Hartfield Chronicles

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Episode 26

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Melinda’s Story

As we walked into town Sunday morning, I asked Walter if he had thought about what movie we should see this afternoon. He shrugged.

“I don’t really care. I figured I would just go with the majority vote. Or, whatever Bella wants to see. Yeah, that’s probably better.”

“But, what if she wants to see . . . you know . . .” I didn’t want Walter getting upset with me, but he didn’t seem to understand what I was trying to say. “What if she wants to see Agent Mom?”

Walter muttered a curse under his breath. He didn’t seem to be mad at me for bringing up the movie. He looked nervous. “I hadn’t thought of that. Well, what else is playing? I’m gonna have to think about how to convince Bella to see something else.”

“Well, you can always tell her the truth. That you’re not a big fan of Kara McGregor movies.”

“That’s not exactly true. Besides, what if she asks why?” Walter tried to pull up the movie schedule on his phone, angling his phone in all directions above his head as he tried to find a signal. Eventually, he was started reciting the list of movies playing that afternoon.

A moment later, I interrupted him. “Wait. What was that last one?”

Romeo and Juliet?”

“Yeah. How about that?”

“I guess. Pat’s movies are a little easier to watch than Mom’s. And, Pat skipped the premiere, so I haven’t seen it yet.”

“He’s in it? I thought it was that guy in all those vampire movies. Jarrod Handy.”

“Well, Jarrod is Romeo. Pat played Benvolio, his best friend. They filmed it mostly last June. Pat didn’t have to miss too much school. Meghan and Dad had cameos in the party scene. She was a villager and Dad was one of the musicians.”

I lowered my voice as we entered the church. “Okay. Now I really wanna see this movie. I’ll talk Sarah into it, and she’ll convince Larry, and then maybe we can get a majority vote. Besides.” I slid into a pew near the back of the church. “Maybe watching a sappy love story will earn you some points with Bella.”


After the service, I again stopped to tell Deacon Bob I had attended Mass. Eliot was already talking to him. He pulled me aside as I waved goodbye to my teacher.

“Hey, so, my aunt is determined to embarrass me every way she can think of. She wants to talk to you. It was either here or at the mall.”

I smiled and followed Eliot, noticing Walter watching us out of the corner of my eye. He pulled out his phone instead of following us.

Aunt Cathy smiled as I approached. “Hi, Melinda. I just wanted to double check your plans. Eliot said you two were going shopping?”

I sent him a confused look. “Oh. I thought we were going to the movies.”

Eliot glared at his aunt. “We are. She’s testing you.”

Aunt Cathy didn’t even acknowledge Eliot. “And what movie were you going to see?”

I shrugged. “My friend and I were talking about that on the way here. We were thinking Romeo and Juliet, but we were going to decide as a group.”

“I see. And what are your plans after the movie?”

“We’re gonna rob a jewelry store.” Eliot’s tone was a mixture of annoyance and sarcasm. His aunt turned to him.

“You better watch it, young man, or you won’t go to the mall at all.”

I tried to help him before he lost all his privileges again. “We’ll probably just hang out until the shuttle gets there. Speaking of, I better get back to campus. I need to grab breakfast before catching the shuttle.”

Eliot waved as I walked away. “I’ll see you there.”

I started towards campus, tapping Walter on the shoulder as I passed him. He fell into step beside me. “So, is he still coming to the movies?”

“Sounding jealous again.” My tone was a playful warning. “Yes, he’s still coming. He wanted me to meet his aunt and uncle now. Well, I kinda met them once before, but she had a lot of questions for me. Eliot figured meeting them here would be a lot less embarrassing than the theater.”

Walter shrugged. “Yeah, I imagine so. You know, I’ve never thought about that. Introducing people to my family. If you and Eliot are together for a while, do you think you’ll introduce him to your parents?”

“My mom already knows him. We go to the same church. We were in the same class for years.”

“Oh, I forgot. I wonder if I’ll ever have to introduce a girl to my family. Well, anyone really. I mean, they’re going to come to school eventually.”

“Well, I met them. At least some of them. It wasn’t so bad. Weird, but not too bad.”

Walter stopped dead in his tracks so suddenly, I was about twenty paces ahead of him before I realized he was no longer beside me. I turned, watching him slowly walk towards me.

“I am sooo sorry. I never even thought about what that must have been like for you. I just figured that since you already feel like part of my family, I should introduce you to my siblings.”

“Which would make perfect sense for normal people. Except, of course, your brother and sister are super famous. But, it was cool. Because they’re so normal. Now, if your parents had been there, I’d probably have been freaking out.” I smiled. “A word of advice. Next time you introduce someone to your family, try to warn them first. The friend. And probably only one famous relative at a time.”

“I will definitely keep that in mind,” Walter replied soberly.

“Hey, it’s fine. Forget about it for now. Just think about this afternoon.”

“Yeah, I’m not sure that’ll make me any less nervous.” Walter sent me an unconvincing smile.

After a quick and relatively silent breakfast, I dropped Walter off at his dorm and continued to my own. Sarah waiting for me. While I changed out of my church clothes, I suggested to Sarah that we see anything but Agent Mom, since it reminded me of my first date with Mike.


When we arrived at the theater, I was surprised to see Jade, Leif, and Forrest waiting for us in front of the cinema entrance. Was it my imagination, or were Jade and Leif holding hands? I didn’t get a chance to check before I saw Eliot coming up the escalator right behind Natalie! I went to meet him and when I returned to the group, Forrest’s arm was around Natalie’s shoulders. I was shocked. When had that happened? And why hadn’t Natalie mentioned anything to me during dance?

I didn’t ask any questions. I needed to introduce Eliot. I raised my voice enough for my friends to pause their conversation and turn towards me.

“Eliot, this is everyone. Well, almost everyone. I would tell you their names, but it’s overwhelming, so I’ll just fill you in later.”

I sent him a warm smile, hoping he understood the futility of introducing all my friends at the moment. Since half of them immediately turned away, I think he understood completely.

He smiled. “So, what movie should we see?”

Apparently, that had been the topic of conversation. Sarah helped Walter and me to push Romeo and Juliet, but in the end, not everyone could be persuaded. Ultimately, we divided into two theaters. Natalie, Forrest, Leif, and Jade went to see Agent Mom, agreeing to text Larry when they were done so we could coordinate our dinner plans. The rest of us went to see Romeo and Juliet, which had an earlier start time.

I enjoyed the movie, but every time Benvolio appeared on the screen, I kept remembering the fact that I had eaten lunch with him last week. It must have been even weirder for Walter, although he seemed unfazed.

After the movie, we decided to grab milkshakes in the food court while we waited for the rest of our friends to finish their show. I found myself sitting between Eliot and Sarah. Across from me, Walter was between Bella and Larry. After thoroughly analyzing the movie, our conversation changed to our long weekends.

Bella babbled for a long time about visiting some colleges with her sister before she turned to Walter and asked about his weekend. I saw him tense slightly, but I didn’t think anyone else noticed. He shrugged it off before responding.

“It was pretty uneventful. My parents and siblings all met up at my grandparents’ house, since we haven’t all been together since, like, I don’t remember when. Fourth of July, maybe? My sister wasn’t feeling well, so we pretty much just hung around and didn’t really do anything exciting.”

I was not in the mood to describe my long weekend again, especially since Walter and Eliot already knew most of the details. Thankfully, Eliot changed the subject for me.

“Oh, so my geometry teacher is the math team coach. I stopped to see him after class one day and he said he could give me the placement test after school tomorrow.”

I smiled. “That’s great!”

“Yeah. And then Mr. Pinto said—”

“Wait? Mr. Pinto?” I had a mental flashback of my seventh-grade science teacher, a short, elderly gentleman with thick glasses and no personality.

“Yeah. My math teacher.” Eliot must have seen the confusion on my face because he laughed. “Yeah, no, a different Mr. Pinto. Much younger. And he like, actually has a sense of humor. Although, I liked old Mr. Pinto’s class better. Remember how we’d spend the entire class just talking with Tara and Brian? This Mr. Pinto would never let that happen.”

I smiled at the memory, but I couldn’t help notice the strange look Walter was sending me. “What?”

Walter nodded towards Sarah and Larry. “You’re turning into them.”

As I rolled my eyes, Bella pointed between me and Eliot. “So, how long have you two been together?”

I could feel my face grow warm. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Eliot taking an unusually long sip of his milkshake. He obviously wasn’t going to answer. I took a smaller sip of my drink before replying.

“Well, this is the first time we’re hanging out. But, we used to go to school together, so we’ve known each other for years.”

“That’s so cute! Was it another boarding school?”

“No, public school. Eliot happened to move to town and we ran into each other in town.”

“That’s so adorable. And lucky. Why did your family move?”

The look Walter sent Eliot seemed to be almost a dare. I saw Eliot squirm a little in his seat. I glared at Walter and changed the subject. “Hey. Anyone up for a walk?”

Larry glanced at his phone. “Forrest just texted me. They’re taking the next shuttle back to campus for dinner.”

“That pizza looks really good.” Sarah pointed towards one of the restaurants in the food court.

“I could eat here,” Walter agreed.

I rolled my eyes. “You could eat anywhere.”

Although this was met with a round of laughter, I could have sworn there was a split second when Bella was glaring at me. I blinked and Bella was again smiling and laughing.

I had a hard time deciding what to eat. While another sub from Sam’s Steakery was tempting, Sarah was right. That pizza looked delicious. And the Chinese food smelled amazing. I found myself sitting alone as each of my friends, even Eliot, excused themselves to get their dinner. When Larry returned with a steak sandwich and I smelled his fries, I decided the Wicked Good Wrap was my only choice. I joined Eliot in line at Sam’s Steakery.

I returned to the table just in time to hear Bella talking about the mall. “This is my first time here. Anyone want to go window shopping?”

I shrugged. “Why not. You game?” I turned to Eliot.

“Sure. I haven’t really looked around. When I first moved here, my aunt dragged me around to buy clothes, but we basically went to one of the department stores. I didn’t even realize there was a movie theater until you mentioned it.”

Bella turned back to me. “What time’s the shuttle? I was thinking of getting a dress for the Victory Ball. Wanna come?”

“Dunno. I mean, about the shuttle. Sarah?” I had to actually tub her sleeve to get her attention, since she was again absorbed in a whispered conversation with Larry.

“Huh?”

“What time’s the shuttle?”

“Oh. Um . . .” Sarah looked at the ceiling a moment as if she could see the shuttle schedule printed there. It must have worked. “Either 5:30 or 6:30. I mean, there’s one each hour.”

“Let’s take the later shuttle,” Bella pleaded in nearly a whine. “I really want to look for dresses.”

“Oh! That sounds like fun!” Sarah jumped up and began to clear her tray.

“What’s the Victory Ball?” Eliot asked.

I shrugged. “No idea.”



Melinda’s Journal

Sunday, October 8

I wanted to go out with a friend.

Our numbers grew until there were ten

We all went to a show.

My friend made quite a row.

Oh, when will all this craziness end?



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