Archive | March 2011

Chapter Six

Warning: Mild profanity and adult situations. 

Well this was new.  She never would have guessed she’d find herself sitting at a bar with Jonathan.  Or that she’d be having so much fun.  But here they were.

“She missed you I hope you know.”  There wasn’t any anger in Jonathan’s words, he simply stated the truth.

“And I missed her too.  I missed all of you.  I missed Springfield in general.  I have some of my best memories here but also some of my worst you know?”

“I know this brother/sister thing is new between you and me but if the past years have taught me anything it’s that you can go home again.  Face the past, lay it to rest, and move forward.”

There was a hint of sadness in his eyes.  No doubt he was thinking about Tammy.  Unconventional as their relationship was she could tell that he still grieved over her passing.   Okay this was downright maudlin time to change the subject fast.  “That’s almost poetic of you brother.  Have you been watching Oprah?”

Jonathan let out a loud laugh that had all the other bar patrons looking at them as if they’d lost their minds.  “I am still rusty on this big brother stuff.  Had to brush off on my basics.”

Marah snorted.  Like he would be caught dead watching Oprah!  Just then the bartender placed a fresh drink in front of her.  “Compliments of the gentleman by the window.”

Marah turned and saluted the man with her drink in thanks.

Jonathan leaned over to see who she was looking at.  “As a secure heterosexual male I can tell you that he’s no dog.  You could do worse.”

“Not interested.”

“Oh come on Marah, ” He nudged her shoulder with his, “Live a little.  Besides I have to get home and relieve the babysitter.  You’re only in town for a while, might as well have some fun.”  And with a kiss on her head he was gone.

Guess there was no harm in a drink.

*

Big mistake.  This guy seemed to have more arms than an octopus. 

“Come back to my place.” He slurred in her ear. 

Why was it that guys thought that was “sexy”?  She wasn’t even remotely tempted.   She had tried being polite but either he couldn’t hear her or he was simply ignoring her.   “No thanks.”

He moved forward and pressed her back against HB’s old pickup.  Now this was getting ridiculous, she was about ready to deck him.

“Come on babe.  I can show you a good time.”  He leaned down as if to kiss her.

She shoved him back as hard as she could.  “I said no, now I suggest you do sleep it off before you embarrass yourself even further.”

She saw the lust go out of his eyes only to be replaced with anger.  He grabbed her hand and pulled her to him, “Listen bitch, you owe me.  You’ve been teasing me all night now it’s time to pay up.”

Teased him?  Puh-lease!  From the moment she joined him he’d been all over her, despite all attempts to let him down softly.

She opened her moth to let him have it when his weight was suddenly gone.   She looked to her left where a short hispanic man held the offending man by the front of his shirt.  “The lady said no asshole so it’s time to get lost.”

Marah eyed the newcomer.  He may be short but it was clear that his height was deceiving.  He obviously knew what he was doing and could handle himself in a fight. 

“Hey man what’s it to you?” The drunk sneered. 

“My problem is punks like you who wouldn’t know your ass from a hole in the ground.  The lady said no, move on.”

The younger man looked like he would argue, but then thought better of it and stalked off.

The stranger looked her up and down, not in a creepy way but as if accessing to see if she had been harmed by the offending man.  “You alright miss?”

“Yes thank you.  I was getting ready to deck him when you came along.  You saved me some bruised knuckles in the morning.”  She extended her hand, “Marah Lewis.”

If she didn’t know better she would have bet that his eyes sparkled with that bit of information.  She knew his grin sure got bigger.

He extended his own rough hand to complete the greeting, “Rafael Santiago.”

***

Danny knew he was dreaming.  Not only was Tony there but they were actually sitting in the old Infierno office, unwinding with a few drinks.    

“Trouble’s coming.”

Danny regarded his cousin closely.  From the look on his face the man was serious. “What do you mean?”

After a few moments Tony looked over at him.  The look of sadness on his face nearly brought tears to Danny’s eyes. “I told you that I always had your back.  I proved it time and time again.  I may not have been much of a man when I first got to town but YOU changed that.  Do you think I would betray you, not to mention Michelle, by going after her when she was most vulnerable?”

Danny didn’t know how to answer that.  He never would have thought it of Tony but the truth was that he had changed those last few years.   He chalked it up to loosing Marah but there was more to it than that.  Not only had Tony joined Salerno’s organization but Tony’s thing with Michelle was the ultimate betrayal.  “Tell me what you meant by trouble’s coming.”

Tony just stared, “Do you have my back?”

“I’ve always had your back Tony, just as you’ve always had mine.”

Pleased with the answer Tony nodded, “Good.  That’s good.”

***

Marah felt like she was sixteen again, like she was sneaking in after curfew. 

“Have fun tonight?” Reva asked from the porch swing.

Busted.

She knew this was coming, her mother could always sense when something troubled her.  And if she knew her mother she had been building up to this since Marah had stepped in the front door.  But still she pasted on her brightest smile and hoped Reva wouldn’t see through the ruse.  “I had a great time.  It was nice hanging out with Jonathan.  We never got a chance to be close so it’s nice that we can hang out.  Make up for lost time.” 

From the look on Reva’s face she was more than skeptical.  “I have made a lot of mistakes with you kids.  A LOT.  But I still know when my kids are hurting.  You put on a brave face but your eyes don’t sparkle like they used to.”

“I’ve just been tired mom.  With the new line and all.” The line she hadn’t even started yet.

“I love you Marah but you are the worst liar.  I know this is more than just being tired.”  Marah just looked at her mother.  She had to give her mother some credit, she’d held it in longer than she expected.  “And I can’t shake off the feeling that this has something to do with Tony.”

Damn.  When had her mother become a mind reader?  “I can’t explain it mom.  He’s been gone for so long but he’s still such a large part of me.  I mean he’s even in my dreams. ” 

” If Tony had lived I have no doubt that you two would have found your way back to each other.”  Marah’s couldn’t stop her jaw from dropping.  Her mother let out a laugh. “What?  You think I don’t know love when I see it?  I have been in love with your father since what seems like forever.  We both made mistakes.  MANY mistakes.  But it got us here in the end.  I knew you and Tony were ‘it’ for each other.  Sure his way of life worried me but he changed.  Before he left I even encouraged him to not give up.” 

“You may be right mom.  But it doesn’t matter anymore.  We’ll never get our chance at happily ever after.  So why can’t I let it go?”

“Maybe that’s why you are here.  You never got a chance to say goodbye.  Maybe if you finally lay these ghosts to rest you could move on.”

First Jonathan and now her mother.  She had to admit that the idea had merit.  Not like it could hurt to try.

“Love you mom.”

“Love you too honey.  Now let’s go get some sleep.  Collin still wakes up at the crack of dawn.”

Advertisements

Just a heads up…

I was a little worried about the next chapter and how people would react to it.  I even thought of editing it out.  But in the end I decided against it.  Why?  For several reasons really. 

There was a scene after Tony found out that Marah slept with Romeo that was (to put it mildly) disturbing as well as awkward.  I remember watching and cringing the entire time.  Marah had held onto her virginity for so long waiting for the right time and gave it to Romeo in a drunken one night stand.   Tony had always had Marah up on a pedestal and her mistake made him loose control.  In fact, here’s an article where Jordi Vilasuso talks about all that was involved in filming that scene:  http://www.sonypictures.com/gl/behind/gl_me_and_my_character/vilasuso.jhtml

And here’s the visual:

 Creepy right?

Marah grew stronger after those scenes, and it took awhile before they were in a good place again.   But I wanted to show how she has grown even more.  She’s a grown adult now who wants to take care of herself.  She won’t tolerate that kind of behavior from anyone.

I also wanted to have it told in a way that causes Tony to become angry.  Tony’s inability to deal with his anger in a healthy way was part of his problem (and the reason for most of their break-ups).  Loosing his father at a young age, growing up in the mob, going to prison in his teens all contributed to why his first impulse is to fight back.  And like Michelle, Marah didn’t have the violent upbringing Tony and Danny did.  She had her mother bouncing in and out of ehr life and multiple step-mothers but the mob life was foreign to her.  Danny changed for Michelle.  Tony tried to change for Marah but before the change was complete they re-casted the role and the magic was gone. 

So now I am going to have him deal with it so that when they are reunited it will a more healthy relationship.

Chapter Five

For entertainment purposes only.

“So it wasn’t a computer glitch, is that what you’re telling me?”  Danny rubbed his eyebrows where he felt a headache coming on.  Nothing about this made any sense.

“So far it doesn’t seem that way.  The account was accessed in Carlotta, California.  Does that sound familiar?”

Danny racked his brain but it didn’t ring a bell.  “Nope, not a thing.”

“I still have people looking into this matter.  We won’t stop until this is resolved.”

“Let me know if you find anything.”

“Of course Mr. Santos.”  And with that he was gone. 

Danny felt a shiver go down his spine.  Something was going on he just knew it.  He FELT it.  It was the same feeling he’d had when dealing with his mother Carmen.  Yes something was going on and he would bet his bottom dollar it wasn’t anything good.

Lost in his thoughts he nearly leapt out of the chair when Michelle touched his shoulder gently.

“Oh God Michelle.  Didn’t even hear you come in!”

“Hmm I can see that.  What has you so jumpy?” Michelle moved around the couch to join her husband.

“This thing with Tony’s account.  It just doesn’t feel right. ”

“What do you think it means?”

Danny thought a minute, “I haven’t the faintest clue.  Why the dormant account?  Even I had forgotten about it and we were the only ones who even knew about it.”

They both sat in silence and pondered that thought.

“Speaking of Tony.  You’d never believe who was at the lake today.  Marah Lewis.”

Of all the people Danny could have guessed Marah would have been dead last on that list.  He may not have always agreed with Tony but he had grown to love Marah like a sister.  Like Michelle had done for him, Marah pushed Tony to be more than what he was and made him happy.  She had been good for Tony’s soul.  “How’s she doing?”

“Seems good.  Her career in Paris seems to be flourishing.  She’s happy enough on the surface.”

Danny looked at her questioningly, “And underneath?”

Michelle sighed,  “I don’t think she ever got over Tony.  He was her first love, probably her true love.  We got our happily ever after, she got heartbreak.  I feel so guilty.”

Danny put his arm around her and pulled her close, “Honey it wasn’t your fault.  He loved you, he wouldn’t want you dwelling on it.”

“It seems like a bad dream.  The amnesia, clinging to Tony like a lifeline.  I was so lost and scared.  But Tony was always meant for Marah.”

“And you were meant for me.” Danny leaned over and kissed his wife.

***

They were making progress, not enough to Tony’s liking, but it was still progress. 

“You know I can drive right?  It’s been a few years but I am sure it is like riding a bike, it just comes back to you.”

Rafael rolled his eyes at that comment, “Son you can barely walk without wincing.  Just relax.  We’ll get there when we get there.”

Easy for him to say.  He didn’t have some nameless mafia boss after him. 

“Have you planned out how to approach this situation?”

“What do you mean?”

Rafael rolled his eyes again, it was becoming a frequent occurrence lately.  “I mean this is going to be difficult for them swallow.  They unknowingly let a stranger into their midst.   They loved him and grieved his death.  They may not even believe you.  I’m sorry son but your story is like something out of novel.”

Tony knew he was right but couldn’t stop the anger flare up, “YOU believed me.”

Rafael looked over at him and gave him look that left no room for argument, “Trust me, I can tell when someone is lying to me.  It’s kept me alive more times than even you can count.”

Tony wondered what he meant by that.  But before he could voice the question Rafael pointed out the windshield, “Hey lookie there.  Springfield. Only 250 Miles to go.  Better start thinking about how you’re going to break the news to them.”

And with that he turned his attention back to the road and switched lanes.  Guess the conversation was over. 

***

“No one matching his description has boarded a plane in the past three days and no suspicious activity has been reported at the Santos household.”

 Now he was starting to get annoyed.  He never was a patient man and he was tired of waiting for Tony to overplay his hand.  Time to take matters into his own hands.   As a general rule he didn’t like to get his own hands dirty.  He had learned that from the best.  But this was different, this was personal.   Marah being in town just made the situation that much more tempting.  He could take care of two birds with one stone.

“Get me the next flight to Springfield. “

Marony- The Video….

Fan videos are always fun to watch, especially when they are about about a couple the person enjoys. I found a couple of fan vids with their song but none for Marony. So I decided to try my hand at changing that. It’s not the best out there, in fact from 0:28 to 0:32 it’s a bit twichy, but no matter how I tried it couldn’t be edited out. So here you have it, Marah and Tony-I Believe in the Mystery…………

Chapter Four

 

They were back at the lighthouse after that first time being together.  Sweat cooled on their bodies but neither one bothered to care.  They were happy. 

Tony raised a hand and brushed a stray hair out of her eyes.  He stared at her as if he were memorizing her face, as if he would wake up and she would be gone.  His expression of awe nearly brought tears to Marah’s eyes.

“I love you Marah Lewis.”

She smiled, “And I love you Tony Santos.  Now and forever.”

He grinned mischievously, “I don’t know, I’ve given you enough reasons to hate me. But through it all it has always been you.”

Marah swallowed back her tears.  They had been through a lot.  But Marah was never happier then when she was with Tony.

Her reply was cut off by Tony’s kiss.  It was filled of all the passion and love they had for each other.  She never wanted this to end.

Just then she felt a sharp pain and looked down.  A small hole formed on her chest and blood flowed thick and red.  

“Oh God Marah!”  Tony cried out. 

But it was too late.  She could feel the life draining from her. 

*

Marah woke with a start, reaching for her chest.  But her tank top was clean and there was not a drop of blood in sight.

“Just a dream Marah” She said aloud to herself. 

“Marah Lewis you better get your rear in gear!  Else Collin is going to come get you himself.”

Marah tried to shake off the dream but she just couldn’t get Tony out of her mind.  It felt so real.  Like a beautiful memory marred by tragedy.  Kind of like their whole relationship. 

No use dwelling on it now, time to face the day.

***

The minute Marah entered the kitchen Collin began talking a mile a minute, only pausing long enough to shove in a bite of his pancake.

“We’re going to the lake today!  Jonathan and Sarah are comin’ too!  And Dad days he’s going to teach me how to fish.”  Collin was practically bouncing up and down with glee.  Inwardly Marah flinched.  She remembered her one and only fishing trip with dad.  It did NOT go well.

Reva looked over at her daughter.  She always seemed to know when Marah was upset.  “Sleep well Hon?”

Until that dream.  But still Marah attempted a semblance of a smile.  “Like a baby.”

Reva looked like she didn’t believe her.  Marah had to get out of there fast.

 “I better go get ready before Collin leaves without us.”

***

Across town Danny was sitting at his kitchen table enjoying his morning coffee while reading the sports section. 

“Damn Cubs lost again,”  He mumbled.

His daughter Hope looked up from her breakfast and looked aghast at her father’s comment.  “Daddy, don’t swear!”

Danny chuckled.  She may have the typical Santos looks but she was Michelle through and through, especially with her Vulcan hearing, “Sorry Sweetheart.”

Satisfied with his answer she went back to tackling her fruit.

“Okay I think I got everything.  Beach towels, umbrella, and three different kinds of sunscreen.  I keep thinking I forgot something though.”  Michelle was obviously in full-on mommy mode.   She also had enough paraphernalia for three families.

Danny automatically reached over to take the heavy beach bag out of her arms, “You shouldn’t be carrying all this Michelle.  It’s not good for you.”

Michelle huffed, “I’m pregnant Danny not an invalid.”

True but she was precious to him.  He remembered when she miscarried their first child, when she thought she was loosing Robbie, not to mention when they thought they lost baby Hope.  If he could he would have kept her in a plastic bubble for the entire nine months.  He’d have more luck winning the lottery.

He went over and wrapped his arms around his busy wife,”I know what you forgot.”

She looked at him with a grin, “Oh yeah?  What’s that?”

“You forgot to give your man a good morning kiss.” He even put a little pout in there for effect.

“In that case I better rectify that right away.”

Danny leaned down and kissed his wife.  He would never tire of simply kissing his wife.

“Oh MAN!  That is gross. ”  Robbie entered the room with a laugh. 

Michelle and Danny reluctantly broke apart and laughed.  “Sorry sport.  Couldn’t help myself.  By the way Cubs lost to St. Louis again.”

“Oh man that’s three in a row!” As Danny and Robbie started talking baseball Michelle cleaned up the remnants of breakfast and proceeded to get Hope ready to go.

“Okay gang.  Time to go!  Want to get there before the crowds.”  Didn’t have to tell them twice, they were both out the door before she even finished talking.

Danny focused on Michelle, “What time are you getting back?”

“Around noon I think.  It’s sure going to be a hot one today.  You calling Mr. Stevenson later?”

“Yeah.  Hope he has something to report.”

“I’m sure he will.”  And with that she gave him one final kiss then went to join the kids. 

***

The beach was already packed and it was just after nine. 

“Look there’s Sarah” Collin pointed then proceeded to tug Marah towards the waiting pair.

Jonathan got up and greeted Marah with a hug, “Hey little sis.  Glad you’re back!  Now Mom can get off my back for a while.”

Marah laughed.  They hadn’t always had a good brother/sister relationship but she tried reaching out after her mom told her that Tammy had died and they’d made some real progress. 

“Hello Jonathan,” She looked down and saw the dark-haired little girl clinging to his leg, “And this must be Sarah.”

She hunched down and held out her hand, “Hello I’m your Aunt Marah.”

The little girl hesitated but then slowly put her small hand in hers with a soft “Hello”.

“So you staying around long?” 

Jonathan’s question was innocent enough but Marah had no idea how to answer.  She had a life waiting for her in Paris.  But this was just as special. 

“We’ll see how it goes.  It’s up in the air at the moment.”

***

Hope grudgingly stood while his mother slathered sunscreen on her face.  Robbie stood by impatiently waiting for his chance to try out his new boogie board.  Then Hope spotted her friend Sarah from dance.

“Mommy who is that lady with Sarah?”

“What was that honey?” She looked over where Hope pointed and gasped.  She turned back to Hope, “That’s her Aunt Marah.  A long time ago she used to date your Uncle Tony.”  Date was such a tame word.  They fought and made up almost as much as Danny and her. 

“Oh.  Can we go say hi?”

Michelle didn’t see why not.  They used to be so close.  The two women in love with the Santos men.  She took her daughter’s hand and the trio headed down the beach towards the group.

***

She didn’t notice the newcomers until Sarah started waving.

“That’s Hope.  She’s in my tap class.”

Marah turned to greet the approaching group and was truly surprised by who it was. 

“Hello Marah. ”

Marah jumped from the beach towel and embraced her old friend.  “Michelle!  It’s so good to see you!”

“Good to see you too.  Your parents didn’t mention anything when I saw them at Towers the other night.  When did you get back?”

“Yesterday afternoon.  Last minute trip.  Thought I’d come back and catch up with the family.”

“Yeah me and Danny moved back for the same reason.  No matter where you go Springfield is home.”

Don’t I know it.

Well we didn’t want to intrude, Hope just wanted to say hello to Sarah.”

Marah waved off the comment, “It’s no intrusion.  Plus, I’d like to get caught up.  I’ve missed you.”

Michelle smiled and followed Marah to join the rest of the group.

Chapter Three

“So you say these men had you locked away for six years?”

There was a hint of skepticism in the question.  Tony couldn’t really blame him.  If the situation were reversed he wouldn’t have believed the story either.

“My family is what you could say ‘connected’, my cousin worked for years to go legit despite my aunt and Abuela’s best efforts to change his mind.”  That was putting it mildly, Aunt Carmen had been hell on wheels.  She had made Danny and Michelle’s lives chaos for years and if she wasn’t in a coma she’d still be causing problems. Not to mention what Abuela had done to Marah and him.

“So do you think these men are retaliating?”

“It’s possible.  Although my family never did business outside of those they trusted.  And never anyone in California. ” 

“So what is your plan amigo?”

Tony had spent the past years doing nothing but planning his escape and re-entering the world of the living.  Now that it was a reality he was at a loss of what to do next.  There was one option, but it was a longshot at best.

“Years ago Danny and I set aside money in some offshore accounts.  Nothing illegal just emergency money in case something happened.  Mainly because Danny had Michelle and Robbie.  Hopefully Danny didn’t close mine after my supposed death.”

“Then I guess our next stop is to a computer.  And a shower.  No offense but you could use a good scrubbing.”

Tony laughed then gasped at the sharp pain.  Yeah a bath and some rest sounded good to him.

***

The phone roused Danny from a sound sleep.  As he slowly extracted himself from his wife’s sleeping arms he winced at his sore muscles.  That woman was going to be the death of him.  But at least he’d die happy.  

With that happy thought he rolled over and answered the phone with a sleep roughened, “Hello?”

“Mr. Santos?  This is Mr. Stevenson.”

What was his accountant doing calling him at six o’clock in the morning?

“We had some action on one of your dormant accounts.  The one belonging to a Mr. Antonio Santos.”

Danny sat straight up in bed, all traces of sleep whipped from his mind.  He heard Michelle roll over and felt her questioning stare.

“That has to be some mistake.  Tony has been dead for years.”

“Precisely why we contacted you immediately.  It is possible that it is a computer glitch, or it could be someone siphoning money out of dormant accounts thinking no one would notice.  I assure you Mr. Santos we are investigating the matter thoroughly.”

“I appreciate that.  Please keep me informed of any developments.”

“Of course Mr. Santos.  We take our client’s security seriously.”

Danny returned the phone to its stand but couldn’t shake the feeling that something was wrong.   He’d forgotten all about the emergency funds.  No one but he and Tony knew about them.  And Michelle of course.  He never could keep something like that from her.

“Danny what is it?”

Danny turned his head to face his wife, “Someone accessed Tony’s emergency fund.”

Michelle just looked at him questioningly.  He could almost read her thoughts.  There was no possible way Tony had made it that night at Laurel Falls.  He had performed CPR himself.  They’d both seen him die before their eyes.  Though he knew that logically he couldn’t stop the flare of hope that Tony had somehow made it.  After all Carmen had “died” several times, always coming back to continue her reign of terror.

Danny laid back down and gathered Michelle close, thankful that all they had been through had led them here. 

***

“Hey Boss.  Someone accessed Tony Santos account last night.”

The boss pondered this development.  So Tony hadn’t succumbed to the elements.  He wasn’t surprised.  Afterall it was that strong will that had kept him alive all these years.   He could have easily killed him after his replacement had died.  He had already gotten some revenge.  Danny and Michelle were broken, he had Marah escaping the past in Paris, and replacement Tony reverting back to his old ways.  No one would miss him.  But no, he wanted Tony a broken shell of a man.  Only then would he know he bested Mr. High and Mighty Santos.  But the bastard never cracked, and so the torture continued.

“Check to see if anyone matching his description boarded a plane to Paris.” He figured Tony’s first stop would be Marah.  Not knowing that she had already returned to Springfield.  Springfield.  Would Tony go back to the scene of the crime?  Who was he kidding, of course he would. “And get me a detail on Danny Santos.  There’s only two places Tony would run to.  It’s time to finish what we started.”

***

Tony almost looked human again.  Amazing what a shower and shave could do for a man.  If it wasn’t for the bruises he might even look like the man he used to be.  He exited the bathroom and joined Rafael at the table where the man was enjoying his coffee.

“So tell me about this Springfield.”

What to say about Springfield? “It’s home.  Well I was born in Chicago but that place holds no good memories.  Springfield is where my life really began.  It’s where my cousin and his wife live, and my brother Ray.”

“And what about Marah?”

Tony’s head came up.  How did he know about Marah?  Was it possible that his savior was also his enemy?

Rafael must have noticed what he was thinking because he reached over a put a hand on his arm, “You talk in your sleep.  She sounds like a special girl.”

Special didn’t begin to describe Marah.  She was light in the darkness.  Just thinking about something as innocuous as her eyes made his heart race…not to mention other parts of his body. 

“Yes Marah was Special.  IS special.  Our relationship was complicated but she’s still here you know.” Tony placed his hand on his heart.  Yeah it may be sentimental mush but it was the truth.  Marah had his heart, always had and he suspected she always would. 

“So when do we leave?”

Tony raised an eyebrow, “We?”

“Of course.  Maybe it’s curiosity or perhaps I just want to see how this mystery plays out.  Either way I am coming along for the ride.  Consider it a last adventure for an old man.”

Tony could understand that.  And in his condition it’s not like he could drive himself.  However, the big deciding factor was that by himself it would take him weeks to reach his goal.  With Rafael it would only be a matter of day. “Tomorrow morning.” 

Rafael nodded and went back to drinking his coffee.

Chapter Two

This story is for entertainment purposes only. 

Marah gathered her wind  ravaged hair behind her head and secured it with a clip. “While I appreciate you picking me up from the airport, would it have killed you to bring the truck with the air conditioning?  I probably look like a big fuzz ball!”

Her father glanced over and laughed. “You look fine honey”.

“You sweet charmer you.  I think you’re a bit biased but thank you anyway.” Marah quipped back  before turning her head to study the scenery.

Not much had changed in the three years she’d been gone.  It was like Springfield existed in its own bubble untouched by time.  There were a few new homes, a few new families, but the important things stayed the same.  People still shopped main street,  people still piled into Len’s Ice Cream Parlor on hot summer days, and the lighthouse still stood its lighting guiding the lost back home again.  How appropriate.

“What made you come back dad?  From pictures it looked like you and mom were having a good time.”

“This past year with Collin and your mother has been amazing.  But Collin is ready to start school and we both agreed that Springfield was where we should be.”

Guess all roads led back to Springfield eventually….

***

Tony left like he had been walking for days.  Every vehicle that passed filled him with equal parts hope and fear.  Hope that the next car would be the one driver to look past the black eyes, battered body, and matted hair to the man he used to be.   And fear that the next car would be his captors ready to take him back to hell.  He still had his makeshift weapon.  It had done the job with the guard he’d caught unaware but his odds were stacked against him on it working again.  They’d be prepared, there would be more than one, and they’d be pissed that he’d caused them trouble.  No he wouldn’t stand a chance if they got their hands on him this time.

He heard the approaching vehicle before he saw it.  An old beat up pickup truck came rambling up the hill on his left then miracle of miracles it stopped and reversed.  The window rolled down to reveal a short hispanic man.  He looked like a rancher, right down to the cowboy hat.

“Hey friend. Need a ride somewhere?”

Tony swallowed his fear.  This wasn’t any of the dozen or so men he’d encountered over the previous years.  After years of living “in the family” he could spot mafia enforcers a mile away.   This man wasn’t it.

“That would be great.  Thank you.”  He may be half dead but he still had some manners left.

“Everyone needs a hand now and then, ” the man looked him up and down, “from the looks of it, you need it more than most.”

Tony let out a harsh laugh, “You could say that again.”

It took some effort but Tony finally hefted himself into the cab.  As the truck continues its course down the road Tony let out the breath he’d been holding. 

“Haven’t seen you around these parts before and I know everyone in Carlotta, California.”

Carlotta, California? He searched his brain but he didn’t think he knew anyone in California.  Certainly not anyone involved in mafia activities.

“Oh just passing through.”

The man eyed him with skepticism but thankfully didn’t call him out on the lie.  He was glad of it, he was too tired to come up with a better cover story.

“Name is Rafael Santiago.  Where you headed?”

“Tony Santos.  And I’m going home.” 

***

“Marah!”  Collin cried out as he raced to greet the newcomers.

Marah had never met her younger brother, he’d been born while she was living in Paris.  But she’d seen him grow up in pictures and they’d talked during their fer and far between conversations on Skype. 

“Hey little man!” She called back as she caught him up in her arms.  She breathed in his fresh scent.  He smelled like sunshine and the innocence of youth. 

“Mommy said you were coming back but I didn’t believe it!  She made brownies and I couldn’t eat one.  Now you’re here and we can eats them all!”  He chattered on excitedly.

“Hey sport”, Josh interjected, “Let’s let Marah settle in before we subject her to your mom’s cooking.” 

Marah burst out laughing.  Reva Shayne Lewis was a lot of things but Betty Crocker she was not.

“I heard that Joshua!” Reva called from the front porch.

Marah’s breath caught at the sight of her mother.  They came so close to loosing her.  But there she stood, happy and healthy. 

Josh stepped onto the porch and wrapped his arms around his wife, “Aw Reva you know we love you.  Even if your brownies could break glass.”

Reva playfully slapped his arm.  And just like that Marah knew she was officially home.