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An hour later, I groaned. “I can’t make any words with these letters.”
Walter frowned at me. “Not at all?”
I pointed to the corner where game intersected with timid. “Well, I can put something down here, but it won’t make sense in this direction.” I gestured towards the letter to the left of my finger.
Walter looked excited. “Great. So, can you make a word with the tiles you have on your rack? Not on the board?”
“Well, yeah, but it won’t fit anywhere.”
“That’s fine. So, you can make a new board off to the side of the original board. If we were keeping score, it would cost you twenty points, but it doesn’t matter today.”
“Twenty points? That sounds like a lot.”
“Long story. I think someone was abusing the new board policy.”
I shrugged. “Well, it’s not like we’re keeping score.” I placed the word busy to the side of the original board.
After a few more turns, Walter repeated the question I had managed to avoid answering earlier. “So, how was your weekend?”
I sighed. “My friends aren’t the same. They’re into makeup and skimpy clothes and older boys.” I spent the next several turns describing to Walter what had happened Friday night from the time Casey’s mother had dropped us at the school until my mother had picked me up.
“So, then, when I got home, I was trying to figure out what had happened, and then Eliot asked—”
“See, there’s that name again. Who’s Eliot?” Walter raised his eyebrows as I took my turn. “What happened to Mike?”
“You know what happened with Mike.”
“No, I know what Larry told me.” He pointed at me. “You didn’t tell me anything. I figured you didn’t want to.”
“Sorry. No, really, I’m sorry. I assumed Larry told you everything, and that’s why you didn’t mention it the next day. Mike was—”
Walter supplied a very insulting, but somewhat appropriate word that made me giggle and nod. I found it easy to give Walter all the details of what had happened when I broke up with Mike, both in the practice room as well as his attempt to talk to me the following day. I was a little concerned to see a flash of anger on Walter’s face when I explained how Mike had not seen anything wrong with the bet.
“I guess you were right not to like him.”
“Okay. So, now that we’ve established that I have better taste in guys than you—” My giggling interrupted his train of thought and he turned the color of a tomato. “You know what I mean!”
“I know, I know. It was just funny the way you said it.”
“So, anyway, what was I going to say?” Walter placed a few tiles on the board, indicating I should take my turn. “Oh, yeah. Who’s this Eliot you keep talking about?”
I tried to change the subject. “Sarah thinks you’re jealous. Well, she thought you were jealous of Mike, but this obsession with Eliot isn’t helping.”
Walter nearly knocked all his tiles to the ground, turning even brighter red and struggling to speak. I watched him open and close his mouth several times before finally managing to utter a sound.
“No. I’m not jealous. I’m sorry, but I don’t think of you like that. You’re a good friend, one of my best friends, but . . .”
“I think of you like a brother.”
“Exactly!” Walter breathed a deep sigh of relief. “See, you get it. You get me. That’s why we’re good friends. And, I’m not obsessed about Eliot. I’m, just . . . Okay. I know it sounds stupid, but I guess I’m just trying to look out for you.”
“Well, I’d say I don’t need you to, but since you were right about Mike, maybe you do.” I sighed. “Eliot is this guy I know from home. I’ve known him since the sixth grade. We were always in the same homeroom and we, had all our classes together and last summer we discovered we both loved watching NG.”
“So, he’s your me at home?”
I tried to figure out what Walter had just said. When I realized I couldn’t, I just closed my eyes and shook my head. “I have no idea what you mean. Anyway, he’s the one that warned me everyone at home had changed. He and his friends got into some trouble, so his parents sent him away to live with his aunt and uncle. Here in Oakville. He’s in my CCD class. Well, kinda. I’m confusing myself. How did Eliot even enter this conversation?”
“I dunno. You mentioned him when you were talking about NG.”
“Oh, yeah, so Friday night we video chatted while we watched NG. His aunt had to stay in the room, to make sure he wasn’t calling the guys that got him arrested—”
“He was arrested? I don’t like him.”
“He was innocent. My mom even said she doesn’t mind me hanging out with him.”
“Wait. What? You’re going out with him now?”
“If you would stop interrupting, I would be able to tell you the whole story.”
Walter leaned back in his chair and mimed locking his lips shut. He folded his arms across his chest, staring at me with his eyebrows raised expectantly, his thumbs twitching slightly in impatience.
I took a deep breath. “I ran into Eliot at my first CCD class and he told me what happened. His mom had already told my mom the whole story and we both think that Eliot was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. His parents sent him here as much for a new start as for a punishment. He’s not a criminal.”
I glared at Walter when he snickered over my choice of words. But, he was true to his word and remained silent so I could continue my story. “When I saw him at CCD Wednesday, Eliot asked if maybe we could go to the movies. And, after Mike, I kind of don’t really want to do a solo thing. I was thinking maybe a group thing. You, me, Eliot, Bella. Probably Sarah and Larry. We could all go to the movies or something.”
Walter looked skeptical at the idea, playing with his letter tiles in silence for a long time. Eventually, he placed wonk on the board with a smile and looked back at me.
“It’s not a bad idea. I don’t know if it’s a great idea, but it’s not bad. Run it by Sarah. I’ll talk to Larry.”
“You don’t have to come along. I just thought you wanted to hang out with Bella away from school.”
“I do. I mean, I have to chaperone. I have to decide if Eliot is a good boyfriend for you. As for . . .” Walter trailed off as someone entered the common room, a boy I recognized from one of my classes—possibly physics—but no one I knew by name. The boy acknowledged us with a wave before disappearing down the hallway on his left, presumably towards his room.
Walter glanced at his watch, then at the board. “I really need to work on my homework. Can we call this a practice session and put it away? I’d like to play for real, though. Maybe get a couple of friends to join us. It’s more fun when it’s more people, although one-on-one is cool in its own way.”
“Sounds like fun to me.” I helped Walter return the tiles to the velvet bag. “Better ask Larry and Sarah, first, though. They’re less likely to make fun of us.”
“Actually, Forrest was saying he was pretty good at word games. I was thinking of asking him. And, Pat’ll probably join us when gets back.”
“I thought you didn’t want anyone knowing he’s your brother.”
“Well, I can’t keep it a secret forever. I’m hoping for next term, but eventually, people will figure it out. Then, I wouldn’t mind having him around. He’s a good guy. When he’s not being my annoying, overprotective brother, he’s actually one of my best friends. But I never said that.”
I smiled. “I won’t tell.”
Monday, October 2
(Author note: I am not sure what this journal entry should be about. Any suggestions?)
The ride home was relatively silent. Despite Mom’s rules, I turned on the radio for company. I’m not sure what was on Meghan’s mind, although I had a feeling it had to do with Mom moving into her apartment. I was thinking about Walter’s adorable little friend. She hadn’t acted like a crazy fan. She had treated me like a normal person. Half my classmates still couldn’t do that, and I was in my third year at the school. Well, I would be when I finished shooting the movie.
Uncle Eddie and Uncle Colin were at our house when I got home. I grabbed my bag and joined them in the car. Dad drove to the airport. At least we took the larger SUV so I could sit in the back instead of being squished between my uncles.
The crew had already prepared the plane. Dad and my beds were still set up from last week. When we were airborne, I made Meghan’s bed while Dad converted the divan. I watched my uncles play rock-paper-scissors to determine who got the bigger bed. Uncle Eddie kept accusing Uncle Colin of cheating. He was probably right, but I couldn’t prove it any better than he could.
Watching grown men bicker isn’t very entertaining, so I laid in bed with a movie instead. Meghan texted me a few times complaining about Mom, but I fell asleep before we could get into a serious conversation.
I was awakened by a loud thud, followed by a long stream of curses from Uncle Eddie. Opening one eye, I saw he had fallen out of the bed. Laughing to myself, I checked the time.
It was too early to be awake and too late to go back to sleep. Normally, I would go running, but we didn’t have a treadmill on the plane. I settled for an early breakfast and memorizing my lines for the day.
When we landed, my uncles stood under the cargo hold while I threw the luggage down to them. After Dad buttoned up the plane, we loaded the car and I drove back to the resort. I was hoping for a quick shower before I had to go to work, so I dropped my uncles at the check-in desk and drove to our building without waiting for them. Dad frowned as I pulled away.
“Where are you going?”
“Dad, I gotta get to the set. I was hoping to shower and change first. They’re gonna be a while. You can take the other car and come pick them up.”
Dad frowned, but he didn’t argue with me. When we got to the house, I ran straight inside, letting Dad unload my car. I took one of the fastest showers in my life, grabbed the bag with my computer, tablet, and schoolbooks, and hurried back to my car. Dad was taking out the last suitcase.
I tossed my bag in the front seat. “No. I’m really late.”
“Did you eat?”
I shrugged. “I had some cereal on the plane. I’ll grab something when I get there.”
Dad nodded. “Have a good day. Call me if you need anything. And don’t work more than nine hours.”
I wiggled my eyebrows, climbing into the car. “I’m sixteen. It’s ten hours now.”
Dad just shook his head as I drove away.
Being back at work was rough. To make up for my absence, Henry had scheduled me for a lot of scenes. During my breaks, I didn’t even bother doing my schoolwork. I was too busy reviewing my lines. Naomi didn’t care. I didn’t have any tests she needed to proctor and if I didn’t need her, she could leave as soon as the younger boys were done.
When Henry finally decided we were done for the day, I was spent. I just wanted to go home. Maybe check in with my siblings. Knowing the food at the suite was probably nonexistent, I stole some sandwiches from the craft services tent on my way to the wardrobe trailer. After quickly grabbing my bag from the school trailer, I headed home.
There was a note taped to the door. My godmother was inviting me to supper. As much as I wanted to go relax, I couldn’t say no. I dropped my things in my room and walked to the neighboring building. Unlike us, Uncle Vinny had managed to get a suite on the first floor. I hardly had a chance to knock before the door was opened.
Aunt Margaret was a hugger. It took a moment before she released me. I smiled as she ushered me into the room.
“You know the boys won’t be home until the middle of the night. I didn’t want you to starve.”
I grabbed a cucumber slice from the pile she was cutting. “I ate at work. But, I wasn’t about to turn down a homecooked meal.” I looked around. “Where are the kids?”
She waved a hand towards the bedrooms. “Plugged in. I swear. We are literally in paradise and all they want to do is kill each other on those tablets.”
I stole another cucumber. “Could be worse. They could be fighting out here.”
She shook her head. “Today was all about getting settled, but I promise, tomorrow I am making them do something touristy.” She turned to me. “Any suggestions?”
“Well, obviously, you guys should stop by the set one day. I’ll give you the tour. Other than that? I haven’t done much sightseeing. I’ll ask the boys tomorrow. They’re the same age as Julie. I bet they have some great ideas.”
Aunt Margaret wiped her hands on a towel. “That would be great. Thanks. Can you get your cousins? Tell them supper’s ready?”
I took a few steps to the bedroom and knocked on the open door. The kids were sitting on their beds, the tablets propped on their knees. They both had headphones, so I had to call out.
“Yo! Midgets! Time to eat.”
My six-year-old cousin threw off his headphones as he hopped off his bed. “Pat!”
I patted his head as he threw his arms around me. His sister squeezed past us to the table. I extracted Vinny from my waist. “Time to eat.”
“Great! I’m starving. What’re we having?”
I sat across from him as Aunt Margaret placed a sliced loaf of garlic bread on the table. “Can I help you?”
“Yeah. Come get these plates.”
I walked to the dining room side of the pass through while Aunt Margaret went back into the tiny kitchen. I watched her scoop some pasta onto a plate and cover it with a chunky meat sauce before passing it to me. “That’s Vinny’s.”
It only took me one step to reach the table. I placed the plate in front of my cousin. When I turned around, my aunt was passing me another plate. I gave that to Julie. After handing me my plate, she told me I should sit down.
I scanned the table as she came back into the room. “Didn’t I see you cutting cucumbers?”
She closed her eyes with a sigh. “I forgot the salad. I miss having a housekeeper.”
I quickly stood. “You sit down. I can get it.”
“I’m thirsty,” whined Vinny.
“I can get that, too.”
“I want soda.”
“Me, too,” agreed Julie.
I opened the fridge. There was a two-liter bottle of cola that was already half empty. I pulled it out of the fridge, holding it up in the window. “Is this the right one?”
The kids nodded their heads. I filled two glasses and returned the soda to the fridge. As I filled a glass with water for myself, I glanced back at the table. “Aunt Margaret? What would you like?”
“Wine would be great, thank you.”
The wine was in single-serve bottles. I poured it into a regular glass before bringing the drinks to the table. After retrieving the salad, I returned to my seat. The kids were almost done with their meals. I wasted no time digging into mine.
While we ate, my aunt asked about the movie. The kids liked the idea of finding a day they could visit. I did, too. I missed having my family on set with me.
As soon as I was done eating, I politely excused myself, explaining to my aunt that I needed to go work on my lines. While this was true, I also wanted some time to check in with my siblings. Unfortunately, by the time I settled into my room, they were already in bed. I was exhausted as well. My body had no idea what time it was anymore.
After filming a scene together Wednesday morning, the boys and I decided to play a quick game of frisbee before lunch. I tossed it to Matt before signing. “Hey. What are some of your favorite things to do on the island? My cousins are here for a couple of weeks.”
Matt tossed the frisbee to Tommy. “I liked the zoo. The history centers, not so much.”
Tommy nodded. “The volcano was pretty cool, too.”
I caught the frisbee he sent me. “Yeah, I forgot about that.” I launched it to Matt. “Those are good. What else?”
“Bananas.” Matt sent the frisbee to Tommy. “The plantation.”
I looked between the boys as I caught the frisbee again. “Have you guys tried the zipline tour?” When both boys shook their heads, I told them about my adventure. They gave me more details about some of the tours they had gone on.
Unfortunately, we were so busy talking, we weren’t paying too much attention to the frisbee. Tommy threw it so hard, it sailed over my head. I ran backwards to catch it. Tripping in the sand, I fell face-first into the ocean.
The boys were doubled over in laughter. Spitting sand from my mouth, I got to my feet. “It’s not funny.”
Tommy was laughing too hard to speak. Both boys signed. Yeah, it is.
I glared at them. “Oh, you think so, huh?” I splashed one, then the other. They splashed me back. They splashed each other. Soon, we were all dripping wet, laughing hysterically.
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”
I pointed to the shore as Tommy and I turned to see who had yelled at us. It was the director of wardrobe. I glanced at the three of us. We were all soaked. My clothes glistened with sand. Tommy and Matt weren’t that much better.
“I fell in the water,” I quickly explained.
The severe woman crossed her arms. “And the other two fell trying to help you up?”
I shrugged. “Yeah. Let’s go with that.”
“You three go get changed this instant. It’s going to take me all day to get the sand out of those clothes.”
She didn’t look amused as she marched back to the trailer. The three of us broke into laughter again. Tommy threw an arm around Matt’s shoulders and my waist as we followed her.
“We should do this every day. I like hanging out with you guys.”
Matt pointed to the three of us. “Brothers.”
I nodded. “Definitely.”
The director wasn’t happy with us. The change in outfits meant we would not be able to shoot our next scene. While he focused on Hana, we were sent to the school trailer and told to be productive. Before diving into an English essay I didn’t want to work on, I checked my phone. I had over twenty messages from my sister, all of where seemed to be complaints about Mom. Smiling, I decided to check up on her.
“Save me,” she soon as she accepted the call. “Tell me there’s a part for me in your movie. A waitress. A neighbor. It doesn’t even have to be on camera. I can be the on-set tutor.”
I smiled. “You’d be better than the one I have now.” I glanced across the hall. Naomi was playing on her phone while the boys worked on their lessons. I shook my head. “Unfortunately, we don’t have any openings for you.”
“She’s driving me crazy, Pat. She made a menu and is making me cook all the food.”
I scoffed. “That doesn’t sound so bad.”
“I want pizza. And dim sum. I really want dim sum. But, Mom won’t let me order out until I learn how to cook for myself, first.”
I smiled at her. “Think of it like a script. Mom’s the director. Memorize the recipes. Perform them for Mom. Eventually, she’ll call it a wrap and leave.”
“For the worst movie ever, maybe. I’ll think about it. I’m worried that if I think of this like a bad movie, I may never want to go back to work again.” She glanced behind her. “Ugh. Mom’s calling me from the kitchen. I have to make supper.”
“Take care of yourself, Meghan.”
She frowned as she ended the call. I couldn’t help but smile. Even though she sounded extremely frustrated, she was back to her old self. I didn’t have to worry about her. She was going to be okay.
Since I was already procrastinating, I texted Walter, wishing him good luck on his game. A few minutes later, his smiling face filled my screen.
“It’s not even lunchtime.”
“No, its almost five o’ clock.”
“Stupid time zones. How’d you do?”
“We won. My friend scored a touchdown. I made some great tackles.”
“Nice. I’m hoping I can get back before the season’s over, see you play.”
We chatted for a few minutes before there was a knock on my door. I glanced up to see one of the production assistants looking at me expectantly. I turned back to Walter.
“I gotta go. Later.” I ended the call and looked back to the door. “Am I needed on set?”
The assistant shook her head. “Nope. Lunch.” I nodded and followed her into the hall.
The boys rushed past me, racing each other to the craft services tent. I couldn’t have that. I beat them to the line, nearly crashing into the director.
Tommy stopped short just before reaching me. Matt misjudged and crashed into both of us. I toppled into Henry.
He frowned in a manner reminiscent of my mother. I did my best not to laugh. Henry just shook his head, turning to pile teriyaki onto his plate. I looked at the boys. They were my brothers. Henry was a parent. The crew was my extended family.
Even though I missed my mother and siblings, I wasn’t as homesick as I had been a couple of weeks ago. I had my movie family.
And that was enough.
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Stay tuned. Episode 26 will be released on Friday, April 2.