Days gave way to weeks and weeks to months. Time seemed to be a relative concept in the Pitts residence that seemed to race by and change frequency at will. To Melody, it felt like just days ago she told her parents they were leaving, and now they lived in a beautiful home far away from anything they had ever known. Just yesterday, they learned about tea leaves in therapy, and now their marriage was stronger than ever. Where did the time go? What happened in between? It was all a blur.
To add to the household anxiety, River and Melody had no say in their future residence. Just as they were learning to trust each other again, they had to trust the S.I.A. to do right by them. The mystery could have eaten at them, skyrocketing the household anxiety levels, but River and Melody turned the stressful situation into a game. Over dinner, they would speculate about the house and state their wishes for it. When moving day came, they took only their most precious possessions and boarded a plane to nowhere. At least that’s where it felt like they were going. When they landed, Melody surveyed her family. River and Harmony seemed excited while she and Maurice were nervous. She couldn’t tell how Stefan felt. The house was a long way from the airport, and she feared they were going to be living in the middle of the woods or something. To her surprise, however, the taxi did not take them to the forest but to the coast. She glanced at River who looked hopeful. It had always been his dream to live in a waterfront house and fish on his own property. Having the river in their backyard in Willow Creek was good enough although he didn’t really enjoy fishing in the river. To everyone’s delight, the taxi stopped in front of a house right on the beach.
That day was just a couple of months ago, and everyone had settled in quite nicely. The children seemed to adjust well to the new school although the time change wiped them out; Melody thought they’d be used to it by now. River enjoyed being a semi-retired man, living his dream being a fisherman. His ribs were still on the mend, and fishing probably wasn’t the best idea yet, but he did it anyway. Melody continued her same routine, but she was so much happier. Everything was finally the way it should have been. Some days she would walk to the beach, look out at the ocean, and thank the Watcher for preserving them. She didn’t want to believe that all those hard years, the kidnapping, and everything was meant to be to bring them to this place, but it sure seemed that way.
After staring at the ocean, she’d watch her husband enjoy what he loved. She never saw his face or heard him saying anything, but she knew there was immense joy inside. River was naturally chilled and calm, but in those days the calmness seemed to run deeper. She couldn’t explain it, but he was different. The calm wasn’t a weakness. It was a quiet strength, a strong force to be reckoned with. She admired it and wished she could be more like him. He anchored her.
She blushed. “Sorry.”
“You can join me, you know. I don’t mind the company.”
She smiled bashfully and walked to him.
“What’s on your mind?”
“Nothing. My parents will be here soon.”
He looked at his watch. “Oh snap. Thanks, Bae. I’ll finish up.”
There was a knock at the front door, and Melody’s heart leaped with joy. She and River had lived far away from them before, but she had gotten used to them being so close. Getting used to them not being a short taxi ride away had been harder than she anticipated. Through the glass door, she saw their beaming faces. She couldn’t help the tears that fell and threw her arms around her mother.
Bianca cried too. “Hello, baby.” She lingered in her daughter’s arms for a moment before she broke away. “Did you know that house next door is for sale?”
She chuckled at the random comment. “That house is ginormous, mom.”
“It’s no bigger than the Pruett Estate. Where’s the computer? I’m gonna see if someone can show it to us tomorrow.”
Melody rolled her eyes and pointed inside the living room. “It’s right there.”
“You know you can’t get rid of us,” Giancarlo said.
She embraced him. “Hi, daddy.”
“Hey, kiddo. I’ve missed you so much.”
“He should be coming in any second now. He fishes right on the beach.”
“Good for him. This house is great!”
“Thanks! You want the tour before he gets in?”
“Of course! Are the kids here yet?”
“All of them?” Bianca asked from the other room.
“They’re still struggling with the time change.” She lead them upstairs. “Their rooms are up here.”
“They have their own rooms?”
One by one, she slowly opened the kids’ rooms and let her parents peek in.
Back downstairs, Bianca turned to Giancarlo. “It’s only been half a year, but they’ve gotten so big! Right, babe?”
“Like weeds. What are you feeding those things, kiddo?”
She laughed. “Here’s the kitchen.”
“And, we finally have an en suite!”
“Oh good,” Bianca said. “Now the kids won’t pee in their pants while you two are–“
Giancarlo chimed in. “And good thing their rooms are upstairs too.”
Melody stood there with her mouth gaped. “DAD!!”
“Oh yeah. Poor kids. We should have given them earmuffs for their birthdays.”
Her parents practically fell over themselves laughing at their own wit while Melody’s face reddened. Despite the fact that she was embarrassed by her parents discussing her love life, she couldn’t help but chuckle under her breath at the validity of their speculations. With River on the mend, and their marriage as strong as its ever been, she looked forward to making up the lost time in the seclusion of their new master suite.
When they returned to the living room, River was waiting for them. “What’s so funny?”
“Oh, we were just saying–“
“NOTHING IS FUNNY! Please, can we just move on?”
River chuckled. “Why you so red, Bae?”
“This is a nice place you got here, Riv,” Giancarlo said. “I hope you’re not going to tell us it was bought with drug money or something cray like that.”
Melody’s stomach began to churn. She hadn’t forgotten they needed to share with her parents what took place, but part of her wished they would just forget about it and simply enjoy being together again.
River quickly glanced at her. “Heh, not quite.”
“Ok, start talking, River. We didn’t fly all the way across the country for more cryptic talk!”
Melody smiled and gave him an encouraging nod.
“Ummm…first, I want to apologize. After the story, you’ll understand, but I haven’t been truthful about my employment.”
Melody felt the air in the room get thicker. Her parents tensed up.
“Oh no. You are dealing drugs.”
“No, sir! I’d never do anything illegal. I…I got recruited by the S.I.A.”
Bianca’s face lit up, and she turned toward Melody. “He’s a spy! I guessed it, and you laughed at me!”
“I didn’t know that back then, mom.”
“Hmph. You implied that I was old and spent my retirement watching too many crime dramas.”
She chuckled. “That’s not what I–“
“Mmm hmm. Continue the story, Agent Pitts.” Bianca winked at him.
Giancarlo shook his head. “Hold on. You’ve really been working for the S.I.A. this whole time?”
“But…why? Were you guys struggling that much you had to get a job? You could have come to us. We could have helped.”
“It wasn’t like that. I was approached. This was right before Stefan was born.”
Bianca gasped. “The whole time you lived in Willow Creek?”
River looked like he wanted to disappear, and Melody wished she were sitting next to him so she could hold his hand and help him power through the story.
“They told me Melody might be in danger. I didn’t have a choice. I did, but I felt like I didn’t. I had to protect her.”
Melody watched as her parents’ faces softened, and she breathed a sigh of relief.
“What was the danger?” Giancarlo asked.
She watched her husband struggle to answer and couldn’t imagine how difficult it was for him to explain to her father she could have been taken and sold off to be a sex slave. “Trafficking.”
River looked up at her and nodded as if to say thank you.
“Goodness gracious,” Bianca shouted. “That goes on in Willow Creek?”
Giancarlo’s head fell. Melody wondered what he was feeling.
“Yeah. Big time.”
Bianca shook her head. “Is any place safe anymore? Sheesh! No wonder you moved all the way over here. I mean, whoever heard of Brindleton Bay? How did you find this place anyway?” She paused for a brief moment and her eyes narrowed. “And what’s this business about not knowing where you’re going and not being able to tell us? And, you. She said you were hurt.”
“Mom, just let him finish.”
River took a few moments to collect his thoughts. In that moment, Melody considered what River must have felt like that day for the first time. She was so wrapped up in taking care of Harmony and dealing with her own conflicted feelings, she never truly thought about what River went through. The news of his true occupation was fresh, and everything had always been about the job. She only thought of his involvement in the incident within the context of the job. His poker face was so good, and he had become such a master at hiding his feelings, she failed to remember it was his own child he had to rescue. It was a weird thing to admit. Of course, she knew he fathered the child, but he had been so distant and so dedicated to this job she had grown to hate. But, sitting there, watching his leg twitch and him rubbing his hands together, she didn’t see Agent Pitts. She saw a scared man who almost lost his daughter and risked his own life to save her.
He cleared his throat. “They tried to take her.”
Giancarlo was as stiff as a board. “Mel?”
The silence lingered in the air like the smell of fresh baked cookies…or the smoke that came from Giancarlo’s ears. Melody wanted to say something but knew they needed to process everything like she had. On one hand, she was glad they knew now, but on the other hand, she wished they didn’t need to know and hoped their new knowledge didn’t affect things.
“Well,” Bianca said, “I’m sure we can imagine the rest. Do you intend to continue your employment?”
Her tone was almost daring but a bit concerned too.
“I’m still employed, but I’m inactive. Until my ribs heal, I’m on medical leave. When that’s over, the permanent plan kicks in.”
“And what is that?”
“I guess you can think of it sort of like the witness protection program.”
“So, because this happened, they moved you here and intend to take care of you for the rest of your life?”
“Riv,” Giancarlo said finally, “you’re an honorable man. Thank you for protecting my daughter and grandchildren.”
The tears escaped Melody’s eyes again. There were few moments when her father was completely serious, and they all had to do with the family. She couldn’t imagine her parents being angry at River but was still relieved to find out how pleased they were.
“My…you two are always full of surprises. Well, it’s all in the past now, and everyone is safe. That’s all that matters.” Bianca wiped a few tears before she changed gears. “The children have slept long enough, don’t you think?”
Melody smiled. “Yeah. Let’s get them up.”
As they marched upstairs, Melody thought about all the recent changes in her life. River had returned home. Maurice behaved better. They owned a beautiful home with enough space for everyone. Soon, her parents would be living nearby. From the outside looking in, it seemed her life was complete, but it wasn’t. One issue still lingered, and she hoped it wasn’t too late to fix it.