Even though Danny played only a minor role in the actual meeting of Marah and Tony I needed a Tiny Tim. Tony always said Marah and him had a destino (a destiny). Well even in death Tony’s heart is drawn to Marah. Or so my literary license says….
Even after all these years being inside the Santos mansion could still make Danny feel as if he were suffocating. So much hatred and bitterness had existed within these walls. Sometimes he couldn’t believe he made it out of here alive, in fact, he almost didn’t. He still had the scar to prove it. And there seated behind his father’s old desk was his father’s namesake, his brother Mick.
Danny wished he could go over there and send him back to where he belonged. He felt his father’s reassuring hand on her shoulder, “Just watch.”
Carmen flounced in the room carrying a stack of papers that she promptly shook at her son, “The quarterly reports for the fifth street district are lower than expected Mick. They want protection then they need to pay for it just like everyone else. Are you going to handle this or should I send Antonio?”
Mick sat back in the big leather armchair every picture of the fat cat mobster while holding out his hand for the papers his mother wanted him to go over, “Tony hasn’t been all right up there since the incident.” He tapped his head with his index finger before continuing, “I’ll send Carmine to shake them down. He isn’t hampered by a sudden conscience over a stupid coed who took a right when she should have gone left.”
“We’ll have to keep an eye on Antonio. If he gets weak and goes to the Feds we’re going to have to take out one of our own. We can’t have a blood war Mick.”
Mick scowled, “I know what has to be done mother. I am head of la familia and trust me, Antonio isn’t going to go to the Feds. Salerno should have kept his ass in New York where he belonged, then none of this would have happened. And then we wouldn’t have Springfield PD breathing down out necks. Tony just needs something to distract him. Maybe a little vacation will do him some good. He can get some sun, meet a few ladies, come back all good as new.”
Carmen eyed Mick warily, “For all our sakes I hope you’re right.”
Danny couldn’t watch any more, they were the worst part of him and he hated the fact that he shared DNA with either one of them. He knew Ray was safe, there was no deterring a man of God from his chosen path. But there was one wild card in the bunch. He looked at his father warily, “Where’s Tony?”
The pristine snow-covered ground crunched under Danny’s feet as he made his way past the marble tombstones to where a lone figure stood. Though the wind had to be biting cold despite the coat he was wearing Tony didn’t look like he was planning on moving any time soon. He looked like he hadn’t moved in hours. It was as if he were frozen in time staring at the grave before him.
Danny came to a stop beside the younger man and peered down at the name, and knew why his cousin was so forlorn. There, written in the marble, was the name: Marah Lewis.
Danny wished he could comfort Tony but knew he couldn’t. Instead he just stood nearby and waited. Finally Tony seemed to snap out of his trance and crouched down to wipe the snow off the letters., “I don’t really know you or why you were there. Wrong place at the wrong time or so they say. All I know is that for the first time I feel it in my gut, that something isn’t right. ” He traced the name with his index finger, “Marah. Strange name. Beautiful though. Like you. Even laying there that night you looked like an angel. And angel taken down by violence.” Tony stood back up and dusted off his hands, “Even if we had met in another life I doubt you would have given me the time of day. Not that I could blame you. I have blood on my hands. And I will have more on them by the end of the night. I know how others look at me, at my family. They’re not wrong. But I can’t live like that anymore.”
Danny rushed forward, “Tony no! If you do this they win. Don’t let them take your soul.” The wind had picked up , swirling the snow around them until Danny could no longer see the figure in front of him. Above the roar he heard his father’s voice, “He can’t hear you Daniel.”
Suddenly the snow was gone and his father and him were alone, “Where is Tony? Bring him back! He can’t lose himself. He is too good for that.”
“Do you see what a life without Danny Santos would be like? The love of you life is married to another. You were never around to take the Santos Family legit.” The older man shrugged his broad shoulders, “Sure if I were alive I would have resisted just as adamantly as the others but when you go where I went you have nothing but time. Time to think and time to watch the lives of others. Tony became a better man because of you and you became a better man because of him. You both learned from each other.” He pointed towards where Tony had been standing, “Tony was never meant to me a murderer. ” He shook his head ruefully, “Your mother and I messed up. Mostly me while you were growing up. In the world I grew up in a man had to be tough and he tought his sons to be tough. But you are a different father, one your kids love and know they can count on. Tony’s children will know the same parental love. Because of you because I sure as hell didn’t set a good example and neither did my brother.” His father smiled, “Now you ready to see the lives of those you’ve touched?”
For the first time that night Danny simply nodded his agreement. What was a little Nausea between father and son?
Danny watched Tony try to navigate the Christmas tree placement, and shook his head when his cousin bumbled up Marah’s directions. Not that Marah, or Tony for that matter, seemed to mind. They both stood laughing, content in being together at last. Which was good. He wanted that for them. They had lost too many years already because of the scheming mechanisms of others. The world deserves more happy people, and those two deserved it most of all after what they’d been through.
He felt his father step along side of him, “Antonio still has wounds and he probably always will. You don’t go through what he did without coming out without something lasting. But even stronger than that is his happiness. Without your influence he would have remained headstrong and reckless. And without him that hit your grandmother took out on you may have been more successful.” He gestured to the happy couple, “He has too much to live for now to hold on to bitterness. Personal growth for Antonio.”
“He’s a good man. He always was a good man. The rest of the family never saw all the good in him.” Tony was a still waters run deep kind of guy, a fact that the family never got. Carmen and Maria had just seen Tony as someone they could try to bend and manipulate to their will. Too bad they never realized that Tony was too loyal to betray those who he respected.
Miguel smiled, “Shall we go? I think we’re about to get an eye full.”
Danny’s first view was of Michelle’s very lovely backside while she bent to retrieve the cookie sheet from the oven. Danny watched as she straightened and moved to the counter where an array of cookies already sat cooling. A slight frown appeared on her beautiful face, “Hope Santos did you steal another cookie?”
His little imp giggled. A half eaten cookie still clutched in her hand, “I had to taste them mom! Just to make sure they were just right.”
Her just as guilty brother stood nearby with chocolate smeared on his mouth, “Yeah me too! Only I had to try two or three. Better to be safe you know.”
He could tell Michelle was fighting a battle. The need to laugh at the kids antics and the role of parent whose child had gorged on cookies before dinner. In the end, the laughed won out. Michelle grabbed a cookie herself and took a bite, “Not bad if I do say so myself. Now let’s go finish getting the tree ready before your dad thinks were some kid of slackers!”
“Beautiful wife, beautiful family. You have a wonderful life Danny Santos.”
Danny groaned, “You just couldn’t resist could you dad?”
“The line really writes itself. But it is true is it not?”
“Yes it’s true. Can we go back now? I really have some stuff to do.”
Faith stood clutching the star and jumped excitedly, “Can I put on the star yet?”
Michelle smiled patiently from where she was busy hanging ornaments, “Not yet. I have to go get a ladder first.”
Faith squealed when she felt hands close on her tiny waist and lift her off her ground. She looked down to see her father smiling up at her, “I got you squirt. Now put that star on the tree and let’s get start celebrating Santos style!”
Later after the kids were all tucked in bed and the house was quiet Danny and Michelle sat cuddled up on the couch looking at the finished Christmas tree. Danny finally broke the comfortable silence, “I may not say it as often as I should but I thankful for the life we’ve made together. The three wonderful kids we have together. Even the struggles it took to get us here. It made us stronger and more resilient. I love you Michelle.”
Michelle looked over her shoulder at her husband, “You are certainly in a reflective mood tonight Danny. But I like it. And I love you too.” She stretched up and kissed him sweetly, “Merry Christmas Danny Santos.” She stood and grabbed her hand and pulled him towards the stairs, “And I say we celebrate the holidays right.”
Danny laughed lustily, “Merry Christmas indeed.”