Adjusting to a New Life

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Hartfield Chronicles
Lesson 1: Adjusting to a New Life

Melinda knew adjusting to high school would be difficult. But will she flunk out before she even has a chance?

Two hours away from home, Melinda quickly learns that her new boarding school is much more challenging than her public middle school. Her new friends and teacher must become her family. But Melinda never expected the assignments to be this difficult. How will she have time to make new friends if she's constantly studying?

And then there's the boys. For the first time in her life, boys are interested in her as more than a friend. But, will she even have a chance to have a relationship? Or will the coursework become so overwhelming that she will fail out before she has the chance?

When an old friend re-enters her life, Melinda must learn how to balance school with her social life if she wants to succeed at Hartfield.

When you finish reading Melinda's story, flip the book over to read Pat's story.

Patrick McGregor is one of the most recognized faces in Hollywood. But sometimes, he just wants to be a normal sixteen-year-old.

Pat thought missing the beginning of the school year to film a new movie on location in Hawaii sounded ideal. But, for the first time in his life, his family isn't around to keep him company. A demanding film schedule and lackadaisical tutor don't help combat the homesickness.

When a family member falls ill, Pat must examine the true meaning of family.

Adjusting to a New Life

Part 1
Melinda's story
(Click here to read Pat's story first)

Chapter 1

UNLIKE MOST THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD GIRLS, I WAS always an early riser. Even on the weekends, I was usually awake a little after dawn. So waking up on Saturday morning was not a big deal.

Getting ready for my first day of high school was.

Figuring my teachers wouldn’t assign any homework on the first day, especially since it was the weekend, I walked into my art class armed with a notebook and pencil. I had even thrown my assignment pad into my bag in case I needed to remind myself to buy paint or something.

So, I was a little surprised when my teacher mentioned we had homework. Unfortunately, I hadn’t been paying him much attention and had no idea what it was. We needed to draw something. But what was it?

When Mr. Rockwell dismissed the class, some of my classmates stopped to pet his hyperactive pug, Ruby. I waited until they had all made their way out of the loft before approaching my teacher. He was a tall man with a powerful voice. Standing beside him was extremely intimidating.

“Um, Mr., uh, Rockwell?”

He turned to me. “Yes, Melinda, right?”

“Yeah. I mean, well, I just had a quick question. I heard you say something about homework, but I sort of missed what the actual assignment was. I know we’re drawing something, but, well, what are we drawing?”

Mr. Rockwell sent me a warm smile. “That’s the assignment. I want you to draw me something. Anything you would like. It can be a still life or it can come from your imagination. You can use pencil or your new oil crayons. It’s entirely up to you.”

“Oh. Okay. Well, thanks.” I grabbed my backpack and the paper portfolio with all the supplies he had handed us at the beginning of class. As I headed down the spiral staircase, I thought about what I could draw.

I was not an artist. I had trouble with stick figures. But playing with the oil crayons Mr. Rockwell had given us sounded fun.

With a sigh, I made my way out of the Visual and Performing Arts Center, heading up the hill to the Science Center. Despite having spent several orientation meetings here, I had never explored the building. I decided a quick self-tour might be a good use of my free second period.

After finding my classroom, I went for a walk. On the second floor, I discovered a room that reminded me of a fishbowl. A large round window looked into the corridor while the other side of the lounge contained a wall of glass. I settled myself in one of the overstuffed black leather chairs in the center of the room and took out my assignment pad.

It was Saturday. And the first day of classes. I wasn’t supposed to be writing in it. Nevertheless, I jotted down my art homework. I copied my schedule into the front cover while I was at it. As I did so, I thought more about what I could draw. By the time the period was over, I still had no ideas.

Physics was even worse than art. Not only did Mr. Wilson give us homework, but he also gave us a sheet of paper he called a syllabus. I wasn’t sure what he meant, but I wrote the word into my assignment pad so I could put it in my vocabulary journal later. The page included the homework for the entire term, so I took a moment to copy tonight’s into my pad before closing it.

Twenty pages. He wanted us to read the first twenty pages of our textbook. By Monday. I tried not to groan too loudly as I put away the papers and began copying the information Mr. Wilson was writing on the board.

After physics, I decided to use my free period to find my next class. I nearly crashed into my roommate, who was entering the science center as I was leaving. Sarah sent me a warm smile.

“Hey! How’s your morning going?”

“Ugh. Who gives homework on the first day?”

“I know, right? Where you heading?”

I shrugged. “I’m free. I wanted to find my Latin class.”

“I’m free, too. I’ll go with you. I was just there. That place is such a maze.”

I followed Sarah up the hill toward the language building, where we then spent nearly half the period trying to find my classroom. The room numbers made absolutely no sense. Three was on the lower level of the west wing while four was on the second story of the building’s center and five was back on the first floor, but on the east side. Eventually, though, we found my class, returning to the fishbowl lounge for the rest of the period.

I sank into a chair opposite Sarah. “So. How have your classes been?”

Sarah shrugged. “My music class sounds like it’s going to be a lot of fun. German, not so much. My teacher spent half the class speaking in German before she realized none of us could understand her. How about you? And what is that thing?”

I rolled my eyes. “So, my art teacher gave us this huge sketch pad.” I pulled it out to show her. It was bigger than my laptop. I also dug out the oil crayons. “We got these, too. I have the pleasure of carrying this thing around with me all day.”

Sarah frowned. “Maybe you can stop by the dorm between classes.”

I shrugged. “Maybe. I have no more free periods today, though.”

“Yeah. Me either. I’ve got physics, math, then English.”

“I have Latin, math, and English.”

“Hey. Wouldn’t it be cool if we had the same classes?”

I shook my head as I pulled my schedule from my bag. “How did we not think to do this before?”

“I know, right? Frankly, orientation was just so much, you know? I didn’t even look at my schedule until this morning.”

I nodded, passing my paper to Sarah. “Yeah, me neither. So, what’s the verdict? Do we have the same classes?”

She took a moment to compare the two schedules. “Hey, we do!” She returned the paper to me. “That’s so cool. Okay. So, I’ll wait for you in the hallway just outside this room and we can go to math together.”

I smiled. “Sounds good to me.”


AFTER A VERY BORING FORM MEETING, IN WHICH I learned more vocabulary words to add to my journal, I made my way to my Latin class. I paid little attention while Mr. Henderson had us each give a quick introduction. I focused a little more when he handed us each a syllabus. While he wrote his contact info on the board, I copied tonight’s assignment into my pad. I had to read the first story in my textbook and answer the questions.

When Mr. Davidson passed out a syllabus in geometry, I was no longer surprised. I also wasn’t too worried about the fact that I had to read the first lesson and complete the twenty problems. Math had never been hard for me. I was just frustrated that it was more work.

English was probably my most difficult subject of the day. Mr. Johnson used several words that confused me and went into a lot of detail about our assignments. We would have weekly vocabulary quizzes. Each day, we would spend the class discussing the books we would read this term. And we had to keep a writing journal. Although he only required us to do three entries a week, Mr. Johnson encouraged us to write something daily. Near the end of class, he passed around the syllabus. I quickly added tonight’s assignment to my pad. We had to read an entire story by Monday. I just hoped it would be short.

By the time class was over, I was feeling very overwhelmed. I glanced at my assignment pad before throwing it back in my backpack. I hadn’t believed that any of my teachers would actually assign me any work today. Instead, each of them had, and it all sounded hard. As I followed Sarah out of the building, I felt a sense of dread.

My workload was just going to get harder as the school year went on. Would I be able to keep up? Or would I fail out before Parent’s Weekend?


AFTER A QUICK LUNCH, I LAID ON MY BED, CLOSING my eyes for a second while I considered which assignment I should tackle first. Maybe a journal entry for English. I could write about how unfair it was to have homework on the first day of school.

When my roommate’s quiet voice woke me, I realized I had slept through the entire afternoon. I sat, rubbing my eyes as I tried not to eavesdrop.

“Oh, Mom. I better go . . . I love you, too . . . Bye.” Sarah looked at me as she ended her call. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you.”

I yawned and stretched. “No, it’s fine. What time is it?”

Sarah smiled. “Dinnertime.”

Walking to the dining hall, I realized I was in a much better mood than I had been all day. For a little while, I was going to just forget about my massive amount of homework. It would still be there when I returned to my room.

I wandered around the servery in a fog. There were so many choices, I couldn’t decide what I wanted. Finally, I opted for a sloppy joe sandwich. A boy I recognized from my orientation group came alongside me.

“Ooh. That looks good. I think I’ll try one.”

I passed Walter the spoon with raised eyebrows. “Um, where are you going to put it?”

He was already carrying a bowl of soup, a small salad, and a grilled cheese. He glanced at my nearly empty tray.

“Do you think maybe you can carry something for me?”

I shrugged. “I guess so.”

“Thanks.” With a bright smile, he moved his salad and sandwich to my tray before scooping the meat mixture into some rolls. I didn’t wait for him. I went to the beverage island to fill a glass with water before going in search of my roommate.

Sarah was sitting with some girls from our dorm at the same table where we had been eating most of our meals. She raised her eyebrows when I placed my tray near her.

“Hungry much?”

I rolled my eyes. “It’s not mine.”

Walter placed his tray on the table, then came to stand behind me. Reaching over my head, he grabbed the salad with one hand and the grilled cheese in the other. “Thanks.”

I sent him an incredulous look as he returned to his seat. “I could have passed that to you.”

He shrugged, biting into his sandwich as some guys from his floor joined us. Larry placed his tray near Sarah and glanced around the table.

“So, how was everyone’s first day?”

I groaned. “Okay. It’s a Saturday. Why did they give us homework?”

Caroline nodded. “Not to mention, it’s the first day of school.”

“And it’s a Saturday.”

Walter shoved salad into his mouth before pointing at me with his fork. “Ya se dah uh weh we.”

I rolled my eyes. “What?”

We all looked at him expectantly, waiting for him to swallow. “I said, you said that already.”

Larry shook his head. “I’m not surprised, but it feels like there’s a lot.”

Sarah nodded. “Yeah. But I don’t think the teachers would give us anything that was too hard to do. I’m sure we’ll finish it no problem. So, who wants to go to the dance tonight?”

I shrugged. “We didn’t really do dances at my old school.”

Larry shook his head. “This isn’t a school dance. They had MAC dances while we were here over the summer.” He pointed between himself and Sarah. “They use the stage in the MAC and there’s a DJ in the corner. The MAC Attack stays open till, like, eleven.”

Sarah smiled at him. “Well, I’m definitely in. You’re coming too, Melinda.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Do I have a choice?”

“No. Not really.”

I knew by her smile she was joking. But I figured it wouldn’t hurt to go. After all, what else was I going to do? Tackle the massive amount of homework waiting for me in my dorm?


WOODWARD AND STANTON, THE DORMITORIES FOR third form girls and boys, were two of the buildings that bordered a softball field, besides some upper form dorms and a handful of senior houses. Shortly before the dance, Sarah and I, along with a bunch of other girls from our little group, found the boys waiting for us on the field. We walked as a clump toward the MacMillan Activities Center.

As we crossed the intersection of the two main roads that cut through campus, Walter shook his head beside me. “It’s like we’re a gaggle.”

I had no idea what he meant. Thankfully, neither did the girl beside me.

She sent him a confused look. “What’s a gaggle?”

“You know. It’s a group of geese. Like a flock. It’s another word for it. There’s so many of us, we’re like a legion, or a gaggle.”

I smiled at him. “It’s a funny word. But I like it. And it fits. We’re a gaggle of third formers.” Although I had a tendency to forget unfamiliar words, even after writing them in my vocabulary journal, I had a feeling I definitely would remember gaggle.

Entering the building felt like being hit by a wall of sound. The combination of loud music and people screaming over it made my ears ring. The stage was only a platform, a hardwood floor a step above the rest of the room. It was flooded with people. I recognized several of them as fellow third formers. Not that I knew any of them by name. They were dancing in large groups. Our own gaggle did the same.

Except for a quick water break or two, we stayed on the dance floor most of the night. The music was a constant stream of bass. I couldn’t make out individual songs, although I got the impression some of my classmates did. Despite the deafening noise, I had a lot of fun dancing with my new friends. A little after eleven, the lights in the room turned on full blast. The music slowly died, and the DJ said something I couldn’t understand.

My friends and I had somehow made our way to the corner of the stage furthest away from the main entrance. Instead of fighting her way to the exit, Sarah sat on the floor right where she was. With a shrug, I joined her. So did most of our group.

“That was so much fun,” Jade exclaimed. “So much better than my last school.”

I nodded. “I know. My old school, we had dances for each grade. Like only the sixth grade could go to the sixth-grade dance.”

Walter frowned. “That doesn’t sound very fun.”

I shook my head. “Oh, it gets better. So, the first one was at like, the end of September or something. Only like a quarter of my class even went. We spent most of the time standing on the side of the room. And the music was nothing like this.”


“Nope. Mostly like pop stuff you hear on the radio. Although the DJ did throw in some line dances that almost no one did. I mean, I think we even did the Hokey Pokey.”

Walter raised his eyebrows. “Sounds really lame.”

I nodded. “Yeah. Pretty much. There was one slow song, and only one couple danced to it. And everyone else teased them about it for weeks, even after they broke up. So then, a couple months later, the student council or whoever tried again. The night was cut short when someone set off a stink bomb.”

Some of my friends laughed, but Jade gasped. “Oh no! What happened?”

“We had to evacuate the gym. We called our parents from the cafeteria and they picked us up early. After that, some of the other grades had dances, but we never did.”

Sarah jerked her head toward the exit. “Looks like the line died down.”

I followed the group back to the dorm. It was close to curfew, so no one lingered on the field. We headed straight to our rooms to get ready for bed.

As I drifted off to sleep, I thought about my first day of school. It was nothing like what I had been expecting. Although it had ended well, one thought kept creeping into my mind.

How was I ever going to tackle all that homework?

Sunday, September 10

I have never had a diary or a journal, so I’m not exactly sure what I am supposed to write. Although we’ve been on campus since Thursday, yesterday was essentially our first actual day. At my public middle school, we NEVER had classes on a Saturday. I also can’t remember ever getting homework on the first day.

No one else seems too concerned about all the work, but I am worried. Will I be able to keep up? Or will I fail out? I knew boarding school was going to be hard, but do I have what it takes to stay at Hartfield?

Melinda’s Vocabulary Journal

Words I learned in this story

Older words from my journal

Part 2
Pat's story
(Click here to read Melinda's story first)

Chapter 1

DRIVING HOME FROM WORK SUNDAY AFTERNOON, I realized I really missed my family. I was a little surprised that my mother wasn’t in our hotel room, although she had left a note that she would be home for supper. Plopping myself on my bed, I decided to check in with my brother. Walter answered on the first ring, smiling as his face filled the screen.

“Hey Pat. Did you get to watch the new NG yet?”

“Good to see you, too.”

He sighed. “How’s Hawaii?”


“How’s the movie?”

I shrugged. “Just like all the others I’ve filmed.”

Walter smirked. “Yeah. Because you’ve filmed on location so many times.”

He had a point. “Okay. So, maybe it’s a little better than normal. How’s Hartfield?”

“I’m loving it here. You didn’t answer my question. Did you get to watch NG?”

I shook my head. “So, it’s on at like six o’clock here. I was still on set. But I caught it on demand before I went to bed. You get to watch it?”

Walter smiled. “Yesterday. Melinda and I hadn’t even gotten through the opening credits when Smith busted me for closing my door.”

“Hang on. You broke co-ed?”

Walter shrugged. “It was open a crack. She had gotten permission to be there. But I thought we were in trouble. So, he brings us back to his place and the whole time I’m wondering if I was going on restriction.”

I shook my head in disbelief. “Mom would kill you.”

“Mom would take away my computer. So, Smith said that since we wanted to watch tv so badly, we should join him.”

I groaned. “What’d he make you watch?”


“No way.”

“Yeah. Melinda’s advisor. Mr. Price? That sound right?”

I nodded. “Yeah. He’s my English teacher.”

“Well, he joined us and, well, long story short, we’re forming a group that’s gonna watch the show together Friday nights.”

I shook my head. “I am so jealous. I had to watch it alone.”

“Well, when you come back, you’ll have to watch it with us.”

“Does that mean I’ll get to meet your girlfriend?”

He frowned. “I don’t have a girlfriend.”

“What do you call the girl in your room last night?”


“I meant—”

Walter waved a dismissive hand. “Kidding. She’s not my girlfriend. Just a friend who’s a girl. Oh, but there’s this friend of hers I’m thinking of asking out. I’m just not sure, like, what to say.”

I smirked. “Wasn’t it just last month you were too shy to talk to girls?”

He shrugged. “High school is amazing. I am so at home here. I think because no one knows about you. I mean, that you’re my brother.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“You know what I mean.”

I shook my head. “One more month. Then I’m gonna come bug you every chance I get.”

“I better go. It’s almost second study hours.”

I glanced at my clock. “It’s barely the middle of the afternoon.”

“Night, Pat.”

“No, wait. Ask her to lunch. If you can, walk her to her next class. Ask if she wants to be your girlfriend.”

He smiled. “Thanks. I’ll think about it. Night.” He ended the call before I could say goodbye. My little brother was growing up without me. And I really missed him.

My big sister didn’t have to study. I gave her a ring.

Lights were flashing behind her when she answered the call. “Hey, Pat. How’s L.A.?”

“I’m in Hawaii?”

She rolled her eyes. “Whatever.”

“Where are you?”

“Jenny brought me to some club. Olivia thinks we should go home, but I’m having a blast.”

She took a sip from a brightly colored drink. I raised my eyebrows. “What’s that?”

She rolled her eyes again. “Relax. There’s no alcohol.”

“Yeah? What about sugar?”

She glared at me. “You’re starting to sound like Mom.”

“Meghan. You’re on your own. You’ve gotta start taking care of yourself.”

“You know what? I don’t need a lecture from my little brother.” She ended the call without saying goodbye.

I threw my phone across my bed. Meghan should know better by now. I worried about her. The last thing I wanted was her getting sick. Again.

There was a knock on my door. I looked up, leaping off the bed when I saw Dad.

“What are you doing here?”

“I missed my family. Arranged to work remotely with the band for a few days so I could spend the week with you and your mother.”

I hadn’t realized how much I had missed him the past few weeks. I gave him a big hug. I was as tall as him now. When had that happened?

“It’s so great to see you. I have the morning off tomorrow. We should go do something as a family.”

He smiled. “Your mom said the same thing.”


I HAD NO IDEA WHAT DAD HAD PLANNED. WHILE I climbed into the car, he found the address on his phone. Mom drove, since she knew the area the best.

When we arrived at a place called Apapane Farms, I started to question my father’s idea of fun. Mom drove down a long drive, parking beside a convertible in the gravel lot.

I examined the building in front of it. It looked like a large shack, albeit with a covered porch and an enormous deck. A wooden sign reminded me of the name of the farm. If it hadn’t, I would have probably assumed we were at some sort of tiki bar.

I raised my eyebrows as we got out of the car. “Where are we?”

Dad smiled. “You’ll see.”

I followed him inside the shack. The walls were covered with photos. People on long bridges over the rainforest. People zip-lining through the forests. People picking bananas and other tropical fruits from the trees.

Dad smiled at the man behind the counter. “Adam Evans. We have an eight o’clock appointment?”

The man checked his computer, sending us the sidelong glances I was used to. I had grown out my hair for my last few movies. It made it more difficult for people to recognize me. But Mom? She looked the same now as she had twenty years ago. Everyone recognized her. Then they recognized me.

I almost said something. But I waited for the guy behind the counter. Dad paid, and the man handed him a key.

“The lockers are over there. You need to empty your pockets completely. Keys, wallets, phones, everything. Anything too big for the locker needs to go back in your car. When you’re done, bring back the key. We’ll keep it safe for you until you get back.”

I sent Dad a wary look. “What did you get us into?”

He laughed. “Relax. You’re gonna love it.”

I emptied my pockets. Wallet, keys. I didn’t want to, but Dad made me put my phone in there, too. I felt naked.

The man directed us to the waiting area. There was a couple already there. They were whispering and making gooey eyes at each other. It was a little nauseating. I stood as far away from them as possible.

An energetic woman jumped into the middle of the room. “Are you ready for an amazing adventure?”

Her shouts practically echoed in the room. I didn’t bother answering. My parents did. Their responses were louder than the woman’s. I stepped away from them, wishing I could crawl into a hole.

The guide grinned at us, but I saw her smile falter. I knew she was trying to place us. Although Dad was a famous musician and Mom and I had been in dozens of movies, it was a little hard to recognize us right away. We should have probably just worn shirts that said CAVEmen and McGregors. Make it easier for everyone.

The woman didn’t call us out, though. She continued her spiel. “My name is Ariel, and I’m going to be your guide today. Let’s gear up and we’ll get started.”

I had no idea what she was talking about. I stayed at the back of the group as we headed out a rear exit. A man was standing beside a rack of harnesses. The woman pointed to the couple. “Why don’t you two visit with Jonny. He’ll get you fitted. You three come over here.”

She walked to a neighboring rack and pulled down two harnesses, passing them to me and Dad. “Have you ever worn one of these before?”

I shook my head. “No.”

“Yes,” replied both my parents. I stared at them as the woman passed a slightly smaller one to Mom.


Mom smiled. “I had some wild stunts in Agent Mom.”

“Seriously?” I turned to Dad. “And you?”

“On the Flying Away tour, we had some aerials.”

I just shook my head. I learned new things about my parents every day.

With some help from Dad, I climbed into my harness. Ariel checked that I had tightened the straps properly before fitting us all with helmets.

Then she led us outside. An all-terrain vehicle with three rows of seats was waiting for us. It had no doors. The couple climbed in first. Mom and Dad sat behind them. Ariel invited me to sit shotgun.

As she drove, our guide described the surrounding rainforest. She told us about some of the animals that lived there, as well as the produce grown. This was one of the oldest working farms on the island.

It took about ten minutes for us to reach the top of the mountain. As soon as Ariel parked the car, I rushed to the platform. The view was incredible. We were at one of the highest points on the island. I could see the forest and farms we had just traversed. Beyond them, I could see the ocean. I wasn’t positive, but I thought I could even see my school trailer in the distance.

Another guide was waiting to take our pictures. We lined up for a group shot, then took some family ones. The cameraman assured us that in addition to photos of ourselves, we would be able to purchase pictures of the vistas.

Ariel led us along a boardwalk to a platform with another incredible view. There was also a small exhibit describing the history of farming in Hawaii. I read the display while everyone had their pictures taken.

Before I knew it, an attendant was strapping me into a zip line while Ariel attached herself to one beside me. She demonstrated what we were to do and jumped. I followed her lead.

This was what flying must feel like. I soared above the treetops. The rush was amazing. I had never felt so alive.

The line wasn’t very long. I could see the landing platform before we even jumped. Another attendant helped me uncouple myself and I went to enjoy the view.

For the next three hours, we explored the forest, traveling from one platform to another. Sometimes we took a zip line. Other times we crossed a sky bridge. Twice, we rappelled down a rock face.

At each landing, I stopped to read the educational exhibit. I learned more about Hawaiian history and culture than I knew about my own state.

About halfway through the encounter, we stopped for a snack break. I was starving. Ariel passed us each a banana. I was going to tell her I wasn’t a fan, but these were funny looking. They weren’t the kind I usually saw in the grocery store. They were shorter and plumper and smelled a little sweet.

I tried one. Although it still tasted like a banana, it had hints of apples and strawberries. It was light-years better than any banana I had ever eaten and I devoured it in three bites.

As I waited for the next zip line, I read the history of the apple banana and wondered if I could bring any home. Walter would love one. The guy was always eating.

The aerial tour of the forest was one of the best experiences in my sixteen years. However, I couldn’t enjoy it completely. I wished I could have shared this with someone. My parents had each other. So did the love-sick duo. Both couples were laughing and talking as they went down the zip lines or across the bridges. I didn’t necessarily wish I had a girlfriend or anything. It just would have been really nice if a friend or a sibling were there.

But they weren’t. I was alone. For the first time since reaching Hawaii, I was homesick. I missed my brother and sister.

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