Hartfield Chronicles

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Episode 21

Melinda’s Story

The next morning, I was a little surprised when I brought my breakfast tray to my usual table and found Bella sitting beside Walter. As I placed my tray opposite them, I thought I saw Bella narrow her eyes at me. I sat down and when I looked in their direction again, Bella was smiling sweetly.

“Good morning! What class do you have?”

“Art. What about you?”

“English. Walter has a free period, but he woke up early to have breakfast with me.”

I nodded as Sarah sat beside me. I knew Walter liked to wake up at dawn everyday to go for an early morning run. But, if Bella wanted to believe he was up for her, that was fine by me. She didn’t seem to be looking for my response anyway. She was too busy making plans with Walter.

“So, I was thinking. What do you think about having dinner in town, Walter? Just you and me. Pizza?”

“I don’t know. I should probably work on my programming project.”

“Oh, that’s a great idea. I can grab a pizza and bring it to your dorm. We can eat while you work on the project.”

I tried to stifle a giggle when I saw the look of horror on his face. He downed an entire glass of orange juice in one gulp before responding.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Bella. I’m not comfortable having girls in my room.”

“Oh, it’s no big deal. You just ask your advisor for co-ed.”

“Tell you what. I’ll bring my computer to the MAC. We can eat there. How does that sound?”

“Well, it’s not pizza, but at least we’ll be able to spend some time together.”

“Hey, why don’t I walk you to class?”

“Okay.” Bella bounced out of her seat and pranced to the dish room with her tray. I waited until I saw Bella and Walter pass the servery before turning to my roommate and speaking in a low voice.

“Okay. I don’t know what it is, but I get this weird vibe when I’m with Bella. There’s something about her that I just don’t like.”

Sarah waved a fork at me. “Could it be you’re jealous?”

I gave an exasperated sigh. “I don’t like him. You don’t sense something off?”

“Nope. I think she’s good for Walter.”


As some sort of side effect of breaking up with Mike, I seemed to be more aware of the couples around me all day. Everywhere I walked, people were holding hands or had their arms around each other. It made me just a tad uncomfortable. I hadn’t minded the idea of having a boyfriend. I had just picked a bad one.

English class was difficult that afternoon. Because my math teacher had kept us late, Sarah and I were among the last to arrive in the classroom. The only available seats were the ones on either side of Mike. Despite the fact that we had been hanging out, I had never actually sat next to him in class before. I wasn’t sure if he had saved those seats for me or if the rest of the class had thought I might want to sit with him. Or maybe everyone else had realized how creepy he was and was giving him a wide berth.

Whatever the case, I was forced to sit beside him. Sarah sent me a sympathetic look, letting me have the seat closer to Mr. Johnson. I angled myself in a way that allowed me to focus my attention on the teacher without even glancing at Mike.

We spent the entire period discussing the Greek myth we had been assigned last night. Only about half the class was participating and I suspected the rest hadn’t done the reading. I had no problem connecting this story to ones we had read previously. Mr. Johnson seemed very pleased with my participation.

Mike was one of the classmates not participating on the discussion. Every so often, I thought I felt an arm on the back of my chair. Without looking in his direction, I would shift the seat slightly and the arm would disappear.

At the end of class, Mike was one of the first people out of the room. I took my time packing my bag, leaving the room with Sarah by my side. Mike was waiting just over the threshold.

“Hey. Can we talk?”

I walked right past him, but he didn’t get the hint. He was on my tail as we entered the stairwell.

“Look, I’m sorry about yesterday.”

At the third floor landing, more students flooded into the small space. Knowing it was rude, I cut in front of an upper-former, trying to put some distance between me and Mike. By the second floor landing, I could hear people behind me swearing. By the time I emerged onto the first floor, Mike had pushed his way beside me again.

“Please, can we talk?”

I exited the building before turning to face my ex-boyfriend. “There is nothing to talk about. I want nothing to do with you. If you don’t stay away from me, I’ll get my advisor involved. Understand?”

I huffed off without waiting for a reply. Sarah didn’t catch up with me until we reached our room.

“Hey. Sorry. I got separated from you in the crowd. Everything okay?”

I nodded. “I’m not really in the mood to talk about it. Sitting next to him and then just now when I told him to leave me alone? I feel like I need a shower. I’m hoping I’ll be able to dance some of it away.”

She gave me a comforting hug. “It’ll get better. We’ll find you a new boyfriend and you can forget about what’s-his-name.”


When I was ten, my dance school hired a new ballet teacher who was very brusque. By October, ballet had become a chore instead of being fun, and I had decided to quit.

When I first met Madàm Cherí at Hartfield, I worried about how much I would enjoy the class. Would she be as horrible as my last ballet teacher? However, over the past week and a half, I had discovered the class was a lot of fun, even if Madam Cheri was strict. The moves were a little more difficult than tap class, mostly because I was out of practice, but I found myself able to keep up.

During the warmups, I closed my eyes and let the music guide me. I could hear Madàm Cherí calling out each move. I performed them in a fluid motion. Dancing allowed me to clear my head and think. I performed each motion with a little more stretch than usual. As I pulled, I let myself forget about Mike. By the time we moved the barre to the back wall, he was a distant memory.


I was surprised when Walter walked into the study room alone Tuesday night. “I thought Bella was studying with us.”

Walter shrugged. “She said she had to do something. Didn’t say what.”

We were finishing our math assignment when Bella finally arrived, rushing into the room with a plate of cookies in her hand.

“Walter! I made these for you.”

“Thanks.” Walter eagerly bit into one. “Tis is leerly guh.”

I rolled my eyes. I doubted there was a food Walter wouldn’t eat. But something didn’t seem quite right. I sent Bella a curious look.

“How did you make these?”

“Well, they’re a box mix. Just add water. I didn’t have what I needed to make them from scratch.”

“But, like, how did you cook them? Where’d you get an oven?”

“Oh, I have a little one under my bed.”

Walter held out the plate. “Wan won?”

Under other circumstances, I probably would have agreed. But, Bella was staring daggers at me behind Walter’s back. I shook my head and started working on my physics assignment.


Melinda’s Journal

Wednesday, September 27

Ode to Oakville

Frantic people rushing

Here

There

Car horns honking

Everywhere

Do these people notice?

Do they stop to see?

The flowers in the boxes,

The leaves on the tree?

The wares in the store,

The birds in the shrub,

The scrumptious smell of dinner

Emerging from the pub?

Frantic people rushing

Hurry

Worry

Car horns honking

Road rage fury

Can they feel the nostalgia

As they race around?

That colonial atmosphere

Inspired by the town?

The quaint little churches

The firehouse down the way

The brick and stone buildings

Still dressed for Labor Day?

Frantic people rushing

Oblivious

Uncurious

Car horns honking

Growing furious


Pat’s Story

Pat will return in the next episode.


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Stay tuned. Episode 22 will be released on Friday, March 19.

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