What Matters Most~ Chapter Eight

Hope bounced up and down in her sneakers, “Uncle Tony we’ll never be able to find them in the middle of all these people!”

Truthfully Springfield International wasn’t as crowded as he expected for a Saturday afternoon, but he supposed that for a little girl it probably looked like Grand Central Station, “No worries kiddo, we’ll find them.  We’re even early for a change so we’ll be waiting right there when your parents step off their plane.” He held the little girl’s hand and ushered her forward then winked at Robbie, “Now remember, you two were complete angels and Danielle was so good she puts the Gerber baby to shame.”

As if Danielle found that idea completely ridiculous she chose that moment to blow a raspberry and yanked at the blonde ponytail clutched in her tiny fist.  Marah winced before looking at the toddler in question, “I was thinking the same think Dani.” She turned her attention to her husband while subtly trying to extract the new object of Danielle’s fascination, “Danny and Michelle know full well that their kids aren’t angels.  Come on Tony, they’re kids!  And Santos kids at that.  You were the one who always told me that all Santos’ were natural-born hellions.”

Tony barked out a laugh of his own before stopping and tucking the soft blonde hair Dani had pulled out of her ponytail behind her ear. “You just remember that Mrs. Santos when our own little hellion is blowing up DVD players.”

The seductive purr Tony used when calling her Mrs. Santos never failed to curl her toes.  If only they weren’t in a crowded airport and currently corralling two anxious kids, and one baby who seemed to have grown an extra pair of hands, through the throngs of travelers,”Well Mr. Santos we’ll just have to hope that he, or she, gets their temperament from me.”

“Ha! Like Josh and Reva’s daughter was a timid little flower.  Pretty sure you were one who ran away from home.  Though I must admit, we Santos children probably should have run away.  But it’s okay Baby, you keep telling yourself that you are the sweet one.”

Robbie chose that moment to make a loud gagging noise, clearly unamused by their mushy antics. “Ick! You two are as bad as mom and dad with that Mr. and Mrs. Santos stuff.”

Both adults stood stunned at the little boy currently making exaggerated gagging noises.  Marah was the first to look away, her face beet red with embarrassment.  Tony however was curious, “So Robbie, your parents do the Mr. and Mrs. Santos thing too huh?”

Not realizing that he had just handed over a gem of information Tony would love to use against his cousin, Robbie nodded enthusiastically, “All the time.  Dad says it is their special code, whatever that means.  But I guess since you’re a Santos too it’s okay.”

Marah decided to step in and change the subject before the little man gave away anymore of his parent’s bedroom secrets, “Your mom’s five pages of travel itinerary said that they will be arriving at Gate 145.  How about we move that way before Danielle snatches me bald?”

***

A half an hour later Marah and Tony, along with two anxious kids and one hair-snatching toddler, watched as passenger after passenger began to disembark the plane.  When after twenty minutes there was still no sign of Danny and Michelle questions began bouncing in Marah’s head.  Especially when it appeared the last of the passengers seemed to have trickled out of the plane.  What if they had missed their flight?  What if this was the wrong gate?  She passed Danielle to Tony and began to rummage through her oversized purse before pulling out Michelle’s very detailed notes, “It says right here, bold and underlined, Flight 265 at Gate 145.”

Hope looked at her with worried eyes, “Did they lose my mom and dad like they lost Uncle Rick’s luggage?”

Marah opened her mouth to reassure the girl but suddenly Hope darted past her followed closely by Robbie.  Marah turned in time to see Danny scoop the little girl into his arms,  “No Sweetie the airline didn’t lose us.  We just got…held up a little bit.”  Marah noted the pink tint to Michelle’s cheeks and could only guess what ‘held up’ entailed but she just shot the woman a knowing smile.  But that didn’t stop Tony who winked at Michelle while he handed over Danielle, “Hey Primo thanks for worrying us while you were circling the skies getting some last-minute nookie.”

Danny wrapped his free arm around Michelle and smiled, “Can you really blame me?”

Michelle reached forward and ruffled Robbie’s hair, “How about we go get our luggage and head home?  And you need to tell us all about baseball camp.  Did you have fun while we were gone?”

They began walking towards the baggage claim while Robbie kept up a steady stream of commentary about how much he enjoyed baseball camp and the new friends he had made before the new school year began.  Before long they were waiting with all the other passengers for their luggage to appear.

Tony leaned over and at least whispered at his cousin this time, “Well at least your little forray into the mile high club didn’t slow down the dedicated staff at Springfield International Airport.  They are as efficient as ever.”

Danny’s laugh was interrupted by his son leaning into him, “What’s nookie?” It was hard to decide whose face expressed the most shock at Robbie’s innocent question.  Though judging by the looks the people around them it was a show stopper.

Michelle looked at Tony and smiled patiently while shaking her head, “It’s a good thing I like you Tony considering what you are teaching our children.  Who needs MTV and HBO these days?”

After surreptitiously wiping tears of laugher from his eyes Danny looked at his cousin with glee,”So Tony you think you are ready?”

Tony seemed to ponder the question a moment before answering, “After exploding food, melting DVD players, and a middle of the night ear infection I can say with good authority that I think your kids broke us in.  Either that or they broke us.  I almost crawled up in a ball and cried for my mommy a few times.”

Marah slapped his arm, “He did not!  Tony was a trooper.  I was the basket case.”

Michelle laughed before nudging her friend with her elbow, “Sweetie you are running on hormones.  Once, when I was pregnant with Danielle, I cried when Len’s was out of my favorite flavor of ice cream.  The sales lady got so flustered by my outburst that she gave me a different flavor just to shut me up.  And wouldn’t you know that would become my new food craving for the next three months.”

Danny nodded at the memory, “Good thing the people at Len’s remember how fond of Michelle old man Len was.  If not those right at closing cravings would have gotten us banned for life.”

“Duly noted.  When in doubt blame the hormones.”

Michelle reached forward as she spotted some of their luggage pass by. “You’re learning young grasshopper.”

***

“What are you doing?”

Angela gasped at the booming voice of Rafael which in the best of circumstances he commanded attention, in the worst he almost made her wet herself.  This was definitely an example of the later.  “I was just leaving Mr. Santos a note telling him I need next Friday off.  Dentist appointment.”  She held out the paper as though brandishing evidence, and through sheer will kept her hand from shaking.

Rafael narrowed his eyes in suspicion as he moved deeper into the office.  Angela resisted the urge to recoil in fear.  She had faced worse, at least she thought she had.  “I don’t know how your other places of employment opperated but I am your manager.  If you need next Friday off you come to me, not Tony.  And these offices are off-limits after hours.  I catch you up here again and you can have all your Fridays off, and the rest of the week too because you’ll be unemployed.”

Inside Angela seethed.  Who did this guy think he was?  He wasn’t even a Santos yet he threw his weight around like he was.  Well it was time to defuse Mr. Rafael Santiago.  She smiled coyly, “Mr. Santiago I didn’t mean to break the rules.  I swear next time I will come straight to you.” When all he did was stand there and blink at her attempts at seduction Angela wanted to kick her feet like a stubborn child.  This was not right!  All men had a weakness and she had learned early in life that the way into a man’s heart, head, or pocketbook wasn’t through his stomach. It was about six inches lower.  Rafael Santiago was made of stone.

As if he knew that she was frustrated by his lack of response he cracked a patronizing smirk. “Go home before you embarass yourself even further.  I only have so much patience in one night.”

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