Melody hadn’t seen her children so happy in a long time. The closest they came to it was afternoons at her parents’ house. Stefan surely hadn’t cracked a smile since Olivia went missing. Even Maurice, her disagreeable one, had a pleasant disposition. Harmony, who didn’t know any better, was always happy but extra smiley that morning. Melody knew her children missed their father, but the announcement seemed to lift an invisible veil. It was amazing although she shouldn’t have been amazed.
“Is daddy still here?”
Melody couldn’t help but laugh at her innocence. “Yes, Harmony, he’s still here. He’ll be here for good now.”
“He’s not going away again?”
“Nope. He’s staying.”
River must have missed their bed and needed good sleep. It was rare for him to sleep in, but she wanted everyone to eat breakfast together.
“Why don’t you go wake him up,” she said to Harmony.
The little girl dashed into the master bedroom. Seconds later, high pitched squeals and giggles erupted from the door. That sound had been lacking for so long. Melody felt like crying, but she choked back the sensation and completed the meal.
“You can come on, boys.”
They served themselves while she watched her husband and daughter come out of the bedroom. He carried her and set her in a chair.
“Down you go, princess. Let’s see what mommy whipped up for us. Good morning, Bae.” He kissed her cheek. “Oooh, spinach frittatas. Would you like a big piece or a small piece?”
“A BIG piece!”
“Don’t give her a big piece,” Melody whispered.
River and Melody got their food and joined the children. It was so nice to have all of them at the table.
“Mommy I want to go with daddy to get his stuff.”
“Umm…maybe you should stay here. We won’t be gone long.”
He only had some clothes and a few personal items. Everything went into two suitcases. Harmony was too small to carry anything, and she wasn’t good at folding clothes yet. As much as Melody loved her child, she knew she’d just be in the way.
“But I want to see where daddy lived! I’ll make sure he doesn’t leave anything so he won’t go back.”
“We can’t have that, right?” Melody said. “Ok, fine.”
After everyone was satiated, Stefan took up the plates. “Don’t worry, mom. I got the dishes.”
“Oh! Thank you, Stefan!”
Stefan was the most helpful of the three, but he had barely been alive over the past few months. She was shocked and grateful to see him getting back to his old self. And, to think all this progress could have been going on all that time if she had not asked River to leave.
After breakfast, River, Melody, and Harmony got dressed and walked to the hotel. He didn’t want to be too far away in case something happened and chose the small hotel around the corner. Harmony kept asking him to carry her. Really, she was too big to be carried, but he knew she missed him, and he missed her. Of course he carried her.
He put her down when they got inside. His room was perfectly located on the first floor near the front entrance; he didn’t want to spend any more time there than he needed to.
“Daddy are we going upstairs?”
“Nope. We’re going right here.”
He opened the door, and they filed in.
Harmony looked around. “It’s so big!”
He snickered at her assessment. Compared to her own room it was big.
“Where are the suitcases?” Melody asked.
He pointed to the other side of the dresser. While she fetched the cases, he opened the drawers and commenced to empty them. “You wanna help me pack?” he asked Harmony.
While they packed the clothes, Melody took the smaller suitcase into the bathroom to get his other things. To say he was relieved to be leaving that place would be an understatement. It was torture living so close yet so far from his family. He didn’t know what was in store for him in the future as far as his job was concerned, but family-wise, things were going to be different.
“You did a great job, princess!”
She beamed as he kissed her forehead.
“Did we get everything?” he asked Melody.
“I’ll check,” Harmony yelled and searched the room.
Her parents chuckled at her tenacity.
“She should be a detective,” he said.
“Good job, Detective Pitts.” He winked at Melody. “All right…let’s get outta here.”
They exited the room and headed for the front desk.
“I have to go to the bathroom.”
Melody sighed. “Can you wait until we get home?”
The child was dancing. “Noooo, I need to go noooow!”
“Fine. Go in the room. I’ll be right here on the porch,” Melody said.
She went outside while River checked out of the hotel. He joined her as soon as his account was settled.
He sat next to her and let out a long sigh as he stretched his neck. “I feel like I’ve been released from jail.”
“I’m sorry, Riv.”
“You did what you thought was right. I could have done things differently too…what’s taking her so long?”
He went back to the room to fetch her. “Did you fall in?” He knocked on the door. “Harmony?” He opened the door. “What the–” He turned around and searched the room in case she was playing a game of hide and seek she never announced.
Every hair on his body reached for the sky when it became clear she wasn’t there. “WHAT THE PLUM!”
He dashed to the lobby. “Harmony!” He accosted the receptionist. “Did you see my daughter come back out here?”
Maybe she wanted to see upstairs. He frantically searched the other two floors and did not find her. Back on the main level, he felt like the world was spinning. He couldn’t breathe or form a rational thought. In the corner of his eye, he saw stairs that led to a lower level. He raced down those stairs and ran down a long, dark hallway. But then, Secret Agent Pitts took over and suggested he walked the rest of the way as the hallway was very echoey.
At last, he heard voices of men. He wasn’t sure how many there were, but it didn’t matter. He’d fight them until he was dead to get his daughter back. River tiptoed around the corner and saw them at the end of the hall about to take Harmony into a room.
Using his stealthy skills, he snuck up behind the big guy and kicked him in the Achilles, and he went down.
The other guy grabbed her and tried to make a run for the room, but River was fast and Harmony put up a good fight. She kicked and screamed and wiggled and flailed her little arms. He couldn’t keep a good grasp on her. River grabbed the guy by his ponytail and yanked as hard as he could, letting Harmony slip out of his arms.
“Run, Harmony! Call the police!” He got a few good punches in before the man pinned him against the wall.
“She’s getting away,” the big guy yelled as he got up.
“Forget her. We’ll get caught if we go after her. We gotta go…but not before we teach this idiot a lesson.”
He let River go, and the big guy stood on the other side of him. How was he going to get out of there? He couldn’t fight two men. Rapid footsteps coming toward them echoed in the hallway. It was the third man River noticed upstairs. He should have known he looked suspicious, but he was so focused on his family and getting out of the hotel.
“Oh good…he’s still here,” the third man said. “I haven’t rearranged anyone’s face all day.”
The big guy sucked his teeth. “That’s for babies. Let’s slit his throat.”
“Harmony?! What in the world?? Oh, my baby. Wait…where’s daddy?! What happened??”