River had always been an early riser and was just completing his last REM cycle as Melody was bargaining with Stefan. He got up and watched Saturday morning cartoons with him in their PJs and ate cereal while Melody slept. It was just after 1:30 when they finally arrived at the park. Stefan dashed to the playground, and River and Melody found a bench near where he was playing and watched him. They were so happy to be in this stage of life with a little person to love and protect. Speaking of protect…
“Stefan…two hands, honey! Don’t swing so fast! Oh no…please don’t…he’s sitting on top of the monkey bars! Should he be sitting up there? What if he falls down?”
River looked around and noticed that they were the only parents concerned enough to sit near their child and watch him. He thought they might be turning into helicopter parents.
“Mel…chill out! Let the boy play!”
“I don’t want him to hurt himself!”
“He’s a kid! He’s going to hurt himself!”
“I know, but…it’s just so painful to watch.”
“You have to let him do it, bae. How else will he learn from mistakes?”
“Ugh! So this is parenthood, huh? Worrying about your child every waking hour of every day? I’m not sure I have the nerves for this!”
“You’ll be a great mom. I know it. You are a great mom.”
“Do you really believe that?”
“I wouldn’t have married you if I didn’t think so.”
“That’s so sweet!”
While River and Melody entertained themselves as best as two romantics could, Stefan was making new friends.
It was past lunchtime, and River and Melody were hungry. They knew there would be food in the picnic area, so they tried to corral Stefan to go eat.
“Stefan,” Melody yelled from her seat. “Let’s go get some lunch!”
“I’m not hungry!”
“You should be!”
“I wanna stay here and play!”
“Can we leave him here unsupervised,” she asked River.
“Bae…it’s cool. Do you see any other parents hovering over here? You act like your parents never left you alone anywhere!”
“When I was his age, I had a key to the house and I let myself in every day after school. He’ll be fine. I’m sure those other kids have someone’s eyes on them.”
“We’re going to eat, buddy,” River said. “Just follow the path to the back of the park if you get hungry, ok?”
“Ok! Bye, dad!”
They walked along the path to the picnic area and found a fresh plate of hot dogs waiting for them. Melody took a few bites before bringing up something that was still on her mind.
“Riv…are you sure you want to take this job? I know you said that dreams change, but I don’t agree. I don’t see how one day you want to be a fisherman and then the next day you’re a professor.”
“I know you don’t understand it, but…I promise it’s for the best.”
“But…I don’t need the best. I just want you to be happy. Is this going to make you happy?”
“Honestly, bae, I have no idea. I really hope so, but I have to do this.”
“You really don’t, Riv. There’s always a choice to make. No one is forcing you to do anything. I mean…I left my cushy life of luxury to spend the rest of my life with you. Can’t you see that means I don’t care about the money? Why all of a sudden is money an issue now? I know we don’t have much, and I know that having children makes things a little tighter, but I knew it was going to be like this. I signed up for this! Besides, if we get into trouble, my parents would be more than glad to help us out. Don’t take this job just because you want to buy me nice things…please. I don’t want you to give up on your dream.”
It pained him to not be able to defend his position truthfully when she was so sincere with hers. He loved how sacrificial her love was. They were like Romeo and Juliet in a way. People in the circles her family ran with couldn’t understand how a girl from a wealthy family with such a rich history would have anything to do with a common boy who lived in a trailer with his single mother. She left behind all of her fine things and is still denying herself those things for the sake of their happiness. How do you reciprocate a love like that? In River’s case, it had to be done covertly. This new job, the lies, and everything he will need to do is all an act of reciprocation, but it cannot be known. He assured her that he wasn’t taking the job only to buy her nice things which was refreshingly true.
“I’m not giving up. I’m just temporarily delaying it right now for something that is currently more important.”
“Ok…if that’s what you want, I’ll support you.”
“Thank you. Your support means a lot.”
When they finished their lunch, Melody decided that they should go check out her parents’ new house, so River went to collect Stefan while she called to get the address. River found him and his new band of merry mates at a table near the restrooms. He was so proud to see that he was doing well for himself without them. He slowed his pace to give him a little bit more time with his friends, but he also wanted to hear what they were talking about.
“…it was a cow plant! I went up to it a couple times, but it didn’t eat me,” Nigel boasted.
“A cow plant,” Stefan shouted in amazement.
“Yep! I wasn’t even scared.”
River chuckled and had no idea what they were talking about, but whatever it was impressed Stefan.
“Hey, buddy! Are you ready to go?”
“Dad! Nigel touched a cow plant, and it didn’t eat him!”
“Wow! That’s impressive.”
A woman’s voice called Nigel’s name, and he ran away and left Stefan and the little girl.
“If I got eaten by a cow plant, would you save me, Stefan,” the little girl asked sweetly.
“I would fight it until it threw you up!”
River smiled to himself and thought, Our little ladies’ man is getting an early start!
“Are your parents here,” River asked the little girl.
“My grandma is over there.”
“Ok, good. Stefan, say goodbye to your friend. We have to go now.”
“Do we have to?”
“OLIVIA,” an older woman yelled from across the park.
“COMING, GRANNY,” the little girl yelled back.
“Olivia? Are you Eric Lewis’ daughter?”
“Oh! How nice. I know your dad.”
Melody had just caught up to them.
“Mel, this is Eric’s little girl Olivia.”
“Oh! Nice to meet you.”
“Bye, Stefan,” Oliva said in a cute sing-song voice.
Melody raised her eyebrow at Olivia and then cocked her head at Stefan.
“Yep,” River said. “Ok, let’s go, family.”
They left the park and hailed a cab to Oasis Springs. When the driver stopped, they were parked in front of a beautiful ranch-style home in the affluent neighborhood of Oasis Springs. River and Stefan were amazed to just be in that neighborhood, but for Melody, it was just another nice house.
The front door was open, so they all went inside and collected in the foyer.
“Heeeey, I know that voice,” Giancarlo said coming out of the office.
“Hey, kiddo. And hello, my kiddo’s kiddo! And my kiddo’s husband. Come on in. Don’t stand there like strangers. Sit!”
“Where’s mom? Is she here?”
“She’s across the street with the Landgraab lady. She got talked into joining their bridge club. ‘Bridge club,’ I said. ‘What will we do next? Hire a butler?'”
“Well, that’s what happens when you move to the high rent district, dad.”
“I would have been fine in the neighborhood around the corner from you, but your mother fell in love with this house.”
“There’s pirate ship outside,” Stefan yelled.
“Yes there is! And we bought it just for you, little guy!”
“Oh, dad. You didn’t have to do that.”
“Sure I did! I’m the grandfather,” Giancarlo said proudly. “Besides, how else was I going to convince him to come stay here with us old fogeys sometimes? Who wants to go blast some sea monsters!”
“ME,” Stefan shouted excitedly.
“Okay, matey! Make sure you swab the deck when you’re done. Arrrrr!”
“You’re funny, grandpa!”
“Have fun, cap’n,” Giancarlo said.
Stefan ran out the door.
“Dad…you seriously don’t need to buy him all kinds of fancy, expensive gifts like that.”
“Why not? I think I recall that you and your sister had everything imaginable. So, why can’t Stefan have anything?”
“I’m not saying that we don’t want him to have stuff, but I’m saying that I don’t want him to think of you guys like some sort of genie in a bottle! Maybe just talk to us first next time.”
“River…did you have grandparents when you were a kid,” Giancarlo asked.
“Ugh! Both of you have no idea what you’re depriving your child of! You’ve never known the joys having grandparents. I know you two are doing the noble thing of working hard, saving money, and teaching the children about the value of a simoleon and delayed gratification, and you should. But…I am the grandfather. I’ll buy what I want, when I want, and I don’t need permission from you. It’s grandpa law!”
“Grandpa law,” Melody said flatly.
“But, you’ll spoil him!”
“Hey! Just think of it this way…I’m giving you plenty of teachable moments, he he he. SO…when can we expect the next one?”
“Dad! We just had this one.”
“Your mother had two babies at once. I’m quite sure you can handle one infant and one child. How about the girly kind next time?”
“It’s not like we can pick and choose what we have, dad.”
“True, but maybe lover boy here can influence the vote some kind of way, you know what I’m sayin,'” Giancarlo said elbowing River in the ribs. “I had twin girls…maybe I need to teach you some of my tricks.”
“I think she’s embarrassed and wants me to stop talking now.”
“Kids these days. I get no respect! So, River…you’ve been awfully quiet tonight. Everything all right?”
“Aww, come on! Stop with the ‘sir’ and ‘Mr. Sheridan’ crap,” Giancarlo said pretending to be offended.
“Sorry. I’m just used to calling you that.”
“You’re a grown man now! Call me Giancarlo…or GNC, he he he.”
“I’m a man, and you’re a man, and we both like gorgeous, sassy women. True, this one just happens to be my daughter, but we’re just two guys, ok,” Giancarlo said trying to loosen River up.
“Ok,” River said nervously.
“We should hang out more. Maybe it will help if we got to know each other.”
“Would you like to go fishing with me sometime?”
“Now you’re talkin’! That sounds great!”
“Sweet! I’ll call you next time I go out,” River said excitedly.
“Oh brother,” Melody said and rolled her eyes. “Riv…if you turn my father into an outdoorsman, my mom will have a fit.”
“Hey! I could stand to have ‘rugged’ added to my list of incredible superlatives. Suave, debonair, rugged…yeah! That just sounds sexy. You know that’s what you girls want.”
“Ok, Riv, I think that’s our cue to leave,” Melody said hurriedly.
“Hey, Riv,” Giancarlo said and leaned over to him. “Embarrassing your kids never gets old. Remember that.”