A Soft Place to Land: Chapter Fifteen

A Soft Place to Land will feature some flashback memories as Marah recovers.  Some are from previous stories and some are brand new that happened “off canvas”. 

Marah dabbed at the residual tears that kept leaking from her eyes, “I can’t believe that is my favorite movie.  Why would I torture myself with that tear-jerker.”

Tony laughed softly, “Well if I had to guess I would say it reminds you of us.”

“Us?” Marah raised an eyebrow in question, “How so?”

Tony reached forward and grabbed the glasses of wine of the coffee table, handing one to Marah he sipped his own, “A good girl from  a good family.  A boy from the wrong side of the tracks.  A love that neither time nor space can keep apart.  I can see the similarities.”

Taking a sip out of her own wineglass Marah had to admit to herself that Tony had a point.  Noah and Ally’s love was one for the ages.  “Are you going to love me when I’m old and grey and can’t remember that you that leave your socks on the floor?”

“I can’t imagine a time in my life not loving you Marah.  I’ll go to my grave loving you.”  At his statement the room was suddenly full of tension.  But unlike the previous weeks of tension between them, this one was more than welcome.  This tension let Tony know that Marah was feeling the pull that always had existed between them.  After a brief moment of hesitation he leaned forward and pressed his lips to hers.  And he felt it flare even brighter.  That spark that never went away.

Moving back he watched as she slowly opened her eyes.  And in those eyes he saw something akin to shock.  But he also saw something deeper.  Call it need or want, but it was there.  Marah had felt the kiss just as much as he did.  Before Marah could rebuild the wall she had built between them Tony placed his wineglass on the coffee table and stood.  “I am going to go check on Lanie.”

***

Marah sat in stunned silence as Tony went up the stairs towards the nursery.  Once he was out of sight she let out the breath she hadn’t realized she had been holding.  “Oh…wow.” She placed her hand against her mouth as if she could still feel Tony’s lips against hers.

They had danced around each other for months, her and Tony.   But tonight had felt…different.  It reminded her of years before, when they had lived in the museum.  When their relationship was easy for a change.  Before everything imploded on them.  But some things never change and her body’s reaction to Tony Santos was one of them.  She could still feel the electric charge of that single chaste kiss.

She looked up towards where Tony had disappeared.  If she could drop her walls with Tony perhaps she could try with her own child.

***

“How can something so foul come out of something so beautiful,” Tony teased as he cleaned up Lanie’s diaper.  He had spent months before Lanie was born preparing for the basics.  The practice baby Michelle recommended for first time fathers was a breeze compared to a live squirming newborn. “You just keep kicking little one, I am still going to get this diaper on you.”

He never would have seen this coming.  Tony Santos, member of the former Santos crime family, was talking to a baby.  He rubbed a gentle hand along the dark hairs covering Lanie’s head.  Oh well, he liked it.  “Guess what Laners.  I kissed mommy today.”  The baby’s response was to continue kicking her legs with gusto, which Tony took as their daughter’s way of telling him to continue.  He finished dressing Lanie in her sleeper and walked over to the rocking chair in the corner, “I did.  And I know she felt the same thing I did.  Just maybe we haven’t screwed up everything for you kiddo.”

Tony gently set the rocker into motion, “I know, I know.  I need to tell her all of it.  Why she can’t remember us, how she almost died.” Holding the baby closer to his chest Tony sighed, “But tonight was a good night.  A nice place to start.  Maybe Uncle Ray had the right idea, I need to make mommy fall in love with me again.  And you and I princess, we can be her soft place to land.”

“Pink Blossom.”

Tony’s head snapped to attention at the gentle words from the doorway.  Where Marah now stood.  He wondered how much she had heard but apparently she hadn’t heard much as she hesitantly entered the room.  The room she had barely glanced at since she was released from the hospital.  “What was that?”

“Pink Blossom.  The color we finally painted the walls.”  Marah skimmed her hand along one of the walls in question.  The wall where there was a mural painted complete with a forest and castle.

“You remember?” Hope flared to life in Tony’s chest.  If she could remember something as minute as paint color perhaps she was on the way back to them.

Marah shook her head.  “Not really.  But when I looked in here the words Pink Blossom popped into my head.”  She looked down at Tony holding their daughter against his chest and her heart fluttered.  Tony was such a good dad, and she was batting zero.  “May I try?”

Tony nearly jumped out of the seat as if it was on fire.  “Have a seat.”

Marah sat in the vacated rocker and rubbed her sweaty palms against her pants.  It was time.  Time to take a step in the right direction.  She tensed as Tony lowered Lanie into her arms but looking down at the sleeping baby she smiled.  “She looks like you,”

Tony laughed, “Funny, I think she looks like you.”

“Hmm.” Marah commented noncommittally. “I think she’s down for the count.”  Marah stood slowly and walked the baby over to her crib.  The large ornate crib that resembled a carriage.  She was certainly her father’s princess alright.

***

Getting into bed Marah sighed blissfully.  Today had been a long day.  She looked over as Tony exited the bathroom, his pajama pants lying low on his hips.  She felt the familiar stirring inside her, this time much lower than her heart.  She swallowed.  They may have made progress but she wasn’t ready.  Not for that.

Tony pulled the covers back and slid into bed.  After a moment’s hesitation he lifted his arm and Marah wasted no time tucking herself into his side.  “I almost forgot, when you came home you wanted to talk about something.”

Marah sighed contentedly.  She may not be ready to be intimate but this was nice.  Familiar.  And she had no desire to rehash the drama from today.  At finding out her mother had a child with a man Marah knew intimately.  Just…no. “It was nothing big.”  Placing her hand on his chest she felt the soft beating of his heart through her palm.  “Thank you.”

Tony peered down at her head resting against his shoulder.  “For what?”

“For giving me a perfect night. ”

“My pleasure.” And with a soft kiss against his wife’s lips they both fell into a deep sleep.

 

A Soft Place to Land: Chapter Fourteen

Tony walked into the house and shut the door behind him.  It had been awhile since he had spent an entire day at Infierno and he had to admit to himself that he had missed it.  The camaraderie with Danny and Rafael, the business demands that broke up the monotonous parts of the day,  the constant stream of people coming and going….yeah he missed it.  Rafael had been staying at the Beacon while Marah and him figured things out, but he had to admit he missed the older man more than he cared to admit.

“Hello Mr. Santos.” Tristan walked down the stairs holding a bottle in one hand and a blanket in the other, bare feet hardly making a sound on the soft carpet.  Her toes were painted a pale pink Tony noticed, than mentally slapped himself for noticing.  Refocusing he realized she was still talking, “I just fed and changed Lanie.  She just went down for a nap.”

Tony put his keys in the bowl on the side table, “Was she any trouble?”

Tristan laughed, “Not at all.  She’s a cutie, and loads easier than the patients I deal with at the hospital.”  She walked over to the couch and began gathering her things.

“I bet.”  Tony scratched his chin, his five o’clock shadow sounding like sandpaper, “I never did get around to asking how being a nanny will interfere with your job at Cedars.”

Tristan looked up from putting on her shoes, “I am used to having more than one job.  Besides, I mostly work weekends at Cedars.”

“well that’s good, I wouldn’t want us to interfere with your job.”

Standing, Tristan put her bag over his shoulder and headed towards the door.  Stopping in front of him she looked up and smiled coyly, “No worries, I never let much interfere with plans.”

***

After a quick stop at her apartment Tristan looked fresh and dressed for her date.  Walking into Towers she scanned the room until her eyes landed on just the man she was looking for.  Sitting at the bar with his back to her she took the time to run her nervous hands along her dress.  She couldn’t believe she was actually nervous about a man.  She was almost like a virgin on her first date, but it had been a long time since she actually indulged in a personal life.  For so long she had let Richard rule her life.

“But he’s not here now.” Tristan said to herself.  She slowly strutted across the restaurant and when she was just a few feet away Jonathan turned and saw her approach.  She noted the appreciation in his eyes and the sexy as sin smile that crept across his face.  A smile she gladly returned.

Jonathan stood when Tristan reached the bar, “Well hello gorgeous.” He leaned down and kissed her cheek sweetly, mentally patting himself on the back for not mauling her right there in the middle of the restaurant.

“Hello.” She looked him up and down appreciatively, “You clean up well.”

Jonathan gestured to his outfit dismissively, “This old thing?”  He gestured towards the Maître D’, “Shall we eat?”

Tristan linked her arm with his, “Ready when you are.”

***

Marah slammed the front door momentarily forgetting there was a baby in the house.  When she didn’t hear a cry she let out the breath she was holding.  She threw her keys on the side table and called out, “Tony?  I really need to talk to you.”

And surprisingly she did.  She couldn’t believe she had another brother that no one told her about.  A younger brother fathered by a man she had actually had feelings for.  He was the first guy she felt free to be herself around after Tony and her crashed and burned for the hundredth time!   Just thinking about it made her want to retch, and it had made the day drag on endlessly.

Her mother and her had spent the majority of the day on pins and needles, any of the easiness in their relationship replaced by awkward silence.  But just as surprising was that she wanted to talk to Tony about it, to share her feelings.  She wasn’t a psychiatrist but she would consider that a break through.

“Marah you home?”

Marah heard Tony’s voice coming from the open kitchen door.  Heading that way she stopped in her tracks when she saw the candles burning, the table set for two.  “Did you make dinner?”

Tony came out of the kitchen carrying a bottle of wine in one hand and a large pizza box in the other.  “Sadly no.  I couldn’t boil water on my best day.  But I figured your return to work deserved some celebration so I got your favorite.”

Marah’s mouth practically watered from the aroma coming from that cardboard box.  Yummy melted cheese and…”You got pepperoni?”

Tony scoffed as he placed the box on the table, “But of course! ”  He came around to the other side of the table and pulled out her chair, “Now won’t you come dine with me Mrs. Santos?”

“This is sweet Tony, “Marah sat while Tony pushed her chair in like a gentleman.

Returning to the other side of the table Tony sat and began pouring the wine, “So you said you wanted to talk to me about something.”

Taking a sip Marah looked at her husband, at all the effort he had gone through today to make her day a bit brighter.  The flowers, the pepperoni pizza….she didn’t want to ruin it asking questions about her messed up family.  “Yeah but it will keep.  How was your day today?”

***

“So why Tristan?  I always thought that was a boy’s name which obviously you are not.”

“Are you sure about that?”  When Jonathan paused in cutting his steak Tristan laughed as she sipped her wine, “Just kidding.  Yes Tristan is typically a boy’s name.  It actually means “loud one” and my mom said I screamed so much when I was born that the name fit.”  Placing her wineglass on the table Tristan began cutting into her chicken, tonight’s date had been going well.  “So tell me, what do you do?”

Jonathan finished chewing his bite of steak before answering, “I am a foreman at my stepfather’s construction company.  Working alongside my half brothers can sometimes be a pain.  Hell they can be a gigantic pain in the ass.  But for a long time I was an outsider, I actually feel like a member of the family.”  He cleared his throat nervously.  He never revealed that much about himself to, well, anyone really.  Safer to change the subject, “You said you were a nurse at Cedars.  Do you like it?”

“I love it actually.  I can honestly say not two days are the same, there is always something new.  And I recently started a part-time side job as a nanny for the Santos family.”

Jonathan’s ears nearly perked up in interest, “Really?  Marah Santos is my sister.”

“Really?  Small world.” Tristan brought her wineglass to her lips and took a long sip.

***

“You should have seen her Bud, she was horrified.”

Josh looked up from checking Collin’s homework.  Not that second graders got much but he thought it best to be involved as much as possible. “Well Reva you had a child with her ex-boyfriend, fling, whatever he was to her.  I am sure she was just shocked.”

Reva supposed that was true but Josh hadn’t seen the look on her face.  It was enough to make her cringe, even hours later. “She didn’t even react that strongly when she found out the first time.”

Josh leaned back on the couch and motioned for Reva to join him.  When she was seated comfortably by his side he curled his arm around her and held her close, “Like I said, she was probably in shock.  She has lost so much then to have a sudden sibling foisted in her life was just unexpected.  She’ll come around.  Plus who could resist that little guy?” Josh motioned with his other arm at the boy playing with Legos on the floor.

Reva hoped Josh was right.

***

“So continuing tonight with your favorite things why don’t we go watch your favorite movie.” Tony stood and collected the plates, “I will clean this up and meet you in the living room.”

Marah walked over to the large television mounted on the wall, and at the large array of movies in the cabinet underneath.  “Um Tony, what is is my favorite movie these days?”

Tony entered the room and smiled sheepishly, “Sorry I forgot.  Your favorite movie is the Notebook.”  He walked over to the cabinet and picked up the all too familiar DVD, “As many times as I have sat through this one I could almost recite it line by line.”

He put the movie into the DVD player and pressed play, “I am just going to check on Lanie.  Don’t get too cozy without me.”

***

An hour later Tony nearly jumped when he felt Marah move hesitantly into his side.  He slowly lifted his arm in invitation, an invitation she responded too by curling into his side just like she used too.  Like she couldn’t stand to be apart from him for too long.  Tony sighed softly as he curled his arm around her.  And for the first time in weeks he felt almost completely happy.

A Soft Place to Land: Chapter Thirteen

At nine o’clock on the dot Marah flipped on the lights and took a good look around.  Nothing about the space was familiar but yet she could see herself everywhere.  The bright colors, the art on the wall, the comfy furniture…it was all her.   Marah couldn’t imagine anything making her want to leave Paris, it had been her dream for so long.  But it was clear that she had made a new life for herself here.

The tinkling of the bell above the door brought Marah out of her musings.  It was too early for her mother to arrive, she had been filled in by Tony that her mom was rarely on time which didn’t surprise her much. Turning she saw a delivery man carrying a vase filled with a huge bouquet of flowers. “Delivery for Marah Santos.”

Walking over Marah accepted the flowers with a smile and placed them on what she assumed was her desk.  It did have framed photos of her and Tony after all.   Plucking the card from the envelope she read the messy script she knew so well.  “Marah, Hope you have a great day back at work.  Love Always, Tony”.  Marah touched the flowers lovingly.  Tony could have gotten her generic roses like most husbands but instead he got her an array of colorful blooms.

She picked up the cellphone she had spent weeks re-learning how to use and fired off a text. “Thanks for the flowers.  They are beautiful.”

As if he was sitting right beside his phone she got an instantaneous reply. “You’re welcome.  Hope they make your day a bit brighter.”

Marah’s fingers paused over the screen as she thought about what she wanted to say.  Nothing really sounded good to her.  She was saved by the twinkling of the bell above the door.  Her mother rushed in carrying a white bakery bag and a carrying case with two large coffees.

“I am so glad to have you back!  Between your father and Collin I was going stir crazy.”  She placed the bag on her desk beside the flowers, “I didn’t know if you had eaten so I got you a few croissants.  Nice flowers.  Are they from Tony?”

Marah’s eyes widened at the rapid fire questions coming from her mother.  “How many coffees have you had today?”

Reva just smiled as she passed over a coffee to her daughter.  “Just one thank you very much.  I am just excited.  You know how I can get.”

All too well.  Marah took a sip of the steaming brew and sighed in delight.  Liquid heaven.  “Yes the flowers are from Tony.” Marah took another sip of her coffee before she looked at her mother.  “Who is Collin?”

Reva looked like a deer in the headlights.  “Um, well, damn my big mouth!  There is no easy way to say this but to just tell you.  Collin is your brother.”

***

Danny briefly knocked on Tony’s office door before entering.  Sitting in one of the chairs in front of the large desk he grinned in delight, “I know the timing sucked but I got to say, I’ve missed seeing you here at the office.”

Tony looked up from the paperwork he was going over, “Give it a few weeks.  It will wear off.”

“Yeah probably,” Danny laughed before sobering, “So how did everything go today?  I know Michelle was a wreck when we had to put Danielle in daycare and she was our third.”

“Not going to lie, it was tough leaving her with a virtual stranger.  Though it seems like Tristan knows what she’s doing.”  Tony tapped his pen against the desk as he thought back to that morning.  How he had watched Tristan cooing to his daughter and how he wanted to snatch the baby back yelling “Mine!”.  It had been so foreign an emotion yet the impulse was so strong he had been forced to hold himself back.

His cellphone sitting on the desk glowed with the arrival of a text message.  He smiled as he read the message and fired off a quick response.

“Marah?”

Tony looked at his cousin and smiled, “I sent her flowers this morning for her first day back.”  Once again Tony lost himself in thought.  At how he had acted towards Marah since she announced she wanted to return to work.  At how he had basically called her a bad mother who didn’t care for her child, “How did you do it?”

Danny raised his eyebrow in confusion, “Do what?”

“Fight for Michelle when she fought you the entire way?”  Tony roughly pushed his hand through his hair, “It’s so damn frustrating.  The other day I basically told her she didn’t care about Lanie.”

Danny winced before leaning forward in his chair.  “Yeah that was not good.” He eyed his cousin with intent. “It is frustrating when you watch the woman you love so lost and you can’t help her no matter how hard you try.  You just want to shake them and make them see what is in front of their face.  But you deal with it because you know if the situation was reversed they would be fighting just as hard.”

“Worked out with Ray after our meeting the other day.  He basically told me I should show her why she fell in love with me in the first place.”

“Our Ray sure has some good ideas for someone who has never been in love.”

“He’s been in love before.  Remember Rachel Thomas from the neighborhood?”  When Danny nodded in affirmation Tony continued, “He told me once if he couldn’t have her than he was not going to have anyone.”

Danny snorted, “Yeah Ray chose a life of celibacy and devotion to God because his high school girlfriend married someone else.” When Tony just looked back at him Danny waved his hand in front of his face, “Okay we are getting off topic.  So your plan is to woo your wife into loving you again?”

Tony shrugged, “I can’t hurt.  Not like anything I’ve done so far has worked.”

Danny rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Well you’ve gotten her to love you again after worse.  Just one word of advice, don’t make her feel pressured.  That is what drove Michelle and I apart, the pressure she felt at remembering drove us so far apart I thought we would never be whole again.  I don’t want you to go through the same thing that we did.”

***

Finished with her morning appointments Michelle waltzed into the main entrance at Cedars and headed towards her father’s office.  She hadn’t seem him or Rick in a while and she hoped she could lure them away for a quick brunch at Company to catch up.  She stopped dead in her tracks when she saw the bane of her existence holding court at the nurse’s station.  Hoping to make it past him without alerting him to her presence Michelle ducked her head down and quickened her step.  She had nearly made it when Lillian Cooper called out, “Good morning Dr. Santos.”

Busted.  It would be rude to ignore Lillian so Michelle stopped and turned toward the older woman, “Good morning Lillian.  I was hoping to meet with my father.  Is he in?”

Lillian nodded. “Just got in a few minutes ago.”

“Thanks.”  Michelle nodded at the man smirking at her, “Dr. Dick.” Okay so it was a bit petty and childish but it felt good.  Especially when she watched the smirk slide off the jerk’s face. “I mean Dr. Salas.”  Michelle mentally fist bumped as she continued towards her father’s office.  She knocked on the opened door and waited until her father looked up and smiled.

“Well hello daughter.  What brings you by today?”

Michelle entered and gave her father a hug, “Just thought I’d come and see if you could get away for a bite to eat.  I feel like I haven’t talked to you in weeks.”

Ed Bauer grabbed his coat by the door, “You know I would never turn down an invitation from my favorite daughter.”

***

“You and dad had another child?” Marah was confused.  And angry.  She didn’t know what she felt right now but she wanted to know about this mysterious brother she had.  She couldn’t believe that everyone had kept it from her.

“Well…no.” Reva hedged.  Walking over to her desk she picked up a framed photograph and brought it over for Marah to see.  “Your father formally adopted him a couple of years ago.  But no he is not Collin’s biological father.”

Marah looked at the photograph in her hand.  It was a formal proto of all of her brothers and herself.  Probably the only one of its kind to ever be taken.  And there front and center was a little blonde-haired little boy with a mischievous grin. “If dad isn’t his father who is?”

“Well…um…his father is JefferyONeill.” Reva rushed together and winced.  Waiting for the inevitable reaction.

Marah held up a hand, “Wait.  Did you say Jeffery O’Neill.  As in my ex Jeffery O’Neill.” Marah trust the photo back at her mom as if it scalded her hand. “That’s so….twisted.  Sick and twisted.”

“It happened years after you left honey.  He was there for me when I felt so alone.”

Marah stalked over to her desk and plopped down on her chair. “I just don’t know what to do with this.  It just seems so…gross.”

“I understand.” Reva looked down at the photo she still held in her hand, “But believe it or not you two took to each other like a duck to water.”

“Yeah I bet.” Marah snorted as she rubbed her temples, she could feel a migraine coming on, “Lord this was a hell of a first day back.”

I Saw Love: ATWT’s Will & Gwen

I wasn’t always an “online” viewer of soap operas.  No, for most of my early soap opera watching days I was blissfully ignorant of message boards and fan pages.  When I joined the world of online viewers I was surprised and excited about all the content available.

Before there was Twitter, Facebook, or even MySpace there were sites like GeoCities.  It was the 90’s equivalent to a WordPress a place people could build their own website and share their lives with the world.  And it was a popular forum for Soap fans to show their appreciation for their favorite serial dramas.  Then GeoCities shut down and most of the content was lost.

Few things irk my soap opera fan in me then when content disappears.  Like the show, the characters, the STORIES didn’t exist.  For example: Why did CBS have to remove the Guiding Light and As The World Turns from their website?  Were they not the longest running CBS Daytime shows?  Did they not net millions of viewers a year?  Just because the show is over doesn’t mean the fans stop being fans.  But I digress.

That was the whole reason “I Believe in the Mystery” came to be.  There was very little across the internet on this couple.  So I gave them their “happily ever after”…well technically it is still an ongoing process but they’ll get there…eventually.

The other day I randomly went looking for some of my favorite ATWT couples and not so surprisingly there isn’t too much out there.  So what is a good soap fan to do?  Create another site.

WillenWordpresstext

So let me introduce you to I Saw Love .  Right now it isn’t much to look at, and it probably won’t be months before I can give it the attention it deserves, but with time I hope to build it up like I did “I Believe in the Mystery”.   Of course that is why people like GLManny and I have created these sites, to document and preserve my favorite little slice of soap operas for future generations.  Hope you check it out!

A Soft Place to Land: Chapter Twelve

Doctor Salas removed the syringe before capping it and putting it in his lab pocket.  Moving around the bed he checked the vitals displayed on the monitor.  No changes.  But he wasn’t discouraged, he had anticipated this trial to take time.  And he had nothing but time to see this through.  He had been waiting years for this opportunity.

And he had the perfect person to experiment on.

Looking around the stark room Dr. Salas felt a perverse sense of pleasure.  He liked having Carmen Santos at his mercy, he literally held her life in his hands.  If this trial worked he would be a legend among his peers.  And if it failed?  At least the world would have one less Santos in it.

He patted Carmen on her lifeless shoulder as he walked towards the door, “Sleep tight Carmen.”

***

Michelle nervously wiped her hands on her jeans before knocking on the door.  There was no reason for her to be nervous, not really.  She had done everything she could to save Marah and Lanie that night.  She was damn proud of herself considering the cards were stacked against them.  But she wasn’t there as a doctor.  She was there as a friend.  A friend who couldn’t help having déjà vu every time she even thought about what Marah was going through.

The door opened and Marah stood there looking every bit the fashionista she always was.  Even her chic new haircut to cover the incisions on her head didn’t diminish her beauty.  “Hi Marah.”

“Hi Michelle!”  She smiled before looking at Michelle quizzically, “Did I miss an appointment?

“Not that I know of.  I came here as a friend not a doctor.”  She held up a white paper bag with Company’s logo on the front, “And seeing that it is lunchtime I brought us something to munch on.”

Marah held the door open for Michelle to enter, “Is that a Buzz Burger I smell?  I haven’t had one of those in-” Marah paused before adding, “Well I don’t actually know when.”

***

Marah held her side she had been laughing so hard.  After Michelle and her had scarfed down Buzz’s famous burgers and fries Michelle had shared some tales from the “Santos Zoo” as she called it.  From the sounds of things Michelle and Danny had three precocious children that kept them on their toes.  It was also clear that Michelle loved every minute of her chaotic life.  Her smile was megawatt as she told a story about Robbie’s continuous courting of Sarah Randall, who Marah also learned was her niece.

“That boy has done it all to woo that girl.  Last year he let the air out of her bike tires just so he could walk her home.”  Michelle smiled as she thought about her son’s ingenuity.  He had to have gotten it from his father that’s for sure. “And when he came home that afternoon he had this scared look on his face.  Guess your brother Jonathan gave him the evil eye and told him that Sarah wasn’t dating until she was at least thirty.”

“Guess Robbie didn’t like that answer.”

“No.  But he won’t give up.  I swear he plots out new ways to woo her on a daily basis.”

“Got to love his persistence”, Marah went to the fridge to grab the iced tea pitcher to fill their glasses, “Aren’t you worried about him getting so serious so young?”

Michelle waved off Marah’s concerns, “Robbie was born serious.  Once he sets his sights on something he won’t stop until he gets it.  He’s like his father that way.” She smiled coyly at Marah, “I think all the Santos men are born that way.”

Marah sat back down and sighed, “I try Michelle.  I try so hard.  I look through the photo albums, I listen to the stories, but I still can’t remember.  Even worse is that every morning Tony looks at me with hope, hope that some spark of a memory has surfaced and every day I have to watch as that hope is snuffed out.

Michelle reached across the table and held her friend’s hand in comfort, “I know the feeling.  The pressure to remember when you just can’t.  And all I can tell you is that it will happen when it’s supposed to happen.  What about Lanie?  I know you said you were having some trouble connecting.”

Marah removed her hand from Michelle’s and brushed her hair behind her ear, “Are you asking as a friend or as my doctor?”

Michelle smiled wryly, “Maybe a little of both.  As your doctor I am going to tell you that postpartum baby blues is normal for a lot of women.”

“I don’t know what it is Michelle.” Marah sighed in frustration, “I look at her and I see she is perfect.  Ten tiny fingers and toes,.  She’s perfect and I want to rush up to her and hold her.  To love her like I am supposed to love her.  But a part of me is just….afraid.  Afraid to fall for her baby charms when so much in my life is so uncertain.”

“It’s understandable considering what you went through Marah.  You need to stop beating yourself up over it.” Michelle was thoughtful a moment before she continued, “Now I am no psychiatrist but have you wondered if your guilt over this is impeding your recovery?”

“Could be.  I don’t know.  I am going back to work next week, to try to see if I can fit back even more in my life.  Today we even hired a nanny like Dr. Salas suggested.”

Michelle humphed in indignation, “Dr. Salas is an ass.  He may be a great doctor but he’s still an ass.”

Marah laughed at the look on her friend’s face, “He’s been really helpful with being realistic about my memory recovery.”

“Like I said, he’s a brilliant doctor but he’s still and ass”, Michelle wagged her finger in Marah’s direction, “You be careful around him.  I don’t trust him as far as I can throw him.”

A Soft Place to Land: Chapter Eleven

Marah and Tony may have sat on the same couch, may have looked like a united front, but there might as well have been miles between them.  They barely spoke two words to each other that morning, and the tension was thick in the air.  But it seems the young lady in front of them couldn’t sense it because she smiled broadly as she described her qualifications.

“I assure you that I have several years of experience working with children, even small children such as your little Lanie.  Here are my list of references.” She pushed her resume across the coffee table towards the couple, “My student loans to nursing school only covered a portion of my tuition so I was a nanny for several different families to help subsidize expenses.”

Tony looked down at the resume before asking, “It says here you are from New York City.  What made you move so far from home if you don’t mind me asking?”

Tristan just smiled, “Not at all Mr. Santos.  Truth is I am not from the best of neighborhoods in New York.  People where I am from rarely, if ever, make it out but I worked hard and studied harder.  I was lucky to get the scholarship I did to go to nursing school but once I graduated I realized I didn’t want to go back, I wanted a fresh start.  So I put my finger on a map and here is where I landed.”

“And you have no plans to leave?” Tony smiled at the other woman, “Once again I hate asking such prying questions but even though Lanie is young I think-” He paused and looked towards Marah who had been silent throughout the whole interview, “We.  We think Lanie needs some stability about who is in her life.”

“Springfield may not be New York but it has its good points too and I have no intentions of leaving any time soon.”

Tony opened his mouth to ask another question but Marah laid a restraining hand on his arm.  “We will call your references but all of that is a formality.  When can you start?”

****

Standing at the kitchen sink Michelle nearly jumped a foot in the air when Danny’s arms came around her from behind.  But that momentary fear was replaced by a whole different feeling when her husband lowered his head to nuzzle her neck.  Danny always knew how to get to her. “I never thought doing dishes was sexy, but you may change my mind of that Mr. Santos.”

“Hmm.” Danny breathed in his wife’s scent.  Her signature floral perfume and Apples from the dishwashing soap.  But it didn’t matter what she smelled like, it was the woman underneath all of that which called to him.  And he answered, every time. “Everything you do is sexy Michelle.”  He kissed the side of her neck since he knew that was the spot that got her toes tingling.  And with a slight slap on her backside he went to go get his morning cup of coffee.  “So what are your plans for the day?”

Michelle dried off her hands with a dish towel and turned to face her husband who was sitting at the table perusing the front page of the paper, “Well the clinic is closed today so I thought I may stop by and see Marah today.  I have been trying to give her time to heal but she probably needs someone to talk to.”  Michelle paused as she thought back to her own time spent in the shadows.  Uncertain about her past and the pressure she felt to be who everyone kept telling her she was.  “Do you ever wonder?”

Danny looked up at his wife and smiled, “Wonder what?”

Moving over to the table Michelle sat by Danny and looking at his handsome face wondered ton herself how she could have ever forgotten what they had together.  But she continued, “Wonder what would have happened if I never remembered who I was.  What we had.”

Danny pursed his lips as he thought about his wife’s inquiry.  “Oh I’d probably be miserable.  Be with someone who didn’t get my heart racing just by washing the breakfast dishes.”

Michelle smiled wryly, “Of course you would be miserable without me.  No one else would put up with those ratty boxers like I do.”

Danny leaned forward and kissed his wife gently, “I would be miserable because it’s you Michelle.  Even when we didn’t make any sense to anyone else in this town we made sense to each other.”  He kissed her again before going beck to reading the paper.

Michelle smiled at her husband’s gushy remarks. “You say all the sweetest things.”  She paused again before looking at Danny, “Do you think they’ll find a way?”

Knowing she was talking about Tony and Marah he set the paper down and turned towards her, holding her soft hands in his.  He hated when she got that look in her eye, the look that said that she was remembering when she couldn’t remember, when they were apart.  The look didn’t happen often but since Marah’s accident they had become more frequent. “I hope so, for both their sakes.  But even if they don’t find their way back to each other we did and nothing is going to tear us apart again.”

***

Tony closed the door behind Tristan and just stood there looking at it.  He was trying to get his emotions under control.  And it wasn’t working in the least.  He wanted to punch something, and right then the door was looking like a pretty good substitute for the punching bag.  Turning around he watched Marah gather the papers Tristan left behind into a neat pile.  Yeah it wasn’t working at all. “I can’t believe you did that.”

Marah looked up and lifted an eyebrow in confusion, “Do what?”

“Hire someone out of the blue like that.  To watch our daughter.”  He ran his hands through his hair in frustration, “We haven’t done a background check or anything and you just hired her.”

“Tony we needed a nanny to watch Lanie.”  Placing the papers on the side table she went back to gather the coffee cups to bring them into the kitchen. “Besides she is a registered nurse working at Cedars.  She obviously had to pass a background check to work there.”

Tony just shook his head at his wife’s faulty logic.  “I can’t believe you would trust a virtual stranger with our child.  Nurse or not.”  It was like she was desperate to escape.  Escape him and Lanie both. “I am going to check on Lanie.   At least she has one parent that gives a shit about her.”  Tony knew he was being harsh but he couldn’t stop it.  He was so damn angry.

***

Outside Tristan scrolled down her contacts until she found the one person she didn’t want to talk to.  But she had to.  She waited as the phone rang and he eventually picked up.  “I got the job.”

A Soft Place to Land: Chapter Ten

The tires on Tony’s car squealed as he pulled into the driveway.  He hadn’t meant to be gone this long, an hour at the most, but he had needed that extra hour at the church gym.  He had needed to release the tension that seemed to weigh him down day after day.  And he had needed that talk with Ray.  But he still hadn’t expected to be gone this long.  His car had barely stopped when he threw the door open and rushed into the house, barely missing running into Josh.

“Woah Tony! Where’s the fire?”

Tony lifted an eyebrow at his father in law, “Is everything okay here?  I didn’t mean to be gone this long.”

“You know I have taken care of babies a time or two in my day Tony,’  Josh patted Tony on the shoulder as he passed to get his coat by the door, “Everything is fine.  I fed Lanie about half an hour ago and she went down for a nap with little fuss.  I don’t envy you son, that Lanie is going to be a heartbreaker one day.”

For the first time in months Tony genuinely laughed, “Don’t I know it!  She’s already got me wrapped around her little finger.  So how did the rest of your visit go?” Tony tried to keep his tone conversational but one look at Josh’s face and he knew the older man recognized Tony was information fishing.

“Marah is a strong woman.  Growing up like she did, well she had to be strong.  I was a mess after Reva was presumed dead, I just sort of checked out in the dad department.  Out of the two of us Marah handled all the curveballs thrown her way much better than I ever did.  She will find her way Tony, and she will be a great mother to her little girl.  She just needs time.”

Tony dragged a hand through his already messy hair, “Time.  Not sure how much of that I have left.”

Josh frowned as he paused in putting on his coat, “What do you mean by that?  You thinking of doing something that is going to piss me off?  Because you do know that I still have that hunting cabin and plenty of shells.”

“Danny is running for Mayor.”

With a confused look Josh made a motion for Tony to keep going, so Tony elaborated, “Danny has been nice enough to let me work from home for the past couple of months., and it was great being able to help with Marah and the baby.  But this is Danny’s turn to do something he has always wanted to do.”

“And you are going to have to pick up the slack at Infierno.”

“With everything so up in the air with Marah and me it is not the best time.  But I have to do it, and I will do it, for Danny.”  Tony looked at Josh and sighed, “I waited years to come back to Marah, for us to have our happy ending.  And you know I would walk through fire for her and our daughter.”

Josh opened the front door but stopped before making his exit.  He turned back around and gave Tony a weak smile, “I know Tony.  But sometimes a dad just needs to be reassured from time to time.  You’ll see one day.”

***

Marah waited in the kitchen.  She heard Tony’s car pull up and she heard her father and him talking, but she remained sitting at the kitchen table.  Waiting.  And running through how she planned on telling Tony she wanted to try going back to work.  To try to rediscover the Marah that had been lost.  When Tony still hadn’t come in from talking with her father Marah nervously fiddled with the silverware on the table.  Then she got up and started bringing the food to the table.

For the past month Tony had been in charge of meals.  And they had become well acquainted with every fast food place in a ten mile radius of Springfield.  Marah had hoped that making a home cooked meal would set a different tone for the night.  Going over to the oven she removed the lasagna and brought it over to the table.  And she sat back down and continued waiting.

Suddenly Tony pushed the door open and stopped in his tracks.  And stared.  After a lengthy pregnant pause he cleared his throat, “You cooked dinner.”

Marah fiddled with the napkin on her lap.  “I did.  We need to talk.”

***

Tristan Daniels shoved the manila envelope across the bar.  “This is it Richard.  One last job and I am done.  Finished.  My debt paid in full.” Richard just smirked back at her.  Smug bastard.

“You think so?  You would still be hustling tourists out of their money if it wasn’t for me.”

She hated to admit it but he was right.  People who were born in their little slice of the American poverty typically never made it out.  It was a typical circle of crime, destruction, and death.  Richard and Tristan had been two of the lucky ones to make it out and never look back.  She knew she owed her life to Richard but she wasn’t going to repay him for eternity.  “Richard I mean it.  I can’t keep doing this.”

Richard finished his drink and stood. “Fine.  You finish this job and you can go out on your own.”  Throwing some bills on the table he leaned in and spoke directly in her ear, “But you’ll be back.  And if you try to cross me I’ll show you just how much of the boy from the borough I still am.”

Left alone Tristan plucked the toothpick out of her martini and bit into the olive violently.  She wished she could prove Richard wrong, but the truth was that he was right.  Richard always had a way of bringing her back into his orbit.  Sighing at that sad reality Tristan downed her martini with flourish.  She was still enjoying the burn when she realized someone had she was no longer alone, someone had sat in the seat Richard had vacated.

“What is a pretty woman like you drinking alone?”

Turning on her stool to greet the man she was momentarily stunned, which didn’t happen often.  Good looking with a hint of bad boy charm to boot.  She stuck out her hand in greeting, “Tristan Daniels.  And I guess I was just waiting for the right person to join me.”

The man smiled and Tristan felt it all the way down to her toes.  He shook her hand gently and signaled for the bartender, “Jonathan Randall.  And I guess I got here at the right time.”

***

Tony sat and tried to process what Marah was telling him.  But the words were coming a mile a minute, like she was afraid if she stopped she wouldn’t get it all out.  He held up a hand to pause her rant. “So let me get this straight.  You want to go back to work and you talked to Dr. Salas and he thinks it might actually be good for your memory recall?”

Marah nodded enthusiastically, “Basically.  He says that by doing things I normally do it may jog some memories.”

“But what about Lanie?  She is a too young for childcare.  And I didn’t get a chance to tell you but Danny is going to need me more at Infierno.  Seems he has decided to run for Mayor.”

Seems Marah had thought of everything.  She reached into her jeans pocket and pulled out a slip of paper. “Dr. Salas gave me the number to a nurse at Cedars who does some childcare on the side to pay for her student loans.  Tristan Daniels is her name.  And I already called her and she is coming over tomorrow for an interview.”

Tony threw his napkin on the table and the harsh sound of his chair scraping on the kitchen tile was deafening in the silent kitchen.  Standing he pinned Marah with a harsh look, “Seems you thought of everything.  Guess now you’ll never have to be around your daughter at all. ”

Marah silently watched him walk out of the kitchen, and made no move to follow.  To explain her actions or try to defend his accusation. But she felt it.  That all the progress they had made in the past weeks was gone.