“Mom…can I feel the baby move?”
“Sure! Put your hands right here.”
“Ooooh! He moved!”
“Well…it could be a girl, but, if it’s a boy, I wouldn’t mind one bit.”
“I want a brother!”
“He wants a brother, Riv.”
“You two can gang up on me if you want to! I’m still holding out for a girl.”
“Ok, big boy…finish your breakfast and get dressed,” Melody said. “I want to check your homework before you leave.”
River had begun drinking black tea in the mornings. He found that it put him in a focused state of mind which helped him to work harder. Melody had no idea why he drank it, but she thought she would try it to see if the warm liquid would ease the nausea. It helped for a little while, but she also felt strangely sharp. All of a sudden she felt like playing chess…and she hated chess. She went to the library to do just that after River and Stefan left.
The chess table was free, so she sat down to play. It had been so long since she played last, but it was slowly coming back to her.
“Do you mind if I join you,” a woman’s voice asked.
“Be my guest,” Melody said.
The woman sat across from Melody, but she didn’t join the game.
“Is it your first,” the woman asked.
“Oh! Sorry. No, it’s my second. My son is in kindergarten.”
The very pale woman with flaming red hair kept staring at Melody and looking at her stomach. Melody thought she was kind of weird, but there was something sweet about her. It was her eyes. She looked very sad, and there was an innocence in her eyes that Melody couldn’t quite place. She didn’t want to make her feel bad about staring, so she tried distract her with conversation.
“I’m Melody, by the way…”
“Presley. Presley Laughlin.”
“Nice to meet you.”
It didn’t work. She kept staring at her.
“I’m sorry, Presley…I don’t know how to say this, but…you’re staring at me…”
“Oh goodness. I’m sorry, Melody. I’m very sorry. It’s just…I’m so sorry. I should go!”
“Wait! I’ve upset you some kind of way, and I’m sorry,” Melody said. “Please, stay.”
“Thank you. Again, I’m sorry for staring. This is definitely a reminder for me to keep going to therapy!”
“If you don’t mind me asking…why are you in therapy?”
“I ummm…I…,” Presley fumbled
“It’s too painful. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be so nosey,” Melody said regretably
“No, it’s fine. The doctor says talking about it will help me…
“…I have two children. My oldest, DeMario, is 13. His father and I have joint custody, so he doesn’t always live with me. My daughter, Gabriella, is 7. Last school year, DeMario decided he wanted to live with his father, so it was just me and Gabriella. We had such a wonderful time together just us girls. We went to the park every day. She loved to make up these adventure games for us to play. Her grades weren’t stellar, but she wasn’t failing. Five months ago I told her that if she made the B honor roll, she could have cupcakes for dinner. Heh…she always had such a sweet tooth. She decided to stop going to the park so much to spend more time on homework. She worked so hard for weeks and weeks, and I was so proud of her. Report card day had come, and I just knew she had done it, so I made the cupcakes anyway so she could have them after school. But…she…she…oh my goodness…I’m so sorry. I’m a mess,” she cried.
“It’s ok,” Melody said reaching for her hand. “Take your time.”
“Thank you,” she said wiping her face. “Ok [inhale…exhale]. Gabriella never came home!”
“Oh my Watcher!
“Wh-what happened to her?!”
“She got abducted right in the school yard!”
“Oh dear Watcher. Are you serious?! I hear about this stuff on the news all the time, but I didn’t know it was going on here.”
“They say there’s a sophisticated trafficking organization that operates here. They’re so good, people hardly notice it!”
“That is so scary! I just want to march down to that school and get my son right now!!”
“They don’t go after boys too much, so…I wouldn’t worry.”
“Wow…I am so sorry to hear this. I’m sorry for you! How long has she been gone?”
“Oh my goodness, that was just like yesterday! I’m so sorry! Do you have anyone at home?”
“My son. He came back. He’s been very supportive.”
“Melody…thank you for listening to me. I know it’s a bit unusual to listen to a stranger’s life story, but you’ve been so kind. I should get going. I’ve already ruined your day with my drama.”
“I’m just glad you were able to tell your story. Here…take my number. We’ll hang out sometime if you’d like.”
“I would like that. I’d like that very much. Have a good day, Melody.”
“You too, Presley. Please call me if you need to talk.”
“I will. Goodbye.”
Melody sat back in the chair with her mind racing. It took everything within her not to go down to the school to check on Stefan.
Later on that night, after Stefan was in bed, Melody and River hung out in the kitchen talking.
“I went to the library today,” she said. “I met this poor woman…her daughter was abducted four months ago! Can you believe it?”
Secret agent River was quite interested in this story.
“That’s terrible! You should invite her over sometime…I’d like to hear her story.
“What’s the matter? Feeling sick again?”
“I think the baby hates me.”
“We can’t have that now, can we? Stand up.”
Melody stood up, and River put his hands on her belly.
“Hello, baby. I am your father! Now, listen…you’ve been causing too much trouble in there, and your mother is miserable. We’re just as excited as you are to get out, but you need to be patient! Stop doing whatever you’re doing to make her sick. I love you, ok? Please stop making mommy sick.”
“Oooh, I like the authoritative Riv. He should come out to play more often,” she flirted.
He kissed her on the forehead and said, “Not tonight. You’re tired and sick. Go to bed.”
“Sir yes sir!”