A Soft Place to Land: Chapter Twenty-Nine

Sorry guys, the St. Louis Blues are in the Western Finals and it’s really playing havoc with my writing schedule.  I am going to try my best to stay on schedule this week but like I said, it’s the FINALS. 

One Week Later…

In the guest room Marah lay on the bed while she stared up at the ceiling and berated herself for possibly being the dumbest person alive.  The idea of separating made so much sense a week ago.  But then again a lot of things made more sense a week ago.  But here, in the stillness of early morning with soft light shining through the window Marah admitted to herself that she missed him.  She missed the man who lay not thirty feet away sleeping peacefully in their marriage bed.

The past week had been a mixed bag of emotional torture.  At times she could feel Tony’s irritation rolling off of him in waves.  Then there was the confusion, the hope, and of course love.  He loved her so he had agreed to this set up, as unconventional as it may be.

But even though he may have agreed he didn’t exactly make it easy for her either.  Two days after their talk on the patio she woke to find her husband in the kitchen cheerfully humming to himself as he cooked her breakfast.  And as he set the plate of pancakes in front of her he had smiled and Marah felt her lady bits quiver.  Actually quiver.  That smile was like a double shot of tequila, potent and potentially dangerous to her health.

And then the other night he had arrived home after working out at the gym all flushed and sweaty.  She knew for a fact that he always showered at the gym so his disheveled appearance was a bit jarring.  But his intentions were crystal clear as she had carried Lanie upstairs to find her husband looking wickedly sexy with nothing but a white fluffy towel wrapped around his trim waist.  Droplets of water from his shower clung to his hair and his chest.  And she had literally felt her mouth go as dry as the Sahara desert.  She had practically ran into Lanie’s room before she listened to her traitorous heart that kept questioning why she would deny herself love when it was right across the hall.

Then the other night she had to work late finishing up her designs for The Lakeview and Buzz had arrived delivering a turkey club sandwich and a message from Tony saying that he didn’t want her “wasting away”.

With a groan Marah rolled over and covered her head with the pillow.  It didn’t take a genius to figure out what Tony was doing.  He was showing her the sweetness she had seen in him from the very beginning.  The part of him that only a cherished few got to see.

If only that were the problem.  If it were she would probably be back across the hall already making love to her husband instead of lying here frustrated and annoyed.

The cry from Lanie’s room broke the silence and gave Marah an excuse to end her musings.  Opening the door she went to step into the hall when the door to her and Tony’s room opened as well.  With sleep-disheveled hair and morning stubble on his face Tony look too good this morning, especially for the mood she was in.  And certainly those flannel pants riding low on his hips didn’t help matters.  “Jesus Tony!” Marah huffed, “Don’t you own a shirt?”

Tony wanted to laugh at the look of frustration on his wife’s face but thought better of it.  Instead he innocently looked down at his attire, or lack thereof, and shrugged, “This is what I always wear to bed Marah.”

With a growl in her throat Marah crossed her arms across her chest, “You keep on flashing your, your,” She lifted one arm and gestured to his half naked form, “manliness around here thinking that I am going to swoon.”

Placing a hand innocently on his chest Tony tried to look affronted, “Why Marah, I would never be that sneaky.”

“Whatever.  You want to play Mr. Santos?  Two can play at that game.” Without another word Marah marched across the hall and went into their bedroom.  She pulled open Tony’s favorite drawer in her dresser, the one that housed her lingerie.  Loading her arms with the lace and silk nighties she returned to the guest room without giving Tony a second look.  The door slamming shut set off another round of Lanie crying and Tony continued to his original destination.

Leaning over the crib he lifted his daughter’s screaming form into his arms. “Lanie your dad sure likes to get a rise out of your mommy.”  Placing her on the changing table me made quick work of the soiled diaper.  By now he considered himself a diaper professional, changing a diaper in less than five minutes.  “And now Mommy thinks she won because she is going to strut her sexy self around in lingerie.  Sounds like a win-win to me sweetie.”

***

Reva peered across the room as her daughter bent over the drafting table.  The pencil clutched in her hand angrily as she drew out some sketches.  She shook her head.  The idea that Marah and Tony could co-exist in the same space while being “separated” was ridiculous.  Those two were about ready to combust.  Scooting her chair around the desk she rolled towards her daughter who didn’t even look up as she approached, “Marah, honey, perhaps it is time to just call a truce.  Tony loves you, you love him.  It’s more than a lot of people have can’t you just be happy?”

Marah stopped drawing and looked at her mother, “I do love Tony.  That has never been an issue.  I can’t help but love him.  It’s like a visceral response my body has to him, it just can’t help itself.”  She paused before continuing, “But he doesn’t trust me mom.  Not to be strong enough to handle the bumps that come along.  I don’t need to be sheltered mom, I just need him to trust me to be able to weather the storm together.”

“I understand honey, I do.  But as your grandmother Sarah would say ‘don’t cut off your nose to spite your face’ darling.  Tony loves you, he wants to protect you.  There are worse things in a marriage trust me.”

Marah turned the pencil she still held in her hands over and over, “I know you think this whole separation thing is stupid but I just felt like we needed it.  A time out to find out if we were strong enough.  I don’t want to be the damsel in distress in my marriage mom.  I can’t.”

Reva smiled, “I don’t think Tony sees you as anything but what you are.  Tell me, did he demand you get a new doctor?”

Confused Marah lifted in eyebrow in question, “Why would he?”

“Well your doctor put the moves on you.  Or at least he tried.”

“Tony hasn’t said anything.”

“Hmm.” Reva looked her daughter in the eye trying to convey her point, “Seems your husband trusts you a lot more than you realize.”

“Mom I am talking about more than just that kind of thing.”

Reva laughed, “I know.  And you are just as stubborn as everyone else in this family.  But trust me on this one Marah, Your father and I lost a lot of good years being stubborn.  You kids lost because of it too.  You may just want to think about that.”

A Soft Place to Land: Chapter Twenty-Eight

Tony stood so quickly the patio chair fell backwards, “Separate?  You can’t be serious!” He raked furious hands through his hair as he paced back and forth across the patio before finally coming to a stop in front of Marah, “You don’t think I’ve learned my lesson?  My God Marah I have fought for us from the moment you woke up in the hospital with years missing from our life together.  I let you hold me and our daughter at arm’s length and I did all that while trying to make you see that our life together was worth remembering.”  Tony punctuated each point with a thumb towards himself.

Surprisingly calm Marah just shook her head softly, “It’s not about teaching you a lesson Tony.  It’s about both of us.  Our relationship hasn’t been easy from day one.  There have been ups and downs, miscommunication, rash decisions, and lies.  I just think we need to take a step back and regroup.”

Tony had to admit to himself that Marah had a point, their relationship had never been easy.  But nothing worthwhile ever was, and what they had together was worth all the struggle and pain the world could dish out. “So you think that to help our relationship we should separate?”

At the sad and dejected tone in Tony’s voice Marah questioned her choice.  It wasn’t the first time, she had rethought her decision at least a million times between coming home from Michelle’s and now.  But it all came back to one single point of contention for her, that Tony didn’t trust in her love.  Not to handle the truth and not to be strong enough for the both of them. “I just think that we need to regroup and decide if this marriage is strong enough.  We have been through a lot in the past couple of years and maybe we need a time out to see if we can just…be.”

Tony righted the chair that had fallen and sank into it.  Lowering his head into his hands he tried to calm himself, and it took every ounce of his self-control to not take Marah in his hands and shake some sense into her.  But above that he wanted Marah to be happy and if this would make her see that what they had was what mattered most than he would do what he could to make her see that. “Fine.  I don’t want to do this but I will, for us.”  He raised his head and looked sad eyes towards the only woman he had ever loved, “And how do you suggest we do this?  We have an infant daughter we need to think about.”

Wringing her hands in her lap Marah had to admit she hadn’t thought this far ahead.  All she knew is that she needed a time out to gather her thoughts. “Well, maybe you can stay at Towers for a little while-”

“Absolutely not!” Tony’s face and voice took on a furious note, “Just because you woke up today remembering you are Lanie’s mother doesn’t mean you get to push me out of her life.  I have been the one to change the diapers.  I have been the one to walk the floor with her on nights when she wouldn’t sleep and wonder what I was doing wrong.  I have been the one who did the midnight feedings without a clue as to what I was doing.  Me.  Not you.”  At Marah’s wince Tony wanted to take his words back.  he knew they were harsh but damn it, she would not deny him their daughter. “Sorry, but it’s true.”

“I know it’s true.  And that is part of the reason I think we need a time out.  We need a chance to deal with the pent-up anger we have.  At each other and everything else.”  Marah thought about it for am moment and conceded, “I can move into the extra bedroom.”

Tony laughed humorlessly, “So you want to separate into separate bedrooms?  And we are supposed to coexist yet we are technically separated.”

Marah shrugged, “It’s the best I could come up with.  You don’t want to leave Lanie and I don’t blame you.  You a great father Tony.  And I don’t want to leave the daughter I just remembered I wanted more than anything in the world.  I want to be there for her now in the way I should have been from the beginning.”  She shrugged again, “I don’t want to hurt you Tony. I just have to do this.”

“Fine.  I’ll agree to this asinine plan of yours but just remember this.” Tony stood and walked over to where Marah was sitting and leaned down.  Reaching out he cupped his wife’s face and his hands and pulled her lips towards his.  And after a searing kiss he look into her eyes, “I have fought for you and the life we could have together for most of my life.  And I would fight until my dying breath to make you see what we have is beautiful and forever.  But when you see it, well I just might make you fight for me for a change.”  Standing up he began walking towards the house but not without calling out over his shoulder, “I am your soft place to land Marah.  And you are mine.”

Marah watched Tony enter the house before lifting her fingers up and touching them to her lips.   That kiss was like electricity that shot off sparks like a live wife through her.  And there was a secret part that wanted to just say ‘the hell with it’ and just go on living as they had been before.  Unfortunately, she wasn’t the same person she had been before the accident.  But damn if Tony didn’t call out to every single molecule in her body.

Marah picked up the phone and pressed the number for the one person who knew about time outs more than a baseball umpire.  “Mom.  You busy?”

***

Reva hung up the phone and turned worried eyes to Josh, “Our daughter and Tony are separating. Well kind of.”

Josh dropped the magazine he had been reading, “What do you mean kind of?”

“Well they are living together but technically taking a time out.” Reva couldn’t help it, she smiled, “Bud that is the most ridiculous thing I have head in awhile.”

Josh shook his head, “Do you think she has any idea what she set herself up for?”

“Nope.” Reva joined Josh on the couch and snuggled into his side, “But I have a feeling it is going to be interesting to watch.”

***

Danny hung up the phone and turned to his wife in their bed, “Tony and Marah are kind of taking a time out.”

Michelle sat up in bed, clutching the sheet to her chest, “What do you mean?  I just saw her today and she said that she has always loved Tony.  Hell, we know she has always loved Tony and vice versa.”

“They are separated but still living in their home”, Danny smiled slyly to his wife and slowly pulled the sheets from her hands and kissed her deeply, “How long do you think before one of them cracks?”

Michelle wrapped her arms around Danny and sank back down on the pillows, pulling him with her, “Not long.  You Santos’ have been known to be charming when you want to be.”

Danny gave his wife a wolfish grin, “And I am about to show you just how charming I can be wife.”

Guiding Light: Mother’s Day 2006

The saga of Marah and Tony will continue with the next installment on Wednesday but beings it is Mother’s Day I think a look back to Guiding Light’s 2006 Mother’s Day episode is in store.

There were a few of things I didn’t like on Guiding Light at the time, and fewer things that I actually did.  But in my opinion, this episode was a light in the dark times on the show.  The return of the mothers that were gone, but never truly forgotten.

Nadine Cooper.  Quirky and flighty, she was never one of my favorite characters…until she was gone.  Then I saw just how big of a role she played in keeping the Cooper family grounded.  Sounds strange right?  The flighty and selfish mother keeping her kids grounded.  But she did, she kept them from going off the rails because she was quirky enough for the both of them.  Though she loved Buzz she knew his heart was not hers, but still remained his steadfast supporter and friend.  She was fiercely protective and loving towards her children.  And most of all she infused the Cooper family with humor and an unquenchable spirit.  Her death at the hands of Brent Lawrence/Marion Crane remains one of the most shocking in Guiding Light history…well even more so because the show had her being a psychic at the time (I really hate that soap trope).

Jenna Bradshaw.  Personally Jenna was always one of my favorite characters.  I simply loved watching Fiona Hutchinson bring Jenna to life.  Jenna arrived in Springfield a jewel thief but slowly over time became to be a beloved character on the show.  Perhaps it was the first time we saw that Jenna had a heart, when she comforted Michelle during a blackout.  Or maybe it was her romance with Buzz, which was one of my personal highlights of the 90s.  Whatever it was, losing Jenna marked Buzz forever.  In fact, none of his relationships post-Jenna really blossomed into more than a blip on the radar.  Even the show leaving him with a happy ending I always got the sense that his heart will forever belong to Jenna Bradshaw.

Sarah O’Neal Shayne.  I always saw Sarah as a woman who deserved better.  Her husband abandoned her and their three kids.  She worked as a housekeeper to support her family.  And hell, she parented Reva through her teenage years which had to be hard enough!  She forgave Hawk and remarried him and years later threw him out again after he lost all their money in poker.  She was never a character that was forefront on canvas but to her kids, especially Reva, she was a pivotal member of the Shayne/Lewis clan.  And through all of Reva’s crazy stunts throughout the years I would always find myself wondering what Sarah would have done to kick Reva’s behind into shape.

And on to our episode…

It is May 2006 and all of Springfield has gathered for a Mother’s Day picnic….

Part One

~Buzz looks at Coop and thinks about Jenna.

~We actually have a Marah mention!  Reva tells Josh that her kids competed about who would send the biggest bunch of flowers.

~Lizzie is pregnant and is trying to convince Coop to spend Mother’s Day with her and “their” unborn baby.

~Buzz’s potato salad gives everyone food poisoning.

Part Two

~Reva gets her cancer results back but hides it from Jonathan.

~Lizzie continues her charade.

~Buzz feels Jenna’s presence…and Nadine and Jenna fighting.

~Jenna appears at Buzz’s bedside but although he senses her she has a bigger reason for visiting.  Their son Coop is in trouble.  She later appears to Coop.

~Nadine visits with Harley.  Sarah visits Reva.

Reva: Momma, you’re here.

Sarah: I’m here to give you a swift kick in the britches.

Part Three

~Jenna talks to Coop about his upcoming fatherhood.

Coop: Oh, right, well, I’m scared. I’m excited. I’m not ready for this.

Jenna: Do you know if there was somebody never ready to be a mother, it was me?

~Nadine congratulates Harley on being in charge of Spaulding.

Part Four

~Sarah warns Reva not to break Josh’s heart.  Especially if it is to keep her cancer a secret.

Sarah: And you’re just as stubborn and silly as ever, but we are going to talk about the “c” word, and I’m not talking about “cellulite”.

Reva: It’s my decision, Mama, please stay out of it.

Sarah: I can’t. As much as I want you with me, I’m not ready yet. Not like this. (Love this exchange between Sarah and Reva.  If ever there was anyone who called Reva out on her BS it was Sarah.  Even if Reva rarely listened.)

~Sarah appears to Cassie and apologizes for not being in her life.

Part Five

~Nadine’s false joy over Harley’s status as CEO reveal her true purpose, to remind Harley to be herself and not like Alan.

Nadine: There are no two ways about that. I know I was selfish, but at least when you do bad stuff, you do it for the right reason.

Harley: What bad stuff? What are you talking about?

Nadine: You know, that stuff with Dinah and that ugly business with Ross. Oh, Ross, he was such a lovely man. But you know, there will be a lot of fallout from this business, and it could affect your bottom line.

Harley: I turned into Alan Spaulding, with blonde hair and boobs.

~Coop tells Jenna how much he misses her

Part Six

~Nadine and Jenna observe Olivia’s interactions with Buzz and Frank.  Nadine thinks that Olivia is better with Buzz.  That Frank needs another Elani.  Jenna disagrees.

~Coops puts off proposing to Lizzie

~Sarah urges Cassie to learn to let go of Jeffery and Tammy.  Cassie asks about her father.

Part Seven

~Sarah witnesses Reva and Cassie being close.

~Nadine says goodbye to Frankie (her pet name not mine) and Harley

~Jenna bids Coop farewell and the three mothers return from whence they came..

 

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.”