Rules for playing Weddas

1) Each player draws a letter. The player whose letter is the closest to A goes first. Play continues clockwise.

2) Each player draws 7 tiles.

3) The first player spells a word on the table.

4) Players take turns building off that word.

5) The player with the most points at the end wins.

Scoring

Each letter is work one point. If a player makes multiple words on a single turn, each word is counted separately.

Clear rack bonus = extra 10 points

New board = 20 point penalty

NOTE: Playing more than one game a day can be dangerous to your health!

Melinda walked up the interior MAC stairs towards the table in the corner of the loft, where she found Walter sitting with a green velvet drawstring bag on the table in front of him. She said nothing as she slid into the booth across from him.

"You said like Parents' Weekend," he reminded her. "I talked to Pat. He's gonna join us. You want a snack before we start?"

Melinda was not particularly hungry, but the grilled food smelled so good, she could not help herself. She had received her fries and milkshake and returned to her seat when Pat finally arrived. He slid into the booth beside her, flashing that winning smile.

"What's up, third formers? Why the summons?"

"Melinda said you wanted to hang out," Walter explained, not completely able to mask the bitterness in his voice. "So this is us hanging out. In public. You want a snack before we start?"

Pat considered his brother a moment, then looked at Melinda and pointed towards her fries. "Can I have some?"

"That depends. Do you have his appetite?" She pointed a fry at Walter with a flirtacious smile.

Pat laughed and Walter smiled.

"I'll get my own." Pat slid out of the booth.

Walter turned to his brother. "Hey, can you get me some, too?"

"Maybe." Melinda could tell by Pat's smile that meant yeas.

"Melinda?" asked a voice from the opposite end of the loft. Melinda looked towards the staircase, recognizing a girl from her Latin class walking towards her. As she approached, the girl saw Walter sitting in the booth as well. "Oh, hey Walter."

"Hi, Zayne. How's it going?"

"Not great." Zayne sighed as she plopped herself down next to Melinda. "I didn't do so well on our pop quiz Saturday. How'd you do?" she asked Melinda

Melinda shrugged. "I dunno yet. I just took it today. It didn't feel too bad."

"I was wondering if maybe we could study together. Maybe you could help me understand what's going on. I always think I understand it, and then I don't seem to do well on the tests."

Melinda hesitated. "Well, I study with Walter. He helps me understand it. You could join us?"

"Maybe tonight?"

"Oh, I have orchestra tonight."

"I could still help you," Walter offered. "I study in the library, up on the second floor." He shrugged. "If you bring your homework, I can help you with it."

"Oh, thanks!" Zayne stood as Pat approached the table carrying two containers of fries. Zayne headed into the line, although Melinda saw her glance back as Pat sat beside Melinda, passing Walter one of the cartons. Pat nodded in Zayne's direction.

"Friend?"

"Walter's gonna help her in Latin," Melinda said.

"She's cute." Pat smiled, causing Melinda to feel a mild pang of jealousy and Walter to start turning red. Pat winked at Melinda. "You're cuter."

"Stop that. Now," Walter insisted. "No flirting during Weddas."

"Sorry." Pat sounded anything but. "Couldn't help it."

Melinda said nothing as she plopped another French fry into her mouth. Walter passed out the tile holders, placing the extra ones on the side, then passed the bag around for everyone to select one tile.

"Q," said Walter.

"K," announced Pat. He turned to Melinda. "I guess you're going first."

She reached into the bag. "X." She held up her tile for the boys to see.

"I stand corrected."

Everyone returned their tiles to the bag. Pat shook it a few times before taking out his letters, then waited for everyone else to select their letters before placing frown on the table.

Melinda enjoyed playing with the boys, and most of the game felt as it had during Parents' Weekend. However, subtle differences reminded Melinda that much had happened in the past two weeks. Every so often, one of the boys would get overly excited and their loud voices would have the other people at the MAC Attack glancing in their direction. And Melinda did not think she was imagining Pat brushing his arm against hers on the table a couple of times. Each time, Melinda felt a tingling sensation that extended from her arm to her belly.

When everyone had used all their tiles, Melinda could not make any new words with any of her remaining letters, but Walter and Pat were able to completely clear their racks.

"So," Walter announced, "I won with one hundred and twenty points. Pat, you had a hundred and Melinda, you had sixty. That's not bad."

Pat put his arm around Melinda and leaned closer to her. "Lemme see your tiles." He pulled her rack between them. "You could have gotten a bunch more words. See, if you put this here," he picked up a tile and placed it in a corner formed by the intersection of two words, "you get these three words and…eighteen points."

Melinda shook her head. "I know all those words, too. I just didn't see it."

Pat picked up another tile and placed it at the end of a word. "You could have played this, too."

Melinda shrugged. "Maybe I'll do better next time."

Walter glanced at his watch. "Wanna play again?"

"No," Melinda declared adamantly. "I like this game, but only once a day. More than that, I'll go nuts!"

Pat laughed as he removed his arm and started helping Walter place all the tiles into the bag. "So, whaddaya say? Should we do this again tomorrow?" He was looking at Melinda, but she looked to Walter.

"Yeah, I guess so." Walter shrugged.

The following afternoon, Melinda was the first to notice Pat walking towards the lunch table. Beside her, Sarah and Larry had been involved one of their private conversations, and Walter had his back towards the servery and did not see his brother approaching.

Pat plopped himself in one of the several seats between Melinda and Walter, slightly closer to Melinda, she noticed, and turned to his brother. "So, how was your date last night?"

Melinda was not sure if it was Pat's presence or the word "date" that caught Sarah's attention.

"Date? Who had a date?" She looked around, then pointed to Melinda. "You had orchestra. I know. I was there."

Walter started turning red as Melinda giggled an explanation. "You know Zayne? I forgot her last name."

Sarah looked towards the ceiling as she recalled the information on their classmate. "It starts with a K. Its unpronounceable. She's on the…third floor? I think so. Single, I think." She looked back towards Walter. "You had a date last night?"

Walter seemed to have recovered. "Kryszak," he said. "I asked her last night. And, no, we did not have a date, which you very well know." He glared at Pat.

Melinda continued her explanation. "Anyway, Zayne came up to me yesterday asking for help in Latin. I told her Walter helps me and invited her to study with us. When I told her I had rehearsal last night, she still wanted to study with Walter."

"You didn't tell me this." Larry sounded pained as he looked at his friend.

"Um, when exactly was I supposed to tell you? You didn't show up to dinner last night and when I was looking for you during break, Andy said you were with Sarah."

"You could have said something this morning."

"Honestly, I forgot by this morning. Zayne and I studied Latin together. I also helped her with her algebra a little. Then, we just worked quietly for a while. I did mention how you and I do the assignments in advance –"

"What?" Pat turned to Melinda. "You do extra homework?"

Melinda closed her eyes and sighed. "No. I just do it early. So, today is Tuesday. All the homework I was supposed to do tonight, I did it last night. So, today, I could better understand what my teachers are saying. Or participate in class discussions a little better. Tonight, I'll do the assignments for tomorrow night. Except art. I just draw whatever Mr. Rockwell assigns in class; we don't have a syllabus there." Melinda turned her attention back to Walter. "So, is she going to study with us?"

"Not every night. But, she said she might like to join us once in a while. Especially before next week's quiz."

"Did you know about this extra homework thing?" Larry asked Sarah.

"Why is this a big deal?" Melinda could feel her face growing warm.

"Yeah. She told me about it a long time ago. She got the idea from…" Sarah trailed off.

Larry and Pat both looked around the table, until Larry voiced what they both were thinking. "Who? She got the idea from who?"

"Whom," Pat corrected automatically.

"An arrogant narcissist who shall remain nameless," Walter answered.

Larry thought for a moment. "Nope. Clueless."

"The first guy she dated," Sarah whispered.

Larry called Mike an unflattering name that had everyone at the table smiling.

"I feel out of the loop," Pat said. "But, I don't want to make you uncomfortable, so I'll just have Walter tell me later." His smile made it hard for Melinda to know if he was serious.

"Hey, anyone wanna go to the coffee shop this afternoon?" Sarah suggested.

"I usually go there Wednesdays after school to kill time before CCD," Melinda explained. "I don't think I want to go two days in a row."

"We could go to Checkmate," suggested Pat. When he was met with four blank stares he asked, "You guys haven't discovered Checkmate yet? Okay. We're going there this afternoon. Everyone bring five bucks and meet me behind Stanton at three"

"What are you getting us into?" Larry asked warily.

Pat merely smiled. "You'll love it."

"So, where is your boyfriend taking us?" Sarah asked Melinda as they stood behind Stanton with Walter and Larry.

"He's not my boyfriend," Melinda said at the same time Walter was saying, "He's not her boyfriend."

"Is this some sort of upper former prank against third formers?" Larry asked suspiciously.

"Wow, way to be paranoid," Pat said from behind them. Although they were all wearing parkas, hats, and gloves to ward against the November chill, Pat had also draped a scarf around his mouth and was wearing large sunglasses, making him nearly unrecognizable. He pointed to his roommate beside him. "Has everyone met Frank? Frank, that's Walter's friend Larry and Melinda's roommate Sarah. This is Pete. Call him Frank. Okay. Let's go."

Pat started along the path towards the main road that led into town, and everyone followed in silence for a while. "So, what exactly is this place?" Walter asked as he caught up to his brother.

"Not telling. I wanna surprise you. Frank and I used to go here all the time."

"Spence is going to be so excited to see you," Frank said to Pat. "I stopped in to say hi back in September and he was really bummed you were gone for the term."

The wind started blowing in their direction, slowing their progress and making it difficult to walk. It seemed like a long time before they reached the center of town, with the coffee shop across the street. Instead of crossing either of the streets, however, Pat turned left and continued about half a block before holding open a door.

Melinda followed her friends into the establishment towards a counter a few feet in front of them. In the display case, she could see some movie-theater snacks. There was a half-wall on her right, over which she could see a spattering of tables. There were round tables and angular tables. There were tall tables and short tables. There were booths and chairs. There was even a kids-size table with brightly colored chairs. The room was lined with floor to ceiling bookcases, with other bookcases of various heights positioned around the room separating the tables.

On every shelf were piles of board games, most of which had titles she didn't recognize. Was it her imagination or were some not even in English? They seemed to be arranged in some order, since the stack closest to Melinda appeared to be world-domination-type games.

There were only three other people in the establishment. Two elderly gentlemen were playing chess at a table by the window with the board imprinted upon it. They did not appear to notice the arrival of Melinda and her friends.

The middle-aged man sitting behind the counter did, however. He stood up and took off the reading glasses that had been sitting on the tip of his nose. He placed an open paperback book on the seat beneath him and rubbed his eyes much like a sleepy child might.

"Do my eyes deceive me," he said as he put down his hands and smiled wide. "Or has Pat Evans finally returned to Checkmate?"

"Hey Spencer," Pat greeted him with a complicated handshake.

"When did you get back?"

"A little over two weeks ago. And, before you ask, I had a lot of work to catch up on, so I haven't had time to come visit. But, here I am. And, I brought you new customers."

Pat gestured behind him. "This is my brother, Walter. And, those are his friends: Melinda, Sarah, and Larry. This is Spencer. He owns the place."

"What is this place?" Walter asked reverently. He had the look of a young child walking into a large toy store for the first time.

"It's a game café. You can stay and play as many games as you want all afternoon. You just have to be careful not to break any of the games."

"I've collected games from all different countries," Spencer explained. "You tell me what you want to play, and we'll find something like it."

"I've already got a game in mind for now," Pat said. "Okay, now everyone pay up. I don't have enough cash to cover everyone."

Everyone passed their five dollars to Pat, who handed the money to Spencer, then Pat gestured to a large table in the back corner that could seat the six of them. "Go sit over there. I'm gonna get the game."

Pat wandered towards a bookshelf near the front of the room and frowned. He shouted across the café, "Spence! You reorganized!"

"No, I didn't!" Spencer shouted in reply. "What're you looking for?"

"Pictowar!"

"It's over there!"

"No, it's not!"

"I can't concentrate!" shouted one of the older gentlemen near Pat.

The other older man sighed. "Spence, you reorganized back in May. It's in the family game section, two bookcases to your left."

"Thanks, Rick," Pat replied.

Pat retrieved the game and brought it to their table, sitting beside Melinda.

"Pat, how often do you come here that you know the other customers' names?" she asked.

He opened the box. "Huh? Oh, that's Rick. He's Spencer's father. The other guy is John, his brother. Spencer lets them play for free. They're here every day. He kinda built this place for them."

Pat took out a bunch of whiteboard markers and explained the rules. His team would use one whiteboard while Frank's would use the other. When no one had any questions, Pat divided the teams. He took a piece of paper and split it four ways, writing P on two pieces and F on the other. He crumpled all four pieces into balls and placed them in his ski cap. After shaking the cap, he held it out to Melinda. She took one and passed the hat to Sarah, who passed it to Larry, then to Walter. Melinda and Sarah both ended up on Pat's team and Larry and Walter were with Frank.

Frank and Pat both went first. Frank flipped the first card, swore under his breath, and showed the card to Pat. Pat grimaced and flipped the sand hourglass timer.

"Go!" He grabbed a marker and raced to his board.

Melinda looked at the circle he drew and the stick figure on top of it. He had drawn x's for eyes. Was the man dead? Sarah was yelling random words.

"Circle. Man. Dead. Sleeping. Kick."

"How'd you get kick?" Melinda asked.

Sarah pointed to the other board, where Frank had drawn a boot. There was a stick figure in a boat. Now, Frank was drawing a swimming pool with another stick figure in a blindfold. Meanwhile, Pat was drawing more stick figures.

"Marco Polo!" Melinda shouted.

"Yes!" Pat gave her a high five. "We get a point. Okay. Who's next?"

Melinda and Walter both drew next, and Melinda was glad she had been drawing so many fruit bowls in art class when she saw the word was "Banana split."

It did not take long for Sarah to guess her picture. Melinda was able to guess "Three Blind Mice" from Larry's picture instead of Sarah's.

"We're awesome!" Pat declared. "We need a team name."

Frank grumbled testily. "No team names! Just draw. Come on, guys. We need to earn some points!"

They played until Frank's team won, twenty-one to fifteen. "Okay. What's next?" Frank asked as he started putting the markers and cards back into the box.

Walter immediately got up and began looking around the room at the various games. Everyone else did the same. Pat followed Melinda to the puzzle games section and stood silently beside her as they examined the games.

"Have you ever played Mancala?" Pat asked after a few moments.

Melinda shook her head. "No."

"Come on. I'll show you." He pulled a thin blue tin off the shelf then grabbed her hand, leading her to a small table for two. They sat opposite each other and he pulled a wooden rectangle slightly larger than an egg carton out of the tin. He flipped it open along the shorter edge and Melinda saw an oval depression on each end of the board, reminding her of the end zone on a football field. Between the two ovals were smaller ovals arranged in pairs. There were brightly colored glass stones in some of the holes.

Pat reorganized all the stones until there were four in each small hole and the larger ovals were empty. He then explained the directions.

"Can we play a practice round?"

"Of course." Pat's smile nearly made Melinda forget she was about to compete against him.

The game did not take very long and Melinda figured out the rules fairly quickly. After several rounds, Melinda finally beat Pat, twenty-nine to nineteen.

"Yay! I won!" Melinda considered Pat's smile a moment. "Wait, you let me win, didn't you?"

"I promise. I didn't. We can play again if you don't believe me."

"Nah. Let's play something else."

"Oh. I have a great idea. Stay here. I'll be right back."

Melinda watched Pat stroll over to the counter to ask Spencer for something. Spencer pointed to a bookshelf beside him, where Pat removed some paper and grabbed two colored pencils before returning to the table.

"Dots and boxes!" Pat showed Melinda a page covered with a large grid of dots.

"I've played this before."

It took them a while to play the game, and Melinda had a tendency to build three sides of a box and leave the fourth for Pat to score a point. Pat had a tendency to find connections where he could build multiple boxes in one turn. As a result, he beat her sixty-four to thirty-five. They played three more rounds, with Melinda getting slightly higher scores each time, but never actually beating him.

"What next?" Pat asked after the final round.

Melinda checked the time on her phone. "I think we should be heading back for dinner. Why is Sarah texting me?"

Melinda clicked on her text messages icon as she looked around the café, realizing she didn't see any of her friends. "We all decided to grab some hot cocoa at the coffee shop," she read aloud. "See you at dinner."

"I never noticed them leave."

"We should be getting back."

"Okay."

After they bundled themselves against the cold, Pat once again did the complicated handshake with Spencer before putting on his gloves. Then he busily wrapped the scarf around his face while they walked back towards the center of town.

Melinda raised her eyebrows. "You know, it's not that windy. You probably don't need the scarf."

"You realize it's not for the wind, right?"

"Why else would you wear it? I can never wear scarves. I always feel like they're strangling me, no matter how loose they are."

Pat looked at Melinda for a moment and laughed as he put his arm around her shoulder and pulled her close. "You're adorable. I'm sorry. That was just the randomest comment. I have to wear the scarf in town. I don't like being recognized."

It took Melinda almost half a block to understand what Pat was saying. "Is that why you always wear the hat and sunglasses to church?"

Pat nodded. "When I was a third former, I tried just going into town a few times. And I was bombarded by people wanting my autograph or photos. Sometimes, I don't mind. But, it happened every time I went into town. By Thanksgiving, I was pretty sick of it. Mom suggested the sunglasses and scarf. I told her that it was ridiculous and would never work, but it did. So now, I always hide myself when I go into town."

"I didn't think it bothered you. I mean, you're not worried about it at school."

"I was when I was a third former. I wanted to be normal, and that's really hard sometimes. I guess it helped that Meghan was already here, and people had stopped bothering her. I hung around with her a lot when I was a third-former."

"You miss her being here?"

"I thought I wouldn't, because Walter's here now. But, he's been such a…I can't say the word I want to say."

"Blockhead?"

"I like that one. He's been such a blockhead about the whole thing, it's made me miss Meghan more. That's one of the reasons I invited her this weekend. Another was just to annoy Walter."

Melinda giggled. "I talked to him the other night. I think he's trying."

Pat shrugged but made no further comment on the subject. Instead, he pulled her a little closer. "So, feel like telling me about the guy who made you do extra homework?"

Melinda sighed. "I dated this guy a couple of months ago. In one of our conversations, he mentioned doing homework a day early so he could understand the teacher. I thought it was a good idea and decided to do it in all my classes. Walter wanted to keep studying with me, so he did it too. That's pretty much the whole story."

"No, it's not. My brother really seemed to dislike him."

"Well, Walter didn't think much of him before we started hanging out, but then he got really mad after the bet. So did Larry."

"What bet?"

"He made a bet with some of his friends that he could kiss me. And he didn't see anything wrong with doing that. So, I broke up with him. He was a horrible kisser, anyway. And, why am I telling you all this?"

"It's the scarf. It makes people want to share their innermost secrets."

Melinda laughed and pulled down the scarf. "Then, maybe you shouldn't wear it."

Pat smiled at her as they approached the rear entrance of the dining hall. "I had fun with you today." He reached for the door.

"Oh, I'm not going in yet."

"Why not?"

"I have to get my books. I always get my books first. Then, I can go straight to the library after dinner."

"That is so…studious," Pat frowned.

Melinda shrugged. "I've got my routines. It feels weird if I don't go to the dining hall without my bag."

Pat continued walking with her to the dorms. As they crossed the street, Melinda said, "I had fun with you today, too."

Pat took her hand and led her to a bench behind the humanities building, where they sat facing each other.

"Do you think, maybe you and I could hang out again? Just the two of us?"

Melinda sighed in exasperation. "Pat, it's still weird."

He touched her cheek with the back of his hand. "I know. I mean, you do extra homework. How weird is that?"

She pushed against his chest gently and spoke softly. "Don't get me wrong. I like spending time with you."

Pat smiled and pulled her close. She rested her forehead against his. Part of her wondered if he would kiss her. Instead, he sat up suddenly.

"Do you know the story of Daphne and Apollo?"

Melinda thought for a moment before replying. "I remember reading the name, but I don't remember the story."

Pat put his arm around Melinda and drew her near. She rested her head on his chest and he placed his on her head, his arms wrapped around her as he reminded her of the myth.

"Apollo was madly in love with Daphne, but she didn't feel the same way. She was constantly running away from him, but he continued to chase her."

"Am I your Daphne? Wait, you're not in love with me, are you?" Melinda tried to sit up.

Pat held her close as he gave a small chuckle. "No, I'm not saying that. I don't know what I am. Smitten, I guess."

"Does the story have a happy ending?"

"Um…Let's just say I hope things turn out better for us." He caressed her cheek one more time and whispered in her ear. "I should let you go." He made no motions to do so.

"Pat, I just need more time to figure this out. Whatever this is."

"I'm not trying to rush you. I'm just reminding you that it's still here." He kissed her gently on the forehead before rising and returning to the dining hall. Melinda watched him leave, remaining on the bench until her heart began beating normally again before returning to her room.