A Soft Place to Land: Chapter Twenty-Seven

Tony knew fear.  Growing up it had been an emotion best left unsaid, a Santos did not show fear they made others show it instead.  He had felt it as a young man, watching Marah reach for her dreams and fearing that she would leave him behind.  He had felt it being held captive by his former friend, the fear that today could be your last and he would never be able to see those he loved ever again.  He had felt it last winter as he watched Marah’s blood seep out of her and being powerless to help her.

So yes, he knew fear.  Fear and him were old friends.

And he knew fear now as he moved towards where Marah was sitting calmly sipping a glass of tea.  But after years of watching every nuance of that woman he knew she was anything but.  He feared that this would be the biggest fight of his life.  Placing the baby monitor on the table he folded himself into the opposite chair and…waited.

They sat like that for a while.  In silence.  The only sounds around them were the leaves moving in the soft breeze and the occasional bird.  So deceptively calm considering the emotional tension that swirled around them.  Tony left like a wire pulled too tight, ready to snap.

“When I first came home from the hospital I had a panic attack just looking out the kitchen window.”  Marah paused before continuing, “And today I remembered that I found a dead body out here.  Lying right there on the pool cover.  Even now I have to force myself to sit here, to sit and think that someone died not five feet from where we are sitting.”

“I promised that we would get a new pool once the weather permitted.  It’s getting close-”

“Damn it Tony it’s not about the pool!” Marah slammed her hand against the table before turning to face him, “It’s everything.  I remember seeing Eden and you in that hotel room.  I remember seeing the fear in your eyes when I learned that you had slept together.”

Yes Tony knew fear, but he also knew when to fight.  And Marah was coming out swinging. “Years ago Marah.  I made one mistake years ago.  I haven’t touched another woman, much less thought about touching another woman since I came back home.”

“How can I trust you Tony?  You have done nothing but sell me half-truths from the beginning.”

Tony leaned forward, “Everything I have done was to protect you.  To protect our family.”

Marah scoffed, “Protect yourself is more like it.  Had you told me about you and Eden I would have been upset but I would have gotten over it.  But I wouldn’t be upset about the fact that you had sex with Eden, I would have been upset that your guilt over it caused you to push me away all those years ago and it ultimately cost you years of freedom.  I would have said that what we had,” She gestured between the two of them, “Was strong enough that no incident from years ago would even be able to touch it.  But you didn’t give me the chance Tony.”

“I know.  I know I should have told you but at the time I thought I was protecting you.”

“I am not a fragile flower.  Hell, that wasn’t even my first kidnapping!  But don’t you see, this goes deeper than you not wanting to tell me about Eden.  That was just the catalyst.  Because you didn’t trust me with the truth I lost more than just my memories.  I lost giving birth to our baby.  I lost hearing her first cries and holding her in my arms.  My God for months I held her at arm’s length I was so lost.”

Tony watched helplessly as tears poured unchecked from Marah’s eyes.  He wanted nothing more than to go and hold her in his arms and whisper things were going to be all right.  But he knew that wasn’t a wise move.  She was more likely to hit him than fall into his embrace.  “I am sorry.  I know I should have told you then and I just didn’t think the fallout would be what it was.”

“I know.” Marah wiped the tears from her eyes and smiled ruefully, “I know you didn’t.  And I am sorry for disappearing last night but Tony something is broken.  Broken between us.”

Tony reached across the table and took her hand in his, “Don’t say that.  We have just hit some bumps, but we have made it through worse.”

“While you were gone I went and visited Michelle.  And she reminded me of when she had to convince Danny to let her stand by his side.”  She removed her hand from his, “And I realized that I have always loved you.  Always.  Even without my memory I felt a pull towards you and no one else.”

“You say that like it’s a bad thing.” Tony tried to smile but he was sure it was less than convincing.

“But even knowing that I love you.  That I have loved no one but you I know exactly how Michelle felt.  Pleading with her husband to just trust in their love.”  Marah sighed and turned watery eyes to her husband.  The man who had owned her heart since she was still in high school.  And she knew she was making the right choice.  The choice that would either allow them to grow or bring them crashing down, “You don’t trust in our love Tony.  You don’t trust in me.  And I think we need some time apart to figure out if what we have is strong enough.”

Tony felt like someone was choking him.  He had expected a fight, but never this. “What are you saying?”

“I think we need to separate.”

***

Tristan crept away from the open window her forgotten cell phone charger clutched in her hand.

She wasn’t even supposed to be here, today being her day off from watching Lanie.  But she had woken up in that dingy hotel to find her cell phone had died and not a charger in sight.  Retracing her steps she realized that it must have fallen out when she had rushed to pack up her bag last night.

She had knocked but there had been no answer and so she had used her key.  Hearing Tony and Marah’s voices she had gone to the kitchen to announce herself but instead was met with…this.  This development could change everything.

As their voices continued to carry through the house Tristan hurried to get out without alerting anyone to her presence.

One More Santos~ A Manny Short

No Marah and Tony for Monday.  Instead, after the revelation that Danny and Michelle were pregnant again last week I thought I’d give them some time to shine.  So here is a Manny short story….

Danny opened up the front door and was immediately bombarded by noise.  Placing his keys on the entry table he looked around and surveyed the room at large.  Television blaring though no one was watching.  Book bags strewn about on the floor, contents spilling out.  From upstairs the rapid pounding of feet and no doubt Robbie or Hope needled the other into some sibling squabble.

It was controlled chaos.  And he loved it.

He made his way to the kitchen and stood in the doorway and watched this other slice of heaven.  Danielle on the floor knocking plastic cups against each other, laughing excitedly at the noise they made.  And of course there was his Michelle.   After a hectic day at the women’s clinic she had shed her work clothes for her standard lounge wear, yoga pants and a t-shirt.  Her hair was disheveled and her feet bare.  And yet she was still the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.

The sound of a door slamming overhead had Michelle yelling out, “You two better cut it out!  I mean it!” She looked down at the baby and smiled, “Give it a few years honey bun.  You’ll be right in the middle of the madness.”

Danny barely contained his chuckle, because Michelle wasn’t wrong.  Some days their house did resemble madness, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

Danielle was the first to spot him, her little face lighting up and she waved the cups around with glee.  Standing up of her pudgy baby legs she toddled towards him, “Dadda!”

Danny crouched down as she made her way across the kitchen and threw herself into his arms.  Standing he turned to his wife who was watching with a smile on her face. “We you lurking like a creeper again?”

Clearly through with the excitement of her father being home Danielle stretched her arms out to be put down.  And Danny watched as she once again toddled over to where she had been, creating more noise.  Danny moved towards his wife and pulled her into him gently, “Just appreciating the view.”

Michelle laughed, “Some view!  You just wait and see Danny, my body isn’t in its twenties anymore.”

“Neither is mine.” Danny had plans to live a long and happy life.  He wanted to see his kids grow and do great things with their lives.  And so he took care of himself, he worked out regularly and ate right.  Sure he was no glorified gym rat like his cousin Tony but he was no slouch either.  “And I think you are beautiful.  And I will think you are beautiful until they put me in the ground.”

Michelle smiled then tears started streaking down her cheeks. Pregnancy hormones, got to love them sometimes.  “You are so sweet Danny Santos.”

Danny slapped his hand gently on her backside, “Don’t let that get around.  I have a rep to protect and all that.”  Giving his wife another kiss he gently maneuvered her towards the table, “Now sit and let me finish this.”  He went back to the stove and checked on the status of dinner.  He took the spaghetti and let it drain in the sink.

“You ready to tell the kids?”

“Sounds good to me.” Then suddenly Danny whirled around and pointed the spoon towards her, “And if the question about where baby’s come from comes up it’s on you this time.  I butchered it so badly last time there are no words to describe the experience.”

Michelle laughed because the experience had been hilarious.  He had started talking about birds and bees to which Hope had cried that she “hated bees” so that turned into a fifteen minute speech about how bees were important for ‘pollination’ which had Hope crossing her arms and stubbornly declaring that she still hated bees.  Then Danny tried the stork approach which had Robbie snorting saying ‘birds couldn’t carry babies’.  The more the kids talked the more flustered Danny got, and the more Michelle had laughed.  Probably not the crown jewel of their parenting moments but it had been a moment to say the least.  But still she couldn’t put her husband, much less her kids, through that again.  “Deal.”

***

Dinner was the time that Danny liked the noise the most.  Growing up their mansion had been more like a museum than a home.  Dinners were silent and tense affairs, where one wrong word could spark World War Carmen.  So Danny, and later Tony and Ray, had learned to be silent and still.  Mick had been Mick, living like he fed off the discord.  So watching his kids joke and tell stories while stuffing their faces was a good thing.

“Your mom and I have something exciting to tell you.”

Robbie’s head perked up and he slurped up the spaghetti noodle into his mouth.  Not even bothering to wipe the sauce from his face he asked excitedly, “Are we getting a dog?”

Splattered with spaghetti sauce from the waist up Danielle waved her spoon around, “Dawgie!”

Hope excitedly clapped her hands, “Oh a dog would be super fun!  We could get one of those small ones that you can dress up.”

Danny just shook his head, “We’re not getting a dog.”

Robbie’s smile slipped but he kept on hoping, “A cat?  Not as cool as a dog but I can deal.”

Beaming Michelle jumped in, “Your father and I are having another baby.”

Silence.  There was no reaction for several moments before Robbie threw his head back and cried, “Aww come on!”

Surprised by his son’s reaction Danny lifted an eyebrow, “Something wrong Robbie?  I think another baby is a great thing.”

“First I have Hope breaking my stuff, now Danielle.  Girls suck dad.  When I get married I’m not living with anymore girls.”

Danny tried to hold in his smile.  His son’s logic was amusing, if not sound.  He turned towards his wife to see she was fighting the same reaction.  “You hear that Michelle?  Our son is getting married and not living with anymore girls.”

“Oh yes, I heard.” Michelle tilted her head and asked, “But what if it’s a boy?”

Robbie seemed to ponder this before nodding, “A boy would be okay I guess.  Though I’d still rather have a dog.”

Danielle laughed from her high chair, “Dawgie!”

Beside her brother Hope crossed her arms and pouted, “No little brothers.  Sarah has two and she says they are no fun.  They never want to do anything cool, they just make messes and break things!”

Jumping right on that Robbie exclaimed, “You break my stuff all the time!”

“I do not!”

“Do to.”

“Do not!”

Danny watched his children squabble for a few minutes before clearing his throat, “Okay guys this stuff doesn’t matter.  What matters is that this family is getting a new addition.  And either him, “he looked to Robbie then at Hope, “Or her is going to be just as loved no matter what.”

Hope huffed out a breath, “Yes Daddy.”

“I still hope it’s a boy,” Robbie muttered, “But I’d still rather have a dog.”

Michelle smiled at Danny, “At least we didn’t have the birds and the bees talk again.”

From her side of the table Hope twisted her face into a grimace, “I hate bees!”

***

Getting into bed that night Danny looked over at Michelle who was applying lotion to her arms, “Are we crazy?”

Without looking up Michelle answered, “Absolutely.”  She put the lotion bottle on her nightstand and turned towards her husband, “But you need to be more specific if you want me to describe just how crazy we are.”

“Having another baby.  Four kids.  One of whom is only two years old.” Danny sighed wearily and laid his head back on his pillows, “We must be crazy.”

Michelle curled into Danny’s side and rested her palm on his chest, “You know it won’t always be like this.  One of these days Robbie and Hope, and eventually Danielle and whatever this baby turns out to be, will look back and be glad they had each other.  I know I feel that way about Rick.”

“Yeah your older brother locked you in a psych ward and my older brother was Carmen’s little bundle of evil.”

“True but look at Rick and me now, we are closer than ever.  And you know Tony and Ray were closer to you than Mick.  You three are like brothers and you three stand beside each other through thick and thin.”

“How did I find someone like you in my life?”

Michelle smiled than leaned up and kissed her husband soundly, “Just lucky I guess.”  She twisted and turned off the bedside lamp before moving in to her husband’s arms again, “And come on, one more Santos in this world isn’t such a bad thing.”

A Soft Place to Land: Chapter Twenty-Six (Part Two)

At Danny’s question Tony quickly debated with himself if he should tell Danny the whole story.  The man was riding high on soon-to-be-a-dad euphoria and didn’t need to come crashing back down to the real world.  But just as quickly as he stopped himself.  Not disclosing the truth, the whole truth, is what had led to last night’s debacle.  So instead he told Danny everything.  About Marah receiving Eden’s scrapbook, about how she remembered the day Eden drugged him (even if she forgot about the drugging him part), and how she remembered learning that Tony had Eden had slept together after they broke up.   As he kept going he noticed Danny’s face pinch tight and his hands tighten on the steeling wheel.  He knew he was in for one of Danny’s “told you so” speeches, and he admittedly deserved it.   Everyone had told him he needed to tell Marah the whole story, that nothing good could come out of half-truths and he didn’t listen.

“Damn it Tony!” Danny slapped the steeling wheel with the palm of his hand, “I told you to tell Marah the truth.  You are the most stubborn ass I’ve ever met.  Do you actually enjoy torturing yourself?” He continued to himself more than anything, “This must have been what Carlos meant when I saw him in the jail.  That he wasn’t done.  And sure as hell you played right into his trap.”

Tony listened to his cousin’s tirade in silence.  It wasn’t like he had an answer anyway, not for the stupid things he had done.  Maybe he did like torturing himself, though that would take a lot of self-reflection and he didn’t have time for that at the moment.  “Danny there is something else.”

“Oh I can’t wait to hear this.” He made a gesturing motion with his hand, “Hit me.”

“Last night I read the rest of Eden’s scrapbook.  She may have had a screw or two lose but she was certainly thorough”, Tony cleared his throat, “And in it she talks about Gus Aitoro.  How he was really a Santos.”

Danny sat silently as he processed this revelation. “That’s not possible, we had a DNA test run.  The test came back negative.”

“Apparently she changed the results.” Tony shrugged his shoulder, “Stranger things have happened.”

Danny pondered this information further then answered with a shrug of his own, “Not much I can do about it, he went to his grave being a Spaulding and I am not going to take that away from them.  It would change anything anyway.  I am sure I have more siblings out there, my father had his own way of dealing with life with Carmen.” He sighed then pointed to Tony, “Now get out and go save your marriage.  And for God’s sake stop being an idiot!”

Tony got out of the car but before he slammed the door he stopped and turned towards his cousin, “You made your share of mistakes primo.  It’s kind of what we do.”

Danny leaned over to look Tony in the eye, “Yeah I did.  But I learned from them and you will too.  That is if you stop  your typical hard-headed BS.”

Tony grinned, “I’ll see what I can do.”

“You do that.” Danny made a shooing gesture, “Now go away and go talk to Marah.”

***

Marah took a sip of the steaming coffee Michelle handed her and nearly moaned in ecstasy.  It was like liquid heaven at that moment.  “So where is Danny and the kids.”

“The kids are having a play date with grandpa today and Danny is visiting Carmen and then going to Infierno.”

Marah nearly choked on the sip of coffee she had just taken.  She coughed noisily and then asked, “Carmen as in Carmen Santos? I thought she was in a coma.”

“She is.” Michelle took her own sip of coffee and just shrugged, “The woman was a menace but she is still his mother.  And it helps him.”

“Helps him what?  The woman tried to kill you.  Repeatedly.”

Michelle put down her mug and thought about how to answer.  Finally she just went with the truth, “Helps him come to terms with the fact that she may have been a crap mother but the good in him trumps all the negative stuff she brought into his life.”

Marah looked at her friend like she was crazy.  She didn’t know if she would be as accepting or as forgiving as Michelle.  Hell, she had heard some of the stories from Tony’s youth and nearly wished his father were alive so she could punch him in the face, “And you are okay with that?”

“It is what it is.  I accept Danny visits his mother once a month and he accepts every time Claire decides to drop in on our lives and try to play mother for a while.”  She shrugged her shoulders, “Like I said, it is what it is.” Michelle took another sip from her coffee then asked, “So you said you needed some advice.”

Marah thought back to yesterday, to receiving that package to her memory returning.  She felt like her mind was moving a mile a minute while she stood still.  “All these months I thought when my memory came back everything would return to normal.  I’d be Marah again and Tony, Lanie, and I would finally get our chance to be a family.”

Michelle nodded in understanding, “I remember when my memory came back and how desperate I wanted things to go back to how they were.  Only by the time I remembered my life with Danny he had moved on with someone else.”  Michelle reached across the table and took Marah’s hand in hers, “At least Tony is still there, he’s been fighting for you since the beginning.”

“I love Tony.  I always have and I always will.” Marah sighed deeply, “Loving Tony has never been the problem.  It’s all the stuff that comes with it.  And the lies and half-truths have me questioning just how strong that love truly is.”

“I know I’ve told you this but when I was pregnant with Robbie my dear husband stupidly tried to push me away.  For my own good he said.  And I took my pregnant ass to New York in hot pursuit and when he still tried to push me away I remember it clear as day.  Even now, when he are going through typical marriage strife I think back to that day.  I looked at him and I told him that I would follow him into hell and bring him right back out.”  Michelle squeezed her friend’s hand gently and released it to grab her rapidly cooling coffee, “Hell being married to a Santos that should be our damn motto.”

“We could have t-shirts made.”

Michelle laughed, “And jackets!”

***

Richard capped the syringe and patted Carmen on the shoulder, “Thanks again for your contribution to science Carmen.”  As usual there was no response, not that he expected one.  This drug trial would either bring Carmen into the light of day or send her into the other one.  Either way he was satisfied.  As he moved towards the door it suddenly opened to reveal a very distracted looking Danny Santos.

Danny stopped in his tracks when he saw the doctor in his mother’s room.  He gestured to the man’s face, “Nice shiner you got there doc.  Guess you pissed off the wrong husband.”

Inside Richard seethed.  The Santos family had always thought they were the toughest in town. “Or maybe your thug cousin should keep a better leash on his wife.”

Danny stepped forward menacingly, “Watch your mouth or I’ll give you a matching set.”

Richard rolled his eyes, “What can I do for you Mr. Santos?  I have patients waiting.”

“Patients who haven’t seen sunlight in over a decade?”

“Some.  I take the care of all my patients seriously.”  Richard moved towards the door, ready to make an exit and stop answering questions.  But before he could exit Danny called out his name.  Turning he faced him with a questioning look on his face, “What now Danny?”

“Stay away from my cousin and his wife.’

“Or what?  You going to make me swim with the fishes?  Give me cement shoes?”

Danny gave the other man his most wicked smirk, “Guess you’ll find out if you do.”

***

Tony let himself in the front door and gently placed the baby carrier on the floor in order to not wake Lanie.  He gingerly unstrapped the baby and lifted her against his chest before carrying her over to the bassinet.  Looking down at her sweet face all lax in sleep he smiled.

He moved through the house looking for Marah before he located her on the back patio sitting in the sun.  “We need to talk.”

Marah moved the sunglasses off her face and turned her head toward her husband, “You’re right.  We do.”

A Soft Place to Land: Chapter Twenty-Six (Part One)

Groaning in agony Marah opened her eyes and then shut them as the light streaming in the window threatened to blind her.  In her drunken state last night she had forgotten to make sure the curtains were closed.  Marah chalked it up to yet another case of alcohol and poor decisions.  Marah let out another groan as the memories from last night came back in full force.  Talk about bad decisions. She didn’t drink to excess much but when she did she certainly did it in style.

Marah tentatively opened her eyes and as they slowly acclimated themselves to the brightness in the room the tequila fog lifted and she…remembered.  Like the door that had housed her memories was finally thrown opened she remembered everything.  Her life in Paris, her move back home, the stunning realization that Tony was alive…it was all there.

Ignoring the pain in her head she sat up and turned to wake Tony with the news and then it hit her.  She had basically exiled him to the couch last night.  Though she did have some vague notion of him coming in and holding her last night his side of the bed was void of any indication that he had been there.

There was nothing Marah wanted more than to nurse this hangover like a champion but even more she wanted her baby.  After months of holding Lanie at arm’s length she remembered.  The joy she felt at listening to her heartbeat, the wonder of the first flutters of Lanie kicking inside her womb, the absolute love she felt from the moment she learned she was pregnant.  She wanted her baby.

It was then that she saw the glass on the nightstand.  A glass of water, two aspirin, and a note.  She quickly downed the aspirin as she read the note from Tony.

Marah,

Went with Danny to get your car then to pick up Lanie.  Don’t go anywhere.  We need to talk.

Love,

Tony

Marah contemplated this for a few minutes before she balled up the note and threw it towards the waste can.  If her relationship with Tony had taught her anything it was when to be just as stubborn as her husband.  And this was one of those times.  She picked up her phone and called the one person she knew that would understand.

***

Danny looked at Tony out of the corner of his eye as he drove.  His cousin looked…rough.  And that was being kind.  Truthfully he looked like hell, with those bloodshot eyes and the five o’clock shadow threatening to turn into a full-grown beard.  With their Cuban heritage the beards they tended to be able to grow often resembled some character off a cigar box.

But dealing with Tony had always been a balancing act.  Balancing when to push for information and when to just let Tony stew for a while.  Danny cleared his throat and decided pushing was needed this morning, “You look like hell primo.”  Okay maybe he could have worded that better but it wasn’t like they had hours to chat.  Without traffic they had maybe ten minutes.

Tony laughed humorlessly, “Thanks Danny.  You sure know how to make me feel special.”

Danny shrugged, “I got a text at the crack of dawn saying you weren’t coming into work today.  I get another text asking for me to taking you pick up Marah’s car at, of all places, the damn Roadhouse.  So I am guessing this is a story that make take time and time is one thing we don’t have this morning.  I have to go visit Carmen then go into the office.”

Tony turned surprised eyes to his cousin, “Visiting Carmen?  What for man?  She’s in a coma and hasn’t made any improvement in years.  Not to mention she tried to kill you.  She tried to kill your wife, a couple of times actually.  So I think she doesn’t need to remain of the Christmas card list if you get what I’m saying.”

Danny sighed.  It wasn’t the first time someone had asked that question, and it wouldn’t be the last.  “I don’t do it for her benefit I do it for my own.  So that when I have to meet my maker I can say that even though my mother was a vile creature who made my life hell I got something beautiful out of it.  I am married to the love of my life, we have four kids who are healthy…”

Tony quickly held out a hand, “Four kids?”

Danny smiled but didn’t take his eyes off the road, “Michelle is pregnant again.”

“Wow man that’s great!” Tony lightly slapped Danny’s shoulder so he didn’t cause an accident, “Congratulations man!  But could you please have a boy?  Between Hope, Danielle, and Lanie we are going to have our hands full keeping them away from the dreaded male sex, I don’t know if we could handle another girl.”

Danny chuckled as he pulled into the Roadhouse parking lot, “We are Santos’s, we can take anything life throws at us.”  He pulled alongside Marah’s car and put the car in park.  Turning towards Tony he lifted his eyebrows in question, “So are you going to tell me what happened with Marah or are you going to stall some more?”

***

Marah knocked on the door and waited.  She hadn’t visited since the accident but just looking at the house before her brought a smile to her face.  It was a home that managed to be beautiful but also had lots character and charm.  It was a family home and anyone who saw it would know that even with its large expanse the family was what made the home special.  It didn’t take long before Michelle opened it with a smile, “Marah!  How are you?”

Truthfully Marah wasn’t sure how she felt, other than the residual alcohol funk that is.  She just shrugged, “Can I talk to you for a minute?”

Michelle’s face became serious as she ushered Marah inside, “Sure.  It’s a rare day without husband, kids, or work.  I was just about to make some coffee, do you want some?”

Marah nearly fell at Michelle’s feet in worship.  In her brilliant decision to talk to Michelle she neglected to make herself some, and if she was going to resemble a somewhat live version of herself she needed some ASAP, “You are a savior.”

As Marah and Michelle made their way towards the kitchen she noticed that Danny and Michelle had painted recently.  “I really like this shade of green.  Sage green is very pleasing with the soft wood tones.”

Michelle stopped in her tracks and whirled around, “That is exactly what you said when I asked you what color I should paint the kitchen!”

Marah smiled, “I remember.”

Michelle let out an unlike-Michelle squeal of delight and gathered her friend in a crushing hug, “You remember?  Everything?  When did this happen?”

“Last night actually, it’s a long story.  And well, I could use some advice.”

Sorry Guys

Marony 1Sorry but there won’t be any posts this week.  Due to work obligations and such I am giving myself a bit of a “Spring Break”.

But check back next week when we find out what’s next for Marah and Tony.

And how awesome did that banner turn out? Lindsey and Jordi are always so pretty to look at:)

A Soft Place to Land: Chapter Twenty-Five

With his head in his hands, Tony sat on the couch.  He had already texted Reva to let her know Marah was home safe, as well as sending off a text to Danny to let him know he wouldn’t be coming into the office tomorrow.  And now in the calm stillness of the night the only thing Tony could do is think.   Think about what he should have done differently.  Think about how he should have listened to Danny and told Marah everything.  Think about how he might have ruined the relationship Marah and him had been rebuilding.

Frustrated with himself and the entire situation Tony groaned and fisted his hair in his hands.  He wanted to throw something.  To rage until he destroyed everything in sight.  Instead he focused all his anger on himself.  And the two people who had been hell-bent on destroying the best thing in his life.  There was no way he would be getting much sleep tonight, not with his mind going a mile a minute.

He needed to clear his head.  To prepare himself for the fight of his life when the sun came up.  He went out to his car and pulled out his gym bag and five minutes later, and with Toby trotting faithfully by his side, Tony took off jogging down the street.

***

Upstairs Marah heard the door close and let out the breath she had been holding.  A part of her was surprised Tony had let the matter drop.  She had expected him to storm into their room and plead his case.  The other part of her was glad he didn’t.  Her thoughts were so jumbled right now she didn’t know whether she would stay firm or crumble like dust when they finally did hash it out.

Rolling over Marah punched her pillow into submission and tried to get comfortable.  But it was as if the door to her memories had been left wide open and every time she closed her eyes she was flooded with snippets of her life.

She remembered the disillusionment she felt living in Paris, and how her unhappiness had her yearning for Springfield.  She remembered her brothers, even sweet little Collin.  She even chuckled slightly as she remembered clobbering Jonathan over the head when she thought he was in intruder.

Knowing Tony would be gone for a while she got out of bed and wandered into the nursery.  Guiding her hands lovingly along the wall she remembered in vivid detail the love Tony and her had put into these four walls.

Marah sat on the floor of the bedroom they planned to use as a nursery and watched as her sexy husband rolled dark pink paint on the walls. “Looks good. I think they finally got the color right.”

Tony laughed but kept on painting, “Yes it was the guy at the paint department’s fault. Couldn’t be that you changed the color three times.” He paused to reapply paint to his roller before continuing, “I think I actually saw him cringe the last time we were in there.”

Pausing beside Lanie’s crib she remembered when the huge box had been delivered.  “A bed fit for a princess” Tony had called it.  Rubbing her hand along her stomach she remembered the anticipation, the pure joy, she felt at being pregnant.  For months she had kept Lanie at arm’s length and now that she wasn’t here Marah longed to hold her daughter in her arms.

Frustrated with herself she stalked back to the bedroom and once again tried to get some sleep.  But even as she felt her body grow heavy with sleep the memories continued to flood her brain…

***

Eden held Marah with her arm tight around her neck, “I asked, are you going somewhere?”

Mustering up all her energy she had clawed her way free from Eden’s grasp and unsteadily tried to make her escape.  The darkness surrounding her she had fear unlike she had ever known.  She wasn’t just fighting for her life but for the baby inside.  Then the impact from behind that sent her forward, her body colliding with the edge of a table.  The pain that radiated through her midsection and the fear for her unborn child.  Eden standing over her with an evil smirk upon her face…

***

Lying in a room full of pregnant women Marah listened as Michelle explained the importance of breathing.  Behind her Tony sat, listening intently at Michelle’s instructions.  Unlike all the ladies relaxed in their partner’s arms Marah sat ramrod straight, unsure if she could handle being in such close proximity to Tony.  Then Tony leaned forward, his chin moving her downy hair away from her ear.  His lips whispered along her skin as she whispered. “Breathe baby.”

***

“Knit one, pearl two” Marah repeated to herself as she tried for the fourteenth time to make a dent in the pathetic attempt at knitting.  Soothing my ass.  This was the most maddening and frustrating thing she had ever tried.  And sure enough, the stitch looked wonky.  Aggravated she put the yarn down and looked at her husband.  Engrossed in the game on television Tony absently rubbed her swollen feet.  Before she could stop herself a small giggle emerged from her mouth.

Tony turned and lifted an eyebrow in question but Marah couldn’t help it, the giggle turned into a full laugh.  “We look like an old married couple.  Here it is, a Saturday night and I am attempting to knit…something and you are watching a game I doubt you care about.”

“Yeah I don’t know much about football so this announcer is basically talking Greek to me,” Tony smiled as he turned off the TV, “But I like being an old married couple with you.”

***

Curled up together on Danny and Michelle’s back porch, the autumn chill causing their breath to cloud in the air.  Tony trying to convince Marah to stay longer. …”Michelle has you on cleanup duty for teaching Hope about hooker boots.”

Tony growled, “I didn’t ‘teach her’ I just said the word and she stuck it in her memory bank.  Who knew it was like a steel trap!”

Marah laughed.  He was never going to live that one down. “Doesn’t matter stud because it’s in Michelle’s memory bank as well.  And on that note I’m going to take my hooker boots and go on home.”

“Honey you know those boots put any and all hooker boots to shame. ”

***

Marah bundled herself up in a thick robe against the autumn chill and descended the stairs. Toby was wanting outside and had started barking loud enough to wake the dead. He had certainly woken her from the first decent night’s sleep she’d had in weeks. In the kitchen he stood pawing at the door looking almost desperate to get outside. “What is it boy?”

Beside her leg Toby simply vibrated with the need to get beyond the door. Flipping on the back porch light didn’t alleviate much of the shadows beyond the doorway but at least it was clear. She reached for the doorknob and turned. When she opened the door Toby shot out like a light heading straight for the pool. Following to see what had caused his commotion Marah felt pure terror run down her spine when she felt a large body come up behind her. Turning slowly all she could see was the bulky figure of a man, the light made it impossible to distinguish his identity. Fear and adrenaline took over and she opened her mouth to scream when the man lifted one of his large hands and covered her mouth, effectively trapping her scream…

***

By the time Tony made it home the sun was beginning to peak over the horizon.  Exhausted and no closer to clearing his head than when he left, Tony let Toby and him in the house before collapsing on the couch.  Gathering the strength to take off his shoes Tony rested his head against the back of the couch.  He knew Marah would yell at him for sitting on her couch all sweaty but they had bigger things to talk about than a sweaty couch…

The scream jolted him awake.  Rubbing his bleary eyes Tony looked around before realizing he had fallen asleep.  Then Tony’s foggy mind cleared and he remembered the scream.  Hurrying from the couch he sprinted up the stairs and stopped at their bedroom door.  There was Marah, trashing wildly on the bed, the sheets tangled around her sleeping form.

Without hesitation Tony joined his wife on the bed and took her in his arms, “Shh Marah I have you.” He kissed her head softly, “I have you and I won’t let you go.”

A Soft Place to Land: Chapter Twenty-Four (Part Three)

Marah wrenched her arm from Jonathan’s grasp and stepped back, “What has gotten into you?”

Not put off in the slightest by Marah’s attitude, Jonathan just moved back into her space, “Marah Do you want to tell me why Tony has been blowing up my phone for the past ten minutes?”

“Not particularly.” Marah responded while reaching out for the glass of water Richard had returned with. “And I would appreciate you being like Switzerland for the time being.” Marah chugged the water greedily then handed the empty cup to Jonathan, “Now I am going to go have a good time and I suggest the same.  Your date is looking a bit lonely.”

Jonathan watched Marah take Richard’s hand in hers and lead him back to the dance floor, her laugh clearly audible over the music.  If he didn’t know her he would think she was actually happy, but there was something there behind those expressive eyes of hers.  Something that drove her to this hold in the wall bar and had her slamming tequila.  And he could bet it had something to do with the irate phone messages he had received from Tony. “Switzerland my ass,” Jonathan pulled out his phone and hit redial.  Marah may have wanted him to stay out of it but Marah wasn’t acting like herself.  And judging by the way she was acting with that Salas character it was possible she was going to make some serious bad decisions.  Jonathan waited until Tony picked up on the other end of the phone and hoped he made the right decision.

***

At the sound of his cell phone ringing Tony whipped his car to the side of the road, “Hey Jonathan! I am looking for Marah, have you seen her?”  He listened as Jonathan answered.  And if Tony didn’t already feel like his world was collapsing around him Jonathan’s answer would have done the job.  “The Roadhouse?  You sure?”  Tony held the phone away from his ear as Jonathan barked out his answer.  “Just checking.  I will be there in five.”

Tony hung up the phone and checked that no cars were coming before pulling a U-turn.  He stepped on the gas as he headed towards the outskirts of Springfield.  And he hoped like hell Marah would hear him out before she decided to end them for good.

***

This day had been a series of highs and lows, and Marah was currently enjoying the upswing.  Richard’s arms were wrapped around her as they danced, but he was the perfect gentleman.  He didn’t let his hands stray below her waist and he looked at her eyes and not at her bust line.  Plus, he smelled good.  His cologne was a spicy musky scent that wasn’t overpowering.  And last but not least, like a balm to her injured heart he made her laugh.  “So do you miss the bright lights of New York?”

Richard tightened his arms marginally around her and smiled flirtatiously, “Oh I don’t know, Springfield has its share of fine points too.”

Marah felt her face heat and it wasn’t from the alcohol.  There was no denying that Richard Salas was a good-looking man.  And in some ways he reminded her of Tony.  The tanned skin that spoke of her Hispanic heritage, those deep brown eyes that were like melted chocolate, and that sly grin that made a woman think of tangled sheets and hot passionate nights.  But he didn’t make her heart flutter like Tony managed to do just by walking in a room.  She raised her hands to his chest and moved marginally backwards, “Richard I have had a good time tonight but I-”

Richard halted the flow of words by lowering his head and pressing his lips against hers.

Marah waited for something to happen.  A flutter or a spark would have been welcome, but she felt nothing.  She moved out of his arms and took a deep breath.  Intending to let him down gently she smiled in an attempt to soften the blow, “Richard I-”

But the words ended as a fist came from behind her and knocked Richard to the floor.  Whirling around she Tony, his face a ask of fury. “Don’t you ever touch my wife again!”

From the floor Richard smirked as he wiped the blood from his upper lip.  “Perhaps she wanted to be touched.”

Tony gritted his teeth and made an attempt to charge forward when Marah and Jonathan stepped between them. “Come on Tony. We need to go.” Looking behind Tony she saw the bouncers making their way through the crowd toward them.  Hoping to avoid a further scene she pulled on his arm, “Come on.”

Tony allowed Marah to pull him toward the exit but he kept his eyes locked with Richard’s.  And he watched the smirk turn into a full-on smile.  He enjoyed the scene he caused.  Tony wanted to charge back in there and pound on the other man’s face but he had bigger fish to fry.  Right then Marah wasn’t spewing hell fire at him but he knew that it was only a matter of time.

***

Tristan grabbed her purse and weaved her way through the gawkers.  The people who had stopped to stare at the drama that played out on the dance floor.  Reaching Jonathan’s side she leaned up to kiss his cheek, “You sure know how to show a girl a good time Randall.”

Jonathan rubbed the back of his neck in embarrassment. “Sorry about that.  But I knew something like this was going to happen.”

Tristan spared a look at the man behind Jonathan’s back.  The man who had risen from the ground and now stood at the bar.  Women always like a bad boy and Richard was currently surrounded like a regal king and his subjects.  He lifted his drink in a salute.  Mission accomplished.  Focusing back on Jonathan she smiled, “Maybe next time less aggression though.”

Jonathan leaned down and whispered in her ear, “Oh I don’t know, I like a girl with some spirit.”

Tristan smiled saucily and walked towards the door, “Maybe I will show you my spirit, guess we’ll have to wait and see.”

***

Tony and Marah rode home in silence but the tension between them was thick.  So thick Marah almost felt like the oxygen had been sucked out of the vehicle.  They had left her car behind at the Roadhouse parking lot, there was no way that Marah could drive with the amount of liquor she had consumed.  So even when they got to their home there was no escape from what was coming.  And as each minute passed the fog that had sufficiently clouded Marah’s memory began to lift.  And with it came the anger.

Tony pulled in their driveway and shut the car off.  They sat silently listening to the car engine click as it cooled before Tony turned to face Marah in the passenger seat, “Do you have any idea how worried I was tonight?  You didn’t come home Marah.  You didn’t even call.”

Marah shrugged a shoulder as if she didn’t care that she had him in a panic all night, “I didn’t want to come home.  I am a big girl, deal with it.”  She opened her door and got out, slamming the door behind her.  As she marched up the walk to the front door she heard Tony get out and follow.

“Listen I stopped by your studio.  I know what you saw and I can explain.”

Marah whirled on Tony and poked a finger in his sternum, “Oh you can explain huh?  Explain how you cheated on me with Eden August not once but twice!”

Tony opened his mouth and closed it before trying again, “You remembered something?”

Marah laughed humorously as she unlocked the door, “Yeah, my first memory is of you screwing someone else.  Seems like I have lived that story before.” Marah lifted her finger to tap against her lip as if she were thinking.  Then mockingly said, “Oh that’s right, Catalina was a rebound was she not?”  She walked through the door and without a backwards glance walked up the stairs.  Over her shoulder she called back, “I am too drunk and too tired to even entertain your pathetic excuses tonight.  But if you are smart, which is debatable, you will park yourself on the couch tonight.”