Hartfield Chronicles

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Episode 10

Melinda’s Story

Monday afternoon, I threw my dance bag in the little space between between my closet and the bedroom door. All I wanted was to flop on my bed and bury my head under the pillow. Crawling into it would be even better. Unfortunately, neither of those were an option. My friends were waiting for me in the library.

Outside of art class, every one of my teachers had declared that, now that the first week of classes were over, things would begin to get harder. The first time I heard this, I wondered if I would be able to keep up. By the end of the day, I was wondering how long it would be before I failed out of school.

While we waited for Miss Serena, I mentioned to Bella and Natalie that I was almost drowning in my schoolwork. Bella suggested we study together before dinner. Although Natalie wasn’t feeling quite as overwhelmed, she agreed to join us.

Now, they were waiting for me. With a sigh of resignation, I gave the bed one last longing look before taking a quick shower. After packing my bag, I headed over to the library. The girls were in a different study room than where I had been studying with Walter every night.

They both sent me small waves before returning to their books. Natalie was working on something that looked like it could be French homework and Bella was reading some sort of history book. I sat at the table and pulled out my writing journal.

Mr. Johnson had returned them one by one as he dismissed the class that afternoon. I was so anxious to get to dance, I hadn’t looked to see what he had written. Now that I had a chance to flip through it, I realized he didn’t comment on any of my work. Instead, he scribbled a few notes at the bottom of my final entry.

This is a nice beginning, Melinda, but for your next journal entries, I would like you to include more adjectives. I want to be so inundated with descriptions that I feel as if I am living the story, not simply reading it. Also, please try to incorporate your vocabulary words into your writing. The more you use the words, the more familiar they will be and the more sophisticated your writing will become.

I had no idea what he meant. With a sigh, I dug my vocabulary journal from my backpack. If I couldn’t even understand my teacher’s critiques, how was I supposed to improve my writing?

I reread the message, underlining the words I didn’t understand. I searched for their definitions in the dictionary app on my phone, summarizing them into my journal. Once I understood all the words, I read Mr. Johnson’s comments one more time.

In order to make my writing sound less juvenile, he was suggesting I include a lot of descriptive words, as well as some of our weekly vocabulary words.

I closed both journals with a sigh. Although I had already decided that I needed to improve my writing, I think part of me had hoped Mr. Johnson would like it the way it was. Hopefully I would be able to follow his suggestions.

I took out my assignment pad, making a note to print out the entries I had typed out this weekend and paste them into my writing journal. Maybe I could re-write them, adding in more descriptions and vocabulary words.

Thinking of vocabulary words reminded me of my vocabulary quiz. Mr. Johnson had returned those as well. I had gotten a C. When I had studied with Walter Thursday night, we used flashcards he had made from index cards. He had also been using them for our Latin vocabulary. Maybe I should start making my own.

After making a note in my assignment pad to pick up some index cards in the school store, I decided to copy this week’s vocabulary words into my vocabulary journal.

By the time Natalie declared it was time for dinner, my hand was beginning to cramp. I welcomed the break. As everyone at the table began complaining about the significant increase in their course load, Caroline read the pastel pink Daily Docket.

“The organizational meeting for instrumental groups is tonight, and choral groups is tomorrow. I wanted to do both, but I don’t know anymore.”

“I am definitely attending the choral meeting,” said Dre.

Forrest frowned. “I still haven’t decided. I would love to be part of another choral group, but, soccer.”

Natalie nodded. “I’m on the fence about chorus. But, I’m definitely interested in orchestra.”

I nodded. “Me, too.”

“Me, three,” added Sarah.

“Me, four.” Larry smiled.

That didn’t quite make sense to me. I could have sworn I heard him mention last week that he only wanted to play his guitar for fun, not in a performance group. I had a feeling he was attending tonight’s meeting to spend more time with Sarah, but I held my tongue.

Bella turned to Walter beside her. “What about you, Walter? Are you going to the meetings?”

Walter shook his head as he downed a glass of water. “Nope.”

I nodded my head towards him. “I plan on going to the library later.”

“Good. I need to copy your math homework.”

A little before seven, we musicians were the first to leave the table. When we got to the Arts Center, we wandered the first floor until we found the room across from the stairwell labeled Practice Hall. I was the last to enter.

It wasn’t unlike the practice room in my middle school. Two stories tall, it curved slightly to form a semicircle, with a staircase descending to the lower level and room for another row of chairs every few steps. At the bottom, there were three rows of chairs arranged in a semicircle around a podium, behind which stood one of the tallest men I had ever met.

He was nearly the size of my Latin teacher. While Mr. Henderson might have been a little taller, this man was certainly more muscular. He was also several years older, with a handful of wrinkles along his face and his graying hair thinning slightly along the top.

I followed my friends into a row of seats in the middle of the room. The meeting started promptly at seven, when the conductor introduced himself in a booming voice that easily carried across the room and could probably be heard in the lobby above. All conversations ceased.

“Good evening and thank you for attending this evening. My name is Mr. Williams, and I am the conductor for our orchestra programs. My colleague, Mr. Stone, could not be here this evening, but I will be introducing all our instrumental ensembles tonight.”

As Mr. Williams described the three different groups, I decided I was most interested in Wind Orchestra, which met twice a week during first study hours. We would spend Thursday’s rehearsal learning the school song for Saturday’s school meeting, then we would be focusing on the music for a concert near the end of the winter term.

Mr. Williams ended the meeting describing the audition process. Our performance would determine our chairs for each ensemble. Before leaving the room, he pointed to three music stands beside him.

“Please sign up here, and I will be in my office if you have any questions.”

I watched him leave through a door behind him as most of the people in the room crowded around the sign-up sheets. My friends and I stayed where we were. Larry looked at each of us.

“So? Whatdaya think?”

Caroline shrugged. “I don’t know if I brought anything for an audition piece.”

I turned to her. “I have a flute book. You can borrow it.”

“Thanks.” Caroline gave a sigh of relief.

Larry frowned. “Jazz Ensemble sounds interesting, but I think I’ll wait to watch the winter performance first.”

Sarah glanced at her phone. “I want to audition Wednesday, so I can practice. But, we have an away game. I don’t know when we’ll be back.”

The solution seemed obvious to me. “Maybe he’s holding auditions during the day. You can do it after music.”

“That’s an idea. Let’s go see.”

We followed Sarah to the front of the room and examined the sheets. Sarah was able to get a slot during her Wednesday morning free period. Caroline opted for just before dinner. Natalie decided she’d rather do it after classes Tuesday to get it over with. I decided on Wednesday afternoon.

While everyone else went back to the dorms, I decided to take the paths along the road to get to the library. Enjoying the cold air, I took my time getting there, thinking about what Mr. Williams just said. Two orchestra rehearsals a week meant I was going to lose four hours of study time. And when exactly was I supposed to practice?

Walter was in our usual study room, sleeping in one of the comfy chairs, his programming book face-down on his chest. Giggling to myself, I placed my bag on the table and checked the time. Despite my tremendous workload, I wasn’t ready to begin my homework.

I scanned my assignment pad to see which subject looked like it would be the easiest. I had written a handful of words at the bottom of the page. Things Mr. Williams had said that I didn’t fully understand.

With a sigh, I looked up the definitions and wrote them in my vocabulary journal. Mr. Williams wanted us to contemplate whether we would be able the handle the demands practicing our music and attending rehearsals in addition to our already demanding schedules. If not, we should consider taking a sabbatical, or leave of absence, for the season.

Ugh. Would I ever make it through a day without wondering what people around me were saying? I glanced at all the books in my bag. Maybe it would be the same day I understood my homework assignments. Shaking my head mournfully, I plopped my math book on the table loudly enough to startle Walter.

“Wha? What happened?”

“What made you think reading that boring thing in that chair was a good idea?” Giggling, I dug through my bag for my math notebook and calculator.

Walter groggily returned to the table. “But, we always read there.”

“Yeah, and we take turns reading aloud so we don’t fall asleep.”

“Point taken. Okay. No more sitting in that chair when I’m by myself. How was the meeting?”

I shrugged. “Informative, I guess. We signed up for auditions.”

“Did Larry change his mind about performing in front of people?”

I smirked. “You caught that, too? Apparently, he likes the idea of the Jazz Ensemble but he’s going to wait until after the winter performance to see if it’s for him.”

Walter shook his head. “So, he’s going to watch the Jazz Ensemble, not Sarah? I wish he would just ask her out and get it over with.”

I giggled, saying nothing as I started the assignment. If I worked industriously enough, I might be able to finish it before we were kicked out of the library.

About five minutes later, Walter moved beside me. After comparing our papers, he immediately erased an error on his page.

“So, how many nights a week will I be forced to do my math homework on my own?”

“Two.” I could hear the dejection in my voice.

Walter’s jovial tone suggested he was trying to lighten my mood. “Oh well. Maybe I can convince someone else to study with me.”

“Like Bella?”

Walter shrugged. “Maybe. Did she want to join us?”

I smiled. “Not us. You.”

“Why would she want to study with me? We’re not in any of the same classes.”

Giggling, I bumped my shoulder against his. Boys could be so clueless sometimes. “She likes you, silly.”

Walter stared at me a moment, opening and closing his mouth a few times before finding his voice. “Did she tell you that?”

“No. But, it’s pretty obvious.”

“Well, what should I do?”

“Do you like her?”

Walter shrugged. “I don’t really know her.”

“Then, ask her out.”

“But, what if she says no”

“Then she doesn’t like you.”

“But, then she’ll tell everyone and they’ll all laugh at me.”

“Wow. I always thought of you as waaaay more confident than this.”

Walter’s face turned far redder than I would have ever thought was even possible. “Well, it’s just . . . I’ve never . . . I’ve never actually asked out a girl before. I don’t know how this stuff works.”

“And you’re asking my opinion? You know I’m only thirteen, right? I skipped a grade? I know nothing about boyfriends. Crushing on guys, sure, but not really hanging out with them.”

“Yeah. I didn’t know any of that. But, I do know you’re a girl and a really good friend and I trust your advice. The only other person I would even consider asking would be Larry, and, well, I don’t want to.”

I smirked. “Are you afraid of losing your I know everything image?”

“Kinda. It’s a . . . guy thing.”

“That is such a lame excuse! Well, lemme see. I guess there’s a couple of things you can do.” I stared past him, listing some options while absentmindedly ticking them off on my fingers. “You can ask her if she wants to study together, just the two of you. Or, you can ask her to a movie, because then you get to spend time with her but not have to talk to each other. Or, you can have dinner with her. You can get together at the MAC Attack or eat alone at the dining hall. Or lunch. That’s less formal and less crowded. And, it has a guaranteed ending if it things don’t go so well. I like that option.”

Walter stared at me. “I thought you said you never thought much about this.”

“I haven’t. I was just thinking out loud.”

Melinda’s Journal

Tuesday, September 19

(Author’s Note: I could use your help! What should Melinda write about today?)

Pat’s Story

Pat’s story will begin in March

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