“Miss Lewis, it’s just me. Rafael Santiago From the other night. I’m sorry I didn’t mean to scare you.”
When the words finally sunk in Marah took a few deep breaths and looked at the newcomer. The poor man stood there with a take-out bag from Company and a horrified expression on his face. “No it’s me who is sorry Mr. Santiago. I am a bit jumpy today.”
“It is alright. Are you sure you’re okay?” Rafael Santiago looked at her with the kindest eyes she’d ever seen. They were the kind of eyes that compelled a person to spill their secrets. Marah couldn’t understand why she wanted to tell a virtual stranger all about what was going on, but she did. But Danny had said to be careful and for all his kindness Rafael was still a stranger.
“I’m fine. Just heading to Company for dinner. Seems you discovered Buzz’s burgers yourself.”
Rafael indicated the bag, “Ah yes I did. Beings I’m just visiting I asked around and was told Company was the place to visit.”
“You should try Little Havana down on 5th Street. It’s a little hole in the wall kind of establishment and one of the best kept secrets of Springfield. I once…dated a guy whose family loved the place. ”
Rafael did that curious little grin again, “Thank you for the tip. I will have to check it out. Enjoy your dinner.”
And with a wave he was gone and Marah continued walking to Company.
“I was tailing her just like you asked me to Boss. She stopped and talked with some man on the sidewalk and the joined the others for dinner. From all appearances she hasn’t been in contact with Tony Santos.”
He listened to his Boss’s instructions. “Are you sure? I thought you planned…” He knew the Boss man hated being questioned but this was a definitely shift in plans. “Yes Sir, I understand.”
Down the street Rafael sat in his truck and hoped he was making the right decision. He picked up his cell phone and punched in some numbers. “Hello old friend. I need a favor.”
Marah tried concentrating on the conversation around her and failed. She was still wondering about everything that happened in the last twelve hours. And the arrival of the St. Anthony’s medal. Which inevitably led to thinking about Tony.
“Marah!” Her mother hissed exasperated. Evidently she’d been trying to get her attention for a while.
Snapped out of her thoughts she realized that Jonathan and her father were gone. “Where’s dad and Jonathan?”
“Jonathan went outside to call and check up on Sarah and your father is in the restroom. What’s going on with you Marah? Jonathan said you were acting funny but I thought he was just being a protective big brother. But now I wonder if he was right. This goes beyond Tony Santos doesn’t it?”
“Tony Santos?! Don’t tell me you are still hung up on that punk.” Neither one had realized Josh’s return until now.
“It’s just being back home had brought it all back dad.” She glared at her mother begging her to keep silent, ” But no, to answer your question I am still not hung up on Tony Santos. And even if I were he is gone now.”
Josh nodded, “Good. I never did feel he was right for you.”
That was an understatement. Josh had fought her relationship with Tony from the start. Looking back she couldn’t blame him. His little girl falling for a man from a mafia family? That was enough to give any father heart palpitations. Tony had tried to prove himself Josh, even taking a job at Lewis Construction, but any truces between the two were always short-lived. “I know that dad! Everyone knows! My life does not revolve around Tony Santos so I wish people would get off my back about it.”
Marah hated lashing out at her parents but she couldn’t help it. Everything she’d been suppressing came bubbling to the surface and spewed forth like a geyser. She grabbed her purse and stood. “I need some air. I’ll see you both at home later.”
“Marah don’t go honey. We’re just concerned about you.”
“I get that mom but you don’t need to be. I am a big girl, I can fight my own battles.” She kissed them both on the cheek, “Tell Jonathan goodbye for me.”
In the lighthouse Tony was pacing. Where was Rafael with dinner? The man had left over an hour ago he should be back by now. Tony had made a calculated risk going to see Ray. He didn’t want to tip anyone off that he was back, and if he kept venturing out someone was bound to notice him. But if something happened to Rafael he’d never forgive himself. He may have met the man only a week ago but he’d become Tony’s lifeline. His only friend in a sea of enemies.
He heard the door open and whirled around, “Where have you been? You were gone for over an hour. Company couldn’t have been that busy.”
Rafael chuckled, “Well dear I am sorry you were worried. I didn’t go to Company, a little birdie told me about this little out-of-the-way place and I thought we could use a change. Sorry but I was getting sick of cheeseburgers, no matter how good they are.” He handed Tony a plastic bag, “Enjoy.”
Tony brought the bag to his nose. Little Havana. How did Rafael know? Oh right, the “little birdie”. Tony dug into his dinner with relish. He hummed in appreciation, like he died and went to Heaven. “So who told you about Little Havana? The good people of Springfield don’t exactly flock there.”
Another one of Rafael’s amused grins, “Your girlfriend Marah told me. Said she dated a man whose family loved the place. Didn’t take much deductive reasoning to figure out she was talking about you.”
Tony stopped mid-chew. Marah remembered his favorite restaurant. Such a small thing in the grand scheme of things but it still made his heart swell. Just the mention of Marah had Tony eager to find out how she was doing but he still tried to sound like less desperate even though that’s exactly what he was, “How is she?”
Rafael looked up from his own dinner, “She was as jumpy as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Nearly screamed by ear off when I ran into her on the sidewalk. And she lied when I asked if anything was wrong.”
“How do you know?” Was Marah in danger?
But Rafael just looked back down at his dinner, “Just do.”
Tony didn’t know what he was supposed to do with that information. He wanted to go to her, to protect her. But he was certain trouble was following him and didn’t want her caught in the cross-fire. He needed a plan.