orange.”
“Because red and yellow make orange. Cute.” I rolled my eyes. “Why are we even up here?”
Pat didn’t answer. We crossed the quad to a path that led up another hill. Soon, we were facing a round brick tower about three stories tall and not much larger than my bedroom.
I looked at it curiously. “What is that? It looks like some sort of castle. Is there a princess trapped at the top?”
Pat laughed. “This is the water tower.”
“But I thought water towers were those big metal balls on stilts.”
Pat shrugged. “This one isn’t. I don’t know why. Walter probably does.”
I knew exactly why Pat had brought me to one of the most isolated places on campus, but I decided to humor him. I threw a bit of suspicion into my voice. “So, why are we here?”
“Because you didn’t know it existed, and I wanted to share it with you.”
I had to admit, that was a good excuse. I also knew it wasn’t entirely true.
He played with a lock of my hair. “Plus, this is where everyone comes to be alone.”
“Wouldn’t that make them no longer alone?”
Pat laughed, pulling me close. “I love you. I don’t know if I’ve said that today.”
“I love you, too.”
Pat’s kiss was soft and gentle. My heart stopped beating and my body grew warm as my love for Pat radiated through every inch of my body. I was savoring the moment when I heard a familiar song playing on Pat’s phone. Brody’s ringtone.
Pat pulled away to grab his phone from his pocket.
I sent him a pained look. “Seriously? You’re going to answer that?”
“It’s just a text.”
I was furious. While Pat was busy with his phone, I huffed off, heading back toward the quad. It took a moment before Pat even started chasing me.
“Melinda, wait!” He jogged to my side. “Come on. He was actually looking for you.”
“Then he could have texted me. And I would have ignored it because I was spending time with you.” I could feel the tears stinging my eyes, but I blinked them back.
“He did text you. Your phone’s probably dead.”
I rolled my eyes. How could he be so dense? “You don’t get it. It’s not about whether or not he texted me. It’s about the fact that you had to check your phone instead of being with me. You’re choosing him over me. You—Just—”
I was so angry, I was losing the ability to form coherent sentences. I let out a frustrated growl. “Ugh! I just want to be alone, okay?”
I stormed off, hoping I could navigate my way back to the dorm alone.
I wasn’t surprised to find Sarah and Larry watching a movie on her bed. They both turned as I entered. I had no idea what expression was on my face, but Larry’s smile quickly faded when he saw me.
I shook my head. Despite my long walk, I was still fuming. I was pretty sure I looked like one of those cartoon characters with steam coming out of its ears.
Larry hopped off the bed and slipped on his boots. He kissed Sarah quickly before grabbing his coat off her desk chair and giving me a hug.
“Should I go find Pat? Walter said I’m allowed to beat him up if he makes you cry.”
I gave him a half-hearted smile. “Technically, I’m not crying. I’m too angry to cry.”
Larry laughed. “I think I’ll go beat him up, anyway.” He gave me one more squeeze before heading out, closing the door behind him. Sarah sat with her back against the wall. I did the same on my own bed.
Sarah sent me a compassionate look. “Wanna talk about it?”
“We went for a walk. He brought me to the water tower. I’m not stupid. I know that’s a make-out spot. And we’re kissing and Brody texts him. And he takes out his phone!”
Sarah raised her eyebrows. “And you let him live?”
“I know, right? He didn’t even get why I was mad!”
Sarah rolled her eyes. “Boys can be so dumb.”
“I’m sorry I ruined your alone time with Larry. He didn’t have to leave. I wasn’t even thinking.”
Sarah shook her head. “It’s fine. We were just watching tv. I should probably get some work done, anyway. I haven’t even thought about that English essay that’s due tomorrow. I suppose you wrote it already?”
I had, but Sarah wasn’t looking for an answer. She grabbed her book and a notebook from her desk before returning to her bed. I pulled out my journal, pouring out my frustration onto the blank page.
Monday, February 5
Interloper. Isn’t that a cool word? Whenever I hear this word, I think of someone trudging along slowly, walking heavily, like an elephant, all hunched over. In my mind’s eye, I envision a gangly man, head bowed down, arms nearly touching the floor. Thud. Thump. Clomp.
At least, that’s what I used to envision. Now, however, I see something different. The meaning of the word has not changed, but now the person invading my space has a long slender frame and short brown hair. Instead of trudging, the intruder dances into my mental image, bobbing up and down, left and right, always in my face, no matter which way I turn. Flit. Zip. Bop.
Nobody likes an interloper, but who is it that has to leave? Should it be the intruder? That is only fair. But if the intruder won’t leave, then I must. Reluctantly, I walk away. Flup. Glup. Plup.
I had finally stopped seething when there was a knock on the door. Without getting out of her chair, Sarah called out. “Come in.” When the door opened, her curious look turned into a glare. “She’s not going to want to talk to you.”
The open door was blocking my view of the hallway, so I couldn’t see who was standing there. But I had a pretty good guess. I crossed my arms back and forth in front of me, shaking my head and mouthing, “I’m not here.”
It didn’t work. Pat walked into the room. Before I could kick him out, Bethany followed him inside, closing the door behind her.
Pat turned around. “You can’t do that.”
Bethany rolled her eyes as she joined Sarah on the bed. “I’m a prefect. I’ll write myself up later. Unless you want the entire floor to know you’re here.”
I was too angry with Pat to even question why Bethany was there. I glared at him standing in the middle of the room. “What are you doing here?”
He sent me a pleading look. “I came to apologize.”
“For what?” I could hear the ice in my tone. Pat deserved it.
“You’re not mad at me?”
How could he be so clueless? I infused the anger into my voice so he understood. “Oh, I’m mad. I just want to know if you figured out why yet.”
Pat glanced over his shoulder. Sarah was glaring at him while Bethany was smirking. Neither was even trying not to eavesdrop.
Pat turned back to me. “Do you think we can go somewhere else to talk?”
“No.” I wasn’t thrilled about the company, but I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of having this argument in private.
He let out an exasperated sigh. “Fine. I’m sorry I answered my phone when I was supposed to be with you.”
I raised my eyebrows. “Supposed to be?”
Pat put his hands up in defense. “That came out wrong. I meant I wanted to spend time with you. I should have been spending time with you. And I let Brody get in the way.”
I probably would have forgiven him. But before I could let go of my anger, his phone began playing the theme song from NeoGenesis. I glared at him. “Aren’t you going to get that? I’m sure whatever Walter has to say is more important than me.”
I could barely see Pat through the tears stinging my eyes. But I could see our audience. Suddenly, I wanted to be alone with Pat. I jumped off the bed, grabbed my coat and boots, and stormed out of the room, sitting on the stairs to zip on my shoes.
Pat caught up to me in the common room, placing a hand on my arm. “I’m sorry.”
“I know.” I went outside, wandering along the drive with no actual destination in mind.
Pat stayed by my side. “I didn’t ask Walter to text me. For the record, I haven’t looked at it. Or the texts Larry sent me earlier. I learned my lesson.”
I sighed. “They’re probably looking for you. Larry said Walter gave him permission to hurt you if you made me cry. They’re probably seeing who could get to you first.”
Pat winced. “I suppose I deserve that.” When he reached for my hand, I interlaced my fingers with his. “Are we okay?”
“We’re getting there. Do you understand why I got so upset?”
Pat nodded. “I think so. You and I were having a special moment. Instead of ignoring my phone, I let Brody get in the way.”
“I would have been upset no matter who it was, but the fact that it was Brody just made it hurt a little more. I’m jealous. I know I am and I’m trying not to be. You deserve to have friends of your own.”
Pat stopped walking and turned to me, running his hand through my hair. “I love you. You need to know that.”
“I do. And I love you too. We’ll be okay.”
When he kissed me, I felt a warmth in my belly that extended to my fingers and toes. He pulled me close, kissing the top of my head. “We have a couple of hours before supper. You want to walk to town? Just you and me time?”
I ran my arm along his arm. “I think we should go to the library for a couple of hours.”
He tugged on my hair with a smile. “You have a problem. You know that?”
“Well, I was going to suggest twenty-minute study breaks every half hour, but if you’re going to insult me, never mind.”
“Well, in that case, let me just go grab my books. I’ll meet you there.”
We didn’t open a book the rest of the afternoon.
After we crushed the girls, Erica and Walter wanted to play another game. I got the impression Sarah and Larry were going to go make-out somewhere. Since I liked that idea, I suggested to Melinda we go for a walk.
I had the perfect spot in mind, but I wanted to surprise her. As I led her toward the language building, I tried to distract her to keep her from figuring out where we were going. “So, how was service day?”
She shrugged. “Did you do the food bank when you were a third former?”
I shook my head. “No. I think they did that last year and I missed it because of . . . what was I filming?”
Melinda giggled as we crossed the main road. “Romeo and Juliet?”
I snapped my fingers. “Man, that feels like a lifetime ago. What were we talking about?”
“I went to the food bank. We were part of the early group. We had to unload supplies from the delivery trucks. Actually, Sarah and I unloaded all the stuff that the mobile pantries didn’t deliver yesterday. Then we helped with the delivery trucks. They just kept coming. But it was better than some of the other jobs. I saw some of my classmates sorting rotten fruit.”
That didn’t sound fun. I winced. “Did you enjoy it?”
“I was doing it with my friends, so yeah. We had a lot of fun. Your brother has a new nickname.”
I couldn’t quite hide my smirk. “Yeah?”
She nodded as we headed up to the VAPAC stairs. “One guy kept calling him Muscleman because he had no trouble lifting any of the boxes.”
I laughed. “I like that one. I might have to use it. Although Gourmand just fits him so much better.”
Melinda squeezed my hand as we passed the language buildings. “So, how about you? How was the old folk’s home?”
I started heading over the upper campus bridge, wondering if Melinda even knew where this led. “I wouldn’t know. I didn’t go.”
I gave her a quick summary of my morning. I even told her about my plan to take Granny Smith to the Rosary meeting at the church.
Melinda smiled at me. “That’s really sweet of you.”
“It felt like the right thing to do.”
We emerged onto the quad. In the warmer weather, this place would be crawling with students, but right now, people were probably in their rooms or elsewhere on campus. I was willing to bet a number of them were crawling all over town, too, since sports practices had been canceled for the day.
Melinda looked around. “I don’t think I’ve been up here yet.”
I told her briefly about living in Drummond last year, but this wasn’t our final destination. We continued through the quad to the path on the opposite side. I knew it well. I used to take it to get off campus for my morning run last year.
When the path opened up, Melinda pointed to the building in the clearing. “What is that? It looks like some sort of tower. Is there a princess trapped at the top?”
She was so adorable, I had to laugh. “This is the water tower.”
She scrunched up her nose in confusion. “But I thought water towers were those big metal balls on stilts.”
“This one isn’t. I don’t know why. Walter probably does.”
“So, why are we here?”
We were here because it was one of the best make-out spots on campus. But I wasn’t about to tell her that. “Because you didn’t know it existed, and I wanted to share it with you. Plus, this is where everyone comes to be alone.”
“Wouldn’t that make them no longer alone?”
Adorable. I pulled her close. “I love you. I don’t know if I’ve said that today.”
She sent me the most heartwarming smile. “I love you, too.”
I pulled her closer to me as I kissed her. My heart started racing, and I wanted just her. Part of me was wishing the ground weren’t covered in snow because I wanted to stay like this forever.
I was on the edge of losing my self-control when Grease Monkey killed the mood. I pulled out my phone to see what Brody wanted and Melinda glared at me.
“Seriously? You’re going to answer that?”
“It’s just a text.”
I was curious. I glanced at my phone. Brody was actually trying to get ahold of Melinda. He had tried texting her and was wondering if she was ignoring him.
When I looked up, Melinda had walked away from me, back toward the quad. I stood there a moment, trying to figure out what had just happened. She was obviously upset with me. What had I done this time?
As I hurried to catch up with her, it clicked. “Melinda. Wait. Come on. He was actually looking for you.”
“Then he could have texted me. And I would have ignored it because I was spending time with you.”
“He did text you. Your phone’s probably dead.”
Melinda rolled her eyes, but I had no idea what she was trying to tell me. “You don’t get it. It’s not about whether or not he texted me. It’s about the fact that you had to check your phone instead of being with me. You’re choosing him over me. You—Just—Ugh! I just want to be alone, okay?”
I stood frozen in the middle of the quad as I watched her head back over the bridge. I had absolutely no idea what had just happened.
I took a different path to my dorm so that Melinda wouldn’t think I was following her. I needed advice. As I walked, I considered my options. Larry and Walter were probably busy making out with their girlfriends. Which is what I was supposed to be doing right now.
Besides, I could use a girl’s advice. And I didn’t want to call my sister. She would probably take Melinda’s side. I needed a neutral party.
When the perfect person popped into my head, I detoured toward Melinda’s dorm. I hoped she was in.
I went straight to the dean’s apartment on the first floor, hoping most of the third-form girls weren’t around. I was in luck. The dorm was relatively empty, and the dean was in.
After receiving permission, I made my way to the third floor. I was surprised to see Bethany’s door open. She looked up from her bed when I knocked.
“Pat? What’re you doing here?”
“I need advice. Got a minute?”
She gestured to her desk. I straddled the chair, hanging over the back.
When she looked at me expectantly, I sighed. “So, Melinda’s mad at me and I’m not sure what I did wrong. I was hoping you could help me figure it out.”
Bethany didn’t quite hide her smile, but I had to give her points for trying. “Why don’t you start at the beginning?”
“Well, I took her up to the water tower—”
She raised an eyebrow. “Seriously?”
I shrugged. “I was giving her a tour of upper campus. She’d never been. So anyway, we were kissing, and I got a text. So I checked to see what Brody wanted. She got mad and stormed off. Told me to leave her alone. Even after I explained that he was just looking for her.”
She held up a hand to stop me. “I’m confused. You were—what’s that?”
My phone was playing the theme song to DragonWorld. “Oh. That’s my friend Larry.”
“You know that without looking at the phone?”
I nodded. “Yeah. It’s his ringtone. It was short, so it was a text, not a call. Can we focus on the problem? What do I do about Melinda?”
“Does everyone on your phone have their own ringtone?”
I gave an exasperated sigh. “Yes. Melinda?”
Bethany closed her eyes and took a deep breath. I’d seen my mother do that. Usually when I was in trouble. I just wished I knew what I did wrong.
Bethany opened her eyes and looked at me again. “Let’s recap. You’re making out with your girlfriend and your phone rings. You knew who it was and still checked it? Do you know how lucky you are? If Will had done that to me, I would have broken up with him.”
I threw up my hands in exasperation. “What did I do?”
“You put your boyfriend ahead of your girlfriend!”
I winced. “Please. Do not call him my boyfriend. He . . . likes guys. Calling him my boyfriend . . .”
Bethany rolled her eyes. “Whatever. So, you’re with Melinda and he texts you and you what? Wanted to make sure it wasn’t an emergency?”
“I was just curious what he wanted. I helped him with his car yesterday, so I thought maybe he had a question about that. But he was just looking for Melinda. I tried to tell her that, but she said I was missing the point.”
She shook her head. “Oh, you are so missing the point. Why is your friend looking for her in the first place?”
I shrugged. “He’s her dance partner. Probably wanted to schedule a day they could get together, since he had to bail yesterday.”
DragonWorld played again. I muted the ringer, but Bethany pointed to me.
“Why is it you don’t seem to care what that guy has to say, but this other guy is important enough for you to stop making out with your girlfriend?”
I swore. “That’s why she’s mad, isn’t it?” When Bethany nodded, I stood up to pace the small room. “She told me she wanted to be alone. How long before I can go apologize?”
“I’m thinking the sooner the better. The longer she stays mad, the greater chance she might break up with you. Then again, that may just be me.”
I sent her a pleading look. “I have another favor to ask. We have rules. She and I. I’m not allowed in her room. Do you think you can come chaperone?”
She smiled. “On one condition.”
“If she’s still your girlfriend after this, you promise you will never take her back to the water tower.”
I smiled as she hopped off her bed. We went down a flight of stairs, and I knocked on the closed door.
Sarah yelled, “Come in.” As soon as I opened the door, she glared at me. “She’s not going to want to talk to you.”
Ignoring her, I entered the room. Bethany followed, closing the door behind me. I spun around. “You can’t do that.”
Bethany sat beside Sarah on the bed, waving a dismissive hand. “I’m a prefect. I’ll write myself up later. Unless you want the entire floor to know you’re here.”
It was extremely considerate of her, and I’d have to remember to thank her later. But for now, I needed to make things right with my girlfriend.
I turned back to Melinda. I probably deserved the daggers she was staring into me.
When she spoke, her words were nearly as sharp as her gaze. “What are you doing here?”
“I came to apologize.”
I couldn’t quite keep the surprise out of my voice. “You’re not mad at me?”
“Oh, I’m mad. I just want to know if you figured out why yet.”
I walked into that one. I turned around. Did we have to do this with an audience? The way Sarah and Bethany were looking at me, it seemed all they were missing was the popcorn.
I turned back to Melinda. “Do you think we can go somewhere else to talk?”
“Fine. I’m sorry I answered my phone when I was supposed to be with you.”
“Supposed to be?”
Okay. I had chosen the wrong word. This was not going well at all. “That came out wrong. I meant I wanted to spend time with you. I should have been spending time with you. And I let Brody get in the way.”
My phone was singing again. Melinda glared at me like it was my fault my brother felt the need to text me at this precise moment.
“Aren’t you going to get that? I’m sure whatever Walter has to say is more important than me.”
I wasn’t sure what hurt more: the tears in her eyes or the pain in her words. Before I could answer, she was out the door, coat and boots in hand.
I looked to my audience. “Now what?”
Bethany rolled her eyes. “You follow her, you moron.”
“Keep apologizing,” added Sarah.
“And for Heaven’s sake, mute your phone!”
I hurried down the stairs, finding Melinda in the common room. I put a hand on her arm. Thankfully, she didn’t shake me off. “I’m sorry.”
We walked outside, down the drive and along the block. I wondered if she had a destination in mind or if she was wandering aimlessly.
I couldn’t tell if she was still mad at me. “I didn’t ask Walter to text me. For the record, I haven’t looked at it. Or the texts Larry sent me earlier. I learned my lesson.”
“They’re probably looking for you. Larry said Walter gave him permission to hurt you if you made me cry. They’re probably seeing who could get to you first.”
I flinched. I wasn’t positive about Larry, but my brother could definitely leave some marks.
I reached for her hand. “I suppose I deserve that. Are we okay?”
Her fingers joined mine. “We’re getting there. Do you understand why I got so upset?”
“I think so. You and I were having a special moment. Instead of ignoring my phone, I let Brody get in the way.”
She nodded. “I would have been upset no matter who it was. But the fact that it was Brody just made it hurt a little more. I’m jealous. I know I am. And I’m trying not to be. You deserve to have friends of your own.”
I stopped and turned to her, pulling her close. “I love you. You need to know that.”
“I do. And I love you too. We’ll be okay.”
I kissed her, feeling a surge of electricity course through me, more intense than at the water tower earlier. When I couldn’t take any more, I gently pulled away, kissing the top of her head.
I wanted to be alone with her. “We have a couple of hours before supper. You want to walk to town? Just you and me time?”
“I think we should go to the library for a couple of hours.”
I sighed. That girl was always studying. “You have a problem. You know that?”
She sent me a mischievous smile. “Well, I was going to suggest twenty-minute study breaks every half hour, but if you’re going to insult me, nevermind.”
I smiled. “Well, in that case, let me just go grab my books. I’ll meet you there.”
Neither of us actually cracked open a book while we were in the library. Since it wasn’t study hours, there was no monitor in the hallway. We even went to a different study room where the chairs weren’t visible through the hallway window. We were the last ones to the dinner table. I barely had enough time to eat before I had to go pick up Granny Smith.
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.