A New Home

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A New Home
A Hartfield Chronicles Prequel

How can anyone have fun living at school?

First, my parents tell me they want to send me to a private high school. Despite my protests, they insist I will find it more challenging and be less bored in class. Just as I'm warming up to the idea, they drop their bombshell.

The school is two hours away from home!

That's right. My parents want me to live at school. I don't want to go. But they're not giving me a choice.

I have to leave behind my best friends to build a new life at my new school. Will I be able to build a new family? Or will homesickness get the better of me?

A New Home

Chapter 1

IT WAS A TYPICAL FRIDAY NIGHT. UNTIL MY PARENTS delivered the news that would change my life forever.

The evening started like any other. I was in the living room watching a rerun of my favorite science fiction show. The season had ended months ago, but Doc was so cute, I didn’t mind seeing it again. Besides, the writers had designed the show in such a way that I saw something new each time I rewatched it.

My parents interrupted me about halfway through the episode, sitting together on the other couch. I was a little confused, since no one in my family had ever shown the slightest interest in NeoGenesis. However, when they both turned to face me, I realized they weren’t here to watch television.

My mother sighed. “Melinda, we need to talk to you a minute.”

I shrugged. “Okay.”

“Melinda.” My father’s tone was grave as he took the remote from the coffee table and turned off the screen. “We need to talk to you about school.”

My mother nodded. “I received an email from Mr. Pestle. He said you weren’t paying attention in class.”

I rolled my eyes. Of course, I wasn’t paying attention. Science was so boring. After finishing the classwork in ten minutes, I had pulled out the play we were studying in English class and tried to do the assigned reading. But it wasn’t like I was bothering anyone.

Before I could explain this to my parents, however, my father held up a hand. “Your teachers have been emailing us all year, concerned that you spend your class time talking to your friends and not paying attention.”

My mother sighed. “We decided to send you to a private school.”

I stared at my mother with wide eyes. “What? Just because I was reading in class?”

My mother shook her head. “No, Baby Girl. Because we think you need more of a challenge. You’ll learn a lot more at Hartfield than you will if you stay here.”

I scoffed. “Yeah, because I’m going to learn so much in the last two weeks of school.”

My father smirked. “Hartfield is a high school. You start in September.”

High school? My parents wanted to send me to a private high school? To take me away from my friends? Without even asking me? How could they do this to me?

But, I knew having an attitude or yelling at them wouldn’t help. If I wanted them to see reason, I had to stay calm. I took a deep breath, looking from my mother to my father and back to my mother.

“What if I don’t want to go?”

My father shook his head. “We’re not asking your opinion. Your mother and I sent in your application months ago.”

My mother nodded. “We received your acceptance letter last week. We were going to wait to discuss it with you, but this email from Mr. Pestle was the third one your teachers have sent this week. It made our decision pretty easy. Next year, you will attend private school.”

I was floored. Private school? Was that like military school? I knew nothing about private school. My friends and I all attended public school. So did our siblings. We had all our lives. I didn’t know anyone who went to private school.

Except that girl in my tap class. Linda had started a private school a couple of years ago, but she still hung out with her old friends in the afternoons and on the weekends. She hadn’t had to quit dancing with us. And she really seemed to enjoy her new school.

Maybe private school wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all. My classes were pretty uninteresting. Maybe if the work was a little challenging, I would like it more. It wasn’t as if I enjoyed being so bored at school. I would love to learn new things from my teachers. And I could probably still see my friends after school. We could do homework together. Sure, the assignments would be different, but the company could remain the same.

I was still angry at my parents for making such an important decision without me. But I needed to remain civil with them until I could learn as much about this new place as possible.

I bit my lip. “Maybe private school might be okay.”

My mother smiled brightly. “Oh, you’re going to love it.” Her jollity was nauseating. She passed me the booklet she had been holding in her hand since she entered the room.

I leafed through the brochure. Inside its glossy covers were about ten pages of pictures with very little information. My mother continued her sales pitch.

“It’s a wonderful place. Your father and I visited it a couple of months ago. Each subject is in its own building. One for art, one for math, you get the idea. The kids were all very happy. And there’s an activities center with video games and TVs and a snack bar.”

My father nodded. “There’s a brand new athletic center with a fitness room and several gymnasiums. And a dance studio. They offer tons of sports and extracurricular activities.”

My mother nodded. “And the rooms were so spacious, too.”

I was flipping through the book, only partially paying attention to my rambling parents. What did I care how big the classrooms were? Weren’t they all about the same size?

I looked up. “So, where is this Hartfield place?” Maybe I could convince my parents to let me skip school one day to visit it.

My father shrugged. “It’s in Oakville.”

Even though Connecticut was a small state, we had a lot of towns and I only knew some of their names. I had never heard of Oakville, which meant it probably wasn’t nearby. I frowned. “Where is that?”

My mother bit her lip. “In the northeast corner of the state.”

I stared at my parents with wide eyes. The northeast corner? We lived on the shoreline, closer to New York than Rhode Island. It would take almost two hours to get to Oakville.

I considered this for a minute. West Shore started around 7:30 in the morning. Assuming this new school did as well, that would mean I would have to leave my house before dawn. I was an early riser, but not that early.

I shook my head. “Not uh. I can’t ride a bus two hours, each way, every day!”

My parents glanced at each other before sending me identical sympathetic expressions. I knew that look. It was the one they had shared last year when they told me and my brother that my father was quitting his job to open his own accounting firm. It was the one they shared four years ago when they told us we were moving from our old house into this one. I hated that look.

Before they could share their bad news, the phone rang. My mother nodded toward my father as she rose from the couch. While she went to find the phone in the kitchen, my father sighed.

“Melinda, honey. Hartfield is a boarding school. You don’t take the bus there. You live there. If you want, we could visit you every weekend, but—”

He didn’t get to finish his sentence. My little brother crashed through the front door. Sure, Joey was eleven years old and in the seventh grade, but I still thought of him as my baby brother. Especially when he was screaming for attention.

Okay. So maybe he was covered in mud from head to toe. And I was pretty sure that was blood oozing from his right knee and left elbow.

Well, at least he provided the distraction I needed to run away. While Joey told my father about crashing his bike onto the sidewalk on the dead end road facing our street, I ran upstairs, uncertain if the tears stinging my eyes were anger or sadness.

Locking myself in my room, I searched the internet for information about this Hartfield place. They had a fancy website. Of course they did. They were a private school.

I was awake well past midnight, clicking on every page. In each picture, all the students were smiling. How could they be happy? They lived at the school.

I could never enjoy myself there. My friends were going to be two hours away from me. I wouldn’t see my family, although at the moment, that might be a good thing.

When I realized I was looking at the same pages over and over, I tossed my phone aside and curled up in my bed, crying myself to sleep.


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