What Matters Most~ Chapter Five

“Hey Tony, can I talk to you for a minute?”

The sound of Rafael’s voice roused Tony from a sound sleep.  He quickly removed his feet from on top of the desk and sat up straight in his chair before waving the other man inside. “Sure.  As long as you don’t tell Danny about this.”

Rafael eyed Tony with a smirk. “Not getting any sleep at home?  Ah, I remember those honeymoon times fondly.”

Tony rolled his eyes while grumbling, “I wish!  No my lack of beauty sleep is attributed to the three Santos hellions Robbie, Hope, and Danielle.”

“They giving Marah and you the merry chase huh?”

Tony dropped his head to his desk and mimicked banging his head against it soundly. “I swear they are all wind up toys that never actually wind down.  I don’t know where Danny and Michelle get the energy to tell you the truth.  I thought I was prepared since I lived with them before. But we’re talking all hours of the night here!”

Rafael tried to look sympathetic but it was ruined by the laughter in his brown eyes. “Better get used to it now.  Call it a crash course in parenting.”

Tony raised his head and regarded Rafael coolly. “Yeah, yeah you sound just like Ray.  So what did you want to talk to me about?”

“Here’s that list of acceptable candidates for the waitress position you asked for.” He slid the paper across the desk, “You want to go over them?”

Beside his arm Tony’s phone began to vibrate.  He picked it up and glanced at the screen, “One minute.  It’s Marah.”

Rafael sat back in his chair and listened as Tony tried to calm his wife down.  From where he sat it sounded like Marah was upset, almost bordering on hysterical.  He watched Tony let out a calming breath before sitting the phone back down on the desk. “Problems?”

“What else?  Where were we?  Oh yeah, the waitress position.”

Rafael knew Tony’s mind was somewhere else and if he were a gambling man he would bet it was at home with his wife. “Look I have this covered.  Why don’t you go home and be with Marah.  She needs you more than I do.”

Tony raked his hands through his hair in frustration, “Okay thanks.”

Rafael picked up the list of qualified applicants. “This one candidate, Angela Coleman, she sounds like she has the experience we’re looking for.  But I want to complete a background check before I make any decisions.”

Tony stood up and grabbed his suit jacket, “Sounds good.  If she passes bring her in for a test run next week.”

***

Tony opened the front door expecting to be barraged with chaos.  Instead it was quiet, way too quiet.  On the couch Robbie and Hope sat with wide eyes and a look of complete innocence, a look that immediately betrayed their guilt.  At least Danielle slept peacefully in her swing, that was something at least.  After tossing his keys on the side table he let out a calming breath ready to dive in to whatever caused Marah to melt down on the phone. “So, um, what’s going on?”

Robbie and Hope both lifted their arms to point towards the kitchen.  The movement would have been creepy if they were in a horror movie.  Thankfully they weren’t, at least he hoped not.  “I’ll take care of it.  Why don’t you two get cleaned up for dinner.”  He had never seen two kids, and a dog, move so fast.  He gently pushed open the door to the kitchen, and his heart dropped to his feet.  There sitting in the middle of the pristine white floor was Marah sobbing.  If that weren’t bad enough she was covered in something red, which sparked his panic and sent his heart racing.  He quickly moved towards her and surveyed her for wounds, “Baby!  Are you alright?  Where are you hurt?  I have to call a doctor!”

Marah just grabbed his shirt and sobbed into his chest. “It’s not blood, it’s supposed to be dinner!  I can’t even make dinner without screwing it up!  I am going to be a horrible mother!”

Tony gingerly stroked her hair while trying to calm himself down.  Was this what the books referred to as ‘pregnancy hormones’?  He could handle this, the important thing was that she wasn’t injured.  “Honey you’re going to be a terrific mother.  It’s just been a bad day is all.” He cursed himself for leaving her alone with three kids, one of whom was barely a year old.  Normally she would handle it in that scary efficient way she handled everything else, but they were supposed to reduce her stress since she was still on the fringes of the “danger zone” as the pregnancy books called it.  Like that was supposed to make stress easier, being on the danger zone.  He curled himself around her and murmured, “I’m here now.  I’ll take care of it.  All this stress can’t be good for the baby.”

Inside his jacket covered in what he could now identify as spaghetti sauce Marah sobbed harder. “The baby will be better off being raised by a pack of wolves than by me!”

Tony wanted to laugh but knew that would just lead to something even worse than her loosing it on the kitchen floor. “Now you know that’s not true.  Wolves don’t have your sense of style and flair.  Our baby is going to be too much like her mother to be raised by wolves.”

Marah let out a small hiccup like she was trying to smother her laugh, at least it was progress. “So what did our naughty nephew and nieces do today?”

Marah sat up and smoothed her hair from her face, “Everything was okay until Robbie came inside after playing.  He was covered in dirt and he insisted he could run his bath himself.  Well five minutes later I find the bathroom full of bubbles, tub overflowing!  Then Hope put a Barbie shoe in the VCR.  I figured it would be okay that at least the DVD side would work.  Well was I wrong!  The machine made this horrible hissing hound and completely died.  And Danielle just wouldn’t stop crying.  No matter what I did she wouldn’t stop.  I’m telling you Tony that baby hates me and I’m going to be a horrible mother!” She dived back into his chest in a fit of sobs.

“Aunt Marah?”

Tony had been so focused on reassuring Marah that he hadn’t noticed Hope enter the kitchen.  Marah immediately sat up and rubbed her eyes before smiled patiently at the little girl, “Hey sweetie.  You changed and ready to go get dinner?”

Hope shuffled her feet in a show of nerves, nerves and remorse. “Uh-huh.  I’m sorry for breaking the DVD player.”

But Marah was Marah to her core and not one to ever hold grudges, especially not against children.  Even on her worst day.  Marah opened her arms and the little girl dived in seeking the solace that her apology and Marah’s subsequent forgiveness would bring her.  She was not to be disappointed.  Marah cuddled the girl close to her and whispered reassurances in her tiny ear.  Tony just looked on with a small smile.  Their child was better off raised by wolves huh?  No Tony had no doubt that Marah would be an excellent mother, the only worries he had were with himself.  Danny seemed to have effectively broken the Santos cycle of bad parenting but what about him?  It’s not like he had a father figure growing up to even emulate, or even try to not emulate.  All he had growing up was Danny and Ray; and now he had Rafael.  But looking at Marah cuddling that little girl on the floor he knew in his heart he wanted to try.

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