“Don? H-hi. What can I do for you?”
Don was originally River’s friend who knew the family. However, since moving out, Don had promoted himself to friend of the family and had been stopping by periodically to check on his friends. Melody didn’t mind although she felt it was a little strange. But, he was never any trouble and didn’t stay long, so she obliged these visits.
Don replied, “Oh, you know…just stopping by making sure things is cool. I brought some dinner…”
Her eyes narrowed as she tried to figure out what he was up to.
He knew. “I thought it might be one less thing for you to worry about.”
“That’s so thoughtful.” Very thoughtful. “Come in?”
He followed her into the kitchen and set the platter of blackened bass on the counter. It was close to dinner time anyway, so she grabbed some plates and served herself. “You may as well join me. Stefan and Harmony already ate, and Maurice is doing homework.”
He took the plate with a smirk on his face. Dinner alone with her was exactly what he wanted.
Melody eyed the dish suspiciously. “No offense, but this looks really good. Did one of your girlfriends make this for you?”
He laughed. “Mellie you know I don’t kiss and tell.”
It used to bother her to no end when River called her by that name, but somehow coming from Don’s mouth it didn’t sound so bad. She rolled her eyes as she sat and scarfed down her food like a hungry llama. Don had never seen her eat before and thought it was a good sign.
“It’s pretty good, huh?”
It was no better than when she made it herself. “…y-yeah, it’s fine.”
“So, uhhh… How’s Riv?”
“He’s fine,” she said tersely.
“Oh. Any word on getting back together?”
“Don, please. Not now.”
He took a few more bites of food as he thought of how to recover this so far failed conversation. Dinner was successful, but if he had any hopes of it not being cut short he needed to shift the balance in his favor quickly. It was time for his sure fire, never fail, bullet proof plan: flattery. Unfortunately, another guest had arrived for dinner as the plan got underway.
“Well, you’re looking great, as always.”
Maurice didn’t like Don’s sudden interest in their family. He may not have been their smartest child academically, but he had come to be very street smart. Don wasn’t a stranger to him, of course. He had known of him all his life. He was still young and didn’t know exactly what Don was about, but he knew trouble when he saw it; and Don looked very dangerous to him. He made sure to make loud racket while he helped himself to dinner a la Don. The noise definitely got Melody’s attention.
“Hey Maurice,” she said. “Did you have a good day?”
“It was ok.”
“Just ok? What happened?”
She wanted to probe him about it, but she figured he might not want to talk about it in front of her guest.
“Why is Mr. Don always here?”
His boldness was surprising. She was not expecting that one. “H-he’s just being nice,” she said defensively. “We’re his friends.”
“But he never came over this much when dad was still here. And what’s up with the food?” As a child, he was always so cantankerous. He matured a little bit, but some things about him never changed.
“It’s just dinner, Maurice. It’s very helpful to me!”
“Well what about when he brings movies when we go to bed?”
“What about it? Am I supposed to not have friends over while your dad isn’t here? I don’t think I appreciate what you’re implying, Maurice, and neither does Don!”
Actually, your boy is on the money. Smart kid. “Maybe I should go,” Don said. “I’m not trying to cause any trouble here.”
“No. You stay and finish your dinner. I appreciate it and you.”
Bingo. Take that, kid.
Maurice didn’t say anything else for the rest of the night. Somehow Melody and Don found their way back to a pleasant conversation again. After a while, he got her laughing. It was so refreshing to her as it had been a long time since she had a good laugh.
She noticed Maurice rubbing his head and looking a bit off. “Are you ok, babe?”
“I’m just hot.”
She hoped he wasn’t sick. Medicine was so expensive those days. The last thing she needed was a sick child with the little bit of money they had. The separation was temporary, so River’s salary still paid the bills. When she kicked him out, he crashed at Guy’s house that night. The next day, he went back home to get his things and try to talk to her. When he saw she wasn’t interested in taking him back yet, he said he would be staying at a hotel. Melody knew in the long run that would get very expensive, so she offered him the house while she and the kids would move in with her parents. River said the children shouldn’t be uprooted because of their personal issues. He said they should stay put, he’d get a cheap hotel, everything would be fine, and not to worry about the money. His words were hard to trust seeing as how they’re what put him out in the first place, but she had no choice but to trust him. He was right, and honestly she didn’t want to move in with her parents. However, she chose to think positively about the situation. She didn’t want the separation to evolve into divorce and wanted to see this small amount of small trust grow into the complete trust she used to have. Then and only then could he come home.
“I hope you’re not coming down with anything,” she said to her son. “Take a hot bath tonight. If something is coming, maybe you’ll sweat it out.”
When they finished eating, she cleared the plates and Maurice went for the bath.
Maurice is overreacting. Don is a family friend. I know he’s a cad, but he wouldn’t try anything with me… Right? Riv would kill him. Everything is fine, right?