Hartfield Chronicles

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Episode 28

Melinda’s Story

I had thought I was doing better in my classes, but Monday was difficult. Despite doing the work ahead of time, I felt lost in every class. I was about halfway through a color sketch in art class when my teacher told me I was supposed to be using my shading scale instead. Although I understood what my physics teacher wanted me to do, all my calculations seemed to keep coming out wrong.

I was pretty sure I failed the pop quiz my Latin teacher decided to give us after lunch, especially when I started reviewing my answers with Walter after class. My math teacher kept showing us examples similar to the problems I had already completed last night, but whatever he was doing was confusing me, despite the fact that I had arrived at the correct answer.

I thought my English class would be better, since I was enjoying the Greek myths we had been reading, but within ten minutes, everyone was using big words, making it too difficult for me to follow the conversation.

I could not wait for my tap class that afternoon. Just stretching before class allowed me to forget about the stress of my day. By the time Miss Serena entered the room, my mood had brightened considerably.

Miss Serena was not alone, however. There was a middle-aged man trailing her. He was nearly a head taller than Miss Serena, with sandy colored hair and copper skin. His lean body and graceful manner suggested a lifetime of dancing.

I waited with the rest of my classmates as Miss Serena unlocked the closet doors. Before I could help wrestle the barres, Miss Serena called across the room.

“Could you join me a moment, Melinda?”

Miss Serena’s voice was friendly, not harsh, so I knew I wasn’t in trouble. But I still didn’t like being singled out. I said nothing as I joined her.

“Melinda, this is Mr. Pablo. He’s one of the senior instructors at our school and my boss. The other day, I was telling him about how impressed I was with your dancing and he was wondering if you would like to join his advanced class today.”

“You mean, go to the studio?”

Mr. Pablo responded in a warm and soothing voice. “No. I brought my class with me to work on a routine they will be performing in a few weeks. I wanted to get a sense of the stage and I would like you to join us.”

I nodded. I quickly grabbed my bag and followed Mr. Pablo through the underground passage that led to the main theater. An advanced class sounded exciting. But, would I be able to keep up with them?

Mr. Pablo held the door for me. “So, as you probably know, our company is performing the Nutcracker this holiday season. We have a special show next month where some of the advanced classes will be participating.”

I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to say. “That sounds interesting.”

Mr. Pablo nodded as he led the way to the greenroom. “While the company is adopting the major roles, Advanced Ballet is performing the “Dance of the Reed Flutes”, Advanced Jazz has the “Spanish Dance”, and we’re doing “Dance of the Clowns”.”

I placed my things in the greenroom and followed him to the stage. I had no idea what he was saying. I wasn’t very familiar with the Nutcracker ballet. Although I had seen some cartoon adaptations when I was younger, and played a movement or two with my middle school band, I had never seen an actual production.

Mr. Pablo introduced me to his class stretching on the stage. I was surprised to see four out of the seven people were boys. I had only ever shared a class with one boy in my entire dancing career.

Mr. Pablo told me to sit at the back of the stage, where Clara and the Nutcracker would be standing during the performance. I watched him move into the wings with his class. As he placed a giant hula hoop around his waist and the class crouched beside him, Mr. Pablo briefly explained that he would be playing Mother Ginger and the students would be the gingerbread children. I had no idea what he meant.

He pressed a button on his watch. Energetic music began playing through the theater’s sound system. I watched the class carry the hoop as they crept beside their teacher. Mr. Pablo entered the stage waving and making an awkward curtsy in my direction before facing the empty auditorium. He then tilted the hoop and two of the boys stood.

They started towards the front of the stage, half walking, half dancing. I immediately understood that they had a choreography in their heads and were marking their steps as they made their way across the stage. As the boys separated to opposite sides of the stage, Mr. Pablo again lifted his hoop and two of the girls marked their movements lining up near the boys at the front of the stage. Mr. Pablo repeated this movement twice more, once for the remaining two boys to join the front line, and finally for the last girl to join them. As soon as I saw the hole in the center of their line, I understood why I had been asked to sit on the stage.

As I watched the class walk through their routine, I could easily identify where I would be joining them. After the last student had crouched under Mr. Pablo’s hoop and exited the stage, he turned off the music and gestured for everyone to return to the center.

“All right. That was a good blocking. We’ll come back to that in a little while. Let’s do a little warming up and get used to the stage before we do it again.”

I joined the rest of the class and had no problem performing the warmup routine that was nearly identical to Miss Serena’s. Mr. Pablo then demonstrated some combinations. I was able to perform them with the rest of the class, first slowly without music, then gradually up to speed with the music.

After about half an hour, Mr. Pablo announced we were ready to try the routine again.

“Melinda. Do you think you know where you should be?”

I nodded. “Yeah. I’m pretty sure I saw it.”

“Okay. Well, you could just walk out the routine for now.”

I took my place in the hoop with everyone else while Mr. Pablo jumped off the front of the stage to stand in the first row of seats. He turned on the music and we moved out of the wings.

I had little trouble crawling to the center of the stage. As each pair left the circle, I realized they were doing the first combination Mr. Pablo had demonstrated. When it was my turn, I was able to perform it into my position in the front of the stage. On a hunch, I tried the second combination and ended up being almost perfectly synchronized with the class.

By the time we exited the stage, I was very proud of myself. Although I had made several mistakes, I had only learned the routine a short while ago and felt I had done a good job. Apparently, everyone else thought so as well, especially Brody, my partner for part of the routine.

Mr. Pablo hopped back onto the stage. “Okay. Everyone back to the center with the hoop. That was a fantastic first run you guys. We’re going to go through the routine again, one combination at a time and really focus on it. Then, I think we have time for one more run through before we have to leave.”

The class was over before I knew it. After a quick glance at my watch, I realized it had run almost half an hour later than Miss Serena’s class. As everyone headed to the greenroom to collect their belongings, Mr. Pablo pulled me aside.

“You did a great job today, considering we plopped you into the middle of our routine.”

“Thanks. It was fun.” I was slightly out of breath. The class had been much more of a workout than I had been getting with Miss Serena.

“We would like you to join our class until the performance. We can rehearse here every Monday and Friday until then. Are you interested?”

It took me a few seconds to form a response. My head was spinning. I had assumed Mr. Pablo just wanted to me to join them for the day. That someone was out sick and they needed an extra body. But to join the class?

“Um, what about Miss Serena’s class?”

“Well, this would replace that class for the remainder of the semester.”

“I don’t see why not. Do I need to clear it with my advisor or anything?”

Mr. Pablo shook his head. “We can take care of that. We’ve done it before. About two years ago, one of your classmates joined us for our presentation of Cinderella. The ballet, not the musical.”

I had no idea what he was talking about, but Mr. Pablo didn’t seem to care. He popped his head into the greenroom.

“Bus is leaving. Vamonos.”

As I waved goodbye to my classmates, Brody leaned close with a conspiratorial smile. “It’s a van, not a bus!”

I laughed as he hurried out of the building.

After such an invigorating workout, I was anxious for a quick shower. Maybe even time to write in my journal before study hours. However, as soon as I entered the dorm, I was met by a snarling voice.

“Where is he?”

I looked around to see who had yelled across the common room. Bella was sitting in one of the couches, arms crossed as she glared in my direction.

“He said he would meet me here after classes. He never showed up. I’ve been texting him, but he won’t respond. I’ve been waiting here for him all afternoon.”

I could only assume she was talking about Walter. I held my hands above my shoulders. “The last time I saw Walter was Latin. He walked with us to the math building so he could talk to his programming teacher before class. Haven’t seen him since.”

Bella was a little scary. I didn’t wait for a response. I raced upstairs and took a super quick shower.

I had a little time before dinner. As I unpacked my bag, I found the reflections journal Mr. Johnson had returned. I flipped through it. Again, he had not responded to any individual entries, just written general comments at the end. Comments I couldn’t understand.

With a sigh, I pulled out my vocabulary journal, wondering if I would ever be able to accept his criticism without the aid of a dictionary. After looking up the definitions of several of the words, I realized that he was still asking me to use more descriptions when I wrote and that—unless I was writing poetry—I should strive for two pages. As I dumped the journal into my backpack, I resolved to write limericks and haiku for the rest of the term, simply to avoid the latter suggestion.

On my way to dinner, I checked the list of messages I had avoided during the day. There was a string of texts from Eliot that I had received while in the shower. He apologized for his behavior at the mall and was looking to talk.

Did I really want to talk to him? Was he just going to get mad at me again? If I told him about dancing with Brody all afternoon, would he get jealous of him, too?

After grabbing some stuffed shells, water, and a cookie, I made my way to my usual table. Sitting beside Sarah, I decided to ignore my friends until I at least found out what Eliot wanted. I took a bite of the shells, decided they were not my favorite dining hall food, and half ate them as I responded to Eliot.

I apologized for being away from my phone, but when Eliot didn’t respond immediately, I wondered whether he was mad at me for avoiding him. It took me a while to realize he may be away from his phone. I begrudgingly took another bite of pasta. Finally, Eliot responded, again apologizing for yesterday. Before I could respond, he invited me to meet him at the coffee shop.

I took one last bite before deciding my meal was inedible. I gulped my water and stood.

“Sarah? I’m gonna go to the lounge. Come get me for orchestra?”

“No problem.” Sarah winked. I took that to mean Good luck with Eliot.

I made my way to the couches in the lounge just outside the dining hall and requested a video chat with Eliot. A moment later, his face filled my screen. I smiled at him.

“Hey, sorry. I was eating, but I decided I’d rather talk to you than try to text.”

“No problem. So, what do you say? Wanna get together tomorrow?”

“I can’t. I have dance after school.”

“I was thinking later. Like, five-ish.”

“Yeah, sure. That would work. I have to be back by seven, though.”

“Great. So, I took the test for the math team during lunch. Pinto graded it immediately. I got an 85.”

“Is that good?”

“Yeah. You need an 80 to be on JV and a 90 for Varsity. The test had trig and calc and stuff that I haven’t learned yet, so 85 isn’t bad.”

“Well, congratulations. I’m excited for you. I got invited to join a new tap class. The advanced tap from the Nutmeg Ballet is practicing here for the next few weeks and they want me to join them.”

“That’s fantastic.”

“Yeah, I’m really excited.” I looked up when I felt a tap on my shoulder. Sarah was standing above me, pointing to her watch. I turned back to my phone.

“Hey. Sorry. I gotta go. Orchestra. I’ll see you tomorrow.”


I grabbed my bag, following Sarah and Caroline out of the building. Sarah wasted no time asking about my conversation.

“So, are you guys back together?”

I shrugged. “We’re meeting at the coffee shop tomorrow. I think that means we’re together. Doesn’t it?”

Melinda’s Journal

Tuesday, October 10

(Author note: I am not sure what this journal entry should be about. Any suggestions?)

An Important Announcement


Hartfield Chronicles now has its own home: it’s own website. New chapters will continue to be released here on Inkitt through the end of the first season (approximately mid-April). However, Season 2 will be exclusive to the new website. As always, free chapters will be published every Tuesday and Friday.



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As a thank you, you will receive access to An Innocent Bystander. This bonus chapter tells the story of how Eliot ended up in Oakville.

Stay tuned. Episode 29 will be released on Tuesday, April 13.

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