Hartfield Chronicles

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Episode 19

Melinda’s Story

After art class Monday morning, I quickly placed my portfolio in my music locker and hurried towards the Science Center. I didn’t want to be late for my meeting with my physics teacher, even though he had told me that I could show up any time during his office hours. Just before bed last night, I had found two emails in my inbox. Both my physics teacher and math teacher had agreed to meet with me today. As soon as I read them, I sent Mike an email asking to meet before orchestra instead.

As I wandered the first floor of the Science Center, trying to find Mr. Wilson’s office, I realized Mike still hadn’t replied. I would have to get his phone number. Texting was so much easier than email.

I put the thought out of my mind as she knocked on Mr. Wilson’s open door. He gestured for me to come in. I sat in the visitor’s chair on the side of the desk against the wall.

“So, how can I help you, Melinda?”

I searched through my backpack for my physics binder, turning to Mr. Wilson as I pulled it out. “Well, it’s about my test. I’m not really sure what I’m doing wrong. I thought I understood the material, and I thought I was doing the math right, but I still only got a C.”

“Let me take a look at it.” He held out his hand. “I have too many students to remember each individual test.”

I shyly returned his smile as I passed him my test. He reviewed it silently for a moment, then placed it on his desk between us, turning it towards me.

“Well, let’s start with the first question. The problem here is that your answer is too concise. You need to give more of an explanation.”

“Um, do you mind if I write some notes on this?” I pulled a pen from my bag.

“Oh, by all means. This will be a valuable tool when studying for your final. I encourage you to make notes and corrections.”

I wrote too concise beside my answer, intending to look up the vocabulary word during my study time this week. “Um, I’m not sure what else I would write about it.”

I sat with my teacher for nearly twenty minutes as he reviewed each test question with me, helping me expand my answers. For the most part, I was able to provide adequate responses orally, and by the time we were done, he told me that if I had written everything I had just told him, I probably would have received a B on the test.

The second half of the test consisted of problems that I had to use a calculator to solve. I asked my teacher why I didn’t receive full credit for any of them, even though I was certain I had done them correctly.

Mr. Wilson examined the test carefully, checking his answer key as he did so. “Well, I see two problems here. First of all, you only received partial credit because you did not show your work. I’m not sure where you got some of these numbers. Why don’t you show me how you solved this one?” He pointed to the first problem.

I showed him what I did. He told me how he wanted me to write out each step of the equation, including all the information that was written in the word problem. I had made several simple math errors, such as when I multiplied two numbers instead of dividing them. Because I hadn’t shown my work, he wasn’t able to give me any partial credit.

Mr. Wilson went over each question with me. This time, I was able to do the calculations perfectly. By the time I left the office, I felt I understood the material from the last chapter a lot better. I was confident I could improve my grade by the next test.

I had about twenty minutes before my next class. I spent it in the fishbowl lounge. When I checked my email, I found one from Mike. He completely understood why I had canceled on him and thought he might set up a meeting with one of his own teachers during the second period.

I also had a text from my mother informing me that my father would be picking me up around seven Thursday night. I hadn’t seen them since they dropped me off during orientation. It took me a full five minutes before I figured out why he was coming. I was going home for the Fall Long Weekend.

I had mixed feelings about it. A couple of weeks ago, I would have been thrilled to go home. My first night at Hartfield, I had been incredibly homesick. But, this place felt more and more like home every day.

What was I going to do with four days at home?


My physics class that morning was so much easier to understand because I had already done the assignment last night. By the end of class, I decided that I was going to try as hard as possible to stay at least one day ahead in every class for the rest of the term.

After lunch, I knocked on Mr. Davidson’s open door, reminding him that I wanted to review my test with him. As I had with Mr. Wilson, I handed him my test and waited a few moments while he reviewed it. Unlike Mr. Wilson, Mr. Davidson didn’t see the need to review each problem individually. He handed the test back to me.

“While you are arriving at the correct answer, your reasoning appears very complicated. You need to be more concise, trying to find shorter ways to arrive at the solution. This will become increasingly more important as we move into proofs later in the semester.”

I wasn’t exactly sure what he meant by proofs, but I was pretty sure I understood what he was trying to tell me. I thanked him for his help, promising to try harder on the next test. After putting the test back into my bag, I headed towards my next class, spotting Walter and Sarah ahead of me on the path towards the Science Center.

“Sarah! Walter! Wait up!”

They both turned around, stopping while they waited for me to catch up.

“Hey. How’d it go?” Walter asked.

“Not bad. It’s kind of funny. My physics teacher says I need to use more words to explain my answers, but my math teacher wants me to use less.”

Sarah smiled at me as we waited to cross the street. “Well, as long as you don’t mix those up, you’ll probably do better next time.”

Walter punched my shoulder lightly. “I’m proud of you. You took the initiative to talk to your teachers.”

“Yeah. And, I’m less scared about visiting them again if I have to. Oh, and physics was so much easier today because I did the homework already.”

Sarah raised her eyebrows in my direction. “Why’d you do the homework already?”

I sighed. “Mike mentioned doing his math homework a day early so he could understand what his teacher was saying. I tried it this weekend in all my classes and it really helped in physics. So I’m going to try to keep it up all term.”

Walter groaned. “Ugh. I guess that means I will be, too.”

Sarah and I giggled as she headed to her physics class. Walter and I continued through the Science Center to Latin class.

As he dismissed the class, Mr. Henderson returned our quizzes from Saturday. I was surprised to see a B at the top of the page. I had thought for sure I had failed. As I headed towards math, I skimmed through my teacher’s marks. It was easy enough to see where I had made my mistakes. I had mostly lost points for misspelling words or translating things incorrectly. A couple of times, I used the wrong ending on a word, such as when I said he walks instead of they walk. While I wished I could have received an A, I was at least happy that I understood my mistakes. And that no one was telling me I was being too concise or not concise enough.

At the end of the day, Mr. Johnson returned both my vocabulary journal and my essay. I had put a lot of effort into my essay and was disappointed to see a C on the last page. I decided to risk being late to dance. I wanted to see if I could discuss it with Mr. Johnson as soon as class was over.

He again dismissed the class as he handed out our journals. I accepted mind, standing just inside the door while he returned the rest. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Mike waiting for me in the hallway, but I said nothing. As soon as the last person received his journal, I approached my teacher with my essay in my hand.

“Um, Mr. Johnson? I was wondering if you had a moment to discuss my essay.”

“Of course, Melinda.” Mr. Johnson stopped collecting the papers on the table in front of in him and returned to his seat. He motioned for me to sit beside him. I handed him my essay as I did so.

“I read your comments, that you liked my thoughts, but that I need to use more quotes to support my ideas. The thing is, I don’t really understand what that means.”

Mr. Johnson held the paper so we could both view it. He pointed to my first sentence. “Right here, you state what we will call your thesis, or your main idea.” I tried to remember the word to write in my vocabulary journal. It sounded important.

Mr. Johnson pointed to the next sentence. “The rest of your paper should explain this main idea. You have started to do that. Now, what you need to do is go back to the myths and find sentences in the stories that support what you are saying. You then put those in your paper in quotation marks. Does that make sense?”

I considered for a moment. “I think so. So, if I highlighted something important in the story and it’s saying the same thing I’m saying in my essay, I should add the highlighted sentence to my essay?”

Mr. Johnson nodded. “If you would like, you may rewrite this paper, adding in those quotes. When you have done so, send me an email and we can set up a time to meet, even if it’s after class as we are doing now. I can show you then how to format and cite the quotations properly. For now, any time you add a quote, after the quote write in parentheses the page number on which you found the statement. Does that make sense?”

I nodded. “I would love to rewrite it. Thank you so much.” I packed the essay into my backpack and left the classroom, nearly crashing into Mike just outside the doorway.

“Oh, hi.” I regained my balance and started heading to the stairwell beside him. “You didn’t have to wait for me.”

Mike shrugged. “I thought I would. I got your message about this morning. I figured I’d walk back to the dorm with you. Unless you want to hang out for a few minutes in the rotunda.”

I glanced at my watch. I didn’t want to offend him. “I would love to hang out with you, but I really need to hurry so I’m not late for tap. I’ll meet you at the Arts Center tonight, okay?”

“Excellent, excellent.”

Thankfully, he didn’t seem to feel slighted. We headed down the stairwell in silence. I wanted to say something, but I still had no idea what. Finally, Mike broke the silence as they exited the building.

“So, how’d you do on your paper?”

“Not too bad.” Would he consider a C to be good or bad? Either way, I wasn’t sure I wanted to tell him my actual grade.

“Mr. Johnson obviously didn’t read the papers very well, since he only gave me a B and I know I wrote an A paper. I should probably say something to him, but I think I’ll wait until after the next one before I mention it. Maybe he’ll read them more carefully next time.”

I was pretty sure Mr. Johnson had read the papers thoroughly. Mike probably deserved his B, although I guess I couldn’t really be sure without reading the comments. Thankfully, we reached the side entrance to Stanton, so Mike simply waved, saying he would meet me later. He headed into the building as I continued to my own dorm.

Sarah had already changed her clothes for field hockey practice and was sitting on her bed so casually that it was obvious she waiting for me to return.

“So, why’d you stay after? Everything okay?”

I pulled a leotard out of my drawer and began changing for dance class. “Yeah. It was no big deal. I got a C on my paper, but I didn’t understand Mr. Johnson’s comments, so I wanted to ask him what he meant. He told me I could rewrite the paper and explained what I did wrong. He liked my ideas, I just need to put in more information.”

“Oh, good. I thought you were in trouble or something. I was going to wait for you, but it was obvious Mike was, I figured I would just catch up with you here. I got a B-plus, because I didn’t make a solid enough argument. But, one C isn’t that bad, right?”

I shook her head as I tied back my hair. “I’m really not too worried, especially since he said I could make it up. And, I’ve been doing better on the vocab quizzes, so I think I’ll be okay. Oh, I was supposed to meet up with Mike this morning, but I couldn’t, so I’m meeting him at the Arts Center before Orchestra. I’m eating early, if you want to join me. But, if you want to wait for Larry, I completely understand.”

Sarah jumped off the bed and grabbed her sports bag. I grabbed my dance bag and we headed out of the building towards our afternoon activities. “Nah, I’ll join you. Larry can get his own dinner.”


Melinda’s Journal

Monday, September 25

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


Pat’s Story

After such a thrilling adventure, I was in no mood to go to work that afternoon. I wanted to do schoolwork even less.

“Where were you?” The tutor declared as I stepped into the school trailer.

I shrugged. “I had the morning off.”

“You were due to be back an hour ago.”

“I was. I’ve been in makeup. Then gave my dad a tour of the set. Don’t worry. I know all my lines.”

“I’m more concerned about the history essay you owe me.”

I frowned. “Isn’t that supposed to be a timed essay? In class assignment?”

Naomi frowned. “Yes. Which is why I need you here. In class.”

“Well, you need to coordinate with Henry to figure out when I have an hour free for that.”

“He said to do it this morning.”

I sighed. “Well, obviously, I didn’t. So you need to check with him again.”

I could almost see steam coming from her ears. “Patrick. I know you think you’re smarter than me, but I am the tutor and you need to show me some respect.”

I shrugged. “Okay. I’m gonna to over to my room and see if my friend sent me the notes for my physics lab. You let me know when you’re ready for that essay.”

The school trailer had two rooms with a bathroom and small hallway between them. Naomi had accosted me in the hallway. She flounced back to the larger classroom, where Tommy and Matt had their lessons. I went over to my room.

Technically, Hana shared the room with me. She had a desk and there were some books on it. But, since she was in college, she could make her own hours. And she preferred to study at home after work.

So I wasn’t surprised to have the room to myself. I probably had enough time for that history essay. But, I liked irritating Naomi. It was so easy.

On our first day of classes, she had greeted the three of us like we were five. She had a new degree in elementary education and couldn’t wait to put it to use. After settling the eleven-year-olds with some sort of craft, she wanted to review my coursework. At the time, I only had my summer math class. She saw the word pre-calculus and freaked out.

When I got the syllabi for my fall term classes, I thought she would pass out. AP physics, honors biology and English, Latin IV, and British History. I knew she didn’t know anything about any of those subjects. She seemed to take it personally, though, accusing me of thinking I was smarter than her. I would never say anything like that, although I may have corrected her grammar on more than one occasion.

Since then, she mostly just yelled at me for deadlines. I had to take tests in her presence because she didn’t trust me not to cheat. Personally, I didn’t care. I had been homeschooled most of my life and knew how to study independently.

By the time I was called to the set, I had completed most of my work for the week. I had a few tests I needed to take with Naomi and I was waiting for my science teachers to email me the data from our labs so I could do the lab reports. Otherwise, but the rest of my assignments were done. I could focus on learning my lines.


I walked from the production tent to towards my fictional brother. Matt was playing alone by the shore. He wasn’t exactly building sandcastles. Just kind of moving sand from one place to another. Every so often, he would glance at the group of kids playing a short distance away. He reminded me of my real brother.

Two years ago, we spent a week with my grandparents while Meghan was filming Zombie High. I had made a few friends and we would spend our days riding our bikes around the town beach and park. Walter was the annoying little brother and wasn’t invited. He wore that same despondent look I saw on Matt’s face as I approached.

I tried to show that pity in my facial expressions. “Hey, Squirt.”

Of course, he didn’t look up. I waved my hand in front of his face. He jumped a little as he looked at me.

I pointed to my watch, then made a circle with all my fingers together. Extending my pointer finger, I tapped the circle against my mouth a couple of times.

“Time for dinner.”

“Cut!” yelled the ASL interpreter.

“Cut!” yelled the director.

I pointed in his direction so Matt would know to watch. Henry looked at the interpreter. “You’re not allowed to yell cut.”

“I’m sorry. But I have no idea what Patrick just signed.”

“Time for dinner.” Matt and I signed in unison as I said my line aloud.

She shook her head as she made her way to us. “That’s not how you sign dinner.” She spelled the word.

Matt and I exchanged glances, then nodded towards the interpreter. “Yeah, it is.”

My friend Frankie appeared behind the interpreter. He tapped her on the shoulder and they held a brief exchange. Matt got involved as well. I stayed out of it, but I mostly understood their conversation. Matt and Frankie both agreed that while my sign wasn’t exactly ASL, it was what their families used.

When the interpreter didn’t believe them, Matt insisted on calling his older sister in California, even though his mother was standing with the director. Frankie called his younger sister back in Connecticut. They both had their sisters tell the interpreter it was time for dinner. Although I couldn’t see the screens, the interpreters sour face led me to believe they had proven her wrong.

Ultimately, she agreed I should sign the line as I had, although she suggested brushing my hand along the corner of my mouth instead of tapping the center. I had no problem with that.

Matt and Frankie chatted with their sisters for a good half hour while the director took a quick bathroom break. It made me miss my own sister. Even though I had sent her numerous texts today, she hadn’t responded, other than to leave her alone. I wanted to call Walter, find out if he had asked out that girl, but he was probably at dinner. Or study hours. Or someplace he couldn’t talk.

For the first time in my life, I was filming a movie without my siblings around. And it was incredibly lonely.

We had to film the scene a couple dozen times. Most of our takes were pretty good, but the director wanted them from a ton of different angles. It took over an hour to film a scene less than a minute long.

Finally, Henry was ready to move on to the next scene. Matt and I were having a heart to heart. Well, our characters were. I tried to think of the last time Walter asked me for advice. I channeled some of that emotion into the scene.

Henry must have liked it because we finished in five takes. Matt and I had a break while Tommy and Hana did a few scenes. I went back to my classroom.

Naomi was long gone. She only worked from nine to three. She didn’t care that some of us liked to do our assignments outside those hours. But, not right now. I was just seeking solitude.

I sent Walter a video chat request. He quickly denied the call. Before I could start sending him angry emoji and death threat gifs, he texted me that it was study hours.

He wasn’t supposed to be on the phone, but he didn’t seem to mind texting me. He told me all about his new girlfriend and asked for ideas of where they could go to hang out. I couldn’t believe how much he had grown up in the last month.

I filmed one more scene before I was done for the night. It was Hana and me at sunset. Our characters were meeting for the first time. She was supposed to be shy while I was supposed to be a little more forward. We only had a short window to get it right.

Hana’s mother stopped her nearly every line to correct her pronunciation. Tommy’s mother and the Japanese translator were also offering advice. Personally, I couldn’t hear any differences but they seemed to.

By the time Hana was able to say her lines like a Japanese native, we were running out of daylight. I smiled and turned on the charm.

Possibly a little too much. Hana kept smiling when she wasn’t supposed to. After thirty takes, we lost the light. Henry wasn’t sure he had gotten the right angle, so he put us on the schedule to redo this scene tomorrow at the same time.

I was done for the day, although my contract stated I was to remain on set until the director declared an end of day. He didn’t mind us arriving late, but he hated the idea of us leaving early.

My parents didn’t have to be there. When I disappeared in the school trailer, they had headed home. At some point, they returned to drop off my car. I found it parked in the lot at the end of the day.

I returned my clothes to the wardrobe trailer and went back to my classroom. Walter was probably sleeping. I tried calling Meghan, but she responded with a text saying “Leave me alone”. With a sigh, I pulled out my script for tomorrow.

Meghan and I grew up doing movies together. We always studied our lines together. When Walter was old enough, he would read through the other parts for us.

Although this wasn’t my first movie without Meghan, it was the first one my siblings weren’t with me. I had to rehearse my lines alone.


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Stay tuned. Episode 20 will be released on Friday, March 12.

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