Friday, February 16
After missing three days of classes, I had a test or quiz to make up in nearly every class today. My teachers were willing to let me reschedule them, but I just wanted to get them done. I had studied for nearly all of them, but they still felt surprisingly easy.
I couldn’t wait to tell Pat how well I had done. But he’s still in the infirmary. I know I talked to him yesterday, but he was so sick, I’m not sure he noticed. We haven’t gone this long without seeing each other since we broke up.
I hope he feels better soon. I really miss him.
Saturday afternoon, the basketball team was excused from our last period classes in order to have time for a quick lunch before traveling to our away game. For me and Sarah, this didn’t mean missing any classes, since we had a free period.
We were just entering the dining hall when a girl stopped us. “Melinda? You have a minute?”
I nodded and turned to my roommate. “Go ahead. I’ll catch up.”
Sarah raised her eyebrows but continued to the dining hall with a shrug. I turned back to the senior who had once been Pat’s friend. Something about Chloe had changed. She wasn’t acting nearly as mean as she had the last time we had run into each other.
It couldn’t hurt to give her a chance. Biting my lip, I followed her to the nearby couches.
Chloe sent me a very apologetic look. “I know Pat, and he’s probably not going to tell you. But the other day, I was in a very precarious situation. Pat was there to help me and I just wanted you to know that so he could talk to you about it if he needs to.”
So much for giving her a chance. “Whatever, Chloe. I’ve got to get going. I don’t have times for games.”
Chloe looked hurt. “Games?”
“You’re obviously lying. Pat’s been in the infirmary all week. I don’t know what you’re playing, but I’m done.”
I walked away without listening to anything else Chloe had to say. Checking my phone, I realized I didn’t have long for lunch, so I grabbed a burger. I could always carry it with me if I ran out of time.
My teammates had claimed a couple of tables in the main section of the dining hall. I had every intention of joining them, but I happened to glance at the smaller section. Pat was sitting at our usual table. I hadn’t seen him since Monday night. As I changed my direction, it suddenly hit me how much I had missed him. I tried not to run as I hurried to the table.
As soon as I put down my tray, Pat grabbed my waist and pulled me into his lap. Aware we were not alone, I only gave him a quick kiss before moving into my own seat.
Pat nodded. “Yeah. They let me go back to the dorm around lunchtime yesterday. I’ve been trying to catch up on work, but I’ve been sleeping a lot. Slept most of yesterday and this morning. I wanted to join you guys for NeoGenesis last night, but I ended up passing out during study hours.”
I shrugged. “Mr. Smith is sick. We didn’t meet last night.”
Pat put an arm around my chair as I bit into my burger. “I missed you. Can we spend the afternoon together?”
“I would love to. But I can’t. We’re heading to Worthington in a few minutes.”
Pat frowned. “Isn’t that like two hours away?”
“Yup.” I glanced at my teammates as took another bite of my lunch. They were still sitting. I had a little more time. I turned my attention back to Pat.
He played with my hair. “Can we spend tomorrow together? Just the two of us?”
I shook my head. “Orchestra concert’s tomorrow afternoon. My parents are coming, probably taking me to dinner or something tomorrow night. You can come.”
Pat kissed the top of my head. “We’ll see how I feel, but I think I’m going to pass.”
“We need to celebrate your birthday. I have your present.”
“You got me something?”
I nodded. “I didn’t know what to make, but I bought you something, but that doesn’t mean I want you to buy me anything for my birthday.”
Pat smiled. “Don’t worry. I’ll run your birthday present past Walter. Probably Sarah. What’d you get me?”
Across the room, I could see my teammates getting ready to leave. “I gotta go. I’ll give you your present tonight.”
After returning my plates to my tray, I gave Pat one more quick kiss and ran to the dishroom, reaching it at the same time as Sarah. As I followed my teammates toward the TRAC, I remembered my strange encounter with Chloe. I waited until I had boarded the bus before sending Pat a quick text summarizing what she had said. I was a little surprised when he responded that the conversation needed to wait until I returned to campus.
I lost track of time. Every few hours, a nurse would bring me a tray. After taking my medicine, I would go back to sleep. I gave up on the television. I didn’t need it. I kept having very vivid dreams, making it difficult for me to discern what was real.
Eventually, I could no longer sleep. I ate the gelatin collection that had grown over the last few meals. It wasn’t enough. I was actually hungry.
I called for the nurse. A moment later, the remote started speaking to me. “Yes?”
“Hi. I’m really hungry. Would it be possible to have more than gelatin?”
“Just a minute.”
It was more than a minute. It felt like an hour. I checked the messages on my phone, realizing it was nearly study hours.
Eventually, a nurse came in to take my vitals. She left without saying a word. A moment later, a doctor entered.
At least she spoke to me. “I hear you have your appetite back.” She felt my neck, looked down my throat, and looked at my eyes and ears before continuing. “Well, your fever has broken. I’ll have someone bring you some food. You need to take the antibiotics for the next few days. Would you like pills instead?”
“I will change the script. Now, I’d like you to rest this evening, but perhaps you can go back to the dorm tomorrow.”
“I would like that.”
“We will see how you feel in the morning.”
The nurse returned shortly after the doctor left. “The dining hall is closed, but we have a short menu for after hours.” She handed me a laminated sheet of paper. It listed a few soups and some sandwiches. It all suddenly sounded delicious.
“Can I get the chicken noodle soup? And a cheese sandwich. And maybe a vegetable soup, too?”
The woman smiled. “Let’s start with one soup and sandwich first. I can always get you a second one if you’re still hungry. Now, you’ve been laying here for a couple of days. Would you like to take a shower? Put on some clean clothes? I imagine you must be uncomfortable after sweating out that fever.”
I hadn’t realized it until she said it, but she was right. I was sweaty. And I smelled bad.
I was suddenly very embarrassed. “Yeah. That would be great. Do you have another one of these outfits for me?”
She removed another gown and pants from a cupboard, as well as a towel from the neighboring one. She gestured to the bathroom as she handed them to me. “There’s soap in a dispenser in the shower. I will put in your dinner order.”
After a shower and supper, I was almost feeling strong enough to attempt my English assignment again. It was painful, but I managed to read through the chapters assigned for both yesterday and today. I also read through most of my Latin assignment before deciding to go back to sleep.
My watch woke me just before sunrise, telling me it was time to go running. I almost felt up to it, too. For the first time since arriving at the infirmary, I had slept really well through the night.
I walked to the bathroom and back a few times, but only managed about four laps before growing tired. I had just settled back into the bed when a nurse came to check on me.
“How are we feeling this morning?”
I smiled. “A lot better. But, I’m still tired.”
“The dining hall is open. Would you like some breakfast?”
“May I please have an egg and cheese sandwich? And some home fries? And a side of bacon? And some orange juice?”
The nurse grinned. “It sounds like your appetite is back. I’ll see what I can do.”
When the nurse left, I read a little ahead on my Latin assignment. Too bad I hadn’t brought another subject. I didn’t like the fact that I was falling behind in my homework.
A doctor came in a while later and looked me over. “Well, it looks like you’re doing much better. Are you ready to go back to your dorm?”
“I am. But, I’m still exhausted. And, really behind on my work. I’m not sure I’m up to going to class.”
The doctor sent me a knowing smile. “I will send a note to your dean and advisor. I will excuse you from all classes and activities for the rest of the day, but I expect you to attend your classes tomorrow.”
I nodded. As soon as the doctor left, I changed back into the clothes I was wearing when I came to the infirmary. I was sitting on the edge of my bed when the nurse came to discharge me.
It was nearly lunchtime, but I decided to just go straight to my dorm. The first thing on my list was to take another shower and change my clothes. I put on a tee shirt and flannel pants, but went to my desk instead of my bed. I had some snacks under my bed I could eat for lunch while working on my math homework for the last few days.
But first, I figured I should call my mother. She had left me several messages over the past two days.
She answered on the first ring. “Patrick? Is everything all right? I tried to call you yesterday.”
“Yeah. It’s fine. I’m fine. I was in the infirmary. But I’m better now. Mostly.”
“The infirmary?” I could hear the panic in her tone. “What happened?”
“I had strep.”
“Oh, Munchkin. I’m sorry. You’re better now?”
I shrugged. “Almost. The doctor told me to rest in my dorm today. I need to catch up on my homework.”
“Well, I wanted to tell you about your birthday present.”
I sat a little straighter in my chair. “Yeah? When do I get to open it?”
“It’s not something you can open. I scheduled your flight exam.”
“For my commercial license?” I was in shock. I had not expected that. “You said I couldn’t get it for another year.”
“Well, if you want to wait, then you don’t have to go. But it would be nice if your father could take a break when you and your brother fly.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
Mom laughed. “Did you really think your father wouldn’t tell me?”
I shrugged. “He told us not to.”
“I was going to schedule your exam for this weekend, but they didn’t have any appointment times available. So, I scheduled it for after finals. I will send you the information.”
“But what about the plane?”
“That’s your uncle’s present for you. The band is going to use Vinny’s plane so you can fly Dad’s.”
I was so excited that I struggled to find the words to show my appreciation. “Mom, this is incredible. Thank you so much.”
“You can thank me by passing your exam.”
“I will. I promise.”
My mother was silent for a moment. I could hear someone in the background, though I couldn’t make out the words. A moment later, my mother returned her attention to me. “I’m being called to the set. Feel better, okay?”
“Happy Birthday, Munchkin. I’ll talk to you later.”
As I hung up the phone, I wanted to share my news with someone. My first thought was to text my brother. He was the only person, other than my father, who would understand what a fantastic present my parents had given me.
But Walter was in class, so I would have to catch up with him later. I set my phone beside me on the desk and my eyes landed on my math book. I needed to get this assignment done. After about an hour, I decided I needed a nap.
I spent the rest of the day working for an hour, followed by an hour-long nap. By study hours, I worried I wouldn’t be able to sleep. As I worked on my biology assignment, I realized I didn’t mind missing Ichthys, but I couldn’t skip our NeoGenesis viewing club. I hadn’t seen Melinda all week. I just needed one more nap first.
I woke up after sunrise. I had even slept through my alarm. After my shower, I went to visit my advisor, knocking on his open door.
I found him in his kitchen, sipping on coffee while reading his tablet. He glanced at me as I entered the room. “Patrick. How are you feeling?”
I made a face. “I thought I was feeling better, but I’m just so tired.”
“Have you eaten since you’ve come back from the infirmary?”
I shrugged. “Only the food under my bed.”
My advisor smiled. “Well, I would suggest you go visit the dining hall. It’s nearly first period. Do you have class?”
I nodded. “Math. But I missed a few days of classes and haven’t completely caught up yet.”
Wilson frowned. “I am going to send all your teachers an email excusing you from class today. I want you to make sure you eat in the dining hall today. Get some actual food in you. If you feel up to class, by all means, go. But if you need to rest, you may.”
I followed his advice and skipped my morning classes. After breakfast, I returned to my dorm to work on my physics. By the time I had caught up in all my classes, I had earned a lunch break.
The dining hall was just opening. On Saturdays, most people liked to wait until after classes to eat, so I figured it would be fairly empty. But Melinda had her last period free today. There was a chance she would be there. If not, I could just stay there and wait for her.
As I entered the servery, I was thrilled to see it was burger day. Although dining hall burgers weren’t nearly as good as the ones in the MAC, they were exactly what I was in the mood for.
I placed two patties on a single bun and added two types of cheese. At the salad bar, I added some bacon pieces, lettuce, ketchup, and mustard. Feeling guilty, I dumped a dollop of yogurt into a bowl and threw in some strawberries. After grabbing several glasses of water from the servery, I went to sit at my regular table.
The dining hall wasn’t nearly as unpopulated as I had expected. There were several large clusters of people eating early lunches. Probably athletes who had to leave early for away games. As I ate my burger, I stared at the groups, trying to determine which teams they were.
I was just about to dig into my yogurt when someone placed their tray at my table. I looked up to see Chloe sending me a sheepish look.
I shrugged. “I’m surprised to see you.”
Chloe sat, playing with the food on her plate and not meeting my eyes. “I’ve been in the infirmary.” She looked up at me. “I’m sorry.”
She sighed. “I’m not sure. I mean, I’ve been pretty out of it since, like, Christmas. There are these tremendous gaps in my memory. And today, in my classes, everyone’s looking at me like I’ve got the plague or something. What did I do?”
Chloe looked ready to cry, but I still wasn’t sure if I was ready to forgive her. I decided to play dumb. “I have no clue what you did in class.”
She bit her lip. “What about you? Why aren’t you in any of my limited memories?”
I raised my eyebrows. Could she seriously have forgotten? “I found you and Zach in my bed.”
She gave a small gasp and buried her head in her hands. When she finally looked up, I thought I may have seen her discretely wipe away a tear. “I’m sorry. I really am. There are a lot of things I did with Zach that I’m not very proud of.”
We sat in silence for a moment. I wasn’t sure about her, but I was thinking about what she had just said. I had been angry with her for months, but somehow just hearing her apologize seemed to melt some of that anger. After everything that had happened, I found it so easy to forgive her.
An alarm sounded on her phone. She silenced it and turned back to me. “I’ve got daily sessions with the school shrink now. That was my reminder.”
“Chloe, I’m sorry.”
She gave me the most befuddled look. “For what?”
“For tricking you to the infirmary.”
To my surprise, she laughed. “Pat, I honestly believed the nurses were getting drunk in the lounge. That’s how out of it I was. I should be thanking you.”
“If I hadn’t shown up, would you have?” I didn’t want to finish my thought.
But Chloe seemed to know what I was thinking. She shrugged. “I’m not sure. I was pretty stupid, huh?”
I smiled at her. “Totally. You realize you could have fallen and broken your leg or something?”
Chloe gave a small laugh that didn’t quite meet her eyes. Standing, she gave me a quick kiss on the cheek before picking up her tray.
As she headed to the dishroom, I called to her. “Chlo? Text me if you want to hang out this afternoon.”
She nodded before walking away.
I was just finishing my yogurt when I saw Melinda approach. The look on her face told me she was excited to see me. And at that moment, I realized how much I had missed her. As soon as her tray was safely on the table, I pulled her into my lap and crushed my mouth to hers.
I wanted to stay like that forever, but she pushed me away gently and moved into the chair beside me. I understood. There were too many people around. We could make out later.
She smiled at me as she took a sip of her water. “You’re back.”
“Yeah. They let me go back to the dorm around lunchtime yesterday. I’ve been trying to catch up on work, but I’ve been sleeping a lot. Slept most of yesterday and this morning. I wanted to join you guys for NeoGenesis last night, but I ended up passing out during study hours.”
Melinda shrugged. “Mr. Smith is sick. We didn’t meet last night.”
I draped my arm around her chair as she bit into her cheeseburger. “I missed you. Can we spend the afternoon together?”
“I would love to. But I can’t. We’re heading to Worthington in a few minutes.”
I made a face. “Isn’t that like two hours away?”
Melinda was scarfing down her burger, but she managed to respond between bites. “Yup.”
“Can we spend tomorrow together? Just the two of us?”
Melinda shook her head. “Orchestra concert’s tomorrow afternoon. My parents are coming, probably taking me to dinner or something tomorrow night. You can come.”
That was definitely a no. I loved Melinda, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to go out to eat with her family. I wasn’t convinced her mother liked me. And I really wasn’t sure what her father thought of me.
“We’ll see how I feel, but I think I’m going to pass.”
Melinda shrugged. “We need to celebrate your birthday. I have your present.”
“You got me something?” I was surprised. I hadn’t expected anything from her.
Melinda nodded. “I didn’t know what to make, but I bought you something, but that doesn’t mean I want you to buy me anything for my birthday.”
“Don’t worry. I’ll run your birthday present past Walter. Probably Sarah.” At least I would when I thought of something. I wasn’t worried. I had plenty of time before her birthday. But I was curious what she had bought me. “What’d you get me?”
Melinda glanced across the room, then changed the subject. “I gotta go. I’ll give you your present tonight.”
She gave me a quick kiss before hurrying off to join her teammates in the dishroom. Not long after she left, Larry and my brother joined the table.
“You’re alive,” Walter said in greeting. “Happy belated birthday.”
Larry smiled at me. “So, you faked sick to spend your birthday watching television in the infirmary?”
“No. I was actually sick. I think I may have even been delirious. I wasn’t really sure what day it was until I went back to my dorm yesterday. Skipped all my classes today trying to play catchup.”
Walter groaned. “Please tell me you’re not going to end up with another lifetime of Sunday D’s.”
Man. Make one bad decision and no one could remember anything else. I responded with a rude hand gesture that had Larry nearly spitting soda out of his nose. “No. I had permission to be excused. So, what are you guys up to today?”
Walter shrugged. “I’ve got to catch the bus in a little while. We’re heading to Bentham Prep today.”
“That’s not much better than Worthington.”
Larry smiled at me. “You’ve seen the girls.”
I shrugged a shoulder. “Melinda just left a little while ago. What are you up to today?”
“I have a history paper I have been putting off. I’m going to spend some quality time in the library so that I can spend my evening with my girlfriend. You’re welcome to join me.”
I made a face. “Thanks for the offer, but I think I feel another nap coming on.”
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.