When I had unpacked my books at the end of the night last night, I realized I had accidentally taken Walter’s programming textbook. I wasn’t even sure how it had managed to fit with everything else in my bag. I was going to return it this morning, but I had forgotten about it.
Now, it was staring at me and I wasn’t sure what to do. Walter needed the book to do his homework. The assignment he was going to work on right now. But, I didn’t really want to go to his dorm. I thought about texting Walter for him to come get it, but he would probably tell me that was ridiculous and to just bring it to him. But, the thought of going to Stanton made me really uncomfortable.
“Please don’t tell me you’ve been in here studying all day.”
I looked up to see Sarah entering the room. I shook my head. “No. The library.”
Sarah sighed. “You can’t spend all your time in your books. What happened to No Homework on Saturdays?”
I shrugged. “I wanted to get it done so I could spend the day with Mike tomorrow.”
Sarah pursed her lips as she changed out of her uniform. “Fair enough.”
“How was your game?”
“Not bad. We won. I scored a goal. JV & Varsity both lost. At least they weren’t on the same bus as us, so we didn’t have to listen to them whining about it the whole way home. So, what are you up to tonight? And don’t you dare say homework.”
I shrugged. “Nah. I’m not sure. I was thinking of getting into something comfortable and curling up with a book. Maybe find something to stream on my computer.”
“Larry and I are going to watch a movie. Want to join us?”
“Where? The MAC?”
Sarah shook her head. “Nah. We’re just going to stream something on his computer. You can still join us. Andy’ll probably be around.”
“No. But—” I held up Walter’s textbook. “Can you give this to Walter for me? Somehow, it ended up in my bag and I know he needs it to do his assignment.”
“Come with me. Give it to him yourself.”
I nervously shifted my weight from one foot to the other and back. “I . . . don’t want to?”
“What did you two have a fight or something? He didn’t kiss you did he?”
“Ew! No. It’s just . . . I haven’t been to Stanton yet and I’m a little . . .”
Sarah didn’t quite hide her smirk. “Scared?”
Sarah giggled. “Well, then, it’s a good thing you have me.” She my arm and dragged me out of the room.
Like the dining hall, Stanton’s main entrance and first floor were actually the second story of the building. I followed Sarah up the large concrete staircase in silence. I wasn’t surprised to see a number of people in the Common Room. Sarah turned left and I followed her down the hall. Like our dorm, there was an open door at the end of the corridor, barricaded with a wooden baby gate. Peering into the room, I could see a slender man with short jet-black hair sitting in an armchair. When Sarah knocked, he glanced up, pushing his horn-rimmed glasses up the bridge of his nose.
“Oh, hi, Sarah. You visiting Larry?”
“Yup. Mr. Peters, this is my roommate Melinda. She’s going to visit Walter, if that’s okay.”
The man nodded. “Of course. You still have a few hours before curfew.”
“Thanks, Mr. Peters.”
Sarah led me up the staircase to the second floor. Larry’s room was almost the same number as ours. The door was open just enough for me to see Larry was alone. Sarah spoke in a whisper.
“You sure you don’t want to watch a movie with us?”
“Why are we whispering?”
“I want to surprise Larry. But, that’ll only take a second. You can still watch a movie with us.”
“I’m gonna pass.” I held up the book. “I’m going to give this to Walter then I’m going to go back to my room and find something to watch alone.”
Sarah shrugged. “Okay. If you change your mind, you know where to find me.”
Sarah slipped into the room, closing the door behind her until it was just barely open. With a sigh, I glanced at the doors around me. Like our dorm, they still had nametags from the first day our school. The cheerful leaf on the door across the hall was labeled Walter. I knocked.
“Is it important?”
I rolled her eyes. “Only if you want to pass your programming class.”
I could hear Walter swearing. A moment later, he opened the door a crack. I could barely see his eye. Fighting the urge to roll my eyes again I held up his book.
He sighed, opening the door just wide enough for me to slip it through. He smiled at me. “Thanks. Why do you have it?”
There were voices in the room behind him. It never occurred to me that he may not be alone. Walter glanced behind himself. When he turned back to me, his face was pink.
I shrugged. “It was in my bag last night. I guess you didn’t realize you were missing it yet. I knew you were working on your project and I thought you might need it. Are you working on your project?”
“I was. I’m taking a break.”
“Okay. Well, I, um . . . I guess I’ll see you later.” I turned to leave, but a noise in Walter’s room made me pause. An explosion sound effect was followed by familiar music. I couldn’t quite make out the tune, but Walter turned the color of a lobster. What exactly was going on in there?
I sent him a curious glance. “What was that?”
“Shhh! Shunk. Just get in here.” He grabbed my hand, quickly pulling me into the room. I watched him stick his head out the door, glancing up and down the hallway. He was probably making sure no one had seen me come in, since he shut the door behind him.
I pointed to it with a smirk. “You’re not supposed to close that.”
“I know, I know.” Walter crossed the small room to press a button on his computer. “I just don’t want anyone to know what I’m watching. I meant to pause it when I opened the door. I guess I didn’t hit the right button.”
“No biggie. I can leave. If Sarah comes looking for me—” I took a step towards the door. My hand was on the knob when the music clicked. I looked at the computer with a new curiosity. “I thought the NG premiere was next week.”
Walter sent me a dumbfounded look for a moment. Then, he closed his eyes and shook his head, his laughter melting all the tension in the room. “I should have known. I just started. You wanna watch it with me?”
As Walter bent over his desk, dragging the progress bar on the video back to the beginning, I glanced around. Since Walter didn’t have a roommate, his room was smaller than mine. The only way for the two of us to comfortably watch the movie would be to sit together on his bed. I turned to him with a sigh.
“Okay, here’s the thing. I really don’t have an issue sitting on your bed with you, but I’m not really all that comfortable being in here with the door closed.”
Walter wiggled his eyebrows. “Don’t you trust me?”
I punched his shoulder, hurting her hand more than his muscular arm. “I just don’t like breaking the rules.”
Walter stared nervously at the door. “I just don’t want anyone to know what we’re watching. People at my homeschool co-ops used to tease me about NG. I just don’t want anyone here to know about it.”
I shrugged. “I get that. The kids on my bus made fun of one of my classmates when he mentioned watching it. I knew better. But, if you don’t want to keep the door open, I’ll go watch this in my room.”
“No. Please stay. It’s more fun to watch with someone else. I usually watch it with my family.” Walter sighed. “I haven’t had any girls over. I don’t know the rules. How open does the door have to be?”
“Sarah’s across the hall and I don’t think I can even stick my head through the opening.”
Walter smiled. “Okay. I can live with that.” He opened the door slightly more than the width of his head.
I sat the bed with my back against the wall. Walter sat beside me, placing the computer our knees between us. He pressed play and the highlights from last season began to play.
The opening credits were still playing when there was a knock on the door. As Walter rushed to pause the video, I glanced up to see Mr. Peters slowly opening the door. The stern look on his face made me extremely uncomfortable.
“Walter. Melinda. I would like to speak with both of you.”
Walter’s face turned bright red, although his voice seemed to remain calm. “What’s up?”
“I think we should have this conversation somewhere more private. Please come with me.”
Walter and I exchanged nervous glances as we slid off the bed. When Mr. Peters gestured towards his apartment, Walter led the way. I followed wordlessly.
I glanced across the hall. Larry’s door was now open all the way. Sarah and Larry were sitting on his bed, staring at a laptop much like she and Walter had been. I didn’t think it was very fair that I was getting in trouble.
Inside the apartment, Mr. Peters led us down a set of stairs to his living room, gesturing towards the couch. Walter and I sat on opposite ends as he settled himself in a chair.
“Do you know why I asked you here?”
Walter shrugged. His face was bright red and he was staring into his hands.
My own face felt warm. When I spoke, my voice was so quiet, I could barely hear it. “Is it because we didn’t have the door open all the way?”
Walter looked up. “I’m sorry. I’ve never had a girl over before. I didn’t know how far open it had to be. We wanted to watch a show and we didn’t want to disturb anyone.”
Mr. Peters pursed his lips. “How ironic. I was about to watch television as well. I figured I would just make my rounds and check up on everyone, do a quick head count, before I got settled.” He snapped his fingers. “Tell you what. Since you two wanted to watch tv, why don’t you join me?”
There was a knock on the open door as a man stepped over the baby gate and entered the room. I recognized him instantly. Clarissa’s husband. One of my advisors. When had Mr. Peters called him? How much trouble was I in? They weren’t going to call my parents over something so silly, were they? Surely, I wouldn’t be kicked out of school just because the door wasn’t open enough. Would I?
Mr. Price glanced at Walter and me before sending a curious look at Mr. Peters. “I’m sorry. Am I interrupting something?”
“David. No, you’re just in time. Walter and Melinda wanted to join us for our viewing party.”
“That’s really not necessary.” I got to my feet. “I mean, I can just go watch it in my room.”
Mr. Price sent her a curious look. “Why watch it on a computer? Mr. Peters has an amazing surround sound.”
Mr. Peters smiled for the first time. “Oh. I may have forgotten to mention what we were watching.”
He pressed a button and the NeoGenesis theme song roared around the room. My jaw dropped as I stared at Mr. Peters. He was laughing. I turned to Walter. He looked more angry than confused.
I turned back to Mr. Peters as I sat back down. “I don’t get it.”
Mr. Peters shook his head as he paused the show. “I’m sorry. I couldn’t help myself. It’s not often I find another NGer. I really was just checking up on everyone. I was going to tell you to open your door wider when I heard what you were watching. Figured you’d rather join Mr. Peters and me instead.”
I could tell by the way Walter puffed out a breath he didn’t find the situation very funny. He sat back on the couch, crossing his arms and resting his ankle on his knee. Mr. Peters started the show again.
By the first commercial break, Walter had relaxed. I was glad we had been invited to watch the show with our advisors. Mr. Price had been right. The surround sound was much better than listening on Walter’s computer speakers. Walter had been right, too. It was much more fun to watch the show with other people. I had always ever watched the show alone.
When the episode ended, I smiled at Mr. Price. “Thanks for letting us watch this with you.”
Walter nodded. “We should do this every week.”
The adults exchanged glances before Mr. Peters spoke. “I was thinking of starting a club.”
Walter winced. “You really think that’s something you should advertise?”
I giggled, but I understood. NGers, fans of NeoGenesis, were never part of the popular crowd. Mr. Peters smiled at Walter.
“Well, I wasn’t going to take out a billboard, but I was thinking if you find other NGers, they would be welcome to join our little group.”
Walter put his foot on the floor, leaning forward a little. “You know what would be really cool? If we could watch this when it airs. It was a lot of work to keep away from spoilers all day.”
Mr. Peters shook his head. “Wouldn’t work. I’m not going to excuse you from study hours to watch television.”
“What if you record it?” Mr. Price gestured to the television. “We can watch it during the break. I bet if we fast forward through the commercials, we would be finished during second study hours.”
“I’m willing to try it.” Mr. Peters turned to the couch. “What do you two say? Will you be joining us Friday night?”
Walter answered for both of us. “Shunk, yeah!”
Sunday, September 24
When I was in sixth grade, my friends invited me to go to the movies with them. It was the first time I had ever been without my parents. It was also the first time I was going to the theater to watch a live-action movie, not an animated one.
I was surprised when Brittany’s mother dropped us off by the front door. I hadn’t realized we were going without any adults. I felt so grown up as I paid for my ticket and bought my popcorn.
The movie was horrible. Well, actually, it was pretty good. But, it made me cry like a baby. I didn’t want my friends to see me. We were supposed to be big girls now.
Although my friends and I went to the movies together often, it was never as exciting as that first time. Today, is the first time I am going to the movies with a boy. Will it be as exciting as that first time without parents?
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Stay tuned. Episode 17 will be released on Tuesday, March 2.