One afternoon, a classmate of Maurice suggested that they skip school to visit the Ancient Ruins in Windenburg, and he agreed. The classmate overheard his father speaking about an epic party he attended there and thought it sounded cool. When it was time for the class to go recess, they made their move. It was quite a long distance for the two young, unaccompanied minors, but traveling on the bus and train by themselves made their excursion even more daring. When they arrived at their stop, the boys hopped off the train and wandered through the cobbled stone streets of Windenburg. Neither of them really knew where they were going, but they were both teeming with excitement. The classmate was rational enough to follow the green tourist signs of the Ruins with arrows pointing in various directions. Finally, they came upon a great stone wall with tall, wooden doors, and they just knew they found it. Both boys pulled with all their might on the cast iron door handles to open the heavy doors. Maurice got his door cracked open first, so the classmate wedged himself in the crack and held the door open for Maurice. With large smiles, they walked through the entrance and looked around. However, Maurice was underwhelmed.
“This is it,” he asked. “Where’s the music?”
“It’s day time, plumhead! There is no music!”
“Then what did you bring me here for? And who are you calling plumhead? Llama snot,” Maurice retorted.
“Your mom is a llama snot!”
“Take it back!”
Maurice pushed his classmate to the ground, and a fight broke out. Luckily, there were others visiting the ruins that day, and a kind, concerned stranger decided to intervene and breakup the fight.
The gentleman knew they were skipping school and ordered them to go home, but he didn’t want to risk them killing each other on the way and decided to escort them both back to their homes. He dropped off the classmate first, and then took a very nervous Maurice home. As the stranger was explaining to Melody who he was and why he had her son, Maurice ran to his room and began his homework thinking it would earn him some points with his mother. It didn’t work.
Melody thanked the stranger and offered to give him fare back home because the children took him completely out of his way. However, he declined. “I’m just glad they’re safe now,” he said. The stranger left, and Melody took a deep breath before she went to address her son.
“So…first you skip school, and then you’re found fighting? What are you thinking about?”
Maurice didn’t dare lift his head from his workbook. He knew he was dead meat.
“Young man, I am talking to you!”
He still did not acknowledge her presence.
“Come here,” she yelled. “Put the book down and come over here!”
He reluctantly placed the workbook next to him and stood up to address her.
She sat on Stefan’s bed and motioned for him to sit next to her.
“What’s going on with you, Maurice? You’ve been getting into so much more trouble this year…I don’t understand it.”
“He called me a plumhead, and then he called you llama snot!”
“Someone calls you a name and you throw a punch? Baby, if that’s your reaction, you’re going to be fighting for the rest of your life! Why did you skip school?”
“School sucks! I don’t like going!”
Melody sighed as she struggled with how to address the situation. Sweet Watcher, he’s just like me! Although she never skipped class, she never liked school either. She thought about giving him the standard “get a good education” speech, but it felt hypocritical. However, she attempted to give him some version of it but didn’t think she was getting through to him. She instructed Maurice to stay in the bedroom for the remainder of the night so she could think of the best way to handle the situation. She hoped that River would be able to talk to him that night especially because his behavior was probably linked to his father not being around.
When River arrived home, he worked out, showered, had dinner with the family, and commenced to go out again before Melody caught him.
“Riv…please! I need you to help me! I can’t handle these kids by myself!”
“Ok. I’ll talk to them when I get back in a bit. What happened today?”
“Maurice skipped school and then some random guy saw them fighting and brought him home! He’s been in a lot of trouble lately. You really need to talk to him.”
“I’ll talk to him.”
“Where are you going, Riv? Can it wait? Your son is in trouble!”
“I get it! I’ll talk to him later.”
“RIVER!” She couldn’t believe he was blowing her off. “Have you even seen your children today? Do they even know what you look like anymore?”
“Don’t do that, Melody. Don’t do that! You know that’s not fair!”
“Fair? You wanna talk about what’s not fair? I don’t think it’s fair that you make me have ALL these children and expect me to raise them and care for them all by myself! I run the house by myself! I do everything by myself! It wasn’t supposed to be this way!”
“MAKE you have children? You don’t seriously believe that do you? Don’t put all of this on me. It was YOUR choice to stay at home with them! Now you want to complain about a choice that you made? You can’t have it both ways, Melody!”
“Just because I stay home doesn’t mean I should have to do everything! I feel like a single parent! I’m stressed out! Is that a crime, Riv?”
“I get it, bae! I’m stressed out too! You don’t think that it bothers me to see you stressed out and having to do everything? It bothers me! A great deal! I have a job to do too, and right now, it’s really—
“Grrrr! I’m getting sick of hearing about this stupid job! It’s this job that got us in this predicament in the first place!”
“Stupid job? My stupid job pays for this house, keeps food in our mouths, and buys you new clothes! My stupid job keeps us safe!”
“Safe from what? Unskilled fisherman who might gouge your eye out when they cast their line wrong?”
“There you go being nasty again! I don’t know how you get off belittling my job! You have no idea what I go through every day for you!” Melody making fun of River’s job really hit a nerve, and he began confessing things that probably should have stayed inside. “I go to work, and I fight and I do things I don’t want to do all to keep you and the kids safe! I say things I don’t wanna say! I’m friends with people I don’t wanna be friends with! I didn’t ask for any of this, but I do it all because I love you and I’ll do anything to protect you!”
Melody didn’t understand and thought he was taking it a bit too far. “But, Riv…you’re a fishing instructor…”
His eyes narrowed and fists balled up as he glared at her. Then, he turned around and stormed out the door. Melody watched him go.
She didn’t understand why he got so upset about his job, but that was the least of her worries. She needed to know what—or, who—was occupying her husband’s time several nights a week. He tried to explain to her many times, but she never got a satisfactory answer. She decided it was time that she got her own answers. She called for Stefan, and she asked him to watch his siblings while she was gone.
Melody left the house and went to the nightclub in Newcrest where River and his friends began hanging out. When she arrived, she looked around to see if she could spot her husband.
She didn’t see him, but she did see one familiar face and went to question him.
“Hi, Don. Is River here?”
“Hey pretty lady! Naw, I haven’t seen your husband in months, man. I was beginning to think we weren’t friends anymore or something.”
His words were like a heavy blow that knocked the wind out of her. “You haven’t seen him in months? Where on earth has he been then?” She felt angry, embarrassed, and afraid of what this new information might mean.
“We’ve been asking the same question. Everything aight between you?”
“…I don’t know now.”
Melody took a seat to think and gather herself, and Don went with her…in case she needed a shoulder to cry on, of course. She sat in silence with her mind racing. If River wasn’t hanging with his friends when he said he was, where was he? What was he doing? Could it be true? Had River really been unfaithful? Was he lying the entire time? All of these thoughts swirled about her head, and she didn’t know what to believe. The only thing she knew was that she felt deceived and began to break down right there in front of everyone in the club.
Her crying took Don by surprise. “Hey now, pretty lady! What’s all this about?”
“River isn’t here! He isn’t at home! Where the plum is he?! Who is he with? How long has he been with her? Why is this happening to me?!”
“’Cuze me for saying so, but River doesn’t seem like the type. That’s more my field.”
“Everybody keeps saying that! How come no one is one my side? Ok, so River isn’t the type! WHERE IS HE?”
Don had relationships with many women. He was no expert, but he did know that most questions that came out of women’s mouths were rhetorical.
Melody began crying again. “It’s because I’m too fat! He went and found some skinny little plumhead!”
“I’ve always appreciated a little extra, know what I’m sayin.” Even in his comforting words he still managed to flirt with her.
Luckily, Melody wasn’t paying any attention to him. “I nag him too much! He’s gone and found someone quiet who appreciates everything he does.”
“I’m sure none of that is true, Melody. Come on…let me buy you a drink. It’ll take your mind off your troubles.”
“No, thanks. I need to get back home. I left Stefan looking after the younger ones.”
“…sure. Thanks, Don.”