Melody was rushing around the kitchen trying to whip up some food for Stefan’s party. River should have been helping her, but he stole away to snuggle his baby once more before he turned into a taller, more chatty, independent little person. Both River and Melody were both a bit somber and excited about this day. It was bittersweet watching their firstborn grow from being a calm, jovial baby who needed them for everything to a child who could fend for himself. They really enjoyed the baby stage, so it’s quite possible that Stefan will get that sister sooner rather than later.
“Hey, little guy! In a couple of hours, I won’t be able to hold you like this any more. When you get bigger, I’ll teach you how to fish, and we’ll go camping and do man stuff together!”
Stefan had no idea what his daddy was saying, but he liked the sound of his voice. He always gurgled and cooed the most when he was in River’s arms. River held onto him a bit longer as he thought about the work he was about to start in two days.
“You can’t understand anything I’m telling you, so…I’m a spy in the SIA. I’m going to lie to you and tell you that I’m a professor, but I’m not. I don’t want to do that, but I will do anything to keep you and your mommy safe! And to do that…tonight…I have to go out there and pretend that I’m cool with all my new friends because one of them may wish to take mommy away from us. Maybe you too! I wish you could stay a baby for a while longer so I can tell you all my secrets.”
Back in the kitchen, Melody was plating some pan-fried tilapia when the first guest walked through the door.
“Something smells divine,” Giancarlo said.
Wow, Melody thought. That guy sounds just like my, “DADDY!!!”
“OH MY GOD! DADDY?!”
“Surprise! Hello, my darling.”
“What are you–how did you–my goodness I’m so glad you’re here!”
“I knew you would be thoroughly surprised. Soooo…where is my grandson??”
“I think River just put him down for a nap, but I’ll get him up later.”
“Ok. I’ll go check the little guy out later. How are things with you and lover boy?”
“Things are awesome, daddy. I love him so much…and I am SO glad we have our own house now!”
“Yeah…I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned when you left home to go live over there, but the heart wants what the heart wants, right? And look at you now with your husband and your son and your house. Everything works out!”
“She’s right heeeere,” Bianca sang as she walked through the door.
“What in the world are you guys doing here?”
The door was open, so Guy let himself in. After all…it was a party.
“Well, it’s really quite simple,” Giancarlo said. “We got in the car, drove for a really really long time…”
“Daddy…seriously. Where are you guys staying? I wish I could have known. You could have stayed here, and we could have bought a pull out sofa or something.”
“Nah, we couldn’t let you do that,” Bianca said. “Should we tell her now, babe?”
“Tell me what?”
“No. Make her suffer! Just kidding. Go ahead and give her the good news,” Giancarlo said.
“Well, Melody…we’re staying in a beautiful house in Oasis Springs…permanently!!”
“NO WAY!!! ARE YOU SERIOUS RIGHT NOW?!”
“Totally serious! You know we wouldn’t want to be far away from our grands! And we have tons of money so…why not?”
“This is the greatest day ever!!”
Eric, Don, and Aden all walked in together, and Eric joined Guy on the couch to catch the game.
What kind of man wears hot pink, star-shaped shades and hot pink studs…in public?! I am not juiced up enough for this, Eric thought.
“The house is…nice,” Bianca said.
“Mom, don’t go there. Yes, it’s not what we’re used to, but it’s ours. And, it’s our first one! We’ll fix this one up, sell it, and buy a bigger better one!”
“I know, dear. I know. I’m happy for you…and oh so proud.”
Zoe Patel slinked in at some point and grabbed a seat at the dining table with a plate of food. River didn’t remember inviting her. He actually didn’t even know her, but he had seen her at the bar with the guys and assumed she was cool. He wanted to ask for her name without admitting that he had no idea who the heck she was.
“Excuse me…you’ll have to forgive me, but I’m just having the hardest time remembering your name! I’m so terrible with them.”
“Riiiight, riiiiight. Nice to see you again.”
“Same here. I hope you don’t me crashing your party. I came with Aden.”
Oh, well at least she knows she wasn’t invited, he thought.
“Oh no, it’s fine. Any friend of Aden is a friend of mine.”
That was the lamest thing you could have said, Riv!
“That’s very kind of you, River.”
Bianca sat down and joined in the conversation while Melody stood by and watched in amazement that her three most favorite people in the world were sitting at her dinner table. She hadn’t seen her parents since she left home to elope with River. She didn’t exactly leave on bad terms, but she left her parents in an unsettled state. They had met River before, and they liked him, but they just thought they were too young to be getting married and starting a life together at 20 years old even though they had done the exact same thing when they were just 18. They tried to reason with her and get her to see that she should wait a few more years from their own experience, but she wouldn’t have it. She wanted to be with the love of her life immediately, and no one and nothing was going to stop her. So she left and married River. And a few months after that, they found out they were pregnant, moved here a few months after that, and here they are now.
“So, Mel, River was just telling us about this teaching job he accepted,” Giancarlo said.
“It’s such wonderful news,” Bianca said. “I mean, I’m not trying to diminish your fishing dreams of course, but stability is important now that you have a family.”
“That was definitely on my mind, Mrs. Sheridan.”
“Can I get you guys something to eat,” Melody asked.
“We ate before we got here,” Bianca said.
“I’m gonna wake the baby up. Do you want to see him, mom?”
Meanwhile, a few feet away, the other neighbors were getting to know each other.
“Howdy, neighbors,” Guy said. “My name is Guy. I’m the president of the neighborhood association. I just thought I’d introduce myself and let you know that if you have any concerns about the neighborhood, just give me a holler. I live right next door.”
“We have an association,” Don asked.
“Yep. It’s newly formed.”
“Can y’all do something about crazy people moving in,” Eric asked.
“I have a legitimate concern,” Zoe said.
“What’s that, Ms….”
“Patel. Zoe Patel. Our home values keep decreasing, but I can’t figure out why.”
“That is a very valid concern. I’ll look into that and get back with you.”
“Yeah…while you’re at it, lose those glasses, bruh,” Eric said.
Back in Stefan’s room…
“Here he is,” Melody beamed.
“Oh, isn’t he precious! Don’t wake him. He looks so calm.”
“Well, everyone came to see him. He can’t sleep through his whole party. Come on, my little guy. Wake up. Someone wants to meet you!”
She pulled him out of his bassinet, and of course he started screaming as he was enjoying his nap.
“I know, you’re mad at me. I’m sorry! You can’t sleep the whole time, buddy. You have guests to see! This one is your grandma!”
“He looks just like you when you were a baby.”
Stefan was still screaming.
“You think so? Ok, Stefan, I said I’m sorry! I’m gonna put you down for a few minutes, and then it’s party time for you,” Melody said as she placed him back in the bassinet.
“So, mom…you guys really live just in the next town? How did you even decide to do that?”
“It’s just like I said. We wanted to be close to Stefan…and whoever else you give us. And, I figured you could use the help from time to time.”
“But what about Cadence? Is she just living in that big house all by herself? She didn’t want to come?”
“You know your sister. She was upset when you left, but she’s just going to have to learn to make her own friends. I mean, you’re twins…and you left. But, anyway, she’s been talking to this guy named Cameron lately, so she’s gonna stick around and see what happens with him.”
“Good! At least she has someone…maybe. I hope it turns into something. She really needs someone extremely dear to her. Oh mom…you have no idea how glad I am that you’re here with me!”
“Child, you know I do. I didn’t have this kind of relationship with my mom, and I really needed her–especially when I was having you two. I’ve been where you are, so I know what you need.”
“Thank you, mom. And dad didn’t mind?”
“Oh, you know how easy he is. I brought it up four months ago, and he was ready to pack up and leave right then!”
“Ha! I bet. I love you guys so much.”
“We love you too, and that’s why we’re here!”
They talked for a few more minutes about Cadence and Cameron and the rest of the family when River and some of the guest started to trickle in. It was time for Stefan to become a child!
Stefan came out with Melody’s nose and River’s hair and eye color and mouth. They were so happy and so proud. Of what? Nothing. Just proud to be parents. Stefan was just a little hungry, so he went to the kitchen to get some leftovers, but his parents couldn’t get enough of him.
“Happy birthday, son!”
“Happy birthday, Stefan! Tomorrow, we can do whatever you want, ok?”
“Whatever I want?”
“Whatever you want.”
“Can we please go to the park?”
“Absolutely,” River said.
“ALL RIGHT,” Stefan cheered.
River went back to see about the other guests when Eric met him in the hallway.
“Ay, bruh…I’m ’bout to leave, man. But ummm…thanks for the invite. You have a handsome little dude there. Maybe he and my kid can play together sometime.”
“You have kids?”
“Yeah! I have a little girl. Her name is Olivia. She’s the cutest thing. Ay man, don’t tell nobody I used the word cute like that. Folks might get the wrong impression, know what I’m sayin?”
“I know what you’re saying. I won’t tell them you wore a pink shirt either,” River teased.
“Ay man, why you gotta hate on my shirt? Why you gotta hate on my shirt, man? My mama gave me this shirt! Real men wear pink…this shade of pink…not that loud kind like that other dude was wearing!”
“Ha! Right. Well, have a good evening, Eric.”
Within the hour, all the guests were gone, and River and Melody cleaned up the house and put the leftovers away. Melody put Stefan to bed, and then spent a little time with River before getting to sleep. Then, very early the next morning…
“Mom! Can we go to the park yet?”
Melody wasn’t used to his little raspy voice yet and she was startled. She sat up and put her feet on the floor, but her eyes weren’t ready to open yet.
“Come here, Stefan…”
“It’s Saturday…and it’s 6:00 in the morning. We don’t get up that early on Saturday. So, if you give me just one more hour, I’ll get up and we can go to the park. Is that ok with you?”
Stefan skipped away while Melody crawled back into bed.
I hope he’s not always like this!