What Matters Most~ Chapter Ten

Ducking out of work early was no easy task these days as busy as Infierno had been, and today had been no exception. It had taken bribery, in the form of babysitting so that Danny and Michelle could eventually have some date nights, and he still had to break land speed records to get home on time! But miraculously at six o’clock on the dot he was throwing his car keys on the entry table, “Marah! I’m home!” However, the only one who seemed impressed that he was home on time was Toby who sat wagging his tail enthusiastically in glee.

When a quick search of the first floor showed no signs of Marah he quickly moved upstairs, a sense of panic creeping in. What if something happened to the baby? What if she fell and couldn’t call for help? What if his stubborn wife had decided to take up the carpet in the second bedroom despite his adamant refusal for her to do any of the big renovations? He skidded to a stop in the doorway to the master bedroom, “Marah? Where are you?”

“Tony?”

The quiet voice coming from the bathroom caused the fear to rush out of him like water from a bathtub. Until he tried to turn the handle and discovered it was locked, “Yeah baby it’s me. Are you okay? Why is the door locked?”

More muffled shifting before Marah opened the door and looked out him, “I’m okay. Your child just hates me is all.”

Tony would have smiled at the your baby comment if he wasn’t positive that it would have gotten him a swift kick to the Santos family jewels. “I thought it was called morning sickness not night sickness. And I thought you were over that stage.”

Marah groaned, “Don’t make me laugh. Clearly the baby books are all liars because this baby decides to trample my insides at all hours, day or night. And I have been wrong before, don’t look so smug.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it.” He reached out and brushed the sweat-dampened hair from her forehead, “I’m going to go get you some crackers okay?”

Ten minutes later he was rubbing her back while she was munching away on a Saltine, “Do you still feel lousy? Do you want me to call you parents and Jonathan and cancel?”

She swallowed her mouthful of dry nirvana. When it thankfully stayed down she looked up at him, “No I feel better and baby Santos seems to have calmed down for the night.” She slowly stood up and looked at herself in the mirror, “Though I really need to freshen up, I look like hell. But I am really not feeling up to cooking dinner. Would you call them and ask to meet us at Towers around seven-thirty?”

Tony brushed a quick kiss on her forehead, “Anything for you Mi Vida.”

***

Reva put down the phone and faced her husband, “Well that was Tony. Seems Marah doesn’t feel up to cooking dinner and wants to meet at Towers instead.”

From his spot on the couch Josh groaned loudly, “Towers? That means I have to actually get all gussied up. At least when it was just dinner at their house I could go as is.”

“Joshua it’s not like you have to put on a suit and tie. Towers isn’t exactly the most exclusive place in town you know.” She joined him on the couch. She knew they had made a deal by the suspense was eating her up, and the excitement. “So do you think Marah and Tony are inviting us to dinner to announce something? Like a grand baby perhaps?”

“I can’t believe you held out on asking as long as you did. Restraint has never been your strong suit,” He shot his wife a look out of the corner of his eye, “Reva we promised we weren’t going to pry into our daughter’s life. Plus it could just be about the community center project. She had a meeting with Doris Wolfe today right?”

You promised, I just agreed not to discuss it with you. I work with her and I can tell you that she smiles an awful lot lately and it has nothing to do with community centers. Though it is an excellent project and will bring in more high-end clientele. But I am sure that she has that one in the bag. But my money is still on the grand baby.”

Josh raised a brow. “Your money is on a grand baby?

Should have known he caught that tidbit, but Reva playfully slapped his arm. “Go get dressed. I have to go get Collin ready and get myself all gussied up as you so eloquently put it.”

He grabbed her arm and playfully reeled her in as she walked past, “Now darlin’ you are just as gorgeous today as the day we met. But I still want to know how money is involved in this dinner.”

Like she was going to answer that. “You are quite the charmer Joshua Lewis. Flattery will get you all kinds of rewards. Later.” She quickly kissed him before resuming her trek out of the room, “But right now you need to get up and get changed.”

***

It didn’t take long for the Lewis clan to assemble together, they were quite the motley crew but Marah wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world. She leaned over and greeted her mother with a kiss, “Long time no see mom.”

“What’s it been? Two hours? You can’t live without me.” And so the greetings went. Getting swept up in the Lewis clan was as easy as getting swept up with the tide, it just happened. It wasn’t five minutes before Marah forgot why she even invited her family to dinner in the first place. Until she felt Tony’s hand lightly clasp her under the table. She looked at him out of the corner of her eye and saw him wink. She softly cleared her throat, “So if were wondering why we asked you to meet us here tonight there are two reasons. The first is that yes, we got the community center project.” She eyed her mother and gave her a wink, “You might just get a raise Mrs. Lewis.”

Reva raised her glass of wine in celebration, “My boss is more than generous, which is of course why I love her so.”

“The second news is that Tony and I are going to have a baby.” Marah rushed the words together quickly.

The news was met by silence until Reva leaped out of her chair with a shout of glee, “I told you so Joshua!” She rounded the table and gathered Tony, then Marah into a hug. “Oh I am so happy for you two! Jonathan you owe me ten dollars.”

Tony accepted Josh’s more demure and manly congratulatory handshake before facing Reva, “Hey! You were betting on my wife’s womb.” He tried to look upset and affronted by the news but the effect was lost by his large smile.

“You’re darn tootin’ I was. She was smiling for months. I knew you were doing something right.”

It was hard to tell who groaned the loudest, which made Reva laugh even louder, “You guys are too easy to rile up.”

“Back so soon Mrs. Santos?”

Marah turned in greeting, it was the bartender from earlier. “Yes I am David. ” She quickly made introductions between David and her family. She felt the gentle weight of her husband’s protective arm on her shoulders and lifted her hand and rubbed it comfortingly, “And this is my husband Tony.”

Reva broke in as only Reva could do, with full gusto. “My daughter and son-in-law just announced they are having a baby!”

David extended his hand towards Tony, “Congratulations. You are a lucky man. The first for you both?”

The jubilant chatter around her suddenly got really quiet really fast. Marah was sure you could hear a pin drop it was that silent at the table. She saw Tony’s back stiffen as her moved back from shaking the newcomer’s hand. But he masked his discomfort well, “Thank you. And yes it is the first for us both.” How easily the lie slipped from his lips. Tony turned towards Marah, “I’ll be right back. I need to…I just need to get some air.” He laid a perfunctory kiss on her cheek before walking towards the door.

“Was it something I said?”

Marah turned her attention back to David and shook her head. “No it wasn’t your fault.” Just a bad memory coming back to haunt us.

Her parents continued to smile and make idle chit-chat before David resumed his duties but she could tell by the look in their eyes that they were remembering Catalina and the deadly outcome of her deception. Jonathan leaned into her and whispered, “What in the hell was that all about?”

Sometimes she forgot that he wasn’t around for all of that madness. “The past always rears its ugly head when we least expect it.” If anything Jonathan looked even more puzzled but he seemed to take the hint and dropped the subject. It wasn’t long before Tony walked back inside, a smile once again gracing his face, but like her parents she could tell he was masking the pain from the past. He took his seat next to her, “Sorry. I needed some air.”

How Marah ached for him. But she wished he didn’t hide it, he had to know she of all people would understand. “Do you want to go?”

“Don’t be silly. ” Tony began talking to her father and Jonathan about business and she could tell the matter was closed. At least for right now.

***

Angela leaned against the wall in the bathroom designated for employees, basically the only place where she could find a minute amount of privacy, and strained to hear the person on the other end of the line above all the noise. “What do you mean the plan has changed? You can’t do that! We had a damned deal.”

This was not good. Not good at all. And there was nothing she could do about it. She hadn’t been able to so much as make a move on her part of “the plan”. Not with the manager with eyes like a hawk. He noticed everything and missed nothing. Especially after the other night. He was watching her especially close. She couldn’t even take a bathroom break without him noticing.

She kept listening to voice on the other end of the line giving instructions. “Okay. I get it. Yes. I will meet you later.” She ended the call and let out a calming breath before making her way back into the busy club. It was going to be a long night.

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