After Melody and River’s date, they kept things cool, although the temperatures rise when they are around each other. They talked by phone every day, but occasionally he would come by the house for a few minutes. Things were going nice and slow exactly how she wanted it.
Tuesday evening, she came home from work and found her daughters in Marli’s room as per usual. They were discussing something, but when she walked into the room, Mia jumped up and gave her a big hug.
“I love you, Mommy,” Mia said sweetly.
“Awww, what’s this? I love you too, pumpkin!”
“You’re the best mommy in the world.”
“I doubt that,” she laughed.
“I’m going to make dinner tonight.”
“You are? That’s kinda weird…but ok. Are you sure nothing is up?”
“Positive,” she said through a big, cheesy smile
“All right. I’ll be in my room working.”
“That was way over the top,” Marli said when Melody left the room. “You’re gonna get us in trouble!”
“We won’t get in trouble. She’s too busy falling in love.”
“Ok, but don’t underestimate her. She’s smart! Moms know things.”
“We’ll be fine,” she said as she left to go make dinner.
“Hmmm…what’s the easiest thing I can make besides salad…grilled cheese! Ok, first you take your cheese and you take it out of the plastic,” she said like she was on a cooking show. “Then you place the cheese between the bread like so. Crank your stove up to…hmmm…I think Hi will do. And then add butter to the pan. Looooooots o’ butter! Place the sandwich in the pan and let it grill. Whoa, that’s smokey! These are going to be very grilled I see. Wait…that’s a LOT of smoke! Oh no! Flames?! MOOOOMMMMYYYYYY!!!”
Melody ran out of the room because she never heard her child scream that way before. Marli came out too. They all stood in front of the fire terrified and unable to think. Although Mia started the fire, Marli was a lot more alarmed and feared for their lives. All Melody wanted to do was get her children to safety.
“WHAT DO WE DO, MOMMY? WHAT DO WE DO,” Marli screamed at the top of her lungs.
“Ummm…go to Mr. River’s house! NOW!”
Marli never ran so fast in all her life.
Luckily the fire was small enough for Melody to extinguish herself quickly. By the time River and the girls got back, everything was cleaned up and back to normal.
Melody went outside to let them know everything was ok, but she found Marli sobbing in the front yard.
“My poor baby. Everything is fine now. What’s the matter?”
“I was scared,” she said now crying uncontrollably. “You were in there…you could have diiiied!”
“But I didn’t die, baby! I’m right here!”
“I love you, Mommy!”
“I love you too, baby. I love you soooo much,” she said and squeezed her tightly. “Let’s go back inside. I think we’ll just have salad for dinner.”
“Can I have my pancakes from this morning instead?”
“You can have whatever you like.”
They walked back toward the house when River showed up.
“Melody! Oh thank the Watcher. Are you ok?”
“I’m fine, I’m fine. It was just a tiny fire.”
“Oh good. I mean, the girls were soo scared and they were screaming and I could only make out some of what they were saying. It sounded really bad.”
“You know how teenage girls are. I’m gonna make some salad. Would you like to stay for dinner?”
“I’ll stay, but don’t make a plate for me, please.”
River made himself comfortable while Melody chopped up some veggies. She called the girls to eat if they wanted to. Marli came, but Mia didn’t.
“MIA,” Melody called. “Come out here now!”
“Don’t you want to say thanks to Mr. River?”
“Fine,” she sighed.
They all sat in the living room with the TV on. Melody and River talked to each other like no one else was in the room while Mia and Marli were glaring at each other all night. There was one minute when Melody finally looked away from River long enough to notice this strange behavior.
“What’s going on with you two?”
“She almost made you die in a fire,” Marli accused.
“No, she’s just upset because we got called to the principal’s office…uh oh.”
“You WHAT,” Melody yelled.
“I’m sorry, Marli!”
“You two go to bed right now!”
It was only 8:30.
“Goodnight, Mr. River,” Marli said.
“I’m sorry, Mommy,” Mia said.
“Right now, Mia!”
Melody didn’t have to yell at her children much, but when she did, it made her feel awful. River felt a little awkward being there, but he kind of enjoyed it. He almost felt like he was part of the family. Besides, if he had any plans on being in their lives permanently, he may as well know the good, bad, and the ugly.
“I’m so sorry, River. They usually don’t get into trouble. I don’t know what’s going on with them.”
“It’s ok! They’re kids. Kids get in trouble sometimes. It’s no big deal.”
“I know, but I just can’t imagine what they did to get called to the principal’s office! I’ll find out tomorrow. They’re just too tense for me right now between whatever it is and the fire.”
Her thoughts consumed her and she drifted off for a second, but then she remembered that she hadn’t thanked River yet. She took his hands and looked him straight in the eyes and said, “Thank you so much for being here for us. I really appreciate it.”
He loved her eye color, and he was getting lost in the grayish blue ocean above her nose. Her eyes were like calming waves that drew him closer to her. He put his hand on top of hers and gently squeezed it.
“I’m always going to be here for you.”
They sat there gazing in each other’s eyes, slowly getting closer and closer. They were like two magnets. They couldn’t help but get close. The sparks had been flying for some time now and were slowly (or maybe not so slowly!) smoldering into full on flames of passion.
Both of them were caught off guard with this unplanned tender moment. Melody was fighting with herself. He was right there. The girls were asleep. She could steal one kiss. Just one! But she knew she couldn’t just kiss him once. She remembered something her mother told her: “Kissing leads to making out. Making out leads to woo hoo. Woo hoo leads to unplanned children. Think about that while you’re just ‘messing around.'” She couldn’t do it. She had to stay the course. Luckily, River was also fighting and decided that it was time to leave.
“It’s late. I should go.”
“I’ll call you tomorrow.”
She saw him out and then went to her room and changed into her workout clothes. These days, she didn’t box for therapy anymore. Nope. These days…cold showers just weren’t enough.