The weekend after the Sheridan’s visit was Olivia Lewis’ birthday. Eric and his wife threw a huge party for her and invited everyone they knew. Melody wasn’t thrilled about taking the baby into a house full of strangers and suggested that River drop Stefan off. However, he emphasized that the invitation said that they were all invited and shouldn’t pass up the opportunity for Melody to meet Mrs. Lewis and possibly make some friends. When Maurice protested and made it clear that he was not interested in going, Melody saw an easy solution. They dropped him and Harmony off with Giancarlo. Apparently Eric had hired Bianca to cater the party. Melody wasn’t even aware that her mother was hiring out her talents.
On their way to the Lewis residence, Melody realized that this was Stefan’s first birthday party. True, it would have been different if his parents weren’t accompanying him, but she was still excited for him. She always enjoyed attending parties when she was his age.
“Do you think Olivia will like what you got her,” she asked.
Melody and River exchanged tender glances. They were remembering their own childhood years when their relationship was at the innocent crush stage. When they arrived at the Lewis residence, Olivia was standing on the driveway greeting everyone, but she was really waiting for Stefan.
“Hiiii Stefaaaan,” she sang as he walked by.
River smiled as he pulled Melody toward the house to give him some privacy with his friend. “They’re so cute.”
“Heh, yeah…it’s cute now. Just wait ’til Stefan has his birthday,” she said.
“They’re just kids, bae. It’s not serious.”
Melody stopped walking and looked him straight in the eyes. “Ummm, do you remember us after our 13th birthday?”
“Uh huh. I’ve got my eye on that girl. Him too!”
While they went inside and caught up with the adults, Stefan and Olivia were capturing the moment with a selfie.
“Let me see,” Olivia yelled. He showed her his phone. “We’re soooo cute together! I can’t wait until your birthday, Stefan.”
“I got you a present!”
Her eyes got as big as saucers. “Ooooooooooh! What is it?”
“You’ll have to open it and see! I hope you like it,” he said with a smile.
Inside, River found Eric in the kitchen. “Hey man, how you doin!” He gave him a bro hug.
“What up, stranger,” Eric said. “How’s that baby?”
“Oh, she’s great. So glad I finally got a little girl.”
“Yeah, man. Them girls…they change you! Make you crazy, but they get you all up in the feels, nah mean?”
There was another reason why River insisted that they all attend Olivia’s party. He did believe it was a good opportunity to meet new people, and the invitation did specify that they all were invited. However, it had been a while since River had been in Eric’s house, and he was the next suspect on the list. He figured going to the birthday party would be the best opportunity to get into the house without breaking in. Unlike Aden, Eric’s house was secured with a high tech security system, and River did not even want to attempt to disarm it. Going to the birthday was a safer bet, but how could he do it with so many guests swarming around?
“Your daughter has a crush on my son, huh?”
“Ain’t that crazy? She’s so cute with it though. Always talkin’ ’bout Stefan this and Stefan that. Ay, don’t tell my wife I said ‘cute.'”
“Your secret is safe with me, man.” River smiled at his crazy friend. Inside, he didn’t feel like Eric would be the one to get into illegal activity. There was something genuine about him.
“Your son is aight I guess. But ummm…if he messes with my baby? I don’t care who son he is. He goin’ down!”
Meanwhile, Melody was floating about the house when she realized that River had abandoned her. She didn’t mind though. He hadn’t seen Eric or any of his friends for a while and felt that he should catch up with them. However, that didn’t stop the uneasy feelings she had about being around strangers. She wasn’t a loner, but she always found it hard to make new friends. It’s not that she didn’t know how to make new friends; she did. She had done it before with ease. Melody was very selective about who she let into her personal life. River was always quick to make new friends and was not concerned about how long they would be part of his life for there would always be someone new. For Melody, making new friends was as serious as deciding to propose to someone or take a new job. She didn’t like people stepping in and out of her life. She liked having a handful of people with whom she could share her life. Deciding to pursue a friendship with someone begged a lot of questions for her. Do I care to remember this person’s birthday? Would I want our children to play together? Will this person be around when I need to talk? In those times when Melody was reluctant to make new friends, it was more of an issue with her not having the emotional energy to get all of her “pre-qualifying” questions answered.
The Lewis home had four levels, and Melody found herself meandering about looking at pictures and family heirlooms to occupy her time. When she came back to the main level, she saw Alice Spencer-Kim. She had never seen her before. Olivia and her mother looked nothing alike, but this woman looked very comfortable and in charge. It had to be her. “Hi…are you Mrs. Lewis?”
“Yes. I’m Alice. You must be Stefan’s mom.” Alice reached for Melody’s hand.
“Melody, yes.” She returned the gesture and shook the woman’s hand. “Gosh…we’re about to have teenagers on our hands!”
Alice smiled and was glad to have someone to commiserate with. The two women sat on the couch and began to talk.
In the kitchen, River and Eric’s conversation was winding down, so River excused himself to the bathroom while Eric went to find Olivia for the birthday festivities.
“You remember where it is,” Eric said pointing to a room off the kitchen before he went outside to look for his daughter. This bathroom was inside of a spare bedroom. River was sure he wouldn’t find anything in there, but he couldn’t waste the opportunity.
He dashed through the room and quickly went through all the drawers and eyed the bookcase for anything suspicious before anyone walked in. As he suspected, he found nothing and went back to the kitchen. Eric was still looking for Olivia, and River seized the opportunity to head upstairs and look for the master bedroom. He walked up the stairs slowly, smiling and saying hello to everyone he walked past. However, he noticed that there were people all over the house, and no one was really paying attention to who was who and going where. He still played it safe and kept an eye out for the household members and his wife. The house had five bedrooms, but River did not know this. With four levels, he assumed that there would be many rooms but did not know which one was the master. He had to peak in them all quickly to find out. The two bedrooms on the second level were very nice but a bit clean. He knew that Eric’s mother and Alice’s father lived with them and assumed these were their rooms. If anyone questioned what he was doing, he was going to say that he was looking for the bathroom.
River climbed the stairs which led to the third floor. The bedroom to the left was also very nice but looked like it could be Olivia’s bedroom. Across the hall was the nicest, most ornate, largest bedroom in the house. Bingo. He checked the hallway to see if anyone was watching him and slipped in and closed the door. He gave a cursory look across the room and saw a pile of clothing in the corner by the dresser.
He lunged forward to get a closer look. He was hoping for some shirts, pants, or anything with pockets that could contain a note or some other evidence. But, when he got close enough to see what the articles of clothing were, his face wrinkled as he wished he never saw them. Ugh…that’s not how I want to remember him. There was a leopard print thong that was way too big to fit Eric’s dainty wife. River went through the drawers near the pile of clothes and found more fancy “his and hers” lingerie. I’m not mad…not mad at all, Eric. Y’all do what you need to do, he he. River closed the drawers and laughed to himself. Last time, I didn’t see enough. Now I’ve seen too much. In the nightstand drawers, he found some pictures of the couple he also would have rather not seen. He was highly embarrassment and wanted to stop finding things he shouldn’t have been looking at.
When he was a rookie and spent his days browsing the intelligence database, he looked at his friends’ records. Aden was clean as a whistle. Don had been arrested once for a bar brawl. Charges were raised against him for a domestic dispute, but they were later dropped. Eric was in the same bar brawl that Don was in and also was arrested, but other than that he was clean as well. To save himself more embarrassment, River decided to hang it up for the day and get back to the party. He still felt that Eric was real and wasn’t hiding anything. However, his training taught him to trust no one. The ones who seemed to be the least obvious were often the culprits. So, he resolved to watch him–and Aden–more closely rather than digging through their personal belongings.