Chapter Twenty-Nine (Part One)

One Week Later…

Tony and Marah stood in the middle of the empty living room and looked around what could possibly be their new home.  He noted Marah’s far off expression, certain she was already decorating the room in her mind, “What do you think Baby?”

Marah turned to him and smiled, “I think it’s perfect.”  She grabbed his hand and pulled him towards the back of the house, “Come on let’s go look at the rest of it.”

Just like Josh had told them, the entire house had been redone and updated.  The hardwood floors had been sanded and stained, the marble countertops in the kitchen gleamed, and the bathroom updated with all the modern luxuries-including a whirlpool bathtub.  Tony coughed to cover up the naughty thoughts he’d gotten when he’d seem that bathtub.  Maybe Marah was right, he was a letch, at least where she was concerned.

Marah had so many plans circling in her head she was itching to get started.  But she didn’t want to get too far ahead of herself.  She looked into the guest room,”Do you think we need all these bedrooms?”

He didn’t even bother to cover the naughty grin that comment brought forth, “Oh I’m sure we’ll find something to put in them.  Maybe an office or home studio to start with.”  He caught her around her waist and pulled her body into his.  “And in time it’d be the perfect spot for the nursery.”

“A nursery huh?”  She looked at the room again and smiled, “I think you may be right Mr. Santos.”

“Oh I know I’m right soon-to-be Mrs. Santos.”

He lowered his face to hers to give her a kiss but before they made contact they were interrupted by the real estate agent. “So what do you think?  I can still show you some other listings if you would prefer.”

Tony looked at Marah and at her slight nod they both responded with a smile, “We’ll take it.”

***

Tony had been avoiding this place since he’d returned to Springfield.  But with Mel’s call that he was now officially among the living again he couldn’t avoid it any longer.

He couldn’t even bring himself to grieve for Maria, any affection he’d felt for the woman he’d once considered his grandmother died long ago.   She’d passed away while he was locked in Romeo’s cage, the cruel irony was not lost on Tony.  She’d freed Romeo from his cage and in return Romeo had taken everything Tony loved.  He briefly wondered if she had any clue what her actions caused but dismissed it.  Maria was cold, calculating, and devoid of conscience.  He’d never been able to prove she’d been behind Catalina’s murder but he’d felt it, and that was enough.

And there, resting beside the graves of his ancestors, had been an imposter-a damn fraud.  The body was gone and currently resting in the city morgue, but the plaque bearing his name still remained.  Tony couldn’t even begin to describe the surreal feeling he’d gotten seeing his name etched in the cool granite.

“It makes it all the more real doesn’t it?”

Rafael stood beside him and offered his silent comfort.

“That it does.  I don’t know what I should feel.  Anger, pain, sadness?  Those emotions are all there along with a dozen more emotions.”  Emotions he was afraid to face, afraid they would cause him to unleash the tenuous grip on the fury he fought to keep at bay.  He may have made progress in managing his anger but he was hardly cured.

Rafael placed a comforting hand on Tony’s shoulder, “Did the police tell you anything?”

Tony laughed bitterly, “Yeah.  After their CSI imitation they called to tell me that he was identified as Stephen Martinez.  Just your garden variety mob lackey, nothing special.  Shame they didn’t run their tests sooner.  Then they would have known something wasn’t right years ago.”

“They had no reason to suspect that he wasn’t you.  Romeo seemed to be pretty thorough, he even had those who knew you best convinced that he was you.”

“You just won’t let me get a good mad going will you?”

Rafael looked at the stone and back at Tony, “Don’t waste your time with what could have been.  You are officially alive, you have your life back, your family back, and the love of a woman who is way too good for your sorry ass.  If you lose yourself to the anger then you deny yourself all the joy in your life.”

Tony looked at Rafael and laughed, “You should write this shit down.  You can turn it into a book and make a killing.”

“You are still a smartass Tony Santos.”  He slapped Tony’s arm, “Come on let’s go.  Your girl’s sitting at Danny’s house worried about you.”

***

As soon as he entered the house his stomach started growling.  Michelle was cooking a Cuban feast to celebrate his official return to the living.  If his mouth wasn’t already watering it would be simply because that meant that Danny had been banned from cooking duty.  “Michelle you are a treasure you know that?”

Michelle laughed as she checked what was cooking on the stove, “You Santos men and your charm.  But I’m going to tell you what I told Danny, no you may not have some before dinner.”  She put the lid back on and opened the oven, “Now go on, Marah’s outside with Hope and Danny.  Ray should be here any minute.”

He made his way to the back yard.  However they were both too engrossed with what Hope was saying to realize he was there….

“I let him get first pick at all the good clothes.  But he still said that he’s going to get me a Ken doll if I’m a really, really good girl.”

Marah and Danny both laughed.  Well now that the secret was out he might as well have some fun with it.  He rested his fists on his hips, “You little tattle tale.”

Hope looked shocked that she was caught but she recovered well and laughed, “Whoops.  I forgot.  But I’ve been a good girl all week! So can we still go to the toy store?”

She was just too cute to stay mad at, even if it was in jest. “I guess I’ll forgive you this time squirt.”

Danny looked at him and grinned, “Barbie Tony?”

Beside him Rafael was laughing so hard tears came to the older man’s eyes, “I can only imagine and let me tell you, it’s hilarious.”

Marah just rested her chin on her on closed fist and grinned in that teasing way of hers, silently waiting for him to tell the whole story.

He wasn’t taking all the heat on this one.  “Don’t let Danny fool you Marah, Hope told me that she offers him first choice of the good clothes too.”

All teasing ceased when Michelle stuck her head out announcing Ray had arrived and it was time for dinner.  As they walked hand in hand towards the door she leaned into him, “I think it’s rather cute.  And Hope was so excited to tell me about it, I think you have a fan for life.”

Suddenly playing Barbie’s didn’t seem so bad, even for a guy like Tony.

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