Archive | May 2013

Prelude to Love ~ A Robbie and Sarah Short Story

Kid Fan Fiction?  Well one day GLManny mentioned that Guiding Light should have implied that in the future Robbie Santos would romance Sarah Randall.  Which makes complete sense.  The hint of future romance would have led viewers to imagine that even if we didn’t SEE it, these characters went on to live in Springfield forever.  But I didn’t want to cheat them by only giving the kiddos a brief scene, and they will probably never get an adult story since then I would have to age everyone… So instead here is a short  scene that occurs during the Bauer BBQ that sets the GROUNDWORK for that future romance.  That hint of a romance…

***

Robbie Santos sat on one of the picnic tables while Sarah Randall and her father came in dead last in the three-legged race.  If anyone had asked him at that moment who had won Robbie would have probably looked like a big loser.   Because the truth was he had no clue.  He was too focused on the huge smile on Sarah’s face and the twinkling sound of her exuberant laughter.  The flowing of all that dark hair of hers as it was caught up in the warm summer breeze.  His eyebrows drew together into a frown.  Girls were super lame so it made no sense whatsoever why he was still sitting on this picnic table watching her of all people.

She was one of his sister’s best friends since they did dance class together.  But she was at his house all the time.  Even worse, those two were always trying to tag along behind whatever his friends and he were doing.   Robbie thought about last week when he was going to go bike riding with his friends Jude and Danny.  Sure enough, Hope and Sarah had wanted to tag along like usual.  Until Sarah had noted the flattened tires on her brand new bike.  The look of pure sadness on her face had made something deep inside Robbie’s stomach clench.  Without thinking he waved his friends off and instead spent his afternoon eating popsicles and playing board games with his little sister and, of course, Sarah.

Robbie rested his chin in the palm of his hands and sighed.  The group had moved on to various other Bauer games and yet here he was, thinking about a girl of all things.  His friends would really laugh at him if they could see him now.

“Hey slugger.  What are you doing over here all by yourself?”

Robbie turned and watched his dad and uncle Tony approach.  Oh great, witnesses to his torture.  “Nothing.  Just thinking”.

His dad and uncle took their seats on either side of him before looking where he had been focusing for the better part of an hour.  “How’d your mom and Hope do in the three-legged race?”

“Um. Well I wasn’t really watching that close.”

Danny and Tony exchanged a look.  They both knew Robbie hadn’t moved from that spot so what had him so transfixed? “You want to go grab a burger before the fireworks begin?”

“Not hungry.”

***

If Danny wondered if anything was bothering his son this confirmed it.  Like most boys his age Robbie was always hungry.  Danny gave a quick glance to Tony who merely shrugged his shoulder, he was just as clueless about Robbie’s mood as Danny was.  Might as well try the direct route and see if that worked. “Want to talk about it?”

Beside him Robbie heaved a big sigh before turning towards him.  “When do girls stop being lame?  I mean, you married mom so they stop some time right?”

So not the question Danny expected from his son but he could work with this.  Well, we would at least try.  He made a concentrated effort at avoiding eye contact with Tony knowing that he’d find his cousin’s eyes glittering with tightly reigned mirth.  He was barely holding his own laughter in so he knew it was best not to tempt himself.  “I guess girls stopped being lame, as you call it, when I was almost a teenager.  But I also grew up with your Aunt Pilar.  She was a pest, always following around Tony, Ray, and myself.  But also she played a mean game of stickball.  So I always knew that not all girls were lame, there were special girls who were cool.”

Tony chose that moment to chime in, no doubt prompted by the memory of Pilar’s ability to whoop all their tails in stickball.  “You can say that again!  Pilar was downright scary in a game of stickball.”

Robbie laughed at Tony’s exaggerated shudder but he was not to be deterred. “When did you know you were going to marry mom?”

Danny had wondered when that question would inevitably be asked by one of his kids.  Just like he wondered what the best answer would be.  Because the truth wasn’t glamorous, romantic, and the stuff of fairy tales.  Michelle would probably be the best one to explain their journey to love, but of course Robbie chose this moment to ask that particular question. “Wouldn’t you rather know where babies come from?”  His son just shook his head while Tony laughed loudly at his predicament.  Yeah just you wait… “When I met your mom I was…captivated.  She was so beautiful and bright.  She made you want to be around her just so you could soak up some of that brightness for yourself.”  He paused wondering how best to explain this part of the story.  “You know how we talked about your grandmother, my mother, how she sometimes did bad things and hurt people she loved?  Well, she wanted to hurt your mom and I couldn’t let that happen.”

“Because you loved her?”

Danny smiled ruefully at the memory.  That had been one hell of a ride,  one full of twists and turns.  But it had led them here, and for that he would always be grateful.  “Yeah, I did.  I didn’t know it at the time but I loved your mother to the very depths of my soul.  I still do.  Some people sit and let life happen for them, Santos men make decisions for themselves.  Not always the right ones, but we never follow anyone’s chosen path.”

Robbie seemed to turn this information over in his mind, filing it away for later, before he turned that laser-like focus on his uncle. “When did you know you loved Aunt Marah?”

Tony tilted his head down and met his gaze.  “From the moment I saw Marah I knew she was going to change my life.  We had what we call a destino.  And all of your dad’s warnings and her parent’s influence couldn’t keep us apart for too long.  But we were both really young when we started going out and we both made mistakes, particularly me.” Understatement of the year but Tony couldn’t imagine telling Robbie about just how dumb he had been back then. “But even when we were apart we never stopped loving each other.  Guess your dad and me, we’re just a new breed of Santos men.  We love and we love completely.  And when the right one comes along you just know.  You go out of your way just to try to make them smile because that smile is the best part of your day.”  He looked up at Danny and smiled. “When did we become such saps?  What’s next?  Are we going to start doing each other’s make up?  Having pillow fights during sleepovers?”

Danny ignored his cousin and instead laid his hand on his son’s small shoulder. “Did any of that answer your question?”

“Yeah.  I was just wondering that’s all.”  All three Santos men turned towards the patio when Michelle called their names.  “Get up here and get some ice cream before it melts!”

Danny smiled and all three of them complied eagerly.  Looking at his wife silhouetted by the quickly setting sun he felt his heart speed up just watching her dish out ice cream.  Danny couldn’t wait to get their vacation started.

***

Robbie sat on the soft blanket as the first firework exploded in the night sky.  But he wasn’t looking at the fireworks.  Instead he was watching Sarah Randall and his sister dance around with sparklers.  Sarah was once again making his gut twist into knots just listening to that laughter.  He didn’t even notice the chocolate ice cream from his cone dripping down his wrist.

“You go out of your way just to try to make them smile because that smile is the best part of your day”.  That’s what Uncle Tony had said.  Kind of like the day with Sarah and her bike.  Maybe what his dad and uncle said was true, maybe Sarah was his destiny.  Realizing the sticky mess he was in he stood and threw the ice cream cone away.  Before he could talk himself out of it he walked over to where Sarah was currently twirling with a green sparkler and tapped on her shoulder. “Hi Robbie.  You want a sparkler?”

Robbie didn’t answer, he just leaned forward and kissed her.  It wasn’t like the ones he saw on tv or even those between his parents.  If the guys saw him now they would make be making a mixture of gagging noises and making fun of him.  But he didn’t seem to mind  which was funny.   When he pulled back he looked into her brown eyes that had to have grown at least two sizes in shock.  “I’m going to marry you one day Sarah Randall.”  And as he marched back towards the blanket to watch the rest of the light show Robbie had the odd sense that he had just chosen his path…

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Coming Home: Alan-Michael and Lucy Spaulding

Note: A one shot scene that occurs after the Bauer Bar-B-Que in Chapter Three.  I always thought that Alan-Michael and Lucy Cooper deserved a reunion, and they both should have returned for the final episodes.  So as you could see by Chapter Three I changed this oversight and we saw the Real Alan-Michael (Rick Herbst) accompanied by Lucy Cooper and their son.  But what about after the BBQ? 

Lucy and Alan-Michael

The two brothers and their families walked toward their vehicles when the Bauer BBQ finally came to an end. The rest of the night had been spend catching up with family and friends and surprisingly enough there had only been brief instances of awkwardness since Alan-Michael had made his grand apology to the entire town. But that didn’t mean the scars wouldn’t always be there, but with enough time perhaps the ache would be reduced to a mild discomfort. When they reached their cars everyone gave the brothers a discreet distance to say their goodbyes, “Do you want to come back to the house? There is more than enough room.”

Though he knew Phillip made the offer sincerely, Alan-Michael wasn’t ready to set foot in that house just yet. Too many memories, the majority of them not of the pleasant variety. “Thanks for the offer but Lucy and I have a room over at the Beacon.”

Phillip nodded as though he understood his brother’s reluctance at being under the Spaulding roof so soon, “Just so you know the door is always open. And I hope you think about what we talked about. Life is too short for us to still be at odds.”

“I’ll talk it over with Lucy and give you a call later.” He grinned in amusement.  He never would have thought he’d see the day when Phillip and he would actually be civil to one another.  It was nice. “I assume the number is the same.  Not much changes in this town.”

“Yet somehow after being away for a while that fact becomes oddly appealing.” Then without warning Phillip impulsively reached out and pulled his brother into a tight embrace. “I’m glad you’re back. Hopefully this marks a new beginning.  For us and for Spaulding.  It’d be nice to work with you instead of against you.”

Alan-Michael stood uncomfortable in his brother’s arms for several long seconds until he tentatively moved his arms up to return his brother’s hug, “New beginnings. Not making you any promises, but not lying either.”

“I can work with that.”

***

The streets were nearly deserted by the time Alan-Michael began driving his family toward the Beacon.  After so many years away from Springfield both Lucy and him had been content to simply drive around and get reacquainted with the place that would always be considered home.  Who knew that nearly running down Lucy with his car would lead to love?  Beside one headstrong Lucy Cooper of course.  Lucy leaned her head back against the plush seat and looked at her husband, “Maybe what they say is true. All roads lead back to Springfield.  Can’t believe how much I missed this place.”

Alan-Michael laughed though he didn’t take his eyes off the road. “You miss the small town gossip?  Everybody knowing everyone else’s business?”

Lucy sighed. “No.  I miss laughing with Bridget and David over a game of cards at the boarding house.  Or going dancing at the Roadhouse.  I guess I just miss being a part of a tight-knit community like Springfield.  Or maybe I’m just being nostalgic.”

“I was talking to Michelle’s husband Danny tonight. He and his cousin Tony have been fixing up 5th Street in a big way.  They are even working with Lewis Construction to convert some old buildings into a community center down there this fall.”

When Alan-Michael turned and parked the car beside the lake Lucy sat up straight. “This isn’t the hotel!  You better not be planning anything dirty Alan-Michael, your son is right in the back seat sleeping.” When her husband just grinned mischievously Lucy broke out in laughter. “You are bad Alan-Michael.”

“You like me that way.” He leaned across the center consul and kissed her soundly before returning to his seat, “But really I wanted to talk to you. And it was such a pretty night I didn’t want to be holed up in our hotel room.”

Lucy gestured for him to continue so he did. “Phillip made me a business offer today. To be C0-CEO of Spaulding alongside him.  Said life was too short to be at odds and we should be running the business alongside each other.  I told him I had to talk it over with you first and see what you had to say.”

When Lucy had heard the words ‘business offer’ she had turned her head to look out her window.  Nothing good have ever come from Alan-Michael working at Spaulding. Yet he had coveted that CEO position like a marathon runner and a golden trophy, and she had tried to be the patient and understanding wife.  And later, after they had moved to France it had become worse.  The long business meetings and the frequent overnight trips until he had eventually strayed and broken her heart. It had taken years to rebuild her life after that. And though Alan-Michael and her had worked hard at repairing the damage Lucy wasn’t sure she could go through all the power plays in that family again. It would pull her apart, and this time she had to think about their son as well.  But she knew her husband, knew that gleam in his eye.  This was a chance to get back some of what he had lost, some of his self-respect and perhaps gain a relationship with his brother in the process.   So like many Spaulding wives before her she whispered the invariable truth, “Spaulding Enterprises is your destiny.”

Alan-Michael reached out with his finger and tilted her face so she was looking at him once again, “No. You are my destiny.”

“Want me to be honest?” When Alan-Michael nodded she continued, “Tonight at the bar-b-que it was so perfect I almost didn’t want the night to end.  It takes a lot to admit when you’re wrong, and you stood before half the town and apologized.  Frank didn’t even punch you, though I am sure Blake had a bit to do with that.   It was fun to watch you and Michelle beat Rick at washers, his face was priceless!  And even though our son met his cousins for the frist time it was like love at first sight.  I want my dad and Frank to get to know Michael, he is such a great kid.  So much like you it’s kind of scary.  But overall the night was perfect.” She paused before looking at him with a hint of sadness, “But I am afraid.  Afraid that the all-powerful Spaulding lure will tear us apart again.”

“Oh Lucy, it wasn’t Spaulding that tore us apart last time.  It was me.  I lost sight of us, what our love meant, and screwed up the best thing in my life.  And without you in my life I hurt just about everyone; family and friend alike.  I can’t really blame Alan for running me out-of-town, I deserved it.  And that road led me back to you, where I belong.  You are the best part of me Lucy.  You and Michael.”

Lucy thought about all Alan-Michael said, and more.  About the past, about his mistakes and even her own.  If they stayed in Springfield Alan-Michael and Phillip had the chance to build a real relationship, as brothers, instead of rivals for their father’s affection.  Their son could grow up around family; Spaulding, Bauer, and Cooper and all the ones related by marriage.  “If we do this I hope Phillip knows we are a package deal.  Not that I don’t trust you but I make a damn good executive assistant.”

Alan-Michael laughed loudly before catching himself. He checked to see if he had woken Michael, seeing that the child still slept peacefully he leaned in and pulled Lucy toward him, “Hiring you was the best decision I ever made.  I sure do love you Lucy Spaulding and when get back to the Beacon I’m going to show you how much.”

She gestured for him to hurry up.  “Well what are you waiting for? Let’s get going!’

As Alan-Michael once again pulled the car back onto the dark and deserted road headed toward the Beacon Hotel, Lucy squeezed the hand he still held tight in hers. “I sure do love you too Alan-Michael Spaulding.  I always said I was going to marry you, I am just glad the second time took.”

And as they drove through Springfield Lucy looked through the window with new appreciation.  This was no longer just a visit, this was returning to where they both belonged.  Where they both fell in love.  It really was true what they said, all roads did lead back to Springfield.

Inside the Light- Jeanne Cooper

JeanneCooperGL

Jeanne Cooper

October 25, 1928 – May 8, 2013

This week The Young and the Restless paid tribute to the beloved Jeanne Cooper who passed away May 8, 2003.   For many soap fans she will forever be remembered for her award-winning role as Katherine “Kay” Chancellor on the Y&R, a role she played for forty years.   But for Guiding Light fans she will be remembered for something truly amazing.

When Jeanne Cooper learned that Guiding Light had been cancelled she felt she had to something to as she said, “pay respect to a show that has been around for 72 years.  I had to honor the show, the cast and the crew for all their hard work.”  And I think she summed up what we all felt in our hearts. “This show is a cornerstone in TV.  These people are a part of our lives, and are now riding into the sunset.”

And that is what Jeanne Cooper did.  She made a brief appearance in the final episode of Guiding Light which was both touching and showed how amazing Jeanne Cooper truly was.  This Inside the Light is dedicated to Jeanne Cooper whose light will forever shine.

The Y&R Tribute to Jeanne Cooper:

What Matters Most~ Chapter Three: Part Three

“Dad’s will named me CEO of Spaulding-”

Alan-Michael rolled his eyes before cutting in. “Phillip this really doesn’t surprise me. Everyone in Springfield knew you were Alan’s golden boy. I was constantly left having to prove myself while you could do no wrong. I may have been a typical Spaulding ass before I was run out-of-town but the old man was a champion at it before you and I were even born.”

“Okay this sibling rivalry stuff has gotten old. Did dad ever shoot you? I think physical damage to one’s person trumps exile. So yes, in his eyes I could do wrong and I did. Frequently. But that is beside the point. The point is I want to make Spaulding Enterprise a true partnership with you and I working together not against each other. There is nothing in his will that says there can’t be two at the helm, we can both be CEO. ”

Alan-Michael stood motionless for a few minutes flabbergasted by what he had heard. Come back to Springfield? Run Spaulding alongside his brother? The whole idea sounded ludicrous. “What does Aunt Alex have to say about all this?”

“Surprisingly she’s all for it. She doesn’t play much of a role in the company these days. She’s been too busy traveling the world with Fletcher Reade.”

That news caught Alan-Michael by surprise. “Aunt Alex and Fletcher Reade huh? Don’t know what to say about that one. As for you and me? You do realize we don’t exactly have the best track record when it comes to sibling accord right?”

Phillip smiled patiently, “Alan-Michael it’s time for us to bury the proverbial hatchet. You want to know why I was the so-called golden boy? Because Alan saw a lot of himself in me, and that’s not a particularly good thing. In you he saw a lot of your mother. Do you try to tarnish the goodness in others or hope that the goodness outshines the Spaulding genes? Hell he knew you didn’t want to be like him and damn if I didn’t prove the old man right at times by acting just like him.” He looked at his brother and hoped that whatever decision he made that something good had come from today, “Even if you decide to return to France I hope that we can work on this brother thing. We wasted too many years being at odds. I only have one brother and time is too short.”

Perhaps Phillip was right, though Alan-Michael tended to think Alan’s mind games had gone deeper than that. That they were simply the only way he knew how to show love. He knew from family stories that his grandfather Brandon had done the same to Alan and Alex, pitting them as eternal rivals. But he couldn’t help but think about what it would be like to have family, a true family he could give his son. And he knew Lucy missed her own family as well. It would be nice to belong to this well-knit community again. “I need to speak with Lucy about all of this.”

“Of course.” They turned and walked towards where Lucy stood talking animatedly to Buzz and Lillian, “Do you need some backup?”

Alan-Michael was momentarily shocked at the question, it was a night for shocks it seemed. That Phillip would play the big brother and even offer or that Alan-Michael would find himself accepting, “That might actually be good. Last time I was in town, well it wasn’t a good scene with me and Buzz.”

***

“What do you think you are doing Lucy? Did you not learn your lesson the first time with that creep? And you have a child and you never even bothered to let me know!” Buzz was nearly foaming at the mouth he was getting so worked up. He kept his voice low but it still held a tone of outrage.

“Yes I wonder why we have stayed away. Because we both knew that this would be the reaction we would get. But dad, part of the reason we came back today was because Alan-Michael wanted to make amends. You of all people should know about making mistakes, and yet I forgave you just as Harley and Frank forgave you.”

If it was possible Buzz’s face got even more red as he bristled with rage. “We’re not talking about my mistakes. We’re talking about a man who repeatedly hurt this family.  Who hurt his own family.  Who-”

Lucy began ticking off Buzz’s past transgressions on her slim fingers one by one. “Like you dad? You hurt this family too you know. You abandoned Nadine and her kids and married my mom. You tried to buy forgiveness for your abandonment using money from my trust fund. You tried to hide my very existence to spare Frank and Harley’s feelings, but we all forgave you. You don’t corner the market on second chances dad.”

“Lucy it is beneath you using stuff from over twenty years ago in your arsenal.”

Lucy just shrugged, “It is what it is. And if you want me in your life. And if you want to get to know Michael, you’ll have to forgive just like everyone else.”

***

Tony leaned towards Danny and whispered. “You were right, our family no longer corners the market on dysfunction.”

“No kidding. I think we went to a bar-b-que and ended up in Peyton Place.”

***

Alan-Michael stood in the middle of the patio and looked at the sea of faces. Some family and some friends. Some familiar and some unknown. After witnessing Buzz and Lucy’s heated exchange he knew what he had to do. And that was to eat some serious crow, publically. So here he stood on display with an unlikely ally in his brother Phillip by his side. He took a deep breath. Here goes nothing, “By now you all know who I am. While this entrance isn’t quite as memorable as the parachute drop I had some precious cargo with me and wouldn’t risk it for the world.” He shot a wink over to Lucy who stood holding Michael. She moved to his other side and took his hand in support as he continued, “Anyway, years ago I was an ass. I lost the best thing in my life and I took it out on a lot of innocent people. People that mean a lot to me.”

Alan-Michael turned towards his father-in-law to address him individually, “Especially you Buzz. You didn’t deserve what I did to you. If I could take it back I would. But since I can’t I can only hope I can prove that I’m not that guy any more.”

Buzz stood motionless absorbing the words and weighing their sincerity. He wasn’t the only one. The rest of the town stood nearby silent and still as if being the first to make a sound would fracture the scene before them. The prodigal son returning and bowing before the town a humble man. It was quite the event for the Bauer BBQ.

Michelle was the first to stand and move towards her cousin. She enveloped him in a tight embrace, “Welcome home Alan-Michael.” She gestured towards the picnic table, “Come meet my husband Danny and his cousins, Ray and Tony.   And I am sure you remember Marah.  Tony and Marah got married last year so now she gets the added privilege to call me family.”

“Last time I saw you Marah you was wearing pigtails!”

Alan-Michael’s comment made the rest of the adults at the table break out in laughter and eased the residual tension. Except for Marah who did a face palm in childhood embarrassment. “Don’t remind me.”

Toby eyed with wife with a grin. “Pigtails huh? I think I’d pay money to see that.”

As Alan-Michael passed by Buzz the older man held out a hand to stall him. “Look, Lucy was right. I did screw up a lot when I was younger. And you were right as well. We are both guilty of being asses. So I don’t care what you do to me, I’m a big boy and I can take it. But you hurt her again and I will hurt you so bad they won’t be able to find the body. Got it?”

Alan-Michael accepted the threat humbly. “Got it.”

***
The adults in attendance all grumbled good-naturedly as Rick called them together for their last event. The washers tournament was a popular event at the Bauer feast.

“Oh stop it.” He admonished with a grin. “You all knew what you were getting yourself into.”

As the competition was so stiff only a select few actually participated, the rest just stood on the sidelines and cheered. Or jeered as was the case with Rick who took it all in stride since he knew it was all in fun.

Rick stepped forward with his clipboard. “So I see the teams are the same this year. Let’s see we have, Josh and Jonathan, Billy and Bill, Danny and Tony, Buzz and Frank, Holly and Blake, Mindy and Beth, Reva and Marah.  And of course the three-time champions, Yours truly and Michelle.”

From nearby someone coughed which sounded suspiciously like “braggart”.

But Michelle surprised everyone when she stepped forward and made a last-minute substitution. “I think this year I want Alan-Michael to be my teammate.”

Rick look pole axed. “But Michelle, three-time champions!”

Michelle ignored him and instead walked over to Alan-Michael. Yes he was a Spaulding but he was a Bauer too, it was time for this town to remember that. “What do you say cousin?”

Alan-Michael looked uncomfortable, as if being put on the spot was the last thing he wanted. But he saw the sincerity in Michelle’s eyes, the hope that he would come back to the family fold. By his side Lucy nudged his gently, urging him on. He smiled. “I say let’s show them how it’s done.”

Phillip slung an arm over his friend’s dejected shoulders. “It’s okay buddy. You always have me.”

***

Marah sat propped against her husband as they waited for the fireworks to begin. Suddenly she slapped the arm holding her and pointed towards the sky in excitement. “Look! A shooting star!”

Tony leaned down and nuzzled the hair away from her ear and whispered, “What did you wish for?”

Marah laughed huskily, turning her head to gaze into her husband’s chocolately brown eyes. “Not happening Mister Santos. If I tell you I won’t get my wish.”

When she began pouting as if not getting her wish would be the worst thing in the world Tony thought she was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. A woman pouting. Call him crazy. He leaned down and whispered against her lips this time. “Maybe if you tell me I can make all of your wishes come true.”

Marah thought her heart would stop at Tony’s statement. If she already didn’t love him with all her heart she would have fallen in love right then and there. She pulled him closer for a kiss that left her breathless and tingling in all the right places. Just then the sky exploded in a kaleidoscope of colors. It was so beautiful that Marah wished the night would never end. Wrapped up in the arms of the man she loved with their child resting safely under his protective arms. Life didn’t get more perfect than this.

“Hard to believe how much has changed since a year ago.”

Marah looked over her shoulder at her husband, “Hard to believe how much better it is. I never would have thought anything could have topped you coming back to me, to all of us. ”

Tony had to agree. This past year had seen all of his dreams come true. Marah and him were finally married after so many years of pain and loneliness, and now they were expecting their first child. Things couldn’t get much better than this. “Ready to pack up the kids and head home?”

“You know me. I’d go anywhere with you Tony Santos.”

Tony stood and helped her to her feet before placing kissing her briefly. “My kind of woman.”

What Matters Most~ Chapter Three: Part Two

Across the yard Ray nearly choked on the soda he had been drinking.  When his cousins looked at him in alarm he waved off their concern, and instead watched the as Phillip Spaulding made the biggest move of his life,  “Is that who I think it is? Well I never would have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes.  And they say miracles don’t happen.”

Danny looked to see where Ray was watching with such interest and then turned back toward his cousins, “And they say the Santos family has skeletons in their closet.  The Spaulding family could give us a real run for our money.”

“I don’t know Danny.  Ole Alan sure was a snake but Carmen and Maria were both rotten to the core.”

Danny nodded at Tony’s assessment of their matriarchs.  Carmen and Maria sure did a number on them, hell it was a minor miracle they both didn’t spend a small fortune on therapy over the havoc caused by those two.  Danny noted that the noise level in the yard had dropped considerably, probably due to the arrival of the unexpected “guest”.  He nudged Tony’s arm with his elbow, “Let’s go grab a seat.  This is bound to get interesting and I don’t want to miss it.”

***

“Hello brother.”

Phillip opened his mouth but couldn’t make the words come out.  Phillip had heard all about the nefarious actions his brother had done while everyone believed he was dead, still it was time to let go of the past.  Alan was gone and it was time for them to finally bury the hatchet.  “Alan-Michael.  You look good.”  And he did.  Even with the wariness in his demeanor, even the veiled suspicion in his eyes, there was still an air of happiness about him.

Alan-Michael lifted an eyebrow mockingly, “For an outcast you mean?  The true prodigal son returns.”  He looked around and saw all the people who were pretending they weren’t staring at the reunion taking place, “I can see some things never change.  The good people of Springfield probably can’t wait to run me out-of-town.”

“No. I mean for my brother.” Phillip knew this wasn’t going to be easy, a lifetime of resentment was not going to be wiped away in only one day.  But damn if he wasn’t determined to succeed. “Glad you could make it.”

“Got to admit, I was surprised to hear from you.  Last I heard you were dead.  But I would be the last to hear anything in this family.”

Phillip smiled, or at least tried to paste on something that would pass for something close to it. “Guess we have something in common after all.  We have both been lost, and we have both been found.” Phillip turned towards the woman standing silently beside his brother to welcome her to the Spaulding fold and was once again rendered mute.  Now that truly was a surprise!  Not only the woman herself but the ring gracing her finger told him that he found the true reason his brother had returned.  If anyone could get Alan-Michael to open his heart to his family it was this woman.  “It’s good to see you again Lucy.  I see now why brother seems so happy.  I am glad you found your way back to each other.”  And he meant that.  Alan-Michael and Lucy were one of those couples that just belonged.

“It’s nice to see you too Phillip. ” Lucy leaned in to her husband who placed his arm across her shoulder in an automatic gesture of solidarity, “Sometimes you get lost and you’re lucky enough to find your way back.” She paused as if overcome with the enormity of being reunited with the other half of yourself.  Phillip could understand that.  He sometimes found himself pausing to just look at Beth as if to reassure himself that it was real, that they had found their own way back.

Alan-Michael rubbed his wife’s arm as if to soothe away any residual pain of the past.  Calmed by his touch Lucy looked down to her right and Phillip was shocked to see a curly-haired little boy standing shyly against his mother’s leg.  He couldn’t be more than two but he looked so much like the rare pictures of Alan-Michael at that age.

“This is our son Michael. Michael Henry Spaulding.”  She reached into her purse and pulled out an envelope that she quickly passed along to her husband, “I see dad over there.” She boosted little Michael on her hip before quickly kissing her husband, “I am going to go introduce him to little Michael here. And let you and Phillip talk.”

“Lucy you don’t have to do that.  No matter what has happened in the past we’re family.”

“No Phillip, We won’t be family until you two can finally make peace.”

***

Rick stood looking around the others, trying his best to catch a better look at the scene that had everyone so enthralled.  He finally sighed and gave up, “Do you think I should go over there?”

Michelle and Marah both gasped out a horrified, “No!”, with Michelle pulling her brother down to sit beside her at the picnic table. She looked her brother in the eye leaving no doubt she meant business, “This has been going on too long.  They are grown men and they both have a lot to get off their chest.  You going over there would just make things worse.  Let them work it out for themselves.”

Rick almost look affronted by the implication, “He’s my best friend Michelle.”

“And he’s our cousin.  Our family.  And I for one will never forget him reaching out to me after my Mom’s funeral.”  She rubbed his shoulder to soothe the sting of her words.  Rick always tried to solve Phillip’s problems but this was a family matter and didn’t need his input, “Let’s just watch it play out.”

***

“The last time I left town Alan made it look like I was siphoning funds from Spaulding into my private account.” Alan-Michael shook his head before looking at his brother, “I was a complete ass.  I had already lost Lucy.  I was working with Alan to gain control of Spaulding.  And in the process I lost my soul.  After I was forced out-of-town I had nowhere to go, I had burned so many bridges.  My first stop was to see my mother.  I had neglected her for so long and for the first time in years I was able to be a real son to her.  And then there was Lucy. ” Alan-Michael paused and smiled at Phillip as if sharing a secret, “It didn’t take long before I realized that I could live in exile as long as I had her by my side.  The biggest mistake in my life was walking away from our marriage instead of fighting.  And it took some serious groveling and work on my part before she would even give me the time of day.  But enough about me.  Here.” He handed over the envelope that Lucy had passed him moments earlier, “This is a letter from our attorney and necessary documents showing my innocence and that the money has been sitting dormant since Alan transferred the funds.”

Phillip didn’t even glance at the contents.  What was done was done.  It was time for a new era, and that meant moving forward. “I appreciate this Alan-Michael.  Now let me tell you why I asked you to come today.”

“You mean it wasn’t for my stunning personality?”

Phillip laughed, “Sadly no.  I actually wanted to make you a business proposition.”  He looked at all the people who were pretending to not be watching them with avid curiosity and shrugged, “Sure this probably isn’t the best place but you deserve to be here.  Your mother is a Bauer after all.”

Alan-Michael crossed his arms across his chest, “Well by now the good folks of Springfield know who I am and haven’t already gotten out their pitchforks.  So I guess I am safe.  At least for now.”

What Matters Most~ Chapter Three: Part One

The Bauer Bar-B-Que- Where something interesting always happens…

Once again Marah found herself standing outside the Bauer home clutching a bowl of potato salad.  The only difference this year it was her that was filled with nerves instead of Tony. “Are you sure you can’t tell?”

Tony sighed, they had already had this conversation twice since leaving for the bar-b-que, “Marah you look gorgeous as usual.  You can’t even tell you are-”

His speech was halted by her placing a finger against his lips, “Shh!  Just a few more weeks before we tell everyone.  And we’re about to be surrounded by little ears that hear everything.  Remember the hooker boot fiasco? I could call Michelle over here to remind you.”

When she pretended to move towards the noise coming from the backyard Tony reached out a hand and stalled her, “Alright I’ll keep quiet as long as you stop asking if you have a pooch.  The only pooch you have is Toby and he isn’t telling anyone our secret.”

Marah laughed, “Okay stud but remember not to let it slip.  Especially since we are watching the kids while Danny and Michelle go on vacation.  Little ears and all of that.”

Tony stopped and sighed in mock exasperation, “Tell me again why we are watching the kids for a week.  Are you sure you should be taking on that much?”

She knew he was going to be a worrier, it was in his nature.  “How about because Danny is your cousin?  Or that they are our best friends?  Or perhaps it’s because they watched Toby while we were in Hawaii?  And yes for the fifteenth time I will be fine.”

“Okay fine.  But if there is any Barbie playing its with you this time.”

Marah laughed as they continued towards the backyard, “Probably best.  I’m sure Michelle will relax better knowing you aren’t telling her daughter about the latest street-walker footwear Barbie is sporting.”

***

Tony ushered Marah to the picnic table where Michelle currently sat trying to get Robbie and Hope to eat, “Want me to get you something to drink?”

Marah wanted to admonish him for hovering, but managed to reign in the comment.  Hovering beat the hell out of him wasting time worrying about what could happen, “Thanks honey,  anything diet sounds good.”

Tony hesitated, “Are you sure?  Isn’t Aspartame supposed to be dangerous?”

If looks could kill Marah’s glare would have sent him six feet under, “I love you but if you think I’m giving up my occasional diet soda you best forget it.”

“But-”

“But nothing.  I’ve given up alcohol, coffee, and for the forseeable future anything involving fish since it causes me to retch.  If you fight me on this I will make you give up something you like as well.” She slowly moved her eyes downward until she stopped on a particularly favorite part of his anatomy before looking back up and smiling serenely. “If you know what I mean?”

Not like he could miss it!  The look in her eyes almost made him flinch. “You fight dirty Marah Santos.” He looked to Michelle, “Would you like anything Michelle?”

Up until then Michelle had managed to hold in her laughter but with Tony ‘s innocent question she let loose. “You two are too much!  It’s going to be an interesting, not to mention entertaining, seven months.”  She wiped away the tears that had formed at the corner of her eyes, “And just for future reference, diet soda is perfectly safe.  Wouldn’t want you to end up scared for life.  Or walking around with that scared look in your eye.  What would the children think?”

***

After delivering Marah’s drink, and just to be on the safe side he brought an extra one for Michelle, Tony made his way over to where Danny and Ray were watching Rick man the grill.  He walked up and elbowed his cousin, “Not going to show off all your grill practice?”

Danny actually blushed.  “Not likely.  I think I’m actually getting worse.  Though I haven’t charred anything beyond recognition in a while.  Of course now everything seems to be done on the outside and raw in the middle.”

“Are Michelle and you excited about the cruise?”

Danny grinned mischievously, “Seven full days where rubbing suntan oil on my wife is almost a requirement?  Yeah you could say I’m excited.”  He looked at Tony and frowned, “You sure you want to watch the kids?  It’s a lot, especially for newlyweds.”

“Danny enjoy your cruise.  The kids will be in good hands, we’re actually looking forward to it.” Okay that last part wasn’t exactly the whole truth but he figured Danny and Michelle would be better off knowing the kids weren’t going to be a bother.  He loved Danny and Michelle, loved their kids, and would do anything for them.  Besides, how much trouble could they be?  And as far as he could tell those three loved their Uncle Tony and Aunt Marah.

Beside him Ray brough his drink up to his lips. “Talk about jumping into the deep end little brother.” After a healthy swallow he turned to his brother, “I’ll pray for you.  I think you’re going to need it.”

***

Michelle watched Tony join the other Santos men before turning her attention to Marah,”So you’re not even two months in and already you seem ready to clobber Tony.”

“He hovers, a lot.”

Michelle was attempting to clear Hope’s mouth of bar-b-que debris, no easy feat since Hope was literally jumping up and down in her eagerness to join the other children running around. “Get used to it now sister, Santos men make hovering an art form.”  She sent the now clean Hope away with an affectionate pat on her bottom, “Considering how our first two pregnancies went when I was first pregnant with Danielle I couldn’t even go to the bathroom without Danny trailing behind.”

Marah laughed.  She didn’t dare tell Michelle about Tony standing outside the shower the other day ‘just in case in case she slipped’.  Because slipping in the shower was such a normal occurence for her. But it seemed he came by it naturally, bathroom hovering was in the Santos genes, “I hear you loud and clear.  I am hoping that once we get past the two month danger zone he’ll ease up some.”

Michelle smiled patiently at the younger woman, “If he’s like Danny he will ease up somewhat, but he will still worry in silence.  You know how they grew up, and how protective they can be.  It’s enough to drive a person insane, but it’s the only way they can deal with the situation and lack of control.  My advice to you is to look at it as a Santos quirk and bask in the attention.”

“How did you get so wise?”

“You can’t be married to a Santos as long as I have, not to mention carrying three Santos babies, without picking up one or two pointers along the way.” Michelle reached over and laid her hand on Marah’s. “I’m just glad I get to pass this Santos wisdom down to you because Lord knows I went in blind.  Now let’s go get raid the desert table!”

***

The players who had signed up for the egg toss reluctantly took their positions in two straight lines on the patio.  At the front of the rows stood Rick Bauer in all his glory, he resembled an army General getting ready to inspect his troops.  Satisfied the troops were finally assembled he walked slowly down the row passing out the eggs to the teams.  “You know the rules.  Each team gets one egg. You toss the egg to your partner and if he or she catches it you are still in the game.  If either one of you drops the egg you are out.  After a successful catch each team will take a step backwards.  Good Luck and happy tossing!”  He made his way back to the front of the lines, “When I blow this whistle you may toss your egg to your partner.  If you toss it beforehand you are disqualified.  Are you ready?”

Most of the adults there were used to Rick’s dedication to the Annual Bauer games and merely grumbled their acquiescence.

Tony looked at his partner Hope and smiled. “You ready little Santos?”

The little girl nodded enthusiastically.  “I’m ready Uncle Tony.”

Rick sounded the whistle and Tony lightly tossed the egg which the little girl caught in her tiny hands. She held it up proudly, “See! I caught it!” She turned to her right and showed her brother who had caught the egg Danny had tossed to him.  From nearby he heard Marah and Michelle’s cheers for their little Santos clan but he kept his focus on Hope and their egg.   Hopefully he wouldn’t totally embarrass her.

***

Tony stood with Hope on his shoulders while they did a dance of victory over the egg toss.  As Hope pumped her small fists in triumph Tony locked eyes with his wife, whose face was practically glowing watching Tony with the little girl.  Conversation buzzed around him but he didn’t hear a thing, he was too focused on the woman who held his heart.  His intense focus was cut short by Danny’s slap on the back, “Will you two knock it off?  There are kids present.”  Tony laughed as his cousin walked off muttering and threatening to use the hose. Tony couldn’t let him have the final say on that one. “Oh like you and Michelle haven’t given Springfield something to talk about a time or two!”

Danny turned back and grinned. “You kidding?  We still do!”

***

Phillip stood off to the side and checked his watch for the fifteenth time in the last hour.  He hadn’t felt this nervous in years but he knew that it was time.  Time to make things right.  He looked at his watch again.

“If you check that thing again I am going to rip it from your wrist and chuck it into the hot tub.” Rick handed Phillip a beer before pointing his own towards the watch in question, “Got a hot date or something?”

“Or something.” Phillip took a long drink while debating about telling the other man about his secret.  They had been best friends for most of their lives but this had the possibility of blowing up in his face.  Best to keep it to himself and see what the night would bring. “Shame Leah couldn’t make it. But hard to beat the allure of vacationing in Florida.”

“Yeah can’t really blame her there, though I wish she were here.  This is a Bauer tradition and the more Bauer’s the better.”

If Phillip’s plans worked out Rick might just get his wish for an additional Bauer.  He resisted checking his watch again and instead turned his friend towards all the people gathered in the backyard, “Quite a turn out this year.”

“It’s a great tradition, and one that I hope continues even when we are old and grey.”

Phillip laid a hand on Rick’s shoulder, “Hate to break it to you my friend but we’re old and grey now.” He looked at Beth and Mindy fussing over a pregnant, and very tolerant, Lizzie.  Nearby her son Jackson sat on his father’s Bill’s hip hanging on his every word and Phillip smiled, “Hell I’m a grandpa.  But I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  Living away from all this made me realize just how important family is.”

Beside him Rick became instantly alert. “Danny Santos! Step away from the grill!” He turned towards Phillip briefly, “I’ll be back. I have to save the burgers from becoming charcoal.  And look, he has his partner in Bar-B-Que crime with him.  Don’t think I don’t see you Tony!”

Phillip laughed as he watched his friend march across the yard.  No one took grill duties as serious as Rick Bauer.  He watched all the happy families gathered together and he knew he made the right decision.  Which caused him to check his watch just one more time.

So focused on watching the time he never notice the couple approaching until they stood right behind him…

What Matters Most ~ Chapter Two

“Are you sure you can’t see it?  It’s right there, that little white blotch.”  Mentally Tony cringed.  He really hated calling his child a blotch, but that’s basically what he saw in the picture Michelle had printed for them.  And truthfully he wasn’t even sure he was pointing out the right area, the whole thing looked like a mild version of television static.

Rafael looked closer to what Tony held before him, but he still couldn’t tell what he was looking at.  He had no prior experience in this sort of thing and was definitely out of his element.  He made an estimated guess and pointed to the picture. “Is it this right here?”

Tony’s eyebrows wrinkled in confusion, he may have been unsure but that definitely wasn’t where Michelle had pointed yesterday.  “Danny!  I need your help.  I lost my blotch again.”

“Again?” Rafael was asked in amusement.  This was a completely different side of Tony and it made for great entertainment.  Much better than the Tony that had been either brooding silently or snapping at anyone who crossed his path.  Yes Tony the nervous father was a sight to behold.

Danny emerged from his office shaking his head. “You bellowed?”  As he descended the stairs he took note of the crowded bar before continuing,  “Seriously we might want to look into an intercom.  That way we can at least attempt to look professional.  This is a place of business after all.”

Tony just waved off the comment and looked around before whispering. “Yeah, yeah.  Can you point out the baby again?”

Danny couldn’t contain his bark of laughter and turned towards Rafael shaking his head. “Loosing his own kid already.  I already had to show it to him twice this morning.  I told him he reminded me of Rachel on Friends.”

“Everybody’s a comedian!  And I got you back when I threw a stapler at you.  Now point out the baby already.”  Just like he’d promised Marah, he wasn’t letting fear or doubt ruin this for them.  Oh, he was still scared shitless but his fears ran to the more reasonable fears typical for expectant fathers.  The fear that he would somehow end up being like his own terrible excuse of a father.   Or that he wouldn’t know what to do when the baby was actually here so he had stocked up on every book written on the subject.  So the fact that he couldn’t point out his own child on the ultrasound was pretty small in comparison to that.  He was pretty good with Danny’s kids, except for that whole hooker boot fiasco that he had yet to live down.   So maybe with eight months of preparation he wouldn’t end up scaring his child for life.

Rafael looked at where Danny pointed on the ultrasound then back at Tony. “I can definitely see the family resemblance. ”

Leave it to Rafael.  But at least this time Tony could finally join the others in their laughter, “And you call me a smartass.”

“You are.  I’m just better at it.” Rafael nudged him with his elbow, “So what does Marah think about you flashing photos of her uterus to everyone you come into contact with?”

“I didn’t show everyone, just you guys, and since Danny already knew I figured one more into the inner circle wasn’t too bad.  Besides, Marah and I promised not to tell her parents until after the Bauer bar-b-que.  Technically I am not breaking the rules.”

Danny went behind the bar to pour himself a glass of water. “Still don’t know why you are keeping it a secret.  It’s not like secrets stay secret very long in a town like Springfield.”

Tony sighed, “Because the book your wife recommended we read said that most miscarriages happen in the first two months of pregnancy.  Just thought it best not to tell everyone until we pass the eighth week mark.”

Danny looked into his glass of water as if it held all the answers to life’s biggest questions.  Danny didn’t think about it often, he had too much in his life to be thankful for to dwell on the past, but sometimes when the kids would reach some milestone he would think about the baby Michelle and him lost early in their marriage.  In hindsight, he sure as hell wish he would have waited before ordering the most elaborate gift basket he could find.   He could still remember the blinding pain he’d felt opening the box when it arrived, a pain he wouldn’t wish on his worst enemy much less the cousin he loved like a brother.  He looked up and forced a smile at Tony,”That makes sense.   At least you have a few months to bolster yourself up before he or she gets here.  Don’t want to faint and miss the whole thing.”

Tony cringed while Rafael just returned to laughing loudly, “Michelle swore that was protected under doctor-patient confidentiality!”

Danny couldn’t help but join Rafael in laughing at the visual of Tony fainting, “Oh it is.  Marah’s the one who told me.”

Tony could feel his face heat with embarrassment, “So now you both know I fainted when I found out.  This is just great!”

“Actually all three of us know.” Ray came in and took a seat at the bar.  He looked at his brother with mirth in his eyes, “What? I just happened to be there when she told the story.  I have to keep it in my memory banks for later. Future big brother torment and all that.”

Danny shrugged his shoulders, “Marah thought it was cute.” He looked down at his watch and swore, “As much fun as this is I have to get going.  I promised Robbie we’d watch the Cubs game together.  They better win tonight, they have been in a slump lately.”

Rafael watched Danny head back towards the offices before piercing Tony with his penetrating gaze, “So you seem more excited than you did a few days ago.”

Tony was surprised Rafael had waited this long before calling him out on his recent behavior, “Okay I was having a bout of stupidity.  But I’m over it now and everything is back to normal.”

Ray narrowed his eyes.  This was the first he had heard about Tony’s behavior and Ray only hoped it wasn’t a case of history repeating itself, “Just how stupid are we talking?”

“Not as stupid as you’re thinking judging by the look on your face.” He turned and spoke to Rafael, “It’s just that Marah and I have a past, and some of that past isn’t pretty.”

“Tell me something I don’t know.  I pretty much got the abbreviated version from you and everyone in this town over the course of a year.”

“Anyway,” Tony emphasized dramatically, “In the past when everything was going good in our lives something always came around and messed it up.   Well things are about as perfect as they can possibly be.  I am married to the love of my life and we are expecting our first child.  That’s prime fodder for fate to come along and kick us in the teeth.”

Rafael shook his head admonishingly, “How many times do I have to tell you to not borrow trouble?  You have to decide what matters most, your happiness or your fear.”

Tony grinned, “Oh really wise one?  Well Marah happens to agree and after our talk yesterday she agreed to give me a much deserved kick in the ass if I started thinking negatively.”

The older man looped his arm over Tony’s shoulders, “Always knew I liked that girl.”

From his seat Ray nodded then saluted Tony with his water, “Marah is definitely the best part of you brother.  Don’t know how she puts up with you half the time, I’m just glad that she does. ”

Tony grabbed his chest as if struck by his brother’s words, “You wound me brother.  And people actually come to you for relationship advice?”

“I save the good advice for my parishioners.  For family they just get brutal honesty.”

***

Vulture’s Canyon, Nevada

“Hey sugar?  Could I actually get a refill on my coffee this week or are you going to stand there gawking all day?”

Angela felt like telling him to take his coffee and shove it but instead plastered on her most disarming grin, “Of course Bill.” She nearly choked on the words as she poured the noxious brew.  In another lifetime she would have this guy eating out of the palm of her hand and begging for seconds.  But not now.  No, now she was reduced to this menial and demeaning job of truck stop waitress.  Life just wasn’t fair sometimes. “Would you like anything else?”

The overweight trucker rubbed his protruding stomach while leering at her with what he probably thought were seductive eyes.  If only he knew there wasn’t a chance in hell. “Yeah hot stuff how about the truckers special, my eggs over easy.”

She took their order on her notepad before turning away, “One truckers special coming up.” Accompanied by a side order of spit.

She had just turned in the order when she looked at the newspaper someone had left behind on the counter.  Or more appropriately the headline that stated in big bold letters “Mafia Leader Vincent Salerno Murdered in Prison”.  Angela grinned.  This changed everything.