2.1 Neither Fish Nor Fowl

Melody’s random visit to the library many years ago turned out to be a serendipitous one. She and Presley McLaughlin had become the best of friends. They both were exactly what the other needed at the exact time they needed it. Melody needed a friend beyond the family, and Presley needed someone who would listen and allow her to grieve the loss of her daughter without judgement or pity. During that time, Presley needed Melody more, and Melody was a stalwart supporter. Recently, however, the tables turned.

Although they lived in different neighborhoods, the move to Newcrest put Melody and Presley closer to each other. One morning, she went to Presley’s house as she often did after she got her sons on the school bus. Presley just happened to be outside collecting her newspaper as Melody was walking down the street. For the most part, Melody was usually the jovial one in the relationship, but this particular day, she didn’t have it in her. The look on Melody’s face concerned Presley. “Oh dear,” she said in alarm. “Are you ok? Are you feeling ill?”

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Melody tried to force a smile. “No, I’m fine. This has been the easiest pregnancy ever!”

Presley looked relieved. “Oh, that’s good. Last time you were miserable!”

The memories of that time made a scowl take over Melody’s face. “Ugh! Don’t remind me.”

Seeing Melody pregnant again brought back bittersweet memories for Presley. “This reminds me of the first time we met. You were in your second trimester then too!”

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Presley had come so far since that day. She went from seeing a pregnant belly and feeling pain, sadness, and longing to being happy for the expecting mother. Now she was in the place where she could say that she was grateful to have had the experience of mothering even though one child was no longer with her. Melody thought back to that day and flashed a genuine smile. “Oh my goodness…yes! You’re right! And wouldn’t you know this is the same outfit I wore?” They shared a hearty laugh.

Presley put her palms on Melody’s womb as she imagined the child’s face. “This precious baby is so lucky to be in a loving family full of support,” she gushed.

“Sure,” Melody said flatly.

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“Whoa. What was that,” Presley asked.

“Hmmm?”

“What was that comment about?” Presley paused for a moment but didn’t receive an answer. Melody kept her eyes on the pavement and never matched Presley’s gaze. “Are you sure you’re all right? I feel like something is bothering you. As a matter of fact…” She took a step back from Melody and examined her face as she recalled her demeanor over the last few months. “Something has been bothering you for a very long time…”

Melody finally looked away from the pavement and met Presley’s eyes. She saw that sad, broken woman from years ago who needed to tell her story and heal. Sometimes Melody thought that Presley was still that woman–and she was–but she was stronger now and able to bear Melody’s burdens. She sighed and said, “Let’s go inside. I don’t need the world to know our business.”

The two women went inside and got comfy on the couch.

“Oh,” Presley said. “Would you like some tea or anything?”

“Nah, I’m fine. Thanks.” Melody’s fragment of a smile was genuine this time.

Presley had a look of concern on her face. “So…what’s happening,” she asked. “You don’t look happy.”

Melody sighed and looked up at the ceiling as if she was hoping an answer would materialize in the air. “I’m not sure what I am, Presley.”

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“Things haven’t been the same,” she continued. “I know things will change over time…but that kind of change is slow. You know, it’s like…evolution. Things take place gradually and you can see it happening…” Melody took a second to get her thoughts together. This was the first time she had ever verbalized everything she had been feeling, and she didn’t know where to begin. Various thoughts swirled about her head, but what came out surprised even her. “I never imagined I would have to beg my husband to stay home and spend time with his family!” She didn’t expect to get escalated so quickly and calmed herself so she could give some context.

“When we got married, I was anticipating a simple, storybook type life. You know how it goes:  I was going to be a stay-at-home mom, he was going to live his dream and spend his days fishing…then we’d have a couple of kids and we would do things together as a happy little family. was gonna spend my days watching cooking shows and learning how to make fabulous meals to serve to my little family at night. I wanted us to sit around the table together and talk about our days. Then, he and I would help the children with their homework and put them to bed. Once they were asleep, he and I could enjoy our time together quietly. That was my dream. Sure, we took a little detour with him taking this job, but it’s all good. We have insurance now, and he’s doing well and got a few promotions. Watcher knows we needed the money! Just in time too because we desperately needed a three bedroom house,” she said and patted her womb.

Presley smiled as Melody talked about her dream. She hadn’t seen light in her eyes in a while, and she missed seeing her friend in a happy place.

Melody continued. “I know that there will be many detours in life. But, my dream never included my little family seeing him for minutes a day! Minutes, Presley! He comes home, works out, showers, and then goes back out again. Sometimes he doesn’t even come home! I don’t even want to tell you how many nights I’ve gone to bed alone over the last few years.”

She felt herself getting emotional and took a small break from her story. Presley let her take the time she needed. She even reached out and grabbed her hand in support. Melody was touched, and as much as she didn’t want to cry, she broke down anyway. She cried angry tears, lamenting tears, frustrated tears, fearful tears…tears of all kinds that had been waiting to fall all came gushing out. Presley leaned over and held her and allowed the tears to fall—all of them. When Melody was composed enough to form a sentence, she took a few deep breaths and continued her story. She turned toward Presley and leaned forward with her arms shaking like she was pleading for an answer. “I don’t understand this! Why does he feel it’s ok to leave us alone all of the time? I didn’t think he even liked those guys that much! When did he become this person? I never imagined he would be that guy.” She sat there shaking her head for a moment. Then, she remembered a bit of evidence that she felt strengthen her case. “Remember last year when he took me to that spa inn?”

“Of course.”

“That was a guilt trip! A few weeks before I was so frustrated…you remember. I was yelling at him all the time about being gone and how much the boys need him. He took me there, and we had a wonderful time. I thought things were finally going to change and maybe I had gotten through to him. He did better for a little while. Then of course I found out I was pregnant and we started looking for a house…it was a very busy time. But at the same time, Presley, it just doesn’t add up. I know my husband. He is a family man! And he’s a ‘do the right thing’ kind of guy. He’s…he’s not the type of guy that would choose his friends over his family! This isn’t him, and I don’t know what to think!” She hung her head and tried to make sense of it all.

“Oh dear,” Presley said. She knew she needed to treaded lightly with her next statement. “I know you won’t want to think of it, but I’m gonna ask anyway. Do you think he’s–

“NO! I don’t. I know him. I think I could tell if he had someone else.”

“Ok,” Presley said carefully, speaking softly and earnestly. “Well…have you tried talking to him…without yelling?” She knew her friend wasn’t a hot head, but between the pregnancy hormones and how upset this made her, Presley knew Melody’s propensity for a discussion with him to come out more like nagging.

 

“Presley,” she said with another genuine smile, “you are a gem.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that. I haven’t done anything.”

Melody grabbed her hand and said, “But, you have. I appreciate your friendship, Presley. I’ve been trying to hide these things because I didn’t want to burden you with them, but clearly I needed to get them out. Thanks for listening.”

Presley had no doubts about her place in Melody’s life, but what made her happy was knowing that she finally had the opportunity to do for Melody what Melody had done for her. “I’m always here, you know. You don’t have to hide. I’m not as fragile as I used to be.”

“I know.” Suddenly Melody realized what time it was. “Oh gosh…I’m so sorry. I’ve got to get over to my mother’s before it gets too late.”

“Is everything ok?”

“Oh! Yeah, of course. It’s rare that she’s off during the week, so I just want to go hang with her while I can.”

“I see. Well, tell her I said hello.”

“I will.”

As Melody was getting up, Presley also remembered something. “Oh! After the baby is born, we’re gonna have a girls night out,” she said excitedly. “Two of my friends from college just moved to the area. I want you to meet them.”

“Oooh! That sounds great! I could really use some adult entertainment. I can only take so much of Bunny Farm and Plumbob Llama Pants.” They shared another good laugh.

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The women got up, embraced, and said goodbye. Melody left the house and went to Oasis Springs. During the entire journey, her mind was racing. She thought about Presley’s question about River being unfaithful. When she said no, she believed it. But, she would be lying if she said the thought never crossed her mind. She could think of plenty of reasons why he might want to step out of their marriage. Maybe she was pushing him away with her nagging. She had gained quite a bit of weight from her last two pregnancies. Perhaps he had begun to find her less attractive. They had been married for almost 13 years. Had things gotten stale? She didn’t think so, but maybe it had for him. She thought of all these things, but something still was not right. They didn’t add up. The man she married wouldn’t throw everything they built together away because of something as trivial as fading looks or even fizzling sparks.

When she arrived at the Sheridan residence, she attempted to straighten her face and wipe the worry away, but it didn’t quite work. As soon as Bianca opened the door, she noticed. “What’s wrong, baby?”

She opened her mouth to say something, but she couldn’t tell her. There was something about telling her mother about her problems that was different from telling her girlfriend. She felt like if she told Bianca everything, somehow she would be breathing life into her problems and making them real. At that moment, all she had was her own frustrations and suspicions. There was no real evidence that anything was truly wrong. But, if she told her mother, perhaps something would manifest. So, instead of telling her the truth, she went with the faithful standby of the female world: “I’m fine, mom.” 

Bianca didn’t buy it.

She joined her on the couch and looked into her eyes and said, “Since when do you lie to your mother?”

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“I-I’m not lying!”

“Then why did you stutter? And you look like you’ve been crying!”

When Melody was in her mother’s presence, her own experience with motherhood went out the window as she went back into child mode. She failed to remember that moms know everything.

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“Mom, I…I’d rather not talk about it. Is that fine?”

“Sure.” Bianca sighed in frustration. It had been a very long time since her daughter didn’t want to talk about something that clearly bothered her. “I’ll drop it if you want me to, but I’m here…ok? I don’t like it when you’re like this. It scares me.”

“I know. Don’t worry about it. It’s probably my own fault anyway.”

Bianca looked longingly at her daughter hoping that she would decide to tell her what was going on. But, she knew her well enough to know that when she said she didn’t want to talk, she would not talk and changed the subject. “So…this is my last grandbaby for a while, huh?”

“Until Cadence decides to start having kids. Three is enough for me.”

“I sure hope it’s a girl,” Bianca said as she palmed Melody’s womb.

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“I do too.”

Bianca’s eyes brightened. “You do?”

“Yeah. I think I’m ready now.”

“Oh good! It took you long enough.”

“Whatever, mom,” Melody said and rolled her eyes. In a strange way it felt nice to be annoyed by someone other than River. “Besides, if it’s not a girl, then River is gonna do his best to convince me to have another one…and I’ll probably do it. So, pleeeeease, sweet Watcher, let it be a girl!”

Bianca smiled. She was so proud of her daughter, and she didn’t need a reason. She was just proud. “Have you thought of some names?”

“Yep!”

Bianca looked at her anticipating some elaboration. “Care to share?”

“I don’t wanna jinx it! If I tell you the name, it might turn out to be another boy. If I didn’t want to be done with having children I wouldn’t mind that, but I want this to be the last one.”

“Ok,” Bianca said and chuckled. “I suppose I can be patient for another three months. Oh! It’s 2:30. You need to be getting home, girl!”

“Oooh, yeah. Good looking out, mom,” Melody said as she started toward the door.

“Hey,” Bianca said and grabbed Melody’s forearm. “I love you, Mel. I’m always here to talk when you’re ready. Ok?”

“I appreciate that, mom.”

“All right, baby. I’ll see you soon.”

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9 thoughts on “2.1 Neither Fish Nor Fowl”

  • Oh, Melody! It’s good to see you! I’m not sure you can talk to River without yelling. But a guilt trip to the spa does not an attentive husband make. So you have to do something.

    Seems like he’s not quite able to balance work and homelife. Poor River….

    • Yeah. I wouldn’t say that he’s lost sight of what’s important, but I suppose he’s kind of been sucked into his work and has made it a bit more than it needs to be.

  • So…My favorite funny line was the following, ” I can only take so much of Bunny Farm and Plumbob Llama Pants.” it so made me chuckle and snort ha! But there was something about this line “Presley put her palms on Melody’s womb as she imagined the child’s face.” That warmed my heart to the core ::sigh:: I love it!

    Regarding the sotry though…I hope River will break down and share it ‘all’ with melody. I would hate for their relationship to suffer further over his need to ‘do the right thing’…

    You make my day with your post Jes :0)

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