Melody was running on autopilot again. It was exactly the kind of day she had in mind when she decided to be a stay-at-home mom. Anyone who scoffed at her profession got the evil eye for it was indeed a profession. There were far too many people who believed women who stayed at home did not have enough to do to warrant the sacrifice. Taking care of a household was a lot of work and required more time she would have if she were working. It was a day filled with repairmen going in and out of the house, parent-teacher conferences, detoxing the kitchen, and cleaning the kids’ rooms. She knew the children were supposed to clean their own rooms, but they hadn’t been doing good jobs and she couldn’t stand it anymore. Besides, she wanted to sort through their old clothes and clean out their closets. By the time they returned home, she had just barely finished her work and hadn’t started dinner yet. She had been so busy lately–and a bit depressed–there wasn’t enough leftovers for the children to enjoy after school. So, there she was in the kitchen at 3:30 sweating over a pan of salmon.
Her thoughts went back to the beginning of their marriage when they moved out of his mother’s trailer and bought their own house. River was a full time fisherman, and they had fish every night. A tiny smile crept onto her face at the memory. The storm that was the current reality washed it away.
“Mom?” Stefan had been watching her feverishly run about the kitchen.
“Hey baby,” she said in a rather robotic way.
“That smells good.”
There was a certain sweetness in his voice that melted her heart. This wasn’t one of those cold, selfish “what’s for dinner” type greetings. It was a warm, sincere “I love you mom, and I see everything you do” type greeting. Those were rare seeing as how he had been spending most of his free time with Olivia. In a way, she had forgotten how sweet her firstborn could be and how much he really loved her. She wanted to cry but held it together. Instead, she motioned for him to come to her. She threw her free arm around his waist and kissed his cheek. He was as tall as she was. She wondered when that happened.
“Did you have a good day?” she asked.
“It was aight.”
She snorted at his casual speech. “Would you set the table for me?”
He left her and did just that. She finished up the salmon and asparagus and placed them on a serving platter. There was a jar of pesto in the cabinet she almost forgot. “Maurice,” she called as she spread the salmon with the pesto. He was in his room. Usually he was parked in front of the television. They didn’t have video games like they did at their grandparents’ house. Melody, Harmony, and Stefan served themselves and were seated. Maurice joined them a few minutes after.
“Nice of you to join us,” Melody said. “What were you doing?”
“Mmm hmm. When you don’t answer me, you look guilty.”
“I wasn’t doing anything!”
“So you admit to ignoring your mother then,” Stefan said mischievously.
“Maurice!” She was getting to the point of throwing her hands up with him. He wasn’t a bad child, but he was always so disagreeable with everyone. She tried talking to him and punishing him, but nothing seemed to work. It was very hard not to blame River in those moments. Perhaps if he were around more, her child would be different. Or, perhaps not. He was the middle child after all.
They got through dinner without anymore lip from Maurice, and Melody was grateful. Everyone knew the drill: wash your dishes and do homework. Stefan, of course, was very smart and didn’t mind studying; he didn’t need supervision. Maurice hadn’t quite made the honor roll yet, but he wasn’t a bad student. He didn’t need the supervision, however, he slacked off whenever he could. Poor little Harmony wasn’t doing as well as Melody hoped. It was her teacher whom Melody conversed with earlier that day. She wasn’t blind and knew what the teacher was going to tell her. It’s just that she wasn’t quite sure what to do about it. Harmony liked to talk and her focus always shifted everywhere else but where it needed to be.
Often times, Maurice was right there with her. But, one look from his mother would get him on task. Harmony was still very young and hadn’t gotten used to the school thing yet. On one hand, Melody thought she just needed time. But, on the other hand, she didn’t want her growing up with a lackadaisical attitude toward education like she did.
“Harmony… I think you should spend a little less time talking while you do your work.”
“But, mommy, I–
“Talk less. Work more. Your teacher said you do a lot of talking in school too. Be more like your brother. You’ll get done faster.”
“Ugh,” Maurice shouted. “Stop comparing us to Stefan! Everyone can’t be smart like Stefan!”
“Perhaps if you would focus on your studies more, you could get better grades,” Melody said. “You don’t make the honor roll because you don’t try hard enough!”
“Whatever,” he muttered under his breath.
With Harmony working quietly, and with the help of her mother, she finished her homework a lot quicker than normal.
“See what happens when you’re quiet?
“Now it’s time for bed. Kiss kiss.”
“Nite nite, mommy.”
“Goodnight, Harmony,” Stefan said.
“Nite nite!” She ran off to her room.
Melody was glad she was at the stage where she could put herself to bed. She enjoyed tucking her in and would miss it when Harmony got older. However, self-sufficiency lent itself to more free time for herself at night. Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. “Who in Watcher’s name is here at this hour?” Maurice snorted. He knew exactly who it was. Melody tensed up as she made her way to the door, but only a portion of that tension eased when she saw who it was.
“Don? W-what are you doing here?”
He stood there for a few moments and studied her face. Such a pretty face, but so much pain in it. He knew he had what it took to make that pain melt away. Family life was never quite his style, but when she smiled, she knocked him out and he fell apart. He would do anything to get next to her. If there was even a shred of hope that she wanted him, he would drop everything and be at her side in a heartbeat.
“I, uhh, I brought you a bottle. Figured you might need to relax and unwind.”
“Oh,” she said with a hint of uncertainty in her voice. “That’s kind of you… But, I don’t drink at home with the kids around.”
That should have been the pin that popped Don’s balloon, but he never gave up. “Oh. Well, that’s all right. Just put it in the fridge for a special occasion or something.”
Oddly enough, that was the first time she ever suspected he was there for more than just a friendly visit. Still, she couldn’t bring herself to completely believe it and invited him in. She showed him into the living room and said she’d be right back. It was a bit embarrassing for her sons to see her with a bottle of wine in hand given who it was from. They were still doing their homework.
“Don’t stay up too late, boys. Finish your homework and go straight to bed.”
Again, Maurice snorted.
She joined Don on the couch who had found something on TV to watch. She eyed him suspiciously.
It occurred to her that she didn’t actually know much about him. Honestly, she wasn’t quite sure how he became a friend of the family because she was certain River didn’t know much about him either. Don wasn’t really the type of guy he would keep in his company. “So, Don… what is it that you do?”
His eyes got larger for half a second. She could have swore she saw him jump. “Umm, not much. I spend most of my time at the gym.”
That was shocking. She didn’t imagine him to be a career man, but she thought he would at least have a job. “Do you work at the gym?”
He chuckled. “I probably should as much time as I spend there.”
“So how do you live?”
He looked at her amorously. “People take care of me.”
She couldn’t help but snicker although it was a revolting answer. “Ugh. You’re disgusting.”
He shrugged and cocked his head to the side. “Hey. It works! Why ruin a good thing?”
She shook her head at him and rolled her eyes.
Just then, Maurice slid his chair across the floor so that it squeaked. “Goodnight, mom. Don’t stay up too late.”
Melody was the one who snorted this time. “Goodnight, Maurice.”
“Kid thinks he’s funny,” Don said.
“Maybe you should go. It’s getting late, and…it’s been a really long day.”
Don panicked and saw his window of opportunity slamming shut. “Don’t let him send you on a guilt trip. You’re a grown woman, and this is your house.”
“It’s not that, Don. It’s just…it’s complicated right now. The kids…well, they don’t know what’s going on, and they’re anxious all the time… I don’t even want to know what they think is happening.”
“What is going on? If you don’t mind me asking.”
She didn’t know how to put it. “I…”
“Is he double dipping?” There was a seriousness in his voice she never heard before. He sounded like he cared.
“No! Watcher no! I just… I just find it difficult to trust him right now. I don’t really want to say much more.”
The was window shut and locked.