Time seemed to shift into warp speed, and everyone evolved with it.
Stefan didn’t waste any time getting romantically involved with Olivia after his birthday. Melody thought he was moving too fast, but who could blame him? He was the child of River and Melody Pitts, and their little apple didn’t fall far from the tree.
Bianca also had a special birthday and brought on her golden years in style.
Baby Harmony was growing quite rapidly and would need a bed very soon.
River felt the need to resume his after hours work but was doing better about balancing work and home. However, in Melody’s eyes, it still wasn’t enough. She felt more overwhelmed than ever before with a teenager who was fueled by raging hormones, another child with a severe case of middle child syndrome, a small child who demanded her attention all the time, and worrying about aging parents although they still had many many years left to live. She was drained and always on edge. River couldn’t catch a break.
One night, before he headed out, he stopped by the nursery to spend time with Harmony. “Hello there, my sweet little angel!”
“Daddy loves you. You know that, right? Daddy loves you so much, he has to go fight bad guys to keep you and your mommy safe. But, very soon, things will be different, and I’ll be with you all the time…and I cannot wait. We’re getting closer…but…I fear what my absence is doing to your mommy. Do you have any ideas on what I should do? Heh, of course you don’t. You’re just a beautiful little baby without a care in the world. Let’s keep it that way.”
He kissed Harmony’s forehead and placed her back in the bassinet. He gave her longing look before he tried to leave the house undetected. That didn’t work.
“Where are you going,” Melody barked.
“I was just…just going out.”
She put her hands on her hips, threw her head back, and sighed heavily. “Riv…do you have any idea what I go through when you’re not here?”
He knew that was a question that neither required nor begged an answer. It was a catch-22. If he said yes, he admitted to knowing that she was having a hard time which would not have ended well. If he said no, it definitely would not have ended well. Instead, he simply avoided eye contact.
“Riv! I need help! I can’t handle everything by myself!”
River sighed heavily too. “I know.”
“You need to talk to your son! He’s gonna get that girl pregnant!”
“He’s not gonna—
“How do you know that, Riv? How do you know? You don’t remember what we were like at his age? He’s just like us, Riv! He needs guidance! He needs you!”
“I know. I’ll talk to him.”
“And Maurice! He’s been getting into trouble in school! And Harmony cries so much more when you’re not here! They all need you, Riv! I need you!”
“I understand, bae. I do.”
“So, why do you always leave us? I know you work hard and you deserve a break every now and then, but I just feel…abandoned! I feel like you’re never here. Are we too much for you? Are the boys too loud? Am I?”
“Of course not, bae! I want to be here. I do! But…” He struggled with how to word it without giving himself up. “There are things you don’t understand right now.”
“Things I don’t understand? Then make me understand! I want to understand why you feel the need to leave us at night!”
He immediately regretted his word choice. “My job…there are elements to my job that require my attention.”
“Your job? What, do you have delinquent students who can’t put a worm on a hook?”
“Don’t be nasty, Mel. It’s not becoming.”
“Don’t get fresh with me, Riv! I’m not in the mood for your antics! Tell me the truth!”
“I am telling you the truth! I always tell you the truth!” Not the whole truth, but it’s all true.
“Who are you going to go see? Why is she so important to you?”
“SHE? Are you serious, Mel? Are you really serious right now? How could you possibly think that I’m seeing someone else?”
“Are YOU serious? You really have no idea how I could come to such a conclusion? Do you even pay attention when I talk to you?”
“You know what, Mel…you think what you want! You clearly have no interest in listening to me. I don’t have to take this!”
“Where are you going?”
“We’re not done talking yet! Come back here!”
“I’m done talking!”
“What is wrong with me?!”