Monday, February 19
What is a healthy relationship?
I recently stumbled upon an online quiz about healthy relationships, and it made me wonder about me and Pat.
Pat is very supportive of the things that I want to do and encourages me when I want to try something new. He has always been very respectful of me wanting to spend time with my friends and never makes me choose between them and him. Sure, sometimes he wants to spend time alone, just the two of us, but that’s a normal part of any relationship, right?
I have no problem with Pat spending time with his friends. But I feel like he is choosing his friends over me. Once in a while is fine, but when does it become too much?
When Pat and I got back together, he created a bunch of rules for us to have a healthy relationship. Without a doubt, those rules have strengthened our relationship. The thing is, I don’t think either of us considered the roles our friends play in our relationship together.
Now that orchestra was over, my Monday and Thursday evenings were free. My intention was to use study hours to prepare for next week’s finals. However, as we walked to lunch together on Monday, Pat proposed an alternative.
He squeezed my hand. “How would you like to meet Granny Smith?”
“The woman I take to Rosary on Monday nights.”
I sent him a curious look. “I thought that was a onetime thing.”
Pat shook his head. “Nope. Still doing it.”
“I can’t miss study hours.”
“Sally’ll excuse you. It’s a religious service.”
I pursed my lips. “I’m not sure, Pat.”
“You don’t have to. I just thought it would be something we could do together.”
“I don’t think I have any beads.”
Pat laughed. “Not a problem. You just get permission.”
I considered his proposition throughout lunch, but I had mixed feelings about the idea. I needed to bounce my thoughts around with someone. Since he was my confirmation mentor, Walter seemed the obvious choice.
I waited until we were alone on our way to Latin before mentioning it to him. His response was so enthusiastic, he took on an affected tone. I wasn’t sure, but I thought it may have been the voice of one of his animated characters.
“I think it’s a great idea. As your mentor, I strongly recommend you going.”
I had to giggle. “I don’t remember what to do. I prayed it like once when I was getting my first communion.”
Walter waved a dismissive hand. “Eh, it’s easy. You’ll be fine. I mean, Pat’s not going to laugh if you make a mistake. You should go.”
I let the idea fester in the back of my mind for the rest of the day. After my last period English class, I went in search of my dean, pleased to see she was in her office in the basement of the boys’ dorm. The secretary let me go right in.
Sally looked up as I entered the room. “Melinda. This is a surprise. Is everything alright?”
“I have a favor to ask.” When Sally nodded, I continued with the pitch I had practiced on my walk over. “I just found out there’s this rosary group at the church in town and I was wondering if I could attend. I have my confirmation classes there and my mentor thinks it might be good for me to go.”
“I have no problem with it. I’m assuming there is a reason you’re asking permission?”
I sent her a hesitant look. “Well, it’s during study hours on Monday nights.”
Sally made a face. “I’m not sure you should walk to the center of town and back that late at night.”
I bit my lip. “Well, that’s the other thing. Pat takes this senior citizen there on Monday nights. He said he could drive me. If, of course, you say it’s okay.”
Sally didn’t quite hide her smile. “Sit down.” As I did, she folded her hand on her desk and tried to look serious, although I could still see hints of her smile. “Let me see if I get this straight. You are asking permission to skip study hours so you can go driving with your boyfriend?”
I could feel my face grow warm. “No. I mean, technically, yes. But we would go pick up Granny Smith, then go to the church. And, I mean, we’d be at church. Praying. And then we’d come straight back. Well, we’d have to drop off Granny first. But then we’d be back. Probably before the break.”
“Who is this Granny Smith person?”
I shrugged. “A senior citizen that Pat drives to the church Mondays. He arranged it with the community service office. I think it’s part of DMH, but I’m not entirely sure.”
Sally sighed. “I am going to speak with Mrs. Lindgren about this. I will email you my decision by suppertime?”
“Thanks so much!” I nearly leaped out of the chair.
Sally nodded as I rushed out of the room.
I spent all of basketball practice reviewing my physics assignments from the semester. By the time I was walking back to my dorm, I had received permission to attend the rosary group at the church.
After dinner, I followed Pat to his car. He drove to a bright pink Victorian with purple trim not far from campus. Pat didn’t even have time to turn off the car before someone opened the front door of the house and a little lady came out. As I moved to the backseat, Pat jumped out to help the woman to the car.
The woman smiled at me as she climbed in. “Hello, dear. You may call me Granny Smith. Patrick says you are joining us at the church tonight.”
I nodded. “Yeah.”
Pat jumped back into his seat and started heading to the church. Granny Smith spent the ride telling me about the various programs the church no longer offered, many of which she had started over fifty years earlier.
When we arrived, Pat detoured to a small table in the vestibule. Reaching into a basket, he pulled out a set of lavender rosary beads, holding them out to me with a smile. “Told you I could get you beads.”
I eyed it warily. “I can just take it?”
Granny Smith nodded. “Yes, dear. We have several groups that make them for that sole purpose.”
I followed Pat and Granny Smith into the church, where Pat led me to a pew near the back while Granny Smith joined the cluster of women in the front. I turned to Pat, keeping my voice low so it wouldn’t echo through the church. “I’m not sure I know all the prayers.”
“One sec.” Pat went to speak with the ladies in the front pews, returning a moment later with a sheet of paper. He handed it to me as he slid beside me. “They offered me one last time. You know the basics, right?”
I shrugged. “More or less. You may need to remind me.”
A woman in the front stood to face the rest of the group. “We better get started. I need to go pick up my kids soon.”
We had made it through exactly two prayers when Pat’s phone sang. I recognized Brody’s ringtone instantly. Pat immediately silenced the ringer, but read the message.
He leaned close to whisper in my ear. “Brody’s stranded again. I’ll be back before this is over.”
I was less than convinced. “Are you sure?”
But Pat wasn’t back by the end of the rosary. Some of the women left immediately after the final prayers. Others stayed to talk to each other for a few minutes. Since Granny Smith didn’t seem to be in any rush, I just stayed where I was. I didn’t even bother texting Pat. He knew where I was. He had left me to go help Brody. Again.
Eventually, Deacon John came to lock up the church, gently ushering out the remaining women. While Granny Smith said her final goodbyes, I went to speak with my teacher as he locked the outside door.
“Deacon John? My boyfriend was supposed to bring me and Granny Smith home and he disappeared again. I don’t mind walking back to campus, but I don’t know how Granny Smith will get home.”
Deacon John checked his watch. “I can drop you ladies off. You shouldn’t be walking through town at this hour.”
“Thank you so much!”
I told Granny Smith of the change in plans as Deacon John led us to his car at the base of the church steps. He brought me back to campus first, dropping me right at my dorm before heading to Granny Smith’s house.
I was halfway up the stairs when I received a message from Pat asking where I was. After tersely replying that I was on campus, I spent the rest of the night studying for my Latin final. I worked right through the break, ignoring Pat’s messages and never visiting the rotunda.
I waited until Sarah and I were walking to class the next before morning telling her about my night. I had hoped to cool down, but a night full of brooding didn’t seem to have helped.
As we made our way along the path to the VAPAC, I pointed my protein bar at her. “What I don’t get is where he could have gone? I mean, fine. Brody’s stranded again. I get that he has no other friends and thinks Pat’s his new BFF or whatever. But why didn’t Pat come back to the church before he brought Brody home? I mean, Brody lives ten minutes away.”
“Boys are dumb.” When I rolled my eyes, Sarah shook her head. “No, no. Hear me out. Pat’s a boy. He can only focus on one thing at a time. So in his mind, he’s all like: pick up Brody. Bring Brody home. Pick up Melinda and old lady. Bring old lady home. Make out until end of study hours. But girls, we know better. We can figure out the most efficient way to do things.”
I was giggling in spite of myself. “Well, be sure to tell Larry what’s going on.”
“Why? He’s not about to ditch me for his boyfriend.”
“Because those boys gossip worse than little old ladies. If you tell Larry, Pat’ll find out.”
I avoided Pat most of Tuesday. During my long free period, I skipped lunch in favor of staying in my room to study for my music final. After classes, I went back to my room to study for my English final. Every time Pat texted me, I glanced at the readout. He was looking for me, asking if I was okay. I never responded, assuming that by the end of the day, he would figure out why I was mad. I had no intention of talking to him until he apologized for ditching me.
“So, how long is this going to last?” Sarah asked after basketball practice that afternoon.
I shrugged. “I don’t know. Until I’m not mad anymore.”
“Like how long?”
I raised my eyebrows. “Asks the girl who didn’t talk to her boyfriend for two whole days.”
“We broke up.”
“You didn’t break up.”
Sarah rolled her eyes. “Whatever. Are you going to break up with Pat?”
“No. I don’t want to break up with him. I’m just not ready to forgive him.”
“So, dining hall or the MAC?”
I shrugged. “I’m not hungry. You can go eat with the guys.”
“You haven’t eaten all day. Come on.”
Sarah detoured into the MAC, practically dragging me to the MAC Attack. Despite my lack of appetite, I ordered a grilled cheese basket, with both fries and onion rings, as well as a milkshake. Maybe one of my favorite foods would improve my mood.
To my relief, Sarah didn’t insist on remaining at the MAC and I carried my dinner back to my room. Alone, I nibbled on my food while I completed all of my math assignments for the rest of the week. I barely noticed Sarah return to the room for study hours.
“You want to go for a walk with me and Larry?” Sarah offered during the break.
I shook my head. “Nah. I’ve got a groove going here.” After watching my roommate leave, I got ready for bed before settling back at my desk. By the time I went to bed, I had finished all my assignments for all of my classes through the end of the week. I checked my phone one last time before turning out my light.
Pat hadn’t tried to contact me since dinner.
Monday afternoon, while we were walking to lunch, I casually mentioned to Melinda that she should join me for the rosary group at the church. She didn’t seem overly excited about the idea, but she agreed to get permission from her dean.
After supper, we picked up Granny Smith, and I drove to the church. When we arrived, I showed Melinda where to pick up her beads, since she didn’t have any, and I grabbed a prayer sheet from the women in the front of the church before settling into a pew in the back with Melinda.
We had just started praying when my phone sang Grease Monkey. As I silenced it, I caught the message.
Need ride ASAP. 911.
I had no idea what Brody meant, but I figured I better go pick him up.
I leaned closer to Melinda, my voice barely a whisper. “Brody’s stranded again. I’ll be back before this is over.”
She frowned. “Are you sure?”
Melinda sent me a skeptical look as she resumed her prayers. I quickly headed to my car, calling Brody on the way.
He answered immediately. “I’m stranded.”
“I kissed Santiago.”
“Who’s Santiago?” I was so confused.
“The guy who’s having the party tonight.”
“Don’t you guys ever go to school?”
Brody shrugged. “Santiago’s parents are away for the weekend and there’s no school tomorrow. He was drinking and then he’s kissing me. And I didn’t mind, so I kissed him back. And then Nicholas saw me and turned all jealous boyfriend, even though we’re not technically together. And he left and I’m stranded.”
I raised my eyebrows. “Call DMH?”
“Can’t. Nick is subbing tonight, and he’s still on duty. He told me that if I text DMH, he won’t come get me.”
I sighed. “Fine. I’ll come save your butt. But you owe me.”
“Text me the address.”
Brody wasn’t very far from the church. I found him was walking down a dead-end street toward the main road. When he saw me, he climbed in as I was still rolling to stop.
“Thanks, man. I wanted to get away from the party. It was getting pretty loud in there. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone calls the cops.”
I raised my eyebrows. “Seriously? I never would have pegged you for a rager kind of guy.”
Brody shook his head. “I’m not. Nicholas wanted to go to the party. What do I do now?”
“I’m bringing you home. What you do there is completely up to you.”
“Dude, I meant what do I do about Nicholas?”
I shrugged. This conversation was just entirely too weird for me. Brody didn’t seem to get the hint.
“I mean, I like him. And it’s not like there’s something between me and Santiago. I’m pretty sure he just kissed me because it was a dare. And —”
“Dude, stop. You want my advice? If you like Nicholas, then talk to him.”
Seriously? Was Brody that dense? “Tell him what you just told me.”
“I don’t know if he’ll listen to me.”
I sighed. “A couple of weeks after Melinda and I first got together, my ex kissed me. Set me up and got it on film. The clip went viral. Melinda was really upset.”
Brody swore. “That why you broke up?”
I shook my head. “Nope. As soon as I knew about the clip, I told her Poppy had set me up. Told her I just wanted to be with her.”
I tried not to let my exasperation show. “Yes. Because it was the truth. Don’t lie to Nicholas, but tell him what happened. And that’s the end of this discussion.”
“Noted. So, what did I interrupt with you and Melinda?”
“I take this adorable little old lady to church every Monday night for a prayer group. That’s where I was, and that’s how you can pay me back.”
Brody sent me a look of confusion. “How?”
“You’re going to be Granny Smith’s driver while I’m on break. I’ll clear it with Lindgren.”
I pulled into Brody’s driveway and made sure he got into the house before returning to the church. It was a little late, so I parked in the front circle and jogged up the steps.
The doors were locked. I walked around the entire building, trying all the doors. There was no one there. I had lost Melinda and Granny Smith.
I immediately texted Melinda. She assured me she had returned to campus and Granny Smith was home. I tried to get more details from her, but she didn’t respond. She was probably too busy studying. I could just ask her my questions during the break.
I returned to campus, bringing my books to the rotunda for the rest of study hours. I became so engrossed that I lost all track of time. When my alarm sounded, I was disoriented. According to my phone, it was nearly time for curfew. But Melinda had never come to the rotunda. Confused, I returned to my dorm as my advisor was doing bed checks.
Every Tuesday, Sarah and Melinda spent their free second period in the science center lounge. After biology, I joined her. Since we both had a science free day, we had the room to ourselves until lunchtime.
For some reason, this Tuesday she seemed to have forgotten her routine. I couldn’t find her after biology, and she wouldn’t answer my texts when I asked where she was. I wasn’t too concerned. Knowing her, she had probably holed herself up somewhere studying for finals.
That probably wasn’t such a bad idea. I returned to my dorm, reading ahead in English until my stomach growled.
When I joined the lunch table, Sarah sent me a dirty look. I tried to glare back, but her gaze was much more piercing.
I looked away. “What? What’d I do?”
“You’re an idiot.”
“Again. What’d I do?”
She rolled her eyes. “You think like a boy.”
“I am one, thank you very much. Can you please tell me what’s going on?”
Sarah held up an index finger. “Melinda.” She held up the other finger. “You.” She stared at her own hands a moment before grabbing Larry’s hand. She made a fist and extended his index finger. “Brody.”
I was trying not to laugh. Tell the other guys obviously were, too. I had no clue what was going on, but this was hilarious.
Sarah put her own two fingers back in the air. “You were with Melinda. Brody calls. You run to him.” She put her finger beside Larry’s. “Instead of going back to Melinda, you go off with Brody.” She grabbed Larry’s hand and brought it closer to the napkin dispenser. “Melinda and little old lady,” Sarah bounced her other hand a few times, “have to get a ride from like the priest or someone.”
“Nope! What you should have done,” Sarah reset Larry’s finger, “was go get Brody, then go back to the church.” Sarah brought Larry’s finger in front of her. “Then all of you bring the little old lady home, drop off Brody, and go make out or whatever until the end of study hours.”
“Can I have my hand back?” Larry asked. “I can’t eat my soup.”
Sarah patted his hand and returned to her own lunch. I was really irritated that she had made such a good point. It had never occurred to me to bring Brody to the church. It actually would have made a lot of sense, since I had asked him to drive Granny Smith. I could have introduced them.
By the time lunch was over, I was annoyed that Melinda had involved Sarah. I texted her, suggesting we find some time to talk about it, but she never got back to me.
By the end of the day, I was worried about her. She was obsessing a little too much about finals.
That made me concerned I was worrying too little. Packing a bag, I made my way to the library to study with my girlfriend. Maybe if we were in the same room, she would talk to me.
I went in the main entrance and was halfway through the Quiet Section when I recognized a familiar figure. Hunched over an antique desk under a window sat a very frazzled-looking Chloe.
I went over and tapped her shoulder. She let out a small shriek and jumped a mile. I glanced over my shoulder. The gray-haired librarian at the circulation desk in the corner was glaring at me.
I turned back to Chloe and tried to whisper as quietly as possible. “Come upstairs with me.”
Chloe frowned at the mess of books and notebooks on her desk. I thought she would protest, but she simply put her arms on either side of the pile and swept it together. She shoved some into her bag and gathered the rest into her arms. Then she stood and led the way toward the study rooms.
I was going to lead her to Melinda’s regular study room, but after a quick glance in the window, I saw it was empty. Chloe picked the one across the hall. After dumping her armload onto the study table, she collapsed onto a nearby couch.
I sat beside her, facing her. “I would ask how it’s going, but I think I already know.”
She shook her head. “I haven’t been sober for this long since Christmas. I didn’t realize how much I had fallen behind. The counselor said that if I put forth enough effort through finals, she can write my teachers some sort of waiver. It would let me make up the work over break.”
“Why don’t you look happy about it?”
She shook her head. “There is so much of it. I just want to go have a drink and forget about it all.”
“Want to learn a trick Melinda taught me?”
“No offense, but I’ve been doing this a lot longer than Melinda. What could a third former teach me?”
Smiling, I took out a notebook. Over the next half an hour, I helped Chloe make lists of all the topics that had been discussed in each of her classes, as well as all the assignments she needed to complete. I then showed her how Melinda liked to go through her notes and write questions to ask the teachers on the last day of class.
When we were done, I made Chloe return to the couch for a mandatory study break. Although she still seemed overwhelmed, she looked a lot less frazzled.
“A third-former taught you how to study like this?”
I shrugged. “The study breaks were my idea. But she loves lists.”
“Thank her for me.”
“Why don’t you study with us tonight? Me and Melinda and Walter? We usually go in that room over there.” I pointed across the hall.
“They won’t mind?”
I shook my head. “It’ll be fine.”
Walter glared at me as I entered the study room that night. He had been cranky ever since breaking up with his girlfriend on Sunday.
“Will you please make up with Melinda? I’m going to fail math if she doesn’t help me.”
“Talk to her. She won’t answer my texts.”
Walter looked behind me, and his voice turned venomous. “What are you doing here?”
I pivoted, finding Chloe standing in the door. She pointed toward me. “Pat said I could join you guys. I can leave.”
“No, Chlo.” I turned to Walter. “She can stay.”
He glared at me. “Since when are you two friends again?”
Chloe walked slowly to the table as she responded. “Since Pat talked me down from a ledge.”
Walter narrowed his eyes. “Real or metaphorical?”
“Real,” Chloe and I said in unison.
Walter obviously didn’t seem to know what to do with this information. He sat in his chair with an exaggerated huff and turned to Chloe. “Don’t think I’ve forgotten about the wrestling match.”
“What wrestling—” Chloe closed her eyes and swore. “I hoped that was a terrible dream. I am so sorry, Walter. My behavior was completely abominable. I know it’s no excuse, but I was so far from sober that day and I let Zach convince me to do some very untenable things. But that wall was a real wake-up call and I’m done drinking.”
Chloe sent my brother a confused look. “How long what?”
Walter gave a half smile. “How long have you been sober?”
“Well, congratulations on your first week. Now, since someone has irritated my study partner, which of you is going to help me with my math?”
Chloe turned to me. “What did you do?”
I pointed to the librarian wandering the corridor. “It’s study hours. We should be quiet now.”
Chloe pursed her lips in disapproval as she pulled out her English book. Walter smirked into his math notebook.
During the break, Walter offered to walk with Chloe back to her dorm. I got the impression he wanted to gather as much information about her current mental state before tattling to our sister. I considered waiting for Melinda in the rotunda, but decided that I could give her the silent treatment as well as she could and went to my dorm instead.
My phone didn’t sing for the rest of the night.
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.