Hartfield Chronicles

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Episode 24

Pat’s Story

Meghan was released from the hospital on Sunday. She wanted to go back to her apartment, but Mom insisted she come back home to Connecticut with us. She didn’t like this idea very much. As soon as we got home, she huffed off to her room, mumbling things such as “eighteen years old” and “don’t need a stupid babysitter.”

I went to my own room, grateful to be home, even if it was only for one night. I flopped on my bed, sending my friends some video chat requests.

Zach answered first. “Hey man. How’s LA?”

“I have no idea. I’m in Connecticut.”

He furrowed his brow. “I thought you were filming and not in school.”

“I was. I am. I’m home for the weekend. Heading back to Hawaii tomorrow. How’s Cádiz?”

“A-mazing. I never want to come home.”

“Yeah? Did you go ziplining through a rainforest?”

His confused look was almost comical. “No. We go to this amazing club over in Gibraltar. Like, every other night. The girls that meet us there? Incredible.”

He looked enamored. I smiled. “You find a special one?”

“Man, they’re all special. Especially after a few drinks.”

I raised my eyebrows. “You’re drinking?”

“Only at the club.”

“Every other night.”

He shrugged. “It’s a thing here.” He glanced over his shoulder. “Oh. Hey. I gotta jet. We’re heading over there now. I’ll talk to you later.”

He ended the call before I could say goodbye. Realizing I was hungry, I was about to scrounge around the kitchen when I realized I should check on my sister. I knocked on her door.

“Go away.”

I tried the knob. It was unlocked. I opened the door just enough to pop my head through. “I was going to make a snack. You want something?”

Meghan glared at me from her bed. “A bacon double cheeseburger. With fries and a soda.”

“While that sounds delicious, I have no idea how to make that. I was thinking—" I swore. “I don’t even know what you can eat.”

Meghan smiled as she climbed off her bed. “Come on. Lets see what Hannah can make for us.”

The housekeeper was busy helping Mom and Dad pack, so Meghan and I made salads with ham and cheese and nuts. She even boiled some eggs for us to crumble on top. When we sat at the table, I saw the box of insulin vials we had brought home from the hospital. I gestured to it.

“So, now that you have your fancy schmancy pump, so you need to prick your finger anymore?”

She frowned, digging through the fanny pack on her waist. “Unfortunately, yes.” She pulled out her little tester, placing her finger inside it. A moment later, it beeped. I watched her check the readout before fiddling with her phone.

“Where’s your log book?”

Meghan waved her phone. “There’s an app. Actually, I’m using the same app controlling my phone. The numbers have been pretty close all day.”

“Do you need to give yourself a shot before you eat?”

She smiled. “Watch this.”

I looked over her shoulder as she entered the salad ingredients into the app. It calculated how many grams of carbs were in the meal and how much insulin she needed to inject before eating.

None of this was new. She had been doing it for nearly fifteen years. Well, mom had been making her do it.

Meghan unclipped her pump from the waistband of her jeans. She pressed a couple of buttons and it showed her current blood sugar. She pressed a few more buttons and it did the calculations she had just done on her phone.

A minute later, she sat back with a satisfied smile. “Done. Bolus injected.”

“Seriously?” I stared at her in awe.

“Yup. Oh. And there’s a timer...” She fiddled with her phone a moment. “There. It’ll remind me to check levels in two hours.”

I smiled. “You just like the new gadgets.”

“This is so much easier! And, my doctor said that in a couple of weeks, I can stop checking as often. I just need to wait to make sure the pump is really learning.”

“Sick!” I was happy that she was finally taking such an interest in her health. I just hoped she would be able to learn to take care of herself while playing with her new toys.


After a family supper, we played board games in the game room until nearly midnight. For a little while, we were able to forget that I was shooting a movie on location, that Walter was away at school, and that Meghan was sick. For the first time in months, we felt like a family again.

Monday morning, I even got to go running with my brother. I smiled at him as we made our laps on the homemade track around the house. “I missed this.”

“Maybe when you get back, we can go running together at school.”

“Did you try that route I sent you?”

“Yeah. Modified it a little. It ended up being too short for thirty minutes.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Really? I’m surprised. It used to take me longer.”

Walter shrugged. “I think we’re running faster lately. We should start timing ourselves.”

It wasn’t a bad idea. I made a mental note to do that when I got back to Hawaii.

After our run, I showered and went to find some breakfast. Hannah was still cooking, so I grabbed some juice and joined my father at the table. Walter came downstairs as Hannah placed a large bowl of eggs on the table. There was also pancakes, yogurt, and a lot of fruit.

After shoving a forkful of pancakes in his mouth, Walter turned to Dad. “I forgot to bring some of my books home for the long weekend. I wanted to catch up today. How early can you bring me back?”

Dad frowned. “I still need to pack for Hawaii. Your mom is going to drive us to the airport. Maybe she can drop you off after our flight?”

“When you leaving?”

“We’re aiming for three, but I’m still waiting to hear from Eddie.”

I turned to Dad. “I can drive him. It’s been six months. I can drive him now.”

Dad’s expression brightened. “That would help me big time. I’ll run it by your mother. You know how she is.”

“What does that mean?”

We all turned to see Mom entering the kitchen, followed by Meghan. Dad winked at us before turning to Mom. “That you look lovely this morning.”

She pursed her lips. “Nice try.”

I smiled at her. “I offered to drive Walter back to school so you and Dad could finish packing. He doesn’t want to get back too late because he’s a geek and wants to do his homework.”

Walter kicked me under the table. It hurt. But, I didn’t say anything. I was too busy watching Mom’s reaction. She seemed to be seriously contemplating the idea. While she considered, I turned to my sister beside me. She was busy entering her menu into her phone.

“You can come with us.”

She didn’t bother looking up. “Why would I want to do that?”

“To get out of the house.” I leaned closer to whisper softly enough that only she could hear. “To get away from Mom.”

Apparently, I wasn’t quiet enough. Mom glared at me. “I heard that.”

I shrugged. “Just saying. Maybe we can have lunch while we’re there.”

Walter shook his head. “No. You two can’t take me.” He glanced around the table. “None of you can bring me. I’ll just--”

Meghan rolled her eyes. “Walter, stop being a baby.” She turned to Mom. “I can drive him.”

Mom shook her head. “No, you can’t. What if your levels drop while you’re driving?"

“Besides the fact that the pump will beep and my phone will ring, I would probably feel lightheaded and pull over. This isn’t anything new. I know what to do.”

Mom looked between me and my sister. “I’m not thrilled with the idea of either of you driving.” She sighed, glancing at the ceiling. I had a feeling she was trying to look through the floor to her bedroom. She turned back to us. “Fine. Pat can drive.” She held out a hand when it looked like my sister might interrupt. “You haven’t been behind the wheel in months. Pat has.” She turned to me. “You’re to drive straight to the school and back. No joyriding.”

I made an X over my heart. “Promise.”

She turned to Walter. “You’re not to distract him. The radio stays off. You all turn on that locator app on your phones so I know where you are at all times.”

By the time Mom finished her long list of rules, I had finished eating. With her permission, I ran upstairs to finish packing.



Melinda’s Story

Monday morning, I was awakened by the chirping of my phone. Checking the readout, I couldn’t help but smile. Walter had finally returned to the digital world. Since he had sent me a text asking when I was returning to campus, I figured he was awake enough for a video chat.

“Hey. How was your long weekend?”

Walter shrugged. “Not bad, considering the circumstances. When you getting back? I wanna show you something.”

“Show me now.”

“I can’t. I’ll show you later. I want to get back early. Like, lunchtime. Join me?”

“I’ll see if I can.”

“Did you get to watch NG this weekend? I totally was not expecting that ending.”

“Yeah, I knew she had the parasite. Eliot missed it, too.”

“Who?”

“I’ll check with my parents. Text you when I’m heading back to campus. Later.”

I ended the call before Walter had a chance to respond and headed downstairs. Both my parents were enjoying their coffee and toast while reading the morning newspaper, a habit they shared most mornings.

I brought the coffee pot to the table to refill their mugs. “Hey, Dad? I was just wondering when you would be able to bring me back to school today? A friend of mine was asking.”

He took a sip. “You didn’t really do much while you were home. Do you want me to bring you back after dinner?”

“Well, I need to be back by study hours. But, I kinda wanted to go earlier. Unpack, maybe catch up with some friends.”

My mother sent me a curious look. “Didn’t you spend most of your weekend texting them?”

“Not really. Just Sarah, and that was only a couple of times a day. Most of my other friends weren’t really on their phones that much.”

My dad frowned in thought. “I have a phone call I need to make at two. I could bring you now and I should be able to be in the office by two, or you can wait until around three-thirty and you will be back on campus for dinner. Which would you rather?”

“I wouldn’t mind going now, if that’s okay with you.”

My father nodded, bringing his mug upstairs to finish getting ready for work. I helped my mother clear the table and toast some frozen waffles.

She looked at me with concern. “Was it really that bad being home?”

“No. Home was fine. It’s just that there’s a lot I want to get done at school today.” I put the waffles on a plate and drowned them in artificial butter and real maple syrup before sitting at the table with a glass of orange juice.

“Okay. I was just worried about you after Friday night. I thought maybe you would want to get together with Brittney and Casey again this weekend, but I haven’t heard you mention them. Is everything okay?”

How could I tell my mother what had happened without getting my friends in trouble? “Did I tell you I bumped into Eliot Mason in Oakville? He was visiting his aunt.”

“No, you didn’t mention that.” My mother sat across from me at the table. “But, I did talk to his mother in church last weekend. I was under the impression he was sent there as a punishment.”

“I don’t really know the details. But, I got the impression he was an innocent bystander. Anyway, he’s in my CCD class and he mentioned that when school started, everyone changed. Well, I didn’t really get it until Friday, but that included Brittney and Casey. They’re different and I don’t really think I can be friends with them anymore. It just isn’t the same as it used to be.”

My mother gave me a smile that was both understanding and reassuring. “Tell me about your new friends. Were you able to find a CCD mentor?”

I swallowed the last of my waffle with a nod, then finished my juice in one gulp. “I have a friend who helps me with some of my homework. Well, we help each other, I guess. Anyway, he was confirmed last year and he volunteered to be my mentor. He even went to church with me last weekend.”

“I see. What else can you tell me about him?”

I decided to ignore the hint of concern in her voice. “Well, he’s super smart. He plays football. He has a tendency to talk with his mouth full.” I shrugged. “I dunno. Oh, his parents travel a lot, so he was homeschooled.”

“I see. And do you spend a lot of time with this boy?”

Ugh. Why did everyone always assume there was something between me and Walter? “Walter and I are just friends. I promise. I really don’t like him that way. And, I know he feels the same way about me. Actually, I was thinking of maybe going to the movies with a bunch of friends and inviting Eliot.”

“Sort of like a group date?” When I nodded, my mother frowned. “I’m not thrilled with the idea of you dating, but I also know there is not much I can do about it while you’re away at school. I’m glad you told me about it, though. And, I like Eliot. He’s a good boy. I think it’s a good idea that his parents sent him away to get him away from those other boys.”

“So, it’s okay if I go to the movies with him? And Walter and Bella and Sarah and Larry, and maybe some others?”

My mom nodded as she rose from the table. “Are you all packed for school? Your father will need to leave in half an hour if he’s going to get to Hartfield and back before two.”

I hurried to my room, sorting through my clean laundry pile to figure out if there were any other clothes I wanted to bring to school. When I was completely packed, I sent Walter a quick text that I would meet him in the dining hall in about two hours.

I shouted goodbye to my brother, who had yet to emerge from his room, before heading downstairs. After giving my mother a quick hug, I climbed into my father’s car.


By some magical mystery, we hit none of the usual morning traffic that tends to plague Connecticut and pulled up to Woodward less than two hours after leaving home. My dad carried my box of snacks into my room, but he didn’t linger. He was anxious to get home before his meeting.

I wandered down the hall towards the Price apartment, knocking on the door. It was open, barricaded with a plastic baby gate intended to reign in the toddlers who lived on its other side. I smiled when Mr. Price appeared.

“Hi. I wasn’t sure if I needed to check in now or not, but I’m back on campus.”

“We don’t need to know until study hours, but I personally like knowing earlier. Especially you. I’ve been waiting for you to get back on campus. That ending the other night. Was that completely shunk or what?”

I had forgotten he was a fellow NGer. “Am I the only one who realized she had been infected?”

“You knew?”

“Shunk, yeah. She got infected when she was working in the lab. The next scene, she started acting different. Then there was the steak.”

“I saw all that when I watched it the second time around. Are you saying you caught it the first time?” I nodded and Mr. Price continued. “I am so going to enjoy watching it with you Friday night.”

I waved, returning to my room to grab my backpack. It was essentially empty except for my phone and journals, but I felt strange having a meal without it.

I was wandering through the servery, exploring my options, when I heard a slight groan and a familiar voice. “Why do you have your backpack? Could you be any wonkier?”

Smiling, I turned to Walter. “What’s wonkier mean?” I grabbed a grilled chicken sandwich and some fries before heading to the center island to fill a couple of glasses with water.

He followed me without a tray, placing his burger on my tray and filling two glasses of water for himself. “In this case, a wonk is someone who spends too much time studying and has no social life. And I meant it as a joke, because you’re not. Anyway, come sit with us.” He grabbed his waters and led the way to the small section.

I had assumed us to mean Larry and maybe some of our other friends. Walter went straight to a table in the back where an older boy and girl were sitting. I recognized their profiles almost immediately. I tried to remain calm as I approached the table.

Walter gestured that I should sit near him. “This is Melinda. She’s the one who makes me do my homework. Melinda, this is Pat and Meghan.”

“Nice to meet you.” Patrick McGregor flashed the smile that had helped make him famous.

I struggled to find my voice. “Um, hi.”

I set down my tray, trying not to stare at Walter’s siblings. I tried to look past the fact that they were celebrities, trying to find familiar features instead. I had grown up watching their movies and knew what they looked like, but for the first time, I could really see the similarities between Walter and his brother.

Patrick was a little taller than Walter, who had a good six or eight inches on me. Walter had a more muscular build than Patrick. They both had the same deep blue eyes as their father, although Patrick’s hair was more ginger compared to Walter’s light brown.

Meghan, on the other hand, favored her mother. She was probably a little taller than me, though not as tall as her brothers, with long auburn hair and a slender frame. Her eyes, however, were the same deep blue as her brothers, not the rich brown of her mother.

I had never been this close to a celebrity before and had no idea what I was supposed to say. I was pretty sure I wasn’t supposed to start by asking for their autographs. Catching sight of Meghan’s lunch, I remembered why Walter had left school so suddenly.

I tried to smile at her. “So, are you feeling any better?”

“Why? What’d you hear? I didn’t try to kill myself.”

I could hear the bitterness in Meghan’s voice. What had I said wrong? I tried to keep my response bright. “Oh, I know you didn’t. It was like, your blood sugar, right? Walter tried to explain it to me, but I got confused. He was really worried about you, though. Did you know he stopped by the church to pray for you on his way home?”

I hadn’t meant to embarrass Walter and she felt bad when I saw his neck turn red. He avoided looking at me as he bit into his burger.

Pat turned to Walter. “Oh. Wait. This is the Weddas girl?”

Walter nodded as he took a large bite of his hamburger “Buh, shh duh-in no bough a yeh.”

“Walter!” Meghan scolded. “Don’t talk with your mouth full. It’s disgusting and no one understands you.”

I shrugged. “He said: But she doesn’t know about it yet.”

Pat laughed so hard, even Meghan smiled. “Can I tell her?” he asked Walter when he could breathe again.

When Walter nodded, Pat looked at me. “So, our parents made up this board game ages ago. It’s great for vocabulary building. Walter mentioned you sometimes had trouble with new words, so he brought it back for you guys to play. Dorky, huh?”

Walter shook his head. “You’ll love it.”

I wasn’t convinced, so I decided to change the subject. I turned to Pat. “So, are you back? Walter said you wouldn’t finish til like, Halloween.”

“Well, we’re a little ahead of schedule, which is like, literally unheard of in the movie business, but yeah. I probably won’t be back for another few weeks at least. We’re flying out in a couple of hours, but Meghan and I wanted to bring Walter to campus. See if anything’s changed since June.”

Pat reminisced about some of his favorite things about Hartfield while we ate. When I was finished, I stood with my tray.

“Well, it was nice meeting you guys. Have a safe trip.”

My intention was to give Walter with some privacy to say goodbye to his family. But, they followed me to the dishroom. I walked with them to the back exit. As we emerged from the building, Walter turned to his siblings.

“I’ll walk you guys to the car.”

Pat flashed his famous smile. “Nah. We know the way.”

Walter hugged his sister, then his brother, before joining me.

I waved to Pat and Meghan. “Nice to meet you.”

Walter and I headed back to the dormitory while his siblings walked around the back of the building towards a parking lot I had never noticed before.

“I liked them. Your family. They’re nice. Well, Meghan was a little quiet, but I’m going to assume she’s nice, too.”

“She’s been . . . I’ll be polite. She’s been irritable since Mom declared she’s staying with Meghan for a couple of weeks. Until Meghan can learn to care for herself better.”

“So, how was your weekend?”

“It was great being with my family, even if Meghan was . . . moody. I hadn’t realized how much I missed them. How about you? How was your weekend? Wanna come in?” Walter gestured to his dorm as we reached the front steps.

I shrugged, following Walter into the common room. “I guess. I’m not really ready to go start homework yet.”

“Me neither. Why don’t you stay here? I’ll go grab Weddas and show you how to play. Get your vocabulary book so you can write down new words.”

Walter seemed really excited about playing this board game, so I said nothing as he disappeared without actually waiting for an answer. He reappeared only moments later with a green velvet drawstring bag, about the size of a woman’s purse. He set it on one of the study tables along the back of the room, and we sat on opposite sides.

I watched him unpack six wooden tile racks, passing one to me. He placed another in front of himself, setting the rest aside. He then passed me the bag.

“Each tile is worth one point for every word you make. I’ll show you how to keep score later. We won’t do it today. Take out seven tiles and put them on your rack so I can’t see them.”

I reached into the bag and pulled out a small white resin square about a centimeter thick and an inch across. I placed seven of the tiles on my rack before passing the bag back to him.

Walter drew seven for himself. “There are six tiles for each letter. You take seven at a time.”

He placed a tile on the table between us. It was the letter M. “When it’s your turn, you try to make a word, using one of the letters on the table. It ends up looking kinda like a crossword puzzle when we’re done. We’ll take a couple of turns and see how it goes.”



Melinda’s Journal

Monday, October 2

Today, I met my first celebrity. Actually, I met two very famous, very well-known people. I know I should not be surprised, since there are many famous Hartfield alumni who often return to campus, but I was not anticipating this encounter, and that surprise made the situation so strange.

The weirdest part of the entire experience was that these celebrities are part of my friend’s family, actually related to him. I had to keep reminding myself that they were more than people I see in movies. They were the people with whom my friend spent his long weekend.

I was also astonished that these famous people seemed so normal, since I always envisioned celebrities to be too important to interact with unimportant, unfamous people, like me. But, they had no problem treating me like an equal and one of them actually seemed sociable enough that I could envision us becoming friends. If, of course, he were my age. And not so famous.

Although, now that I think about it, how much of this celebrity’s real personality did I actually see? Was he being himself, the person he is when he’s home with my friend, or was he being the nice celebrity, putting on the act he reserves for his adoring fans?

It was really weird to eat lunch with people I have seen in the movies, and to act like they were regular people, not the really important celebrities that they are. Obviously, they eat like normal people, but, they were eating dining hall food like the rest of us. I would have expected celebrities to eat gourmet chicken at some fancy restaurant, not mystery-meat chicken in the dining hall.

It’s even weirder to think about the fact that these celebrities are part of my friend’s family. That he grew up with these people and eating a meal with them is completely normal. Will I ever be that comfortable around them? Will I ever be able to sit with them and think of them as my friend’s family and not simply as a famous face?



Pat’s Story

I couldn’t help but admire the view as I drove through the Hartfield campus. The sights in Hawaii had been spectacular and vibrant, but they couldn’t compare to autumn in Northern Connecticut. While I was away, the leaves on the trees had begun changing to brilliant reds and oranges, although there was still plenty of green mixed in.

Stopping at the intersection, I watched students wandering along the paths as they returned from Long Weekend. I longed to join them, swapping stories and just enjoying a normal life.

I sighed as I parked the car behind the dining hall. “Man, I missed this place.”

“It’s a school, Pat.” I could hear the bitterness in my sister’s voice as she opened her door.

“You don’t miss it?”

“Homework? SATs? Dining hall food?” Meghan shook her head, her auburn braid dancing across her back. “Not at all. I’m enjoying being on my own. At least, I was,” she muttered as she slammed the door.

My brother climbed out from the backseat. “Okay, I’m here. Can you guys please leave now?”

Meghan sighed in a tired tone. “Walter, we’ve been through this. We’re having lunch with you before we leave.”

“I just don’t want anyone to see me with you.”

I popped the trunk. “Do you want to bring your bags to your dorm? Or would you rather we help you?” It was an empty threat. I had no intention of lugging my brother’s things when he was perfectly capable of carrying them himself.

He grumbled, grabbing his duffel and backpack. “I can do it myself. I’ll meet up with you guys inside.”

I watched Walter travel along the path towards the third-form boys’ dorm. He wasn’t so little anymore, I had to remind myself. He was a freshman now; this was his school, too. I just wished he’d grow up and stop being so embarrassed about being seen with us.

My sister and I headed towards the dining hall, where someone called my name from the doorway. “Pat Evans! Are you back, dude?”

“Hey, Jelani.” We bumped fists. The guy had been in my chemistry class last year, but we weren’t close friends. “Nah, I’m still filming. Hoping to be back by Halloween.”

“Fantastic. Good to see you, Meghan.” Jelani waved before disappearing to the dormitories upstairs.

“This place never changes.” I looked around as we entered the dining hall. I couldn’t quite explain it, but something about the dark wood and large fireplace gave the room an old-fashioned comfort that made this place feel like home. We crossed the senior section, still relatively empty, in silence.

When we entered the servery, Meghan stood almost frozen, looking at the different options. I walked up beside her, placing an arm around her shoulder. It was easy to do, since I had several inches on her. I squeezed her gently as I spoke in a low voice only she could hear.

“Healthy choices.”

“Shut up.” She rolled her eyes and walked away testily.

“Hey, Pat. You back?”

I turned, smiling when I recognized who had called me. “Hey, Bethany. Not yet. Just visiting.”

“Did you get my physics notes?”

“You are a lifesaver.” I placed both my hands above my head and bowed. “I owe you big time. My on-set tutor is clueless and had no idea how to do any of the experiments.”

“No problem. So, am I supposed to be sending you data all year, or…?”

I laughed. “Nah. I’m hoping to be back before the end of term.”

Bethany returned my smile. “Just checking. Catch you later.” She headed out of the dining hall while I went to get a cheeseburger.

Meghan and I sat in the somewhat isolated smaller section of the dining hall, Walter finding us easily. In his typical gluttonous fashion, he placed an overloaded tray on the table, then disappeared back into the servery. When he returned, there was a girl following him.

I knew instantly this was either his girlfriend or the girl that was just a friend. I wasn’t sure why, but as I watched Walter approach the table, I began to hope this adorable girl was the friend. Her beautiful brown eyes were wide with shock and I knew instantly Walter had not prepared her for meeting us. Walter gestured absently in her direction, clearly oblivious to his friend’s discomfort.

“This is Melinda. She’s the one who makes me do my homework. Melinda, this is Pat and Meghan.”

“Nice to meet you.” I braced myself for the inevitable scream.

It never came.

“Um, hi.” She spoke quietly as she placed her tray near Walter’s and busied herself with her sandwich, glancing surreptitiously at us, but obviously trying not to stare.

Okay. What was going on? That kind of behavior unnerved me. I took another bite of my cheeseburger as I tried to figure it out. Girls were supposed to be fawning all over me. At least until they got used to me. I’m not saying I wanted her to be a super annoying fan girl. But, it was really weird that she wasn’t.

Melinda looked at Meghan. “So, are you feeling any better?”

Meghan glared at her. “Why? What’d you hear? I didn’t try to kill myself.”

I was about to chastise my sister for her rudeness, but Melinda responded before I could open my mouth.

“Oh, I know you didn’t. It was your blood sugar, right? Walter tried to explain it to me, but I got confused. He was really worried about you, though. Did you know he stopped by the church to pray for you on his way home?”

I turned to my brother. “Oh, wait. Is this the Weddas girl?” I already knew the answer, but I had this uncontrollable need to bring the attention back to myself. I wasn’t sure why. Besides, I figured since Walter was turning red, he wouldn’t mind me changing the subject.

Walter nodded, taking another large bite of his burger. “Buh, shh duh-in no bough a yeh.”

I covered my eyes with one hand, shaking my head with a sigh. I know Walter said this girl was one of his best friends, but would it hurt him to use at least some manners?

“Walter!” Meghan sounded thoroughly grossed out. “Don’t talk with your mouth full! It’s disgusting and no one understands you.”

Melinda smiled. “He said: But she doesn’t know about it yet.”

I laughed uproariously. Could this girl be any cuter? I thought I was the only one who understood Walter when he spoke with food in his mouth. When I finally caught my breath, I turned to Walter. “Can I tell her?”

He nodded and I turned to his friend. “So, our parents made up this board game ages ago. It’s great for vocabulary building. Walter mentioned you sometimes had trouble with new words, so he brought it back for you guys to play. Dorky, huh?”

Did I really just use the word dorky? No one says that anymore! What was I thinking? I saw Meghan raise an eyebrow at me as Walter took up the conversation. But then, Melinda was talking to me.

“So, are you back? Walter said you wouldn’t finish til like, Halloween.”

“Well, we’re a little ahead of schedule, which is like, literally unheard of in the movie business, but yeah. I probably won’t be back for another few weeks at least. We’re flying out in a couple of hours, but Meghan and I wanted to bring Walter to campus. See if anything’s changed since June.”

Melinda smiled politely at me. “Did it?”

“This place is the same.” I held up my burger. “Food’s as good as always. I kinda want to go peek at my dorm room. See what my roommate’s done with the place.” As I finished my burger, I listed some of the other places on campus I would like to visit.

I think I bored Melinda. After a while, she stood with her tray. “Well, it was nice meeting you guys. Have a safe trip.” I watched her head to the dish room before turning back to my brother.

“She’s cute.”

Walter turned red. “We’re just friends.” Although he sounded insistent, I had seen him light up when he brought her to the table. She was so down to earth, I knew he had made a fantastic friend. I just hoped he didn’t screw it up.

We bussed our trays and brought them to the dishroom. Walter’s friend must have been walking slowly. She was leaving the dishroom as we exited and walked out of the building with us.

“I’ll walk you guys to the car,” Walter offered.

I waved him off. “Nah. We know the way.”

Walter hugged Meghan and I could hear him whisper in her ear. “Take care of yourself.”

He hugged me next. “Be safe.”

Melinda waved at us as Walter joined her. “Nice to meet you.”

As we walked towards the car, I looked over my shoulder to see my brother talking animatedly with his friend as they headed towards the dorms. Part of me longed to join them.



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