Hartfield Chronicles

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Episode 18

Melinda’s Story

The movie let out with just enough time for me and Mike to catch the next shuttle back to school. I let him spend the entire ride back rambling about the movie. He didn’t seem to enjoy it nearly as much as I had.

The closer we got to the school, the more I started wondering about how my time with Mike would end tonight. Sarah’s question kept echoing through my mind. Would Mike kiss me? Did I want him to?

That only brought up a brand new set of questions. Since we’ve been spending time alone together, did that mean I was now his girlfriend? If so, what did that mean? Was I supposed to sit with him in the dining hall? Would we sit with my friends or his? Or would we have to sit alone?

What about right now? Would Mike walk me back to the dorms? Or would we go in different directions when the bus stopped? Was our time together even over? Or would Mike suggest hanging out together at the MAC or in the dorm common rooms or walk into town or something?

I was anything but calm when the shuttle parked in the MAC parking lot. I followed Mike off the bus and we stood awkwardly by the MAC steps for a few moments. I waited for him to make the next move. He looked nearly as uncertain as I felt. He glanced at his phone before turning to me.

“It’s too early for dinner. Too bad we have study hours tonight. Maybe we could have gone out for pizza.”

“Um, yeah.” Between eating such a large lunch and my entire bag of popcorn, the thought of dinner made me slightly nauseous. How could Mike even be thinking about food?

“Wanna go for a walk? I’m not quite ready to get back into school mode yet.”

“Um, sure.” A walk sounded like the perfect way to end the afternoon. Mike took my hand, leading me along the path towards the dining hall. When we crossed the street, Mike veered off the path and between some buildings. Soon, we were traveling along one of the town roads. When we turned right at the next intersection, I recognized where we were. It was the road I used when returning from the center of town.

Most of our walk was silent. I had run out of things to ask him. As we passed the dining hall, Mike broke the silence.

“So, when are your free periods tomorrow? I was thinking maybe we could hang out.”

“Well, Monday I have second and fourth periods free. I was gonna—”

“Excellent. Excellent. Why don’t we get together second period? My math class has a free day. We can meet in the library study rooms.”

“Well, I was going to practice my flute second period.”

“In the dorm?”

“No. There are a bunch of practice rooms in the Arts Center.”

“Excellent, excellent. Maybe I can join you. Watch you practice.”

“Um . . .” I wanted to say now. I wasn’t comfortable performing solos in front of an audience. Practicing in front of someone was even worse, since I would be more likely to make mistakes.

But, Mike was my boyfriend now. Well, we were at least hanging out together. I supposed I could make that sacrifice and practice with an audience of one.

I nodded. “Um, sure. Yeah. Okay. The practice rooms are on the fourth floor. Meet me up there.”

“Excellent, excellent.”

Mike spent the rest of our walk telling me stories from home. He considered himself an only child, even though each of his parents had a twenty-something year old daughter from a previous marriage, neither of whom spent much time with Mike and his parents. He enjoyed football and swimming and was glad the swim team was an individual sport. He was confident he would make the varsity team because he was such a fast swimmer. He had won MVP in his sports camp this past summer. He wanted to attend Yale or Harvard when he graduated, although he would consider Princeton as a backup.

I was glad he didn’t ask me too many questions. I had no idea what I wanted to do as a winter sport. College wasn’t even on my radar. I was more than happy to let Mike tell me more about himself.

We were walking aimlessly and I hadn’t been paying attention to where we were going. I was surprised to find myself standing in front of Woodward. Mike squeezed my hand one last time before returning to his own dorm. I didn’t bother watching him leave. I hurried up to my room to tell my roommate all about my adventure.


After a quick dinner, I decided to look for Walter in the library. I found him sitting at the table in our regular study room, reading his programming textbook. I unpacked my books onto the table, settling into a chair across from him to organize them.

“Hey. You missed dinner.”

“I couldn’t find a football game I liked. Then I remembered you were ahead of me in like, all your homework, so I figured I’d camp out here and catch up.”

“Sorry. I feel guilty for making you do extra homework.”

“Don’t apologize. About halfway through the physics homework, I realized I liked the idea of being a day ahead. I may understand the class lectures a little more. Besides, it’s not like I missed supper. I ran down for a quick meal when it opened.” Walter returned his attention to his book. “So, how was the movie?”

“I thought I wasn’t supposed to mention it.”

“You didn’t. I did.” He sent me a small smile that did not reach his eyes, quickly looking back to his textbook.

“It was okay, I guess. I enjoyed it.”

“They started filming around this time last year.” Walter sounded almost as if he were reading out of his textbook. “In L.A. We have a house out there. My parents and I went there while my brother and sister came back here for school. Every morning, I would go for my morning run and then Mom would leave for work. I’d do my schoolwork and Dad would check it. I was usually able to finish early enough to have lunch on the lot with Mom. I spent the rest of the day on the set, even if Dad couldn’t. It started off being kind of fun, even though I’ve practically grown up on movie sets.”

I was full of questions, but I didn’t want to interrupt Walter. I sat quietly as he continued.

“They were supposed to be finished by Thanksgiving, but they had delays and then the holidays slowed things down. Dad had already scheduled his tour and by the time they realized the movie wouldn’t be finished, it was too late to cancel. My brother and sister came out to L.A. during their break and we all went to the New Year’s Celebration, since Dad was playing at the ball drop. Then my parents decided that I needed to stay with my grandparents in Long Island until the movie was finished. They didn’t like the idea of me being alone in the house or on the tour bus for such long periods of time.”

Walter sent me a brief glance as he took a breath. I was still trying to process everything. I felt like I had missed something important. But, he didn’t give me a chance to ask.

“So, January second, I flew back to Connecticut with my brother and sister. They came back to Hartfield and I went to live with Granny and Pop-Pop. It was the first time in a long time I wasn’t living with one parent or the other, and it made me . . . angry. I blamed the movie, even though I know it really wasn’t anyone’s fault, and I vowed never to discuss it ever again. But, Dad was able to move around some of his tour dates and I was able to travel with him the week he was in the area. By the time he went to the Midwest in February, Mom had finished with the movie and was home.”

He stared at me, his neck turning crimson. He was waiting for me to say something, but I wasn’t sure where to begin. I chose my words slowly.

“Um, I think I missed something major in your story. Was your mom like, part of the movie crew or something? And what was your father doing that you couldn’t stay with him?”

Walter looked at me a moment, his face turning as red as his neck. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, muttering in a tone that was barely above a whisper. “Kara McGregor is my mother.”

He was kidding, right? I raised my eyebrows at him. “Your mother is Kara McGregor? The actress?”

He nodded.

I rolled my eyes. “Next you’re going to tell me that Patrick and Meghan McGregor—”

“Are my brother and sister. Yeah.”

He was serious. How on earth was this possible? I shook my head. “But, you have different last names.”

Walter shrugged. “Mom started acting when she was like, six or something. So everyone in Hollywood knew her as Kara McGregor. When Pat and Meghan started acting, my parents thought it would be cute to use McGregor as their aliases, too. I don’t think anyone ever expected them to become as famous as they did. But, legally, we’re all named Evans. Mom changed it when she got married.”

“To the lead guitarist of CAVEmen. And, agh! Adam Evans is your DAD?”

“Could you say it any louder? I don’t think everyone in Stanton heard you.” Walter sounded miserable.

“I’m sorry. But, this is like, big. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to say.”

Walter responded in a slightly forceful tone, a mild look of panic on his face. “Nothing. Literally. I don’t want anyone to know.”

“Have you told Bella?”

“I haven’t told anyone.”

“Why’d you tell me?”

“You and Larry are my best friends. And, well, I trust you with this kind of secret more than I do him. Not that I think he’d tell anyone, just that he’ll, I don’t know. Tease me or something. And, it’s just easier to talk to you about this than him. Like, I would probably trust him more than you with, well, I was going to say questions about girls, but I think I trust you more in that department as well.”

“Sounds like I beat Larry out as your best friend.”

Walter smiled, but I understood what he was trying to say. I trusted him and Sarah differently as well. It wasn’t so much a fear of them sharing my secrets. It was more a matter of who would be able to give me the best advice in certain situations.

“I think people will figure out who your parents are when they come to visit.”

Walter shrugged. “I can hide. People’ll just assume they’re here to see Pat. Beside, they rarely both come at the same time.”

“Patrick McGregor is a student here?”

“No. Pat Evans is a student here. Well, mostly. He’s shooting a movie right now, so he’s got special permission to be away from school. But, he’s scheduled to be back here by like, Halloween. I assume when he’s back, people will start figuring out he’s my brother. And, then, obviously, who my parents are. But, I’m hoping to keep it quiet for now. Maybe figure out who my real friends are so I know people aren’t trying to just meet my family. Does that make any sense?”

“I guess. It’s weird, though. What year’s your brother?”

“Fifth form. Meghan graduated last year. She decided to act for a while before college. My parents weren’t thrilled, but they decided to let her have this year and they’ll discuss it again at Christmas.”

“Okay. I just have a few more questions, then I’ll drop the subject. If everyone’s talking about their families, like their plans for Long Weekend, am I allowed to mention your family in general? Like, ask who you’re visiting or if your siblings are coming home?”

“Maybe who I’m visiting. Meghan’s living in New York right now and my parents are in Hawaii with Pat during the shoot, so we arranged to all converge at home, here in Connecticut, for Long Weekend. They managed to work Pat’s shooting schedule around it.”

“So, if anyone asks, you can just say your parents are travelling for work and coming home for the weekend.”

“Thanks. That’s not bad. I’m probably going to be asking for more help keeping this a secret for a while.”

“Your secret is safe with me. So, are you ready to tackle some geometry?”


Melinda’s Journal

Monday, September 25

When my parents first told me about Hartfield, they said I would find it more challenging. I’m not sure why, but I never dreamed I would be drowning in homework. I often feel that no matter how hard I work, it just does not seem to be enough for my teachers. They all seem to want more. More effort. More information. More details.

The question is, do I have any more to give?


Pat’s Story

As I drove home from work Sunday afternoon, I realized I really missed my brother. I called him as soon as I got back to my hotel room. Walter answered on the first ring, smiling as his face filled the screen.

“Hey you. Did you get to watch the new NG yet?”

“Good to see you, too.”

He sighed. “How’s Hawaii?”

“Warm.”

“How’s the movie?”

I shrugged. “Just like all the others I’ve filmed.”

Walter smirked. “Yeah. Cuz you’ve filmed on location so many times.” He had a point.

“Okay. So, maybe it’s a little better than normal. How’s Hartfield?”

“I’m loving it here. You didn’t answer my question. Did you get to watch NG?”

I shook my head. “So, it’s on at like six o’clock here. I was still on set. But I caught it on demand before I went to bed. You get to watch it?”

Walter smiled. “Earlier today. Melinda and I hadn’t even gotten through the opening credits when Peters busted me for closing my door.”

“Hang on. You broke co-ed?”

Walter shrugged. “It was open a crack. She had gotten permission to be there. But, I thought we were in trouble. So he brings us back to his place and the whole time I’m wondering if I was going on restriction.”

“Mom would kill you.”

“Mom would take away my computer. So, Peters said that since we wanted to watch tv so badly, we should join him.”

I groaned. “What’d he make you watch?”

“NG.”

“No way.”

“Yeah. Melinda’s advisor. Mr. Price? That sound right?”

“Yeah. He’s my English teacher.”

“Well, he joined us and . . . well long story short, we’re forming a group that’s gonna watch the show together Friday nights.”

“I am so jealous. I had to watch it alone.”

“Well, when you come back, you’ll have to watch it with us.”

“Does that mean I’ll get to meet your girlfriend?”

“I don’t have a girlfriend.”

“What do you call the girl in your room last night?”

“Melinda.”

“I meant—”

Walter waved a dismissive hand. “Kidding. She’s not my girlfriend. Just a friend who’s a girl. Oh, but there’s this friend of hers I’m thinking of asking out. I’m just not sure, like, what to say.”

I smirked. “Wasn’t it just last month you were too shy to talk to girls?”

He shrugged. “It’s amazing. I am so at home here. I think because no one knows about you. I mean, that you’re my brother.”

“Gee thanks.”

“You know what I mean.”

I shook my head. “One more month. Then I’m gonna come bug you every chance I get.”

“I better go. It’s almost study hours.”

I glanced at my clock. “It’s barely lunchtime.”

“Night, Pat.”

“No, wait. Ask her to lunch. If you can, walk her to her next class. Ask if she wants to be your girlfriend.”

He smiled. “Thanks. I’ll think about it. Night.” He ended the call before I could say goodbye. My little brother was growing up without me. And I really missed him.

My sister didn’t have to study. I gave her a ring.

Lights were flashing behind her when she answered the call. “Hey, Pat. How’s LA?”

“I’m in Hawaii?”

She rolled her eyes. “Whatever.”

“Where are you?”

“Jenny brought me to some club. Olivia thinks we should go home, but I’m having a blast.”

She took a sip from a brightly colored drink. I raised my eyebrows. “What’s that?”

She rolled her eyes. “Relax. There’s no alcohol.”

“Yeah? What about sugar?”

She glared at me. “You’re starting to sound like Mom.”

“Meghan. You’re on your own. You’ve gotta start taking care of yourself.”

“You know what? I don’t need a lecture from my little brother.” She ended the call without saying goodbye.

I threw my phone across my bed. Meghan should know better by now. I worried about her. The last thing I wanted was her getting sick. Again.

There was a knock on my door. I looked up, leaping off the bed when I saw Dad.

“What are you doing here?”

“I missed my family. Arranged to work remotely with the band for a few days so I could spend the week with you and your mother.”

I hadn’t realized how much I had missed him the past few weeks. I gave him a big hug. I was as tall as him now. When had that happened?

“It’s so great to see you. I have the morning off tomorrow. We should go do something as a family.”

He smiled. “Your mom said the same thing.”


I had no idea what Dad had planned. We climbed into the car and he plugged the address into his phone. Mom drove, since she knew the area the best.

When we arrived at a place called Apapane Farms, I started to question my father’s idea of fun. Mom drove down a long drive, parking beside a convertible in the gravel lot.

I looked at the building in front of it. It looked like a large shack, albeit with a covered porch and a large deck. A wooden sign reminded me of the name of the farm. If it hadn’t, I would have probably assumed we were at some sort of tiki bar.

I raised my eyebrows as we got out of the car. “Where are we?”

Dad smiled. “You’ll see.”

I followed him inside the shack. The walls were covered with photos. People on long bridges over the rainforest. People ziplining through the forests. People picking bananas and other tropical fruits from the trees.

Dad smiled at the man behind the counter. “Adam Evans. We have an eight o’clock appointment?”

The man checked his computer, sending us the sidelong glances I was used to. I had grown my hair out for my last few movies. It made it more difficult for people to recognize me. But mom? She looked the same now as she had twenty years ago. Everyone recognized her. Then they recognized me.

I almost said something. But, I waited for the guy behind the counter. Dad paid and the man handed him a key.

“The lockers are over there. You need to completely empty your pockets. Keys, wallets, phones, everything. Anything too big for the locker needs to go back in your car. When you’re done, bring back the key. We’ll keep it safe for you until you get back.”

“Dad? What did you get us into?”

He laughed. “Relax. You’re gonna love it.”

I emptied my pockets. Wallet, keys. I didn’t want to, but dad made me put my phone in there, too. I felt naked.

The man directed us to the waiting area. There was a couple already there. They were whispering and making gooey eyes at each other. It was a little nauseating. I stood as far away from them as possible.

An energetic woman jumped into the middle of the room. “Are you ready for an amazing adventure?”

Her shouts practically echoed in the room. I didn’t bother responding. My parents did. Their shouts were louder than the woman’s. I stepped away from them, wishing I could crawl into a hole.

The woman smiled at us. I saw her smile falter. I knew she was trying to place us. Despite the fact that Dad was a famous musician and Mom and I had been in dozens of movies, it was a little hard to recognize us right away. We should probably just wear shirts that say CAVEmen and McGregors. Make it easier for everyone.

The woman didn’t call us out, though. She continued her spiel. “My name is Ariel and I’m going to be your guide today. Let’s gear up and we’ll get started.”

I had no idea what she was talking about. I stayed at the back of the group as we headed out a rear exit. A man was standing beside a rack of harnesses. The woman pointed to the couple. “Why don’t you two visit with Jonny. He’ll get you fitted. You three come over here.”

She walked to a neighboring rack and pulled down two harnesses. She passed them to me and Dad. “Have you ever worn one of these before?”

I shook my head. “No.”

“Yes,” replied both my parents. I stared at them as the woman passed a slightly smaller one to Mom.

“When?”

Mom smiled. “I had some wild stunts in Agent Mom.”

“Seriously?” I turned to Dad. “And you?”

“On the Flying Away tour, we had some aerials.”

I just shook my head. I learned new things about my parents every day.

With some help from Dad, I climbed into my harness. Ariel checked the straps were tightened properly and fitted us all with helmets.

Then, she led us outside. An all-terrain vehicle with three rows of seats was waiting for us. It had no doors. The couple climbed in first. Mom and Dad climbed in behind them. Ariel invited me to sit shotgun.

As she drove, Ariel described the rainforest around us. She told us about some of the animals that lived there, as well as the produce grown. This was one of the oldest working farms on the island.

It took about ten minutes for us to reach the top of the mountain. As soon as Ariel parked the car, I rushed to the platform. The view was incredible. We were at one of the highest points of the island. I could see the forest and farms we had just passed through. But, I could see beyond that to the ocean. I wasn’t positive, but I thought I could even see my school trailer in the distance.

Another guide was waiting to take our pictures. We lined up for a group shot, then took some family shots. The cameraman assured us that in addition to pictures of ourselves, we would be able to purchase pictures of the vistas.

Ariel led us along a boardwalk to a platform with another incredible view. There was also a small exhibit describing the history of farming in Hawaii. I read the display while everyone had their pictures taken.

Before i knew it, an attendant was strapping me into a zip line while Ariel attached herself to one beside me. She demonstrated what we were to do and jumped. I followed her lead.

This was what flying must feel like. I soared above the treetops. The rush was amazing. I had never felt so alive.

The line wasn’t very long. I could see the landing platform before we even jumped. Another attendant helped me uncouple myself and I went to enjoy the view.

For the next three hours, we explored the forest, traveling from one platform to another. Sometimes we took a zipline. Sometimes we crossed a sky bridge. Twice, we rappelled down a rockface.

At each landing, I stopped to read the educational exhibit. I learned more about Hawaiian history and culture than I knew about my own state.

About halfway through the encounter, we stopped for a snack break. I was starving. Ariel passed us each a banana. I was going to tell her I wasn’t a fan, but these were funny looking. They weren’t the kind I usually saw in the grocery store. They were shorter and plumper and smelled a little sweet.

I decided to try one. It tasted like a banana, but it had hints of apples and strawberries. I devoured it in three bites.

As I waited for the next zipline, I read the history of the apple banana. I wondered if I would be able to bring any home. Walter would love one. The guy loves to eat.

The aerial tour of the forest was one of the best experiences in my sixteen years. However, I couldn’t enjoy it completely. I wished I had someone with whom I could have shared this. Not necessarily a girlfriend, but a friend. My parents and the other couple each had each other, laughing and sharing things as they went down the ziplines or across the bridges. I was alone.

For the first time since reaching Hawaii, I was homesick. I missed my siblings.


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