Hartfield Chronicles

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Episode 22

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And now, without any further ado,

Episode 22


Melinda’s Story

Wednesday afternoon, I was sitting in the church hall waiting for my confirmation class when the conversation of the two girls beside me caught my attention.

“Did you hear about Meghan McGregor?”

“Yeah! I heard she was like, partying too hard and OD’d.”

“I heard she’s in a coma.”

I had no idea what they were talking about, but it sounded important. I pulled out my phone, pleased to discover I had a signal. It didn’t take long to find current headlines about Meghan McGregor. The girls hadn’t been lying.

I skimmed one article after another. Meghan McGregor had been rushed to the hospital earlier that afternoon after collapsing while shopping with friends. Although no one knew the cause, there were many articles suggesting that she had been taking drugs and that she was now in a coma.

I knew Walter would have texted me if he had any idea about this. I forwarded him one of the articles, hoping he wouldn’t get too mad at me.

“Hey.”

I looked up as Eliot sat beside me. I put away my phone with a smile. “Hey. How’s it going?”

Eliot shrugged. “Not bad. So, last week, when I asked if maybe we could get together, why didn’t you say you had a boyfriend ”

“Because I don’t.”

“Then who was that guy I saw you with the other day?”

I groaned. “Someone I never want to speak of again.”

Eliot smiled. “I could live with that. So, now that my aunt met you, she said that if you and I wanted to like, go to the movies or something, that would be okay with her.”

“I like that idea. Actually, a friend of mine was thinking of doing some sort of group thing with his girlfriend. Maybe I can invite them and like, my roommate and her boyfriend.”

Eliot smiled. “What about this weekend? Saturday?”

I shook my head. “I can’t. I’m going home for long weekend. We can do next weekend, though.”

“How about Saturday afternoon?”

“Well, my friends all have games, so Sunday would be better for a group thing.”

“Awesome.”

The lady with the clipboard clapped her hands together for attention. When the room was silent, she led us in prayer before dismissing us to our classrooms.

Deacon Bob began the session by discussing the importance of the homework assignments. He spent a long time emphasizing that we should consider this class to be as high a priority as any of our school classes. We should be putting in as much effort, if not more, into our classwork as our regular homework.

I wasn’t sure I could do that. I was already barely keeping my head above water. Deacon Bob ended his lecture explaining that he had only received emails from four of us. I breathed a sigh of relief. He hadn’t been talking to me.

The rest of the session was spent discussing the assigned chapter. It quickly became clear who had completed the assignment. Four of us inadvertently dominated the conversation. I almost enjoyed sharing my opinions with my classmates and Deacon Bob seemed pleased with my contributions.

Despite the invigorating conversation, my mind kept drifting back to Walter’s sister. What had caused her to collapse? Was she really in a coma? Was she going to be alright?


I again found the ninety minutes flew by. As I put my books away, I checked the time and found a text from Walter asking me to meet him in the church before I left. In the hall, I saw Eliot’s aunt speaking with the frazzled clipboard lady. I hovered nearby until the clipboard lady saw me.

“Ah, Melinda. Thank you for checking in. You may leave. I’ll see you next week.”

“Thanks.” I turned to Eliot standing beside his aunt. “I have to leave, but I’ll see you next week? And we can make better plans for the weekend.”

Eliot nodded. “Maybe I can call you this weekend?”

“Yeah. Sure.”

I headed into the stairwell with a wave. Upstairs, the church was empty except for a disheveled-looking Walter, who was kneeling in a pew near the back. I wordlessly sat beside him. When he had finished his prayer, he sat back in the pew and turned to face me.

“Thank you for sending me that article. I owe you big time.” He stood and I followed him out the church.

“I was hoping you wouldn’t be mad at me. I assumed you didn’t know.”

“No, I hadn’t heard. I happened to see your message around halftime. So, of course I had to read the article. And Coach started yelling at me for being on my phone, but I just showed it to him. The deans must all know about my family cuz he said I could leave the game and call home.”

“How is Mr. Birkenhead involved?”

“Huh? No, Coach Farnsworth is the fourth-form dean.”

“Oh. So, did you call your parents?”

“Yeah. They hadn’t heard either.”

“So are they on their way home?”

“Pat has to finish for the day, but they’re gonna try to leave tonight. They need to see if they can clear Pat’s schedule for tomorrow. But, even if they leave soon, it’ll still take a good ten hours to get here.”

“They have a direct flight?”

Walter gave her a sheepish look. “Um . . . sort of? Dad has his own plane.”

“So, they’re what? Picking you up when they land tomorrow?”

Walter shook his head, stopping at the bus stop in the center of town.

“No. I told Mom I was going to the hospital tonight no matter what. She made arrangements for me to leave early. Like, for the weekend.”

“Any news on your sister?”

“It’s not drugs.” He looked at me as if daring me to say otherwise.

“That’s good. Right?”

Walter nodded. “Meghan has diabetes. She’s had it for like, ever. Since before I was born. Mom was always really good about making sure she takes good care of herself, but without Mom, she has a difficult time managing it. I know she had trouble with it when she was here, and now that she’s on her own, partying with her friends, she’s struggling more. She doesn’t take care of herself the way she should and she’s embarrassed to tell people about it. Which is ludicrous.”

“So, how is she? She’s not really in a coma, is she?”

Walter nodded. “Mom’s been having trouble getting information, but she sent one of my aunts there. Last I heard, Meghan was still unconscious. They’re giving her enzymes or hormones or something to regulate her sugar levels and that should help wake her up. But, it’s pretty serious.”

“So, why are you here?” I gestured to the bench where we were sitting.

“I told you. I’m going to New York.”

“And is someone picking you up?”

“I convinced Mom I could navigate public transportation well enough to get to New York on my own.”

“Really?”

“It’s not that complex. A bus and a couple of trains. By the time I get there, it’ll probably be too late to go to the hospital. Mom said she’s gonna get someone to pick me up. Bring me to Granny and Pop-Pop’s. They live just outside the city. I just couldn’t stay here.”

“Do you have permission to leave school?”

Walter nodded. “Mom contacted the dean. I was copied on an email from him to my teachers.”

“Have you told Bella?”

Walter shook his head. “I pretty much just rushed around before I left. I told Peters I was leaving, but that’s it. Can you tell her for me?”

“She knows Meghan is your sister?”

Walter stared at me with wide eyes. “NO! No. I haven’t told anyone yet. Just tell her there was a family emergency.”

I gave him a quick hug as the bus approached. “Okay. You go be with your family. I hope Meghan gets better quickly.”

“Thanks.”

I waited for him to board, watching him take a window seat. He waved as the bus lumbered away. I made my way back to campus alone.


“Has anyone seen Walter?” Bella asked as she joined the dinner table that evening.

“He left our game at the beginning of the second half,” Larry responded. “Haven’t seen him since. Tried texting him, but he’s gone radio silent.”

I turned to Larry. “There was a family emergency. He had to go home.”

Bella looked horror-stricken. “Oh no! Is he alright?”

“He’s fine. He just said to tell everyone he had to leave.” Even though I wasn’t lying, I felt like I was holding back the truth. I stared at my plate, trying to make it seem my stir-fry was more interesting than this conversation. But, Bella wouldn’t let the matter drop.

“I’m his girlfriend. Why did he tell you and not me?”

“I ran into him when he was leaving.”

“He could have texted me.” Bella sent a pointed look at Larry as she picked up her phone. “I’ll text him right now. I bet he’ll answer me.”

He didn’t.


Melinda’s Journal

Thursday, September 28

I can’t believe I’m home again. It feels so weird after spending so much time at Hartfield.

My dad picked me up from school after dinner. He tried to ask how my classes were going, but I wasn’t really in the mood to talk. I wasn’t about to tell him the work was difficult and I was worried about failing out. So, I kept my answers short and let him listen to a baseball game the entire ride home.

My mom wasn’t much better. She accosted me as soon as I entered the house. But, I managed to escape her interrogation as well.

I’ve only been home a couple of hours and already miss my friends. I keep checking our group chats, but it’s been pretty quiet.

I haven’t heard from Walter since this morning, He left me a message that his sister was awake, but that was it.

I hope she gets well soon.


Pat’s Story

Wednesday dragged on forever. I was in more than half the scenes scheduled for the day. I barely had time to do my schoolwork.

Around suppertime, Henry yelled cut and called me to him.

“Patrick, great job. You’re done for today. I’ll see you Tuesday.”

I raised my eyebrows. “What’re you talking about?”

He gestured towards the trailers. “Your dad’ll fill you in. Your off til Tuesday.”

Baffled, I headed to wardrobe to change back into my own clothes. Dad was waiting for me. I sent him a curious look as I headed into the change room.

“What’re you doing here?”

“Your mom dropped me off. She needed to pack. I’ve been trying to get a flight crew together. We want to get airborne as quickly as possible.”

“But, I thought we weren’t going home til tomorrow.”

I emerged from the change room to see Dad shaking his head. “Change of plans. Meghan’s in the hospital.”

I swore. “What happened?”

“I don’t know. I’m going to guess and pray that it was her diabetes. But, because she’s eighteen, they won’t tell us anything. Your mother sent Aunt Margaret over to be with her. For now, I need you to pack for New York. You need schoolbooks?”

Dad followed me to the school trailer. I grabbed my computer and a novel for English class. But I left my textbooks. Studying could wait until I returned.

I drove home, since Dad still had no idea how to navigate the island. He filled me in on the essentials. We weren’t going home. We were staying in Long Island at Granny and Pop-Pop’s. They lived closer to the hospital where Meghan was being treated. He wouldn’t tell me about Meghan. Told me to wait until we were heading to the airport. The lack of information scared me, but I knew they were rushing to leave.

Mom was running around the suite in a panic. She rushed to hug me when I entered.

“Good you’re here. Are you packed for home? Do you want pizza for supper? Do you know if we have cereal on the plane? I should probably pack some.”

Dad put his hands on her shoulders. “Kara. Deep breath.”

I left him to deal with her. I went to my room to pack my duffel. I threw in clothes and a little red velvet sack. I grabbed the chargers for my phone and computer and was ready to leave in less than thirty minutes.

I forgot to pack underwear. Now I was ready. Sock would be nice, too. Oh. And I should probably pack pajama pants so I wasn’t wandering around Granny’s house in my boxers.

After ten trips back to my room, I loaded my duffel into my car. Mom and Dad had already packed their luggage into it. Mom had a lot of suitcases.

Dad sat with Mom in the back while I drove. Honolulu airport was on the other side of the island, nearly an hour away.

As we drove, Dad finally told me what was going on.

Walter had texted them a little before lunch. Meghan was all over the tabloids. She had collapsed while shopping with a friend. The hospital didn’t have any emergency contact information so no one knew to contact Mom and Dad.

Mom has six siblings, all of whom are married with kids of their own. Some of my cousins are old enough to be my parents. Despite the massive family, it took her half the day to find someone to sit with Meghan and help open the communication with the doctors.

Meanwhile, Dad explained the situation to Henry. I was already scheduled to take a long weekend Friday through Monday. We had built it into my contract. He agreed that this family emergency meant I could take tomorrow off as well.

As we drove, Dad contacted the hangar where his plane was stored. He had hired a three-man crew to fly us nonstop to Connecticut. A car would meet us there and bring us to Granny’s. Where Walter would be waiting for us.

I looked at my father in the rear-view mirror. “How’d he get there?”

I assumed one of my many uncles or aunts or cousins had picked him up at school. I hadn’t expected him to take a bus and two trains into the city.

“Did he go see Meghan?”

Mom shook her head. “No. He’s not even there yet. Pop-Pop is working tonight. He’s going to pick up Walter at Grand Central.”

Mom ordered some takeout that we picked up as we neared the airport. I knew the drill. After parking, I began carrying the luggage to the plane. I missed having my brother around to help me.

After storing the luggage in the cargo hold, I converted my chair into a bed while dad did his and Mom’s bed. We strapped into the other seats for takeoff.

We were in the air before six Hawaii time.

As I ate my supper, I sent Walter a video chat request. He denied it, texting me instantly that he was still on the train. Disappointed, I settled into bed with a movie, even though it was early. Near the end, Walter called me.

I smiled as his face filled my screen. “Hey. Where are you?”

“Long Island. What about you?”

I glanced out the window. “I have no idea. Probably still over the Pacific? Any word on Meghan?”

Walters face sobered. “Mom probably knows better. I’m getting my info third-hand. But, basically, she collapsed while shopping with friends today. Was unconscious for a while. She woke up a little while ago, but she’s really out of it.”

I nodded. “I warned her this weekend she needed to take care of herself. She stopped talking to me.”

Walter frowned. “Yeah, me too.”

I decided a change of topic was in order. “So, tell me about your girlfriend.”

He shrugged. “Her names Bella. We’ve studied together a couple of times, but we haven’t really had a chance to hang out. I was hoping to eat in town tonight, but obviously that didn’t happen.”

I shook my head. “MAC Attack is better. Save town for when you’ve been together longer.”

“Why?”

I shrugged. “MAC Attack has a lot of people. You don’t have to worry about splitting the check. You can always go play pool or go to the arcade. Plus, you can meet up there, so you don’t have to worry about making conversation on that long walk to town.”

Walter smirked. “Exactly how many times have you done this?”

I shook my head. “Can’t take credit for that one. Meghan gave me that advice when I was interested in asking out...someone.” I swore. “I can’t even remember who it was.”

Walter smirked. “Had that many girlfriends, huh?”

I sent him a very rude hand gesture.

Walter’s internal clock was about five hours ahead of mine, so we didn’t talk long before he was ready for bed. I finished the end of my movie before trying to go to sleep.


We landed around nine o’clock east coast time. A hired car was waiting for us. After dropping Mom at the hospital, the driver bought me and Dad to Granny and Pop-Pop’s house. Walter was waiting for us.

“When do we go to the hospital?” he asked after greeting us with hugs.

Dad sighed. “I would like a shower and breakfast. Your mother will call us when Meghan is ready for visitors. Right now, she’s still pretty confused.”

I turned to Dad. “Where am I staying?”

Walter smiled. “You and I get the sunroom.”

I hoped he was kidding. But, I followed him anyway. The room was a little larger than my dorm. It had two couches, both of which were covered with blankets and bed pillows. Walter’s bags were at the foot of one. I plopped my stuff by the other.

“We should have just gone home.”

Walter nodded. “I was thinking that. But, we’re a lot closer to the hospital here. Plus, Granny said she’s going to make us a full Irish breakfast.”

I raised my eyebrows. “What does that mean?”

He sent me a wicked grin. “You’ll see.”

I took a quick shower before joining my family in the kitchen. Granny had prepared bacon, sausage, fried eggs, toasted potato bread, fried tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms, baked beans, and hash browns. I couldn’t believe she even had this much food.

“You didn’t have to make all this,” Dad said as he sat down.

“Yes, she did.” Pop-Pop smiled at him. “It’s tradition. You always serve guests a full breakfast. Besides, normally she only cooks this on Sunday.”

Granny pointed a wooden spoon at him. “Tomorrow, you get oatmeal.”

“Better fill up today, then.”

I laughed as Pop-Pop began piling food onto his plate. Across from him, Walter was doing the same.

I looked back and forth between them a few times. Pop-Pop was nearly as gluttonous as my brother. How had I never noticed that before?

Mom called as we finished eating. Meghan was awake and alert enough for visitors.

Pop-Pop wiped his mouth on a napkin. “I’ll drive you into the city.”


Stay tuned. Episode 23 will be released on Tuesday, March 23.

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