“This is nice, girls. I’m glad you got me out of the house,” Melody said.
“You should get out more, Mommy,” Marli said compassionately with a mouthful of hot dogs. “It’s not good for you to stay cooped up and work all the time.”
“I know, baby. I guess…maybe it’s just how I’ve dealt with…things.”
She looked at her younger daughter in amazement. It seemed like it was just yesterday that she was changing her diapers and singing to her to sleep. Here she is now, taking advice from a beautiful young lady who needed her less and less. Where has the time gone, she thought.
“Mommy, I need you to promise that you will talk to at least one guy today,” Mia said.
“You want me to do what?”
“Just say hi or something. Just one. You need some friends, Mommy,” Mia continued.
“Yeah, Mommy,” Marli agreed.
“Am I really bad company? Are you girls trying to get rid of me,” Melody joked.
“Mommy! I’m serious. You deserve to be happy.”
“Ok, fine. I’ll say hello to someone, but don’t get your hopes up for anything more!”
Mia and Marli had a close relationship with Melody already, but after learning about their father and what Melody went through, their love for her grew immensely. They understood why she was the way she was and did the things she did now. All they wanted now was to see her happy, normal, and unafraid. She had actually been a lot better since telling them her story. Cadence was right about getting it out. Talking about it helped her process it better and even consider where she went wrong. She wasn’t sure if she would ever completely be over it, but she was definitely moving forward with her life.
As always, a visit to the park meant an unofficial Pruett family reunion. Everyone was there. When her daughters left to go hang with their cousins, Melody retreated to the pavilion. Lance was in there too, and so she got caught up on all the happenings with the triplets.
“Mel…why does that guy keep looking over here?”
“The dirty one.”
“I don’t know. Maybe he likes what he sees,” she joked. “Wait a minute…he looks a bit familiar. Be right back. I’m gonna get a closer look.”
She casually walked over to the bar and sat next to him. She looked at him a few times, and she finally figured out where she knew him from.
“Melody! You do remember me!”
“Tenth grade simology. How have you been?”
“I’ve been…I’ve been ok…I suppose.”
“Well, the thing is…I just got out….”
“Out of what?”
“Ohhhhhh, boy,” she said under her breath.
“I know that look. I get it all the time. I understand.”
“Hi, Mommy,” Marli said being nosy.
“Austin, this is my youngest daughter. Marli, this is one of my high school classmates. He lived in the house with your father.”
“Father?” Which one,” Austin asked.
“Paxton,” she said with a hint of embarrassment.
Although Marli wanted to take her mother out of that conversation to save her from whatever she was feeling, she was beaming with pride. This was the first time Melody had talked about Paxton outside of the safety of the family. The healing process was live and working quite nicely. Marli excused herself. Her mother didn’t need rescuing. She needed to let the healing take its course. She didn’t go very far, though.
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Austin. I’m gonna go find Mia. She’s probably having a fit somewhere being around all these strangers.”
“I’m actually gonna get outta here too,” Austin said. “It was great to see you again.”
“Great to see you too. Take care of yourself, ok?”
Melody had never actually met anyone who was insane and tried to imagine what happened to him to get him to the point of being committed. The twins must have been spying through the window because as soon as Austin left, they “just happened” to come back inside the pavilion.
“You did it, Mommy! You talked to someone,” Marli exclaimed.
“Hmmm, I guess I did! That’s something. You girls ready to go?”
“Yes,” they said.
So they caught the taxi home. They each took care of their needs and got ready for bed. Melody was the last one up, and when she went to her room, she found Marli in her bed.
“My sweet baby,” she whispered. “I wish you could be only mine forever.”
She watched her sleep for a few more minutes before she crawled in bed next to her sleeping beauty. She had flashbacks of times when she watched her sleep as a baby and as a child. She hoped that when her children grew up, they would find someone who loved them completely and would admire them while they slept. And then, when she died, she hoped that she would be able to come back and watch them and their children sleep. There was something so sweet and innocent about watching children sleep. They looked so peaceful and safe. Even in her darkest hour, her world was perfectly fine while watching her daughters sleep. She closed her eyes, and before sleep took over her, she said, “I won’t let anyone hurt you.”
The next morning was a superb Sunday. Melody had enjoyed their family outing so much, she wanted to spend another afternoon with Mia and Marli before getting back to real life on Monday morning.
“Good morning, my sunshine!”
“I was thinking…we’ve never been to the museum in Willow Creek. You wanna go?”
“If you want to go.”
“I do. Get your sister up.”
The Sheridan ladies got themselves together and headed over to Willow Creek. There was a sign saying that a special jazz exhibit was upstairs, so of course Marli dragged everyone up there–being a music lover and all. They admired the art for a few minutes, but then Mia got bored.
“Mommy, can we please do something else now?”
“Anything! Something fun!”
“Like dancing,” Marli suggested.
“Like dancing! Can you please take us to the club, Mommy please please pleeeeease,” Mia begged.
“I guess there’s a first time for everything. Sure. Let’s go.”
It was around 1:15 in the afternoon, and the place was as dry as bones–naturally. Mia and Marli didn’t care though. They were just happy to be in such a place. A few people trickled in as they began to dance. Dancing was always a happy memory for Melody. When she was young and care free, she danced. When she thought she was in love, she danced. When she was in despair, she danced. And now that she was healing, she danced. It isn’t possible to feel bad while you dance, and so dancing had become her happy place. She could have danced all afternoon, but Mia and Marli decided they wanted to sit out in the sun and enjoy Willow Creek’s lush scenery. A few family members passed by and spoke, but for the most part, it was a very quiet, peaceful Sunday afternoon.
Melody needed to go to the bathroom after a while and went back into the club. When she came downstairs, she looked around a bit and saw that the bar was completely empty. How does the bartender just leave, she thought. There were a few fresh drinks still on the bar, so she took one and started to head back outside when she noticed an admirer.
“Oh! I didn’t see you standing there.”
“I’m very sorry if I startled you. I’m River. What’s your name?”
“That is a beautiful name!”
“Oh…thanks,” she said hesitantly.
For some reason that made her think about her sister and the thought tickled her.
“Heh, actually…I have a twin named Cadence. ”
“Holy cow plants! Cadence and Melody?? That is the best pair of twin names I’ve ever heard. Your parents must have been musical geniuses.”
“My father. He was a violinist.”
“I bet he was passionately amazing.”
“Forgive me if this is too personal, but do you have children?”
“Yes…has something happened?”
“Oh, no! I’m sorry to keep alarming you. I saw them when I came in, and I thought they were so beautiful. And then when I came in here and saw you, I just knew they were yours. The apples don’t fall far from the tree.”
“Thank you,” she said with mixed emotions.
It had been a very long time since anyone complimented her. It was like…water. She couldn’t deny that she found it to be refreshing. But, her problem in the past was not recognizing the difference between when she was truly thirsty and needed water and when she just felt like drinking. She definitely felt parched, but she wanted to ensure that she didn’t guzzle it down. Last time she did that, she choked. The daily requirement of eight glasses of water is not something that should be taken in all at once. It should be sipped slowly throughout the day. See, Melody was finally owning up to the role she played in her situation. She spent so many years blaming Paxton when she needed to be examining herself. Yes, Paxton did a terrible thing and left her with two unborn babies, but things could have been very different if she wasn’t out of control, chugging water and giving into all of her lustful desires. She never wanted to let herself get that way again, and so she resolved to take just a few sips and watch her behavior with River–and anyone else she met.
“So, do you have children, River?”
“No. I wanted to, but I never found the right lady. I guess I still could, but I feel like I’m getting too old. What about you? Let me guess….Either you have a husband, but he’s an idiot for letting a pretty young thing like you run loose unaccompanied, or, you had someone, but he was also an idiot and let you go.”
She laughed a little and blushed at how close to the truth he was.
“Ahhh, so I’m right? I know I am! If you don’t mind me asking, which one is it?”
She looked at him directly in his eyes. She wanted to know if he could be trusted. Of course, she wouldn’t know that as she just met him ten minutes ago. But in the least, she wanted to know if he genuinely cared, or if he was just trying to pick her up. After all, they were in a bar. However, there was only one way to find out.
“He left. Long time ago.”
“Gosh. And it still hurts, doesn’t it?”
How does he know, she thought.
“I can see it in your eyes. The pain.”
This guy was reading all her mail, and at first it made her uneasy and she walked away from him. But then, it hit her. Paxton never tried to know her; She only thought he did. As a matter of fact, she made herself believe that he knew her. River was intuitive enough to already know where her deep dark places were. She didn’t know how he understood her so well, but she kinda liked it and felt that it came from a genuine place. Although she was still guarded, she opened up just enough to correct the mistake she was about to make. She stopped walking, took a deep breath, and invited him to dance.