Melody spent the morning moping about the house fretting over what last night’s information could mean for her family. She cried all night. River got in very late and didn’t bother to join her in bed. He usually didn’t when they had big arguments like that to give her space to cool down, but this time he needed his own space. Those arguments came up more and more frequently, increasing in intensity each time. It was one thing when she simply couldn’t understand why he kept going out. Those were frustrating, but he could handle them. He knew his wife and how very attached to him she was. But, as of late, she had been very cold and insulting. It was clear to him that, in her mind, he violated her trust. Trust was their most treasured value of their relationship. It was the rock upon which it was built. To know that she felt he felt he had destroyed their foundation was where he drew the line and went from being frustrated to full on angry.
The more insecure Melody got about the situation, the farther she ran away from everyone else and turned inward. She knew it wasn’t the right thing to do and that she needed others to help her process her thoughts and feelings, but she couldn’t. Not with this. She didn’t want the judgement—and pity—that might come with it and stayed away. She had stopped going to Presley’s house in the mornings and didn’t call her parents anymore. Presley tried contacting her several times, but Melody ignored her. She knew something had to be terribly wrong and decided to show up at Melody’s house. When she walked in and saw a completely broken Melody, she knew she was too late and wished she had thought drop in sooner.
Her heart ached for her friend. She didn’t know all the details, and she didn’t need to. She could see it all in her pouty lips, slumped shoulders, and puffy eyes. When Melody looked up and saw her standing there, she could do nothing but cry. Presley ran over to her and held her. It felt good to be in the nonjudgmental arms of someone who truly cared. Melody was eternally grateful for that.
When the tears had slowed, and she caught her breath, she broke away from her friend and commenced to tell her the story of the previous night.
Presley did not want to hear how close her original suspicion was to these accusations, but she couldn’t deny how high the evidence had stacked against River. However, Melody didn’t need a “I was afraid of that,” or, “I knew it,” or anything else that would corroborate her suspicions. She needed to stop wallowing in it and start putting herself back together.
“You know what you need?” Melody looked up at Presley hoping she would say something profound. “You need a ten minute dance party. I bet you haven’t danced in ages!”
“I don’t feel like dancing right now, Pres.”
“You don’t feel like doing anything except torturing yourself, dear. How is that helping anything?”
Melody looked at her, and she wanted to smile, but somehow she had forgotten how to tell her brain that’s what she wanted to do.
“Come on.” Presley took Melody’s arm and pulled her into the hallway and began to dance. She wasn’t the greatest dancer to begin with, but she danced horribly on purpose to make Melody laugh. It worked. Although dancing was not on Melody’s agenda that day, she appreciated what her friend was trying to do and obliged her.
She let the notes from the speaker tickle her eardrums, and her body rocked with the sound waves.
It had been so long, she almost forgot she could. She had forgotten how much she loved it and how happy it made her. She felt guilty for neglecting her happy place, but she danced.
When the party ended, Melody embraced her friend and thanked her for reminding her about what she had forgotten. It was also a warning for what happens when she shuts everyone out.
Presley noted the time and knew it was almost time for Melody to switch into mom mode. “I can stay if you’d like.”
“Nah, I’m fine. You should get home to your son. I’ll be fine.”
“It’s no trouble, Melody. I can help. Please?”
“I love you, Pres. I really do. I’ll be fine! I promise. I’ll call you later, ok?”
Although Melody was much better than when she first arrived, Presley didn’t want to leave Melody in such an unstable state. Especially not when her home was about to be filled with rowdy children. However, she knew her friend and how headstrong she was and relented. “Ok. Please don’t forget to call me…”
“I won’t! I promise.”
“All right,” Presley said hesitantly. “Take it easy ok? Don’t let them get you worked up. Sit and have a moment to yourself before they get here… I’ll let myself out.”
Melody really did love Presley. She wasn’t a woman of many words, but when she did speak, every one of them was worth listening to. Melody went to the kitchen and sat as Presley left. She closed her eyes and gave herself a pep talk. She told herself that everything was going to be fine and tried to get in character to get through the next few hours.
Within 15 minutes, the Pitts boys—plus one—busted through the door with the same intensity they always did. “Mom,” Stefan said. “Can Olivia stay for dinner?”
Don’t let them get me worked up, she said… (sigh) Fine. Melody hated when the kids invited their friends over without asking her first, and then ask if they could stay for dinner. It was like a trap, and she always had to say yes otherwise she’d become the “mean mom.” She said it was fine and shifted her attention to Maurice who was surprisingly quiet that afternoon. However, despite her efforts to give her middle child her full attention, her ears kept picking up things from a few feet away. Something about having dessert before dinner. When she finally turned to see what was going on, she wanted to scream.
But, she remained calmed as per Dr. Presley’s orders. Instead, she washed the dishes and began to prepare dinner. She sent River a text asking him to pick Harmony up from daycare. She dropped her off there that morning after the boys got on the bus because she wanted to be completely alone so she could focus on her feelings.
That night was a blur as Melody was on autopilot just doing what she needed to do. Finally, the moment she had been waiting and preparing for had arrived. Harmony and Maurice were asleep, and Stefan was finishing his homework, so Melody sought out River and asked him to sit with her outside. They sat in awkward silence for a few moments as they both thought of how they should begin.
River beat her to the punch. “I’m sorry I walked out last night.” It wasn’t that he was sorry for walking out because walking away was a smart move. But, he was sorry for the state he was in when he walked out. However, being sorry for walking out sounded more apologetic.
“I’m sorry I was so nasty.” She felt like apologizing before the next item on her agenda was a good move. She really did feel bad for what she said, but she had bigger fish to fry.
“Riv… We need to talk…”
He knew they needed to talk, but he got tense anyway. What could she have to say without having the same argument again? However, he held out for hope that this was something different. “What’s on your mind?”
“I…” She didn’t know where to begin. “I… After you left, I went…I went to the bar…”
On the inside, River was panicking, but he maintained his composure and didn’t give anything away, thanks to his S.I.A. training. “Oh?”
“You weren’t there…”
“Yes, I know,” he said in attempts to foil her plan. “I didn’t go there last night.”
“I know. While I was there, I learned that you haven’t been there in a very long time…”
He was truly shocked this time and couldn’t hide it for he knew exactly what she was thinking, and that was cause for alarm.
She continued. “Don was there. He told me he hadn’t seen you in months…” She paused to swallow a huge lump in her throat. “Riv… Tell me it’s not true.”
He took a moment to strategize, but he knew any route he took would dead end with her being heartbroken. He braced himself. Honesty got him nowhere with her, but it was the best and only way. “It’s true. I haven’t been out with the guys in a while…”
She gasped loudly and a few tears fell. “You lied to me,” she said in almost a whisper.
He didn’t want to admit it, but he had to. What other choice did he have?
She took his silence as him admitting guilt. “But…why?”
“I’m not doing what you think I’m doing.” That was the honest truth.
“What have you been doing then?” Her voice escalated just a little.
He was torn. Did he stick to his cover story and make up something about students needing help, or did he stick to the truth but say as little as possible? He looked at her, and he saw that everything in her was holding on to something plausible coming from his mouth. She needed for it all to make sense, but he was going to disappoint her yet again.
“You wouldn’t want to know” is what he chose to say opposed to “I can’t tell you.” Neither of them were going to do any good.
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“I’m involved…in something. I can’t tell you what I do, and you wouldn’t want to know what I do.”
“Riv STOP with the cryptic talk! What’s going on here? Are you in the mafia or something? Are you going around shanking people? I need to know what you’re up to! Right now!”
He took a deep breath and said, “I’m sorry. I can’t.”
Her bottom lip quivered and her heart sank. She honestly thought she would get somewhere that night, but they were back on the same dead end street they always ended up on, and she had enough.
“I’m going to have to ask you to leave then.”
“I can’t do this anymore.”
“Bae, please listen, I—
“Listen? Now you want to talk? How many opportunities have I given you to talk? You’ve shut me down every time, but now you have something to say? I don’t wanna hear it!”
“I can’t leave you, bae,” he said sincerely. “The kids…I can’t!”
She tried to remain calm, but he hit a nerve. “You do it all the time. You should be used to it by now,” she snapped.
He wanted to retaliate, but he knew he would be digging his own grave. She stood up and crossed her arms. He knew she was serious.
“Bae, please think about this! Please don’t ask me to leave!”
For a split second, she panicked and wondered what exactly she was doing. She heard him begging and pleading for her to reconsider, but her mind was made up. She needed some time away from him to decide how they could coexist this way if they could.
“Melody, I love you! You know this! You know I would never do anything to hurt you or this family! I know what it sounds like, but you have to trust me on this!”
“Trust? How can I trust you, Riv? You’ve been lying to me for Watcher only knows how long! How am I supposed to trust you? I have no clue what you’ve been up to all these years! Do you know how hard it’s been trying to explain to our kids why you’re gone? How many excuses have I made up for you? How many times have I promised them that you’ll be here and you didn’t show? How many times have we waited up for you? How many times have I cried myself to sleep?”
She began to cry, and he tried to embrace her, but she blocked him.
“This isn’t what you want, bae. This isn’t how you want to live. Don’t ask me to go.”
“I already did.”
He took one last longing look at her and walked away. She cried as he left and immediately regretted her decision.
He ran to the taxi stop with tears in his eyes to catch a ride to Willow Creek. He had to talk to Guy right away. It was nearing midnight, but he didn’t care. He got out of the cab and rapped on the door. “GUY! OPEN UP!”
“Weeeell, look what the cat dragged in. You’re in a state.”
“I have to tell her! Please let me tell her! She kicked me out! I can’t let this happen! I have to tell her!”
“Calm down, calm down,” Guy said. “You know we can’t have you doing that.”
“But WHY?! My family is on the line here! I can’t lose them over this!”
“Over this? Why, River, you know this is the very thing that is keeping them safe. Besides, if you tell her, then we’ll have to bring her in and then we’ll have to vet her and go through all kinds of rigormorol that we don’t wanna go through, now just—
“But what if we did! Why can’t I just tell her and go through whatever we need to do?”
Guy knew River needed some encouragement and to know that all his hard work was building toward something. He pulled out his phone and said, “Look at this… We’re getting close, River. Just hang on for just a little while longer. See?”
River took the phone and looked at the picture. “Is this real?”
“Yup. Just got it from central a few hours ago. I was gonna talk to you about it tomorrow, but you’re here now and need a little sunshine.”
A very small smile began to form on River’s face. Perhaps there would be hope after all. Maybe after just a few months he would be able to tell Melody about everything and begin to work toward reconciliation. “Wow. I can’t believe it.”
“Believe it. You wanna talk about this now?”
“Yeah. I’m gonna need to borrow your couch tonight too.”